Chapter XI: Economic Ratification: Agricultural-Industrial Federation

Not everything has been explained yet. However irreproachable the federal constitution may be in its logic, in the guarantees that it offers in its practice, it can only last as long as it does not encounter constant causes of dissolution in public economy. In other words, political right must have the buttress of economic right. If the production and distribution of wealth is left to chance; if the federative order only serves to protect capitalist and mercantile anarchy; if, by the effect of that false anarchy, Society is divided in two classes, one of owners-capitalists-entrepreneurs, the other of wage-earning proletarians; one rich, the other poor; then the political structure will always be unstable. The working class, the most numerous and poorest class, will end up by seeing it only as a deception; the workers will unite against the bourgeois, who for their part will unite against the workers; and we will see the confederation degenerate, if the people is the strongest, into an unitary democracy, if the bourgeoisie triumphs, into a constitutional monarchy.

It is in anticipation of the possibility of a social war, as was said in the previous chapter, that strong governments were formed, the object of admiration by publicists who think that confederations are unable to preserve Power from the aggression of the masses; that is, activities of the government against the rights of the nation. For, once again, make no mistake about it: all power is established, all citadels built, all armies organised against the internal at least as much as the external threat. If the mission of the State is to make itself absolute master of society, and the fate of the people is to serve as a tool for its activities, we have to recognise that the federative system cannot be compared with the unitary system. There, neither the central power because of its dependence, nor the multitude by its division, can one act more than the other against public liberty. The Swiss, after their victories over Charles-the-Bold,[1] were for a long time the first military power of Europe. But, because they formed a confederation, capable of defending itself against external threats but proving inept at conquest and coups d’État, they remained a peaceful republic, the most harmless and the least ambitious of States. The German Confederation also had, under the name of Empire, its centuries of glory; but, because the imperial power lacked fixedness and centre, the Confederation was torn to pieces, dismantled, and nationality jeopardised. The Netherlands Confederation vanished in its turn after contact with centralised powers: there is no need to mention the Italian Confederation. Yes, indeed, if civilisation, if the economy of societies had to maintain the ancient statu quo, imperial unity would be better for people than federation.

But everything tells that times have changed, and that the revolution of interests must follow, as a legitimate consequence, the revolution of ideas. The twentieth century will open the era of federations,[2] or humanity will begin another thousand years of purgatory. The real problem to solve is not actually the political problem, it is the economic problem. My friends and I suggested continuing the work of the February revolution by this last solution. The Democracy was in power; the provisional government only had to act to succeed; had the revolution been carried out in the sphere of work and wealth, one would not have had any trouble to implement it afterwards in government. Centralisation, which would have had to be broken later, had momentarily been a great help. Besides, nobody at that time, except perhaps the one who writes these lines and who has declared himself an anarchist since 1840, was thinking of attacking unity and calling for federation.

The democratic prejudice decided otherwise. The politics of the old school maintained, and still maintain today, that the correct procedure, for a social revolution, was to start with government, and to deal afterwards, at leisure, with work and property. The Democracy declined to accept responsibility after having supplanted the bourgeoisie and chased away the prince, and so what had to happen happened. The Empire has imposed silence upon those speakers without plans; the economic revolution was carried out in the opposite direction to the aspirations of 1848, and liberty has been compromised.

One suspects that I am not going to present the whole of the economic science of federation and list everything that ought to be done as regards this. I am simply saying that the federative government, before reforming the political order, must in addition implement a series of reforms in the economic domain: here are a few words on what these reforms consist of.

Just as from a political standpoint, two or more independent States confederate to jointly guarantee their territorial integrity or for the protection of their liberties; just as from an economic standpoint, one can federate for a mutual protection of commerce and industry, what we call a customs union; one can federate for the construction and maintenance of communication routes, roads, canals, railways, for the organisation of credit and insurance, etc. The aim of these particular federations is to shield the citizens of the contracting State from bankocratic and capitalist exploitation as much from the inside as from the outside; they form by their ensemble, in opposition to the prevailing financial feudalism of today, what I will call an agricultural-industrial federation.

I will not go into detail on this topic. The public, that for fifteen years has been following my works, knows what I mean. Financial and industrial feudalism has for its aim to establish, by monopolisation of public services, by privilege of education, the extreme division of labour, interest on capital, inequalities in taxation, etc., the political decay of the masses, economic serfdom or wage-labour, in a word, the inequality of conditions and fortunes. The agricultural-industrial federation, on the contrary, tends to approximate equality more and more by the organisation, at the lowest price and not in the hands of the State; of all public services; by mutual credit and insurance, by the balancing out of taxes, by guaranteeing work and education, by a combination of work to allow each worker to evolve from a mere labourer to a skilled worker or even an artist, and from a wage-earner to their own master.

Such a revolution would not be the work of a bourgeois monarchy nor of a unitary democracy; it will be the result of a federation. It does not come under the unilateral or charity contract nor by charity institutions; it is an exclusive feature of the synallagmatic and commutative contract.[3]

Considered in itself, the idea of an industrial federation acting as a complement to and ratification of the political federation receives the most striking confirmation by the principles of economics. It is the implementation on the highest scale of the principles of mutuality, of division of labour and of economic solidarity, that the will of people will have transformed into laws of the State.

That labour remains free; that power, more deadly to work than community [communauté] itself, refrains from touching it: that would be a fine idea. But industries are sisters; they are parts of the same body;[4] one cannot suffer without the others suffering because of it. I wish that they federate then, not to absorb one another and merge, but to mutually guarantee the conditions of prosperity that are common to them all and on which none can claim a monopoly. By forming such a pact, they will not infringe their liberty; they will only give it more certainty and strength. They will be like the powers of the State, or the organs of an animal, whose separation is precisely what makes it powerful and harmonious.

Thus, wonderful thing, zoology, political economy and politics are all in agreement: first, that the most perfect animal, the one best served by its organs, and consequently the most active, the most intelligent, the best formed for dominance, is the one whose faculties and limbs are the most specialised, separated out, co-ordinated; second, that the most productive society, the richest, the best insured against over-development [of wealth] and pauperism, is the one in which work is the most divided, competition the most whole, exchange the most honest, distribution the most regular, salaries the fairest, property [ownership] the most equal, all industries guaranteeing one another; third, finally, the freest and most moral government is the one where powers are the best divided, administration the best distributed, independence of groups the most respected, the provincial, cantonal, and municipal authorities the best served by central authority; it is, in a word, the federative government.

Thus, just as the monarchic or authoritarian principle has for its first consequence the assimilation or integration of the groups associated with it, in other words, administrative centralisation, what we could even call the community [communauté] of the political household; for its second consequence, the indivisibility of power, in other words absolutism; for its third consequence, rural and industrial feudalism; likewise the federative principle, liberal par excellence, has for its first consequence the administrative independence of the assembled localities; for its second consequence the separation of power in each sovereign State; [and] for its third consequence the agricultural-industrial federation.

In a republic set up on such foundations, one can say that liberty is raised to its third power, authority reduced to its cubic root. The former, indeed, grows with the State, in other words multiplies itself along with the federations; the later, subordinate from level to level [in the social organisation], is only found whole within the family where it is tempered by both conjugal and paternal love.

No doubt knowledge of these great laws could only be acquired by a long and painful experience; perhaps also before reaching liberty, our species needed to run the gauntlet of servitude. To each age its idea, to each era its institutions.

Now the time has come. The whole of Europe is calling vociferously for peace and disarmament. And as if the glory of such a great deed had been reserved for us, it is towards France that hopes are directed, it is from our nation that we await the signal for universal bliss.

Princes and kings, to take them literally, are relics from bygone times: already we have constitutionalised [them]; the day approaches when there will only be federal presidents. Then, that will be done with aristocracies, democracies and all the kracies, gangrene of all nations, scarecrows of liberty. Does this democracy, which considers itself liberal and which knows only how to curse federalism and socialism, as did its fathers in ’93, have a single idea about liberty?… But the ordeal must have an end. And now we are starting to think about the federal pact; it is not to overrate, I assume, the stupor of the present generation, to anticipate that the cataclysm that will overcome it will bring the return of justice.

For my part, whose speech has been muffled by certain of the press, sometimes by a calculated silence, sometimes by misrepresentation and insults, I can throw this challenge to my opponents:

All my economic ideas, elaborated for twenty-five years, can be summarised in these three words: Agricultural-Industrial Federation;

All my political views are reduced to a similar formula: Political Federation or Decentralisation;

And as I do not make my ideas an instrument of a party nor a means of personal ambition, all my current and future hopes are expressed by this third term, consequence of the other two: Progressive Federation.

I challenge anyone to make a clearer profession of faith, of a greater scope and at the same time of a greater moderation, I go further: I challenge all friends of liberty and right to reject it.

End Notes

[1] Charles-le Téméraire (1433-77) was the last Valois Duke of Burgundy and one of the wealthiest and most powerful nobles in Europe. He marched against the Swiss and at Grandson in 1476 he met the confederate army, suffering a shameful defeat. Raising another army, he again invaded Switzerland and was again defeated. He died in an attempt to retake Nancy, when his troops, decimated by severe cold, fought the joint forces of the Lorraines and the Swiss. (Editor)

[2] I wrote somewhere (De la Justice dans la Révolution et dans l’Eglise, fourth study, Belgian edition, note), that the year 1814 had opened the era of constitutions in Europe. The habit of [automatically] contradicting made people ridicule [huer] this proposal, people who wrongly mixing their daily ramblings, history and politics, affairs and intrigues, are even unaware of the chronology of their century. But that is not what interests me now. The era of constitutions, very real and perfectly named, has its comparison in the Actiac [or Actian] era named by Augustus, after his victory over Anthony in Actium, and which started in the year 30 BC. These two eras, the Actian era and the era of constitutions have in common the fact they showed a general renewal in politics, political economy, public right, liberty and general sociability. Both of them inaugurated a period of peace, both testified to the awareness that contemporaries had of the general revolution which took place, and of the will of national leaders to contribute to it. However, the Actian era, dishonoured by imperial orgy, has sunk into oblivion; it has been erased completely by the Christian era, which marked, in a far more imposing, moral and popular manner, the same renewal. It will be the same for the so-called constitutional era: it will disappear in its turn before the social and federative era whose profound and popular idea must repeal the bourgeois and moderate idea of 1814.

[3] A simple calculation will show this. The average education given to both sexes, in a free State, can not embrace a period of less than 10 to 12 years, which consists of about the fifth of the total population, i.e., in France, seven and a half million individuals, boys and girls, out of thirty eight million inhabitants. In countries where marriages produce lots of children, like America, this proportion is greater still. Therefore they are seven and a half million individuals of both sexes to whom it is a question of giving, to a reasonable extent, which would definitely have nothing aristocratic [about it], literary, scientific, moral and professional education. Now, what is the number of individuals that go to secondary and higher schools in France? One hundred and twenty seven thousand four hundred and seventy four, according to M. Guillard’s statistics. All the others, seven million three hundred and seventy thousand five hundred and twenty five in number, are doomed to never go beyond primary school. But they all have to go there: recruitment committees notice each year a growing number of illiterates. Where would our rulers be, I am asking, if they had to solve the problem of giving an average education to seven million three hundred and seventy thousand five hundred and twenty five individuals, in addition to the one hundred and twenty seven thousand four hundred and seventy four who already are in schools? What use, here, the unilateral pact of a bourgeois monarchy, and the charity contract of a paternal Empire, and the Church’s charitable foundations, and Malthus’s precautionary advice, and the hopes of free-trade? All the Committees of Public Safety, with their revolutionary strength, would fail. Such a goal can only be reached through a combination of apprenticeship and schooling that would make of each pupil a producer: that which assumes a universal federation. I do not know any fact more overwhelming for the old politics than this one.

[4] The phrase “elles sont des démembrements les unes des autres” literally means “they are dismemberments from each other.” (Translator)