Saturday, March 7, 2009

Mikhail Bakunin

1814-76, Russian nobleman and a leading figure in the history of Anarchism. He advocated the absolute rejection of every authority including that which sacrifices individual freedom for the convenience of the State. He opposed Marxism and predicted rather presciently:"If you took the most ardent revolutionary, vested him in absolute power, within a year he would be worse than the Tsar himself!" 'God and the State' and 'Catechism of a Revolutionary' are his best known works.

1. Priests, kings, statesmen, soldiers, bankers and public functionaries of all sorts; policemen, jailers and hangmen; capitalists, usurers, businessmen and property-owners; lawyers, economists and politicians -- all of them, down to the meanest grocer, repeat in chorus the words of Voltaire
that if there were no God it would be necessary to invent Him. I reverse the phrase of Voltaire and say that if God really existed, it would be necessary to abolish him.

2. Religion is a collective insanity.

3. Theology is the science of the divine lie.

4. All religions, with their gods, their demi-gods, and their prophets, their messiahs and their saints, were created by the prejudiced fancy of men who had not attained the full development and full possession of their faculties.

5. Consequently, the religious heaven is nothing but a mirage in which man, exalted by ignorance and faith, discovers his own image, but enlarged and reversed — that is, divinized. The history of religion, of the birth, grandeur, and decline of the gods who have succeeded one another in human belief, is nothing, therefore, but the development of the collective intelligence and conscience of mankind.

6. All religions are cruel, all founded on blood; for all rest principally on the idea of sacrifice-that is, on the perpetual immolation of humanity to the insatiable vengeance of divinity.

7. Nothing, in fact, is as universal or as ancient as the iniquitous and absurd; truth and justice, on the contrary, are the least universal, the youngest features in the development of human society.

8. People go to church for the same reasons they go to a tavern: to stupefy themselves, to forget their misery, to imagine themselves, for a few minutes anyway, free and happy.

9. Christianity is the complete negation of common sense and sound reason.

10. For ten centuries Christianity, armed with the omnipotence of the Church and State and opposed by no competition, was able to deprave, debase, and falsify the mind of Europe. It had no competitors, because outside the Church there were neither thinkers nor educated persons. It alone taught, it alone spoke and it alone wrote.

11. God, or rather the fiction of God, is thus the sanction and the intellectual and moral cause of all the slavery on earth, and the liberty of men will not be complete, unless it will have completely annihilated the inauspicious fiction of a heavenly master.

The first revolt is against the supreme tyranny of theology, of the phantom of God. As long as we have a master in heaven, we will be slaves on earth.

13. A boss in Heaven is the best excuse for a boss on earth, therefore If God did exist, he would have to be abolished.

14. With all due respect, then, to the metaphysicians and religious idealists, philosophers, politicians or poets: t
he idea of god implies the abdication of human reason and justice; it is the most decisive negation of human liberty and necessarily ends in the enslavement of manking both in theory and practice. He who desires to worship god must harbour no childish illusions about the matter but bravely renounce his liberty and humanity.

15. It is better to die on your feet than to live on your knees.

16. Of escape there are but three methods — two chimerical and a third real. The first two are the dram-shop and the church, debauchery of the body or debauchery of the mind; the third is social revolution.

17. It is the peculiarity of privilege and of every privileged position to kill the intellect and heart of man. The privileged man, whether he be privileged politically or economically, is a man depraved in intellect and heart.

18. The liberty of man consists solely in this: that he obeys natural laws because he has himself recognized them as such, and not because they have been externally imposed upon him by any extrinsic will whatever, divine or human, collective or individual.

19. Freedom, morality, and the human dignity of the individual consists precisely in this; that he does good not because he is forced to do so, but because he freely conceives it, wants it, and loves it.

20. To revolt is a natural tendency of life. Even a worm turns against the foot that crushes it. In general, the vitality and relative dignity of an animal can be measured by the intensity of its instinct to revolt.

We are materialists and atheists, and we glory in the fact.

22. No theory, no ready-made system, no book that has ever been written will save the world. I cleave to no system. I am a true seeker.

23. In a word, we reject all legislation, all authority, and all privileged, licensed, official, and legal influence, even though arising from universal suffrage, convinced that it can turn only to the advantage of a dominant minority of exploiters against the interest of the immense majority in subjection to them. This is the sense in which we are really Anarchists.

24. Where the state begins, individual liberty ceases, and vice versa.

25. Intellectual slavery, of whatever nature it may be, will always have as a natural result both political and social slavery.

26. This contradiction lies here: they wish God, and they wish humanity. They persist in connecting two terms which ... can come together ... only to destroy each other. They say in a single breath: "God and the liberty of man," "God and the dignity, justice, equality, fraternity, prosperity of men" — regardless of the fatal logic by virtue of which, if God exists, all these things are condemned to non-existence. For, if God is, he is necessarily the eternal, supreme, absolute master, and, if such a master exists, man is a slave; now, if he is a slave, neither justice, nor equality, nor fraternity, nor prosperity are possible for him. In vain, flying in the face of good sense and all the teachings of history, do they represent their God as animated by the tenderest love of human liberty: a master, whoever he may be and however liberal he may desire to show himself, remains none the less always a master. His existence necessarily implies the slavery of all that is beneath him. Therefore, if God existed, only in one way could he serve human liberty — by ceasing to exist.

27. Does it follow that I reject all authority? Far from me such a thought. In the matter of boots, I refer to the authority of the bootmaker; concerning houses, canals, or railroads, I consult that of the architect or engineer. For such or such special knowledge I apply to such or such a savant. But I allow neither the bootmaker nor the architect nor the savant to impose his authority upon me. I listen to them freely and with all the respect merited by their intelligence, their character, their knowledge, reserving always my incontestable right of criticism and censure. I do not content myself with consulting authority in any special branch; I consult several; I compare their opinions, and choose that which seems to me the soundest. But I recognize no infallible authority, even in special questions; consequently, whatever respect I may have for the honesty and the sincerity of such or such an individual, I have no absolute faith in any person. Such a faith would be fatal to my reason, to my liberty, and even to the success of my undertakings; it would immediately transform me into a stupid slave, an instrument of the will and interests of others.

28. I bow before the authority of special men because it is imposed upon me by my own reason. I am conscious of my inability to grasp, in all its details and positive developments, any very large portion of human knowledge. The greatest intelligence would not be equal to a comprehension of the whole. Thence results, for science as well as for industry, the necessity of the division and association of labor. I receive and I give — such is human life. Each directs and is directed in his turn. Therefore there is no fixed and constant authority, but a continual exchange of mutual, temporary, and, above all, voluntary authority and subordination.

29. It clearly follows that to make men moral it is necessary to make their social environment moral. And that can be done in only one way; by assuring the triumph of justice, that is, the complete liberty of everyone in the most perfect equality for all. Inequality of conditions and rights, and the resulting lack of liberty for all, is the great collective iniquity begetting all individual iniquities.

30. The free human society may arise at last, no longer organised ... from the top down... but rather starting from the free individual and the free association and autonomous commune, from the bottom up.

31. Women, different from man but not inferior to him, intelligent, hardworking and free as he is, should be declared his equal in all political and social rights... religious and civil marriage should be replaced by free marriage, and that the upkeep, education and training of all children should be a matter for everyone, a charge upon society .... children belonging neither to society nor to their parents but rather to their future liberty.

32. No one can want to destroy without having some idea, true or false, of the order of things that should, according to him or her, replace what presently exists.

33. From the naturalistic point of view, all men are equal. There are only two exceptions to this rule of naturalistic equality: geniuses and idiots.

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