Charlotte Wilson Archive
Source: Text from RevoltLib.com.
Transcription/Markup: Andy Carloff
Online Source: RevoltLib.com; 2021
Our readers will remember that Comrade Malato, who used to send us news of the movement in France, has been thrown into prison for fifteen months, for a revolutionary article in the "Attaque," one of the organs of the Paris Anarchists. Gegout, the manager of the paper, was also condemned to a like term of imprisonment. Both comrades spoke out boldly for their opinions when asked what they had to say for themselves. We translate below the defense of Malato as given in "La Revolte."
Let us call things by their names M. l'Avocat General. This is a prosecution for constructive treason, and nothing else. You yourself foreshadowed this in your speech as public prosecutor. The labor demonstration of the first of May--the legal and peaceful form of which we Anarchists disapproved of then, and disapprove of now--for the only liberties which one acquires are those which are taken, not those which one goes a-begging for--this demonstration then is a source of anxiety to the government, for by the side of those deputies and municipal councilors styling themselves socialists, by the side of the intriguers and ambitious individuals (such men are to be found in all parties) who are steering a middle course between the middle class which governs and whose goodwill they seek, and the working class of which they desire to make a tool, there is the nameless crowd which understands nothing of political finesse, but which suffers, which feels its misery, and which, when that misery becomes too intense, when the situation becomes unbearable, will understand in a flash of intuition that which long theoretical dissertations have been unable to make clear. Then, one does not know what may happen, or rather, one does know: it will be a rebellion, the first step towards emancipation. This it is that alarms the government, whereupon it signs to the magistracy to prosecute, and the magistracy obeys.
We who are fighting the present social system- -which the court and you, gentlemen of the jury, are called upon to defend by shortly pronouncing us fit inmates for the prison of Sainte-Pelagie--we take the risks of men who go into action: we strike, you strike back; this is but logical; nor do we complain. Rather, I consider myself fortunate in that I can, even to my detriment, have it established how much your social system is arbitrary, how fictitious is your liberty of the press. Yes, it is true the press is free when the government so wills it. It is pleasing to know that the numerous simple folk, who, after having formerly welcomed with cheers the Republic as the ideal of liberty, of progress and of equity in social relation, remain motionless to-day in their wretched position, contenting themselves with the word Republic, are still able to see by facts that the government of the Republic is quite as reactionary as those of the Monarchy and of the Empire,--and this, not because it is the government of the Republic, but because it is government.
The government, the state, whatever may be its ceremonial, its exterior form, whatever may be the outward ornamentation of its lying political business, has in reality but one role, one which is forced upon it, one which cannot be departed from, a role which is historical and from which it has never swerved, from which it cannot swerve for a single moment under penalty of ceasing to be the government: this role consists in preserving order--if not political order, which, after all, is very superficial and which is inevitably made to feel serious changes every time a new personnel comes into power (for this personnel has ever friends for whom it must find positions, and mores to wipe out) at any rate the social system based on the proprietary regime which goes a great deal deeper. Let me, gentlemen, define for you what you call order.
Order, in the present state of this social fabric, which is based on the inequality of conditions and a perpetual struggle between clashing interests, means the crushing of the weak by the strong, the exploitation of the poor worker by the rich parasite, the whole legalized by your codes and sanctioned by your laws.
Order consists in the faculty for him, whom exploitation or the accident of birth has made rich, to put an end through caprice or a speculation an "change" to the means of subsistence of hundreds of families.
Order is liberty for him who possesses only his muscular and intellectual strength to die of hunger if he does not find an employer to whom he may sell that physical strength or his intelligence.
Order is the imprisonment of the young worker in that penitentiary called a barracks, a penitentiary wherein he is rendered stupid, wherein are stifled in him all initiative, will, conscience, wherein he is simply made a machine to kill, wherein he is taught to distrust the populace from which he springs, to hate with a stupid hatred the workers born on the other side of a river or a mountain which constitutes a frontier, poor wretch, exploited and tyrannized over as he is; and to spill his blood, he who does not possess anything, in order to protect that property belonging to others which is styled "country." Country, indeed! What is it but the capital of the Rothschilds, the mines of the Schneiders, the counting-house of Jaluzot!
Order, again, is prostitution, misery's daughter, constituted into a public service for the pleasure of the gay middle class-- kings alone shall not have all the fun to themselves, shall they? It is this same prostitution that drives into the street thousands of unfortunates who lack employment or who are incapable of earning their livelihood by labor, the average earnings of females being, as shown by statistics, sixteen pence halfpenny a day.
Order is the grasping by the minority which enjoys the good things of this world, not only of the sources of comfort supplied by nature, which had their existence previous to humanity, and which, in all justice should be man's common inheritance, but also the wealth produced by the industrious class which is condemned forever to walk round the same vicious circle of misery, just as a caged squirrel, until the time when that class will break out of that circle and destroy it.
Order, lastly, is the right possessed by the powerful ones to say everything, to dare everything; it is a hypocritical society covering up their vises with the cloak of flattery, casting a veil over their weaknesses, erecting a pedestal to their crimes, styling as great men crowned executioners such as chiefs of the state, generals and ministers. It is the same society which leaves to the unfortunate ones the right only to endure everything, stifling pitilessly their most legitimate aspirations. It is a justice that acquits Wilson, and that causes the gendarme to lay his hand on the vagabond whose only crime is that he has no domicile.
Such is your order, gentlemen, and such is the order which we Anarchists wish to destroy and destroy to such good purpose that nothing shall remain of it.
Nevertheless, gentlemen, it is the correct thing among you to speak of our acts of violence, but I ask you (and I do not ask this of the magistrate draped in big scarlet robes nor of the solemn-faced jury, but of the MAN, of the man who is within the scarlet robes and of the man who exists beneath the solemn face of the juryman,) which of the two is the most inhuman, to desire, as we Anarchists do, to destroy by every means in our power, by every and all efficacious means I wish you to understand, a system so atrocious, or to desire, as you do, to let it continue. A system, which at the opening of the 20th century, at a time when science is multiplying its conquests, at a time when products are in excess in a ratio of 3 to 1 to the demand, condemns the laboring masses to distress, and which when nations are at peace mows down more victims than the most bloody of revolutions.
This is so, because each and every government, whatever may be its motto, be it "Dieu at mon droit," "Liberte, ordre, public," "Liberte, Egalite, Fratarnite," sets the same mechanism going. Magistracy, clergy police, army, capital, constitute the natural support of this social system, the rampart of all iniquities and of social privileges. Therefore we Anarchists fight all forms of government. Have you sometimes, gentlemen reflected over the fact, you who doubtless consider as utopians those who like us wish to dispense with masters; have you ever reflected that now for nearly a century France has tried power in all its forms: absolute monarchy, constitutional monarchy, empire, consulate, republic, and that each time, the new form of government has been so bad, the social sores have remained so much the same that the nation has only seen a way out of it through an upheaval. The logical conclusion is it not that all forms of government being bad, it is best to dispense with government altogether. Such is the conclusion proclaimed by us Anarchists. In unison with that human feeling which suffers from your laws, your prejudices and your fetters, and which pines for a true liberty; in unison with the tendencies of the masses towards a fusion of economical interests, that is to say towards Socialism; and towards a political decentralization more and more progressive, that is to say towards Anarchy; in unison with the evolution of ideas which are always marching onward, do what you may, for it is not press prosecutions that will stop them, we Anarchists say: "There shall not be any government."
It is in this respect that we differ in an absolute fashion, as much from the several parties constituting the political opposition and which are more or less inclined towards reform as from those who style themselves socialist. We have good reason for it, when to day socialism is so fashionable that the pope and the German emperor as well as those who really have no other ideal than to enter the Chamber of Deputies, and the municipal council, or to obtain a lucrative position, pretend to be socialists. Listen to them! They admit that all is not for the best in this best of worlds, that serious reforms are demanded, and these reforms economic ones--in other words those which affect the present proprietary system. "But," say them kind gentlemen, "if these reforms be not effected, it is because the government is in bad hands; let us change our masters; let us take hold of the reins, and all then will be perfect." Such is the eternal language of ambitious man and of charlatans.
But such is not the language of us Anarchists. We do not say: We are better than others. What we say is this: We are just as other men, we acknowledge our weaknesses and our faults; were we in power, we could do no better than our predecessors. The people alone possess the secret of their happiness. The organization of labor, in a free social system, can only be the work of the workers themselves, the only interested and competent parties. Did not Proudhon, that farseeing genius, when stating the case for Anarchy, exclaim long before we did: "Whoever, to organize labor, appeals to Capital or the State, lies! "
And, if anyone studies seriously, otherwise than from official documents, or even from official documents, provided one knows how to think for oneself, the history of the progress accomplished by Humanity through the course of ages, he will find that progress, made by all kinds of rebellions--rebellions against the laws, rebellions against dogmas, rebellions against routine, against prejudice, has accordingly tended towards a gradual elimination of authority--and what is the deduction to be drawn therefrom. But one. It is that the final result of progress will be to completely eliminate authority from the social system, thus realizing the prophetic words of the philosopher Fichte: "The day will come when men will be conscious enough to dispense with a governmental intermediary in their reciprocal relations."
Must one infer that because we are desirous of destroying the present social organization, our ideal is to disperse individuals over a world turned into a desert, that we are desirous of reverting to the stone implements of our prehistoric ancestors and of dwelling in caves. Not so. We also, we especially love well-being and we do not intend depriving ourselves of that accumulated stock of ideas, of knowledge and of comfort which is the work of generations; but, and there is a but, we intend that all shall reap the advantage thereof.
Anarchy is not, as its ignorant detractors would pretend, a mere return on the part of man, too long oppressed, to a more natural life and expansion. Anarchy is not a far-off ideal of which philosophers have had a dim conception, and which they have saluted from a distance. Anarchy is not the personal conception of a doctrinaire of genies, be it a new Fourier or a now Cabet. Anarchy finds a responsive feeling in the simple aspirations of the masses; it is part of the logical concatenation of events; it responds to the newest needs and conceptions. It is that which constitutes its vitality, and which is an assurance of its coming to take up its place. Far from being relegated to the domain of the clouds, Anarchy bas a rational basis, a positive one, and I may say although the word is often misused, a scientific one.
Anarchy is this new force, association, no longer hierarchical and despotic as that dominating the corporations of the middle class (a system to which certain pseudo-socialistic Catholics would bid us return) but emblematic of freedom, and manifesting itself in all branches of human activity, trades, art, science taking possession of the world and elaborating new social forms. Anarchy is the autonomous grouping of both manual and brain-workers springing up from all sides, extending their ramifications and uniting, not in a single country (for the Social Revolution will not be localized, it will find an echo from all sides) but the world over and in a world at peace. Such will be Anarchy's republic, a republic of workers which will have nothing in common with your governmental republic. Such will be the social system of the future, which we, who are charged with being dreamers, can define in its concrete form and in two words: ECONOMIC FEDERATION, Anarchy is humanity's future.
Anarchy is the substitution of contracts and agreements, whether between individuals or between corporations (contracts and agreements duly pondered over and agreed to by both parties, yet ever subject to revision and modification or even cancellation when an interest in them has ceased) for your codes, for your laws, dating either from Justinian or from the first Bonaparte, and which pretend to lord it not only over an ever changing humanity, whose ideas, tastes, needs, and mode of living cannot help varying, but over generations which have never had any say in the matter and which have not been consulted.
Anarchy, to sum up, is a new social organism which you cannot help noticing, but which is in process of elaboration, and which, at a given moment, which is closer to you than you believe, will do away with the present social order which is too worn out and too old to last.
And it is just because we Anarchists have a philosophical conception of the future, a liberal and a HUMAN one, whatever may be said to the contrary, that nothing, NO, NOTHING, will thwart us in our endeavors to realize that ideal.