The Centrist and the Fascist

The Centrist and the Fascist

A tale of gambling, compromise, and surrender.

By Matthew Barad, October 30, 2018

On Sunday night, Brazil elected a fascist. This is a man who has joked about rape, called for indigenous peoples to be killed, promoted the deforestation of the Amazon, and demanded that leftists be purged.

55% of Brazilians voted for him.

Balsonaro’s election has reignited fears about the global rise of fascism. I myself have written several pieces about Trump’s fascist tendencies and likely agenda. And though there is plenty of room to consider the causes behind fascism’s recent rise, and why right wing populism continues to gain traction, we need to understand that fascism doesn’t take power suddenly and without warning — rather, it is allowed to fester, and is even spurred on by those who have the power to stop it.

Former President Lula

In Brazil, Balsonaro’s rise was made possible by a decades-long centrist war against the left. MBD (the largest centrist party in Brazil) allied itself with the nationalist right in order to indict the leaders of PT (democratic socialist party) on charges of corruption. Former PT President Luiz Lula, a metal worker who dedicated his life to the fight for justice, is sitting in prison after being convicted of corruption. Whether innocent or guilty, Lula remains the most popular politician in Brazil, and was clearly targeted by the center and right in order to weaken Brazil’s left.

In joining ranks with the nationalists and against Lula’s party, the MBD was making a simple bet. They believed that, by using the courts to take the PT out of power, they could secure themselves a position to implement a decidedly neoliberal agenda. They were wrong. In forcing the left out of power, and in preventing Lula from running for office, the MBD opened the doors to fascism.

Disgruntled by the inaction of their government and disheartened by gross political injustice, the people of Brazil had to choose between a malignant status quo or a drastic, terrifying change. MBD, like so many others, gambled everything on the assumption that fascism could never win. And as I said, they were terribly mistaken.

This is not only the story of Brazil, but of fascism everywhere. Every time an ultra-nationalist party manages to seize control, it is not because of the ignorance of the poor, nor the incompetence of the left. It is because the center sided with the fascist to defeat the left, and then surrendered to the monster they fostered.

In Germany, the rise of the Nazi party occurred because the centrist parties conspired to eliminate the socialist SDP. The small business owners (Burghers) in particular sided with the Nazis, not because they agreed with them on any specific policy positions, but because socialism threatened their property, whereas fascism only threatened their ethics. The conservative “old guard” of Weimar believed, like the MBD, that they could take power and rebuild the pre-war status quo, if only those damn leftists would disappear.

In Spain, the international community watched passively while the elected government of Spain was overthrown in a fascist coup. And though the fascist powers were quick to send troops and weapons to Franco and his forces, the “democratic” west looked unfavorably upon the leftism of the Republicans, and simply allowed their massacre. While American leftists died in trenches in Spain, American fascists sent tons of supplies to support Franco’s coup.

The international center, like in every other case, was more afraid of a leftist Spain than a fascist Spain. And so they compromised on their support for democracy and free determination, dooming Spain to half a century of brutal oppression.

And then came 2016, and America’s center made the same, age-old gamble. Facing a challenge from the left, Hillary Clinton and the DNC opted to double down on the centrist position, even attacking leftist ideas like single payer healthcare and universal college education in hopes of preventing Bernie’s rise. Though Sanders can hardly be called “far left,” through the warped hellscape of American politics, anyone opting against the starvation and suffering of the majority appears radical.

So the DNC did everything it could to not only defeat the challenge from the left, but to force that left out of politics all together. In what can only be described as a depressingly apt parallel to the Brazilian elections, this meant joining with the right to attack the most popular politician in America. And just as in Brazil, removing the left from politics did not hand the center four more years of status quo — it handed the country over to Donald Trump and his white nationalist supporters.

Whatever the reason, whether in defense of the ruling class, or out of a hidden hatred for the poor and nonwhite, the center always veers right — and it almost always backfires. Though the victories of Troudeau and Macron show that this strategy does sometimes work, the fates of Germany, of Spain, of America, and now of Brazil, tell us the cost of centrist gambling.

So if you’re a leftist, don’t trust the center. And if you’re a centrist, make peace with the fascism you beget.

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Leftist Theory, For Beginners

This is a simple list of beginner leftist political theory. I would actually start with the youngest of these works, Capitalist Realism than to go to the oldest ones by Marx. The rest just talk about different ideologies in leftism. So you can kind of pick and chose who you want to read. 3 are Marxist after Marx, 4 are Anarchist, and 5 are Syndicalists.

So my recommendation list’s order is:

1. Capitalist Realism: Is There No Alternative? by Mark Fisher

2. Wage, Labour, and Capital AND Value, Price, and Profit by Karl Marx

3. State and Revolution by Vladimir Lenin AND Reform or Revolution by Rosa Luxemburg

4. Anarchism and Other Essays by Emma Goldman AND Mutual Aid by Peter Kropotkin

5. Anarcho-Syndicalism Theory and Practice by Rudolf Rocker AND Socialist Reconstruction of Society by Daniel De Leon

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On the Coup in Bolivia and the Legacy of Evo Morales

Originally written as an assignment for a college English course taught by a Pinochet defender, this essay is a brief overview of the economic and social growth experienced by the Bolivian people during the presidency of moderate socialist Evo Morales, the motivations for the coup in November 2019, and the subsequent political and humanitarian crisis. The first half of the essay focuses primarily on statistics sourced from the Center for Economic and Policy Research which highlight the rapid economic growth of Bolivia between 2006 and 2019. The second half looks at the external and internal pressures which culminated in President Morales’s deposition on November 11 and the human rights abuses performed by the interim government. Ultimately, this paper is a defense of President Morales and advocates for similar socialist policies to be implemented in other governments.

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Seize the Means of Distribution

Seize the Means of Distribution

Matthew Barad

Aug 12 2019

Capital in the Age of Technology

For all of human history, a person’s relationship to the means of production defined their social, political, and economic status. In the industrial age this truth was made more obvious than ever before. Because one class controlled the factories and owned the fields, they could dictate the conditions of labor and profit from its fruits. Laborers needed these “means of production” to produce goods, so they had no choice but to alienate themselves from their products and accept less than the value they produced as compensation.

To the seasoned Marxists among my readers, I apologize for the quick and incomplete review. However, in order to understand how this dynamic shifted with modernity, we need to understand this basic historical precedent. For three centuries, the control of capital has allowed one class to exploit another. Though that simple fact has not changed, its form is continuously evolving.

Today, the material conditions of the global north vary drastically from their industrial roots. Industrial production has slowed, and most workers now provide services rather than products. Nowhere is this shift more visible than in the realm of technology. In this brave new world, the means of production cannot be easily contained. Every person with a computer is capable of coding. Open source and free development software means nearly everyone has a means of production.

In order to account for this development, capitalists have been forced to shift their mechanisms of control — and have done so with great success. 6 of the world’s largest 20 corporations are tech and software firms. For an industry that has only existed on a consumer scale for just over 30 years, this constitutes incredible growth. However, this was not achieved through control of factories, but instead through the domination of intellectual property, advertisement, and most essentially, the means of distribution.

Apple, for example, is keenly aware that its software empire is under constant threat from third party coders. Everything from its operating systems to individual applications could potentially be out-compete by aspiring coders. Their solution has been two fold — coopt developers when possible, and when all else fails, force them out of the market altogether. Compared to Android OS, IOS is draconian. Its monthly updates thwart attempts at jailbreaking. It forbids apps outside of the Apple store from competing on its platform without those jailbreaks. And crucially Apple charges a steep fee for developers to access its marketplace.

The capitalists who own Apple are able to exploit developers in a manner which directly parallels the exploitation of 20th century factory labor. Because indie devs lack the capital for advertisement budgets and are not guaranteed access to Apple’s marketplace, they are forced to surrender a portion of the value they produce to a capitalist class. Though the means of production have become ubiquitous, the means of distribution have been seized.

This helps explain why so many popular apps are clones dedicated to microtransactions and devoid of content. In order to overcome the barriers to distribution while also making enough to live, developers must alienate themselves from the act of creation and dedicate themselves to menial cash-grabs. Just as the cobbler’s of Paris were replaced with desolate shoe factories, so is the indie-dev being replaced with soulless code-recyclers.

Though this shift in the mode of capitalist accumulation is most obvious in the world of technology, it extends well beyond it. Online marketplaces like Etsy and Ebay use their control of distribution and advertisement to steal labor value from small-time crafters. Amazon uses its market to extract wealth from self-published novelists. Uber and Lyft use their control of driving apps to extort wealth from drivers. These laborers are forced to rely on means of distribution which are owned by a capitalist class, so instead of receiving the full value of their products, they receive a fraction.

To return to the Marxist lens, this has ramifications for the labor theory of value as well. In Capital, Marx famously uses linen and coats to demonstrate how labor adds value to commodities. Though the need for clothing explains its value as a commodity, labor transforms low value linen into a product with a high use-value. In this example, ownership of industrial sewing machines allowed the capitalist class to exploit factory laborers. Without access to the machines, labor could not compete, and so they surrendered a portion of their wages to unproductive oligarchs.

Today, the means of distribution allow capitalists to similarly exploit wealth by leveraging their ownership, however the transfer of value is even more extreme with software than it was with footwear. Though industrial capitalists don’t do nearly enough work to justify the wealth they steal from labor, physical means of production do require continued investment. If the coat-making capitalist doesn’t buy linen, labor cannot create coats. However, Steam, Apple, Etsy, Uber, and Amazon can extract labor value without sending so much as a cent of material to the workers. Coders create value from electricity and intellect. Craftsmen buy their own supplies. Uber drivers pay for their own cars, their own gas, and rely on their own labor.

Controlling the means of distribution has the potential to be much more lucrative than the means of production, as workers are not only responsible for their own labor, but for their continued business expenses as well.

In this way, our modern capitalist class in more akin to landlords than industrial capitalists. Just as tenant wages are exploited by property owners in exchange for shelter, many modern service workers must surrender part of the value they create in exchange for digital distributive property. This is partly why the gig economy is so often compared to Feudalism. Without the guarantee of steady income, and without the bourgeoisie’s direct involvement in production, laborers in the gig economy are paying to access the means of distribution with no promise of future wealth.

If the “risk of investment” is meant to justify capital’s supremacy over labor, then the gig economy is entirely unjustifiable. Just as serfs were forced to give up the fruits of their labor to landowners, so too must developers surrender their code to online distributors. And just as serfs suffered all the risk in planting, so do Etsy crafters suffer all the risk in production.

Of course, the two aren’t identical — after all, serfs were promised food and protection. Today’s laborers are not.

As 21st century socialists, we have an obligation to apply and reapply Marxist frameworks to our ever-shifting economic landscape. This essay was not meant as an absolute conclusion so much as an initial effort. If we do not understand the economic and political relations which define the life of laborers today, socialists have no hope of building solidarity, much less building a better world.

To that end, let us recognize that western capitalists are quickly redefining themselves as owners of the means of distribution, rather than of production. If labor unites and seizes online marketplaces, or creates its own collective alternatives, we can free ourselves from this new tyranny, and reclaim our labor value.

Let us not be mesmerized by Capital’s parlor tricks or transmutations. Exploitation clings to life with the same grotesque tenacity today as it has for all our history. Be you writer, coder, crafter, driver, or entertainer, you are entitled to all you create. Workers of the world, unite! You have nothing to lose but your chains.

Addendum: Because there has been much confusion and debate concerning the scope of this piece, I want to clarify that it does not apply to the entirety of western economies. Most workers still deal directly with means of production. However, the direction of the economy towards ethereal tech jobs and gig-based labor is worth examining. It is tech jobs and gig labor that this piece describes best.

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Voting and State Formation

Voting and State Formation

Why we vote, why we’re allowed to, and what is to be done.

Why we vote

States are imagined both as artificial constructs and as preordained hierarchies. Though they are founded and built by human beings, their existence is justified with creation myths. America, as any proper civics teacher will tell you, was founded by great men with great ideas. Indeed, every liberal democracy shares that mythos. Jefferson, Locke, and Smith gifted their genius to liberty’s common cause, and democracies were born — or so the story goes.

Beyond liberalism’s theology, however, we find a centuries-old debate in political science. The fact that liberal democracies exist is not disputed, but why they exist remains hotly contested. Hegelians insist that the myth is the reality; that America’s founding ideas really did drive its modern structures. Marxists look instead for material conditions and class relations; Lenin sees the state as an instrument of the ruling class, and therefore, sees liberal democracy as the state form which best serves the interests of the bourgeoisie. Any number of political philosophers exist between and beyond these arguments — Kant sees the state as a natural reflection of social relations, Freud views it as an afterimage of sexuality — but the Marxist and Hegelian views will guide our discussion.

Though I tend towards the Marxist and structuralist view of the state, I find it doesn’t sufficiently explain one particularly strange facet of liberal societies: why we vote.

For the Hegelian, this isn’t a question at all. Western liberals vote for the same reason that the Romans watched blood sports and that the Roman-Catholics attend mass — if our society really is founded on a few good ideas, and if voting is one of those good ideas, then of course we should expect people to vote. Every civics class in America teaches some variation of this argument. Americans vote because representative democracy is a good idea. It allows us to be heard in government, and it carries on our liberal tradition.

For the Marxist, the question is more troubling. If the state is controlled by the bourgeoisie, and the bourgeoisie use it to serve their interests, then why are the bourgeoisie best served by democracy? Surely both monarchy and fascism serve elites better than enfranchising the poor. It is possible to argue from a Marxist perspective that the achievement of democracy was either an after-image of the revolutions against feudal aristocracy which overturned permanent state privilege, or even, that modern proletarian struggles have built liberal democracies (this second point explains why landless people, nonwhite people, and women were denied suffrage for so long). However, neither of these possibilities explains why even the most authoritarian bourgeois states seek the trappings of democracy. Russia, a state defined by its oligarchic bourgeois, still holds elections. Even in America the Republicans who are actively stripping voting rights would never call to abolish elections altogether. Why not?

Why they let us

To answer this question from the Marxist frame, we will turn to Charles Tilly. Though Tilly is not a Marxist in any sense, he does approach the question of state formation from a decidedly materialist position. In his State Formation as Organized Crime, Tilly argues that the first states were formed when a robber-baron class took over early agricultural settlements and forcefully taxed the farmers. In order to protect these stolen villages from other robbers, part of those taxes were dedicated towards defense, and eventually, conquest. This fits well into a strictly Marxist understanding of class relations, with the robber-barons effectively becoming a feudal aristocracy.

Once these states are formed, we come to Tilly’s second main thesis: “Wars make states, and states make war.” Best imagined as a Darwinian petri dish, Tilly’s contention is that these proto-states entered into competition with each other, and only the strongest survived. In order to “make states,” there needs to be a class capable of extracting resources from its society. And, in order to “make war,” that class needed to expand its coercive and extractive capabilities. The states which were best able to extract resources gained an advantage in war, and consequently, survived. Those states which failed to extract as efficiently ceased to exist. Given eons of human history, we find that the nation-state outcompeted most every rival, and came to dominate the geopolitical ecosystem.

But again, we return to our primary question. Even if the nation-state is the ideal exploitative form, why the liberal nation-state? Why allow your population to vote if they might vote to lessen your coercive capabilities? To answer this final question, we turn to Ivan Krastev.

In From Politics to Protest, Krastev imagines a government facing a strange crisis. Suddenly, in the course of an election cycle, more than 80% of the population has decided not to vote — or rather, to turn in blank ballots. Taking his words:

The government’s frantic attempts to get its hands on the ringleaders of the blank-vote conspiracy ended in frustration and despair. It turned out that behind the blank votes were neither ideologists nor organizers. Nor was it a conspiracy, having been neither planned nor prepared. It was not even tweeted. The only rational explanation was that a majority of the people at one and the same time (and each separately from all the others) had arrived at the idea of dropping a blank ballot into the urn. As a result, there was no one for the government to negotiate with, no one to arrest, and no one to target with efforts at blackmail or cooptation. After a week of anxiety, the authorities reran the election. But this time, 83 percent of the ballots were left blank (1).

This scenario challenges us because it is clear that this is a crisis for the government — that sudden protest-voting on this scale presents a threat to the regime — but it isn’t clear why. That is to ask, why should this government care if eighty percent of its people fail to vote? Kastev’s answer is simple: refusing to vote is threatening because voting prevents revolution.

A Bread Riot in pre-revolutionary France

To Krastev, elections are “celebrations of powerlessness.” Citizens turn in their ballots without any real expectation that they are exercising power over the state, and often, are asked to respect the results of the election even when their power is directly diminished. In the days of feudal rule, bread and funeral riots would regularly confront the state as a direct threat, and coerce it into meeting their demands. Indeed, these actions sparked many bourgeois revolutions. Though modern strikes and uprisings parallel this tendency, they are a rarity, rather than a fact of political life. Today, instead of striking, we vote. Instead of rioting, we vote. Instead of revolting, we vote. Far from empowering a state’s people, voting disempowers them, and thus, allows for state coercion and extraction to go on uninterrupted.

And so we return to our central question: how can a Marxist explain the allowance of voting by bourgeois states? The simple answer is that elections are another mechanism of control. By allowing the people to vote, and then proceeding to ignore them, Putin and Trump are both able to exploit their people without consequence. Liberal democracies create a nonviolent arena for bourgeois politicians to debate the management of their affairs, while simultaneously pacifying the proletariat.

A more complex answer, taken in terms of Tilly’s model, sees that the liberal nation-state has succeeded in the geopolitical ecosystem because it is the government form which has thus far been able to extract the most resources from its people, and most easily direct those resources towards imperialism and war. Without fearing bread riots or lasting general strikes, the liberal state is able to levy burdens on its people that would be intolerable under feudal society. We work longer hours than peasants ever did, produce more, and accept a level of state control that has never existed before. Because Americans are by-and-large Hegelian in their understanding of the state, they are too mesmerized by ideas of voting and popular rule to realize that both are completely farcical.

What is to be done?

This not only leaves us with a better understanding of why liberal democracy exists, and how it serves the ruling class, it also helps us understand how we can escape this cycle of exploitation. Though I am not taking a position on the effectiveness of electoralism, one thing is clear: we must not allow voting to demobilize us. Whether or not we approve of the government, whether or not a candidate we support wins, and whether or not we make temporary gains, we must constantly struggle against the state to ensure the interests of working people are met. History’s greatest achievements have only been won by an empowered working class.

When the robber-baron state is forced to contend with an organized internal power, it will inevitably surrender to it. States founded on coercion will crumble once that coercion is defeated. Let history be a lesson: only constant and unapologetic mobilization can rob the robbers of that foundation.

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The Rising Tides of Climate Fascism

The Rising Tides of Climate Fascism

Climate change is too often imagined as religious rapture — instant, just, and painless. Though we understand that sea levels will rise, storms will become more intense, and forest fires more common, we rarely conceive of those tragedies in human terms. Some are brave enough to describe the death toll of climate disaster — but even those who do fail to communicate who will die, and how they will perish. Climate change is not a God. None of its victims will vanish painlessly. They will die painful deaths, and they will do so along racial and economic lines.

Some, perhaps most, will be killed by fascists.

Before his murderous spree, the Christchurch fascist terrorist made exactly such a promise:

The environment is being destroyed by over population, we Europeans are one of the groups that are not over populating the world. The invaders are the ones over populating the world. Kill the invaders, kill the over population and by doing so save the environment.

Any moderately informed person could describe in detail why this screed is wrong — both in terms of ethics and basic science. There is no overpopulation crisis; our world is dying because of how our economy is structured, not because of how many people rely upon it. Compared to Americans and Europeans, the average Bengali has virtually no ecological footprint. Migrants are human beings, not invaders. But none of that matters, does it?

The fascists have already decided who they will blame for climate disaster, and they have already decided how to punish them. If climate apocalypse comes, the genocides will not only be committed by hurricanes in the Atlantic, nor by fires in California. They will also be committed by armed border police in El Paso and Hungary. When billions of men, women, and children are dislocated by climate change, they will flee to the imperial core. And they will be met with concentration camps.

It is not enough to fight climate change. It’s too late to stop its destabilizing effects even by the best estimates. As leftists — as decent human beings — we must recognize that radical change to national borders will be necessary to prevent genocide.

Ecosystems are already failing. ICE is already armed. The wall is already being built. If we are to reverse course and prevent the greatest tragedy in human history, we need to understand that fascism and climate change are inextricably linked. And we need to fight like hell.

It doesn’t require any high-level analysis to know the genocidal horrors that could follow the climate crisis. Taken as an example, the 2018 IPCC report on Central and South America outlines dozens of vulnerabilities, stressors, and near certain impacts that climate change will have on the region, not least of which include sea level rise, the loss of freshwater sources, and possibly the wholesale destruction of the Amazon. To quote the report directly:

Various models are projecting a risk of reduced rainfall and higher temperatures and water stress, which may lead to an abrupt and irreversible replacement of Amazon forests by savannalike vegetation, under a high emission scenario… The possible “savannization” or “die-back” of the Amazon region would potentially have large-scale impacts on climate, biodiversity, and people in the region. The possibility of this die-back scenario occurring, however, is still an open issue and the uncertainties are still very high (Rammig et al., 2010; Shiogama et al., 2011).

It is difficult to comprehend what changes on this scale would mean. Entire ecosystems, as well as the economies which rely on them, could collapse. Regions of South America could become outright uninhabitable — without a self-regulating rainforest climate much of South America’s agriculture would be disrupted at best and decimated at worst.

And though the global North has the resources for large scale desalination, genetic modification, sea walls, and all manner of temporary tech-fixes, the chronic and intentional underdevelopment of the global South will leave those governments without the tools to combat climate catastrophe. People will suffer, flee, and perish — and because nonwhite nations are systematically impoverished, the imperial core could commit racial genocides without building a single death camp. In the world of climate catastrophe, tomorrow’s Trumps need only build walls, close borders, and allow climate change to be the executioner.

This September, a series of delegates from across the Carribean petitioned Trump to address climate change in anticipation of exactly such a crisis. The President of Chile has expressed his concerns over Trump’s climate inaction repeatedly over the last two years. Half a dozen Carribean states have committed to reaching zero emissions by 2030. Without the advantages of imperial wealth, these states have no choice but to do what they can to lessen the crisis while begging the benefactors of climate change for help.

In keeping with Trump’s xenophobic attitude towards nonwhite nations, these petitions have fallen on deaf ears. The “shithole countries” Trump and his allies hate will be among the first to suffer climate apocalypse. Whether inspired by incompetence or malice, the material consequence of Trump’s inaction is the increasing likelihood of genocide and collapse.

However, I fear climate change itself will be only partially responsible for those genocides. The scale of displacement and migration that will be caused by climate change is unprecedented. One Cornell study placed its estimate at 2 billion climate refugees by 2100. Keeping population growth in mind, climate change will displace one out of every five human beings on Earth. By the end of the century, South America, Latin America, and the Caribean will have a combined population of ~1.3 billion. Climate change could force hundreds of millions to flee their homelands in that region alone. Millions of those would end up on America’s southern border. And if they find that border closed, refugee camps will form, and suffering will follow.

The Dadaab Refugee Camp in Kenya shows that the international community is unwilling or unable to meet the humanitarian needs of refugees in a time of unprecedented prosperity. By the end of this century, unhindered climate change would throw even the wealthy north into disarray. The failures in past refugee crises would be nothing more than footnotes in the prelude of this century’s disasters.

Without international support, those encamped on the border would face disease, crime, hunger, and thirst. Mexico would lack the resources (and perhaps even the desire) to aid these camps alone, leaving cartels and traffickers to provide “services.” Some would attempt to enter the United States, legally or otherwise, and some would make it in.

ICE’s behavior today, in a time of low migration and relative stability, demonstrates how quickly they would further their fascism under worse circumstances. ICE already habitually destroys humanitarian supplies on the border, already prosecutes activists for attempting to feed refugees, and already runs concentration camps. Even under Obama’s liberal government, migrants were killed and buried in mass graves. Those climate migrants who do cross the border may be forced into labor camps, death camps, or even murdered by pogroms of American racists spurred into action by fascist claims of a migrant “invasion.”

It would seem that, whether governed by the center left or the far right, the current world order is incapable of treating refugees with dignity — and that is before climate apocalypse.

This fascist agenda will not only be felt outside the West’s borders, however. The humanitarian catastrophe following Katrina, for example, shows that the United States is far more concerned with protecting some lives than others. 93% of those who died in Katrina were black. 25% were suffering from chronic disease. 12% were disabled. A Seattle Times article published in September of 2005 describes the horrors of a climate refugee camp in the wealthiest country on Earth:

The Louisiana Superdome, once a mighty testament to architecture and ingenuity, became the biggest storm shelter in New Orleans the day before Katrina’s arrival Monday. About 16,000 people eventually settled in. Within two days, it had degenerated into unspeakable horror. A few hundred were evacuated from the arena yesterday, and buses will take away the remaining people today … Baby supplies are running low; one mother said she was given two diapers and told to scrape them off when they got dirty and use them again.

At least two people, including a child, have been raped as the arena darkened at night. At least three people have died, including one man who jumped 50 feet to his death, saying he had nothing left to live for.

These were not victims of a natural disaster, but of a system which forces already marginalized people into vulnerable areas — a system which prioritizes the safety of the white, wealthy, and able-bodied.

In Houston and Puerto Rico we saw the same story retold, with the impoverished being left to suffer, all while the wealthiest country in history sat idly by. As natural disasters become more frequent and more intense, this fascistic hierarchy-of-life will only expand. Natural disasters do not discriminate. Humans do. We need to understand inaction in the face of climate change and natural disaster as fascistic. Intentionality is beside the point. When flood, fire, or famine comes, minorities perish first.

Throughout this piece, I have chosen to use the word “genocide” when describing the mass deaths that climate-exacerbated natural disasters could cause. This is not done accidentally, or for the sake of emphasis. I call these disasters genocides because genocide is the most accurate term to use. We’ve known the consequences of inaction on climate change for at least a generation. We’ve known that minority populations will be the first to die in a climate apocalypse for just as long. The climate is no more of a murderer than a gun or knife. Billionaires, fascists, and complacent politicians actively wield climate change as a weapon of genocide.

Inaction is genocidal. Incompetence is genocidal. The prioritization of private property, national borders, and American hegemony above climate action is genocidal. In the world of climate change, antifascism requires radical climate action.

Though antifascist action against actual white nationalists is and will remain critical as temperatures rise, an equally dedicated antifascist movement must seek to soften the edge of climate change and disempower those using it as a weapon. In order to prevent climate genocide, we must pursue a radical agenda to reform our economy and our conception of borders. Though both of these causes are necessary and important in their own right, only their synthesis can successfully prevent the coming tragedy.

Much ink has been spilled on the subject of our oil-driven economy. It should go without saying in leftist circles that a rapid and just transition away from such an economy is necessary to halting climate change. What is less often confronted, however, is the reality that capitalism as an infinite growth system is incapable of preventing itself from killing a finite earth.

Since 1972, Danielle H. Meadows and her various teams of researchers have been constructing computational models to predict when our economy will “overshoot” Earth’s resources. Entitled Limits to Growth this series of more than a dozen reports has continuously shown that capitalism is unsustainable, and has pleaded with those in power to change course. To date, they’ve inspired very little action.

Meadows is just one of dozens of such researchers calling to pull the emergency break on economic growth. Climate change or no climate change, our current economic model has already irreversibly damaged fish stocksforests, and estuaries. Simply put, we are already consuming more than the globe can replenish — and our rate of consumption is only accelerating.

Returning to the topic at hand, there is little doubt which populations will feel the first shortages when they inevitably arrive. Even if climate change were not a factor, the poorest nations, and the poorest people would still be crushed by ecological collapse. Today, 9 million people starve to death every year even as we produce enough food to feed 10 billion. The vast majority of those who starve are nonwhite. In a world with global food shortages, once fisheries empty and well run dry, there is little doubt that the existing vulnerability of nonwhite groups will be exacerbated to the point of genocide.

Capitalism’s need for infinite growth, in combination with its inability to fairly distribute resources and its unjust prioritization of wealthy lives, means that its abolition is necessary to prevent genocide. Only a more democratic system which fairly distributes resources will have the desire and ability to protect all peoples. If we fail to build such a system before the climate apocalypse begins, we will fail to prevent genocide.

However, the impending threat of climate genocide cannot be fought through economic transition alone. As much as capitalism is a forcing factor of climate change, the more proximate cause for many climate deaths has been, and will be, national borders. As regions of our planet become uninhabitable, the free movement of people must be upheld universally. If our current system of national border enforcement continues, the inevitable result of climate instability will be the refugee camps and fascist migrant detention we discussed earlier.

Since 2014, nearly 15,000 refugees have died crossing the Mediterranean to Europe. Without legal migration routes, those fleeing the Syrian civil war were forced to pay exorbitant fees to climb aboard shanty vessels owned by human traffickers. A 2016 report by Human Rights First described the Syrian refugee crisis as a “greenhouse for human trafficking.” The article details why refugees are so vulnerable, and the fates they frequently endure:

As vulnerabilities compound, certain individuals, such as those applying for short term or seasonal work, runaway or homeless youth, and communities in crisis, experience heightened susceptibility to modern day slavery. The TIP report includes refugees among these most vulnerable groups.

Once the implications and causes of this crisis are understood, it is impossible to deny Europe’s closed-border policy as anything less than nascent fascism. In Syria, people driven from their homes by a civil war were denied safe passage to Europe on account of their nationality, thus forcing them to risk death, and even face slavery. Put simply, the maintenance of national borders is killing and enslaving people on the basis of national origin.

However, the Syrian refugee crisis was not an unavoidable tragedy — growing evidence suggests it was exacerbated, or perhaps even caused, by regional shifts in climate. A 2015 study found that climate change was a significant causal factor in the food shortages and general unrest which precipitated the civil war. Syria relied on heavy food subsidies to maintain its popularity. These subsidies were effective because they ensured both the financial stability of rural agricultural communities, and kept the costs of living in urban centers low. Climate change disrupted that system.

This strategy — of lowering cost of living to stabilize your country — is not unique to Syria. One paper published by the Miami International Law Review argues that food subsidies are a primary strategy for maintaining order and economic prosperity in the global South. Central Asia and Africa are particularly reliant on such programs because of the relative uncertainty in crop yields — subsidies guarantee that farmers will not starve after a single bad harvest. This means that the global South is not only more vulnerable to the agricultural disruption caused by climate change, but indeed, that the regions facing the worst impacts of climate change will become more reliant on subsidies over time, and therefore, even more vulnerable to climate impacts in the long term.

Taking this together, the conflict in Syria seems to be little more than a prelude of things to come. The continued maintenance of international borders guarantees that the refugees who flee tomorrow’s civil wars will find themselves drowning in the Meditarranean, starving in the Sahara, or sold into slavery by human traffickers.

Liberals use a myriad of ideological arguments to defend the existence of national borders. Whether or not these ideals are valid in principle, however, is irrelevant. Their actual, material impact is genocidal. Be they liberal defenses of national self-determination or fascist calls for national purity, all defenses of borders in the world of climate cataclysm mean defending and allowing genocide. Only the abolition of borders and the guarantee of free movement will allow refugees to flee their demise. Anything less amounts to fascism.

Returning to the chilling words of the Christchurch terrorist, the current trajectory of climate-driven migration, slavery, and genocide is the fascist’s dream. Whether or not one believes in climate change, or calls themselves an “ecofascist,” continuing to emit greenhouse gasses, and refusing to open borders, will condemn masses of nonwhite, atypical, and differently abled people to death.

We saw this foreshadowed by the aftermaths of Katrina and Syria. We see it in the current rhetoric around refugees. We know that capitalism will cause ecosystems to collapse in majority nonwhite regions. We know that our current border system already actively condemns human beings to suffering on account of their nationality. We must recognize that the issues of climate change and rising fascism are inseparably linked, and we must strive to prevent them both.

Climate fascism is coming. Billions may die. And only a radical change to our economic system and the hegemony of borders can prevent that disaster.

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May Day – An informational pamphlet about socialism

May Day

An informational pamphlet about socialism

An analysis of property

Property is one of the vital concepts that underpins our society. Private property, ownership of land and things used to create economic value (not property for personal use), is a core part of capitalism. Private property allows owners to deny others food that is produced on land and products produced in factories unless consumers pay a price, by virtue of the fact that they own it exclusively.

In simple circumstances, this might seem justified. I own the factory, and therefore I own what is produced in it. However, consider that if I do not personally produce the products, or if I have inherited it, I have done nothing to deserve the money from it. Surely, a better system would allow those who work the property to benefit from it?

Private property allows property owners to control us. We are forced to work for people on their terms — they decide what we do, they decide how we do it, and they even decide when you can go on holiday or, worse, visit a sick loved one. This control stems from the hostage situation of property — they own it, and therefore we, the have-nots, are at their whim, as they can deny it to us whenever they so choose. If you do not work for them, you will starve.

A better society

All humans are born equal. We are told this from our birth, yet our society does not reflect this. Property, as we have seen, creates massive and systemic wealth inequality. But, without it, how would society function? Who would control what?

Rather than having a few individuals selfishly controlling property, the economy, and society, we would govern based on consent and consensus, rather than the dictatorship of those who own property. Property would be owned by none and all: property would be governed by those whom it affects. For instance, the community controls the land, and the workers control the factories and workplaces.

This is not to say that consumers are not considered in decision-making about production; on the contrary, everyone affected is consulted and a general consensus of what to do is reached. This is a society in which all will receive all that they need, regardless of their ownership of property. It is a society based on compassion. Property divides us, and with it we cannot view each other with compassion – recognising one other as people without trying to control or have power over one another.

Making a change

How do we change our society for the better? It is evident that we must resist the current regime, but how do we do so?

Lifestylism, the liberal idea that an individual can make a change in the system, is deeply flawed. Lifestylism has no historical basis — it was groups such as COSATU and the ANC that brought about the fall of Apartheid, not individuals who decided not to be racist. Likewise, it will be organisations and direct action that will stop climate change and extinguish the power of Capital.

Do not be misled — buying FairTrade[1] coffee will not change anything. Companies have always exploited workers, and they always will. This is the logic of Capital: profit over people, profit over all.

1. Educate yourself. Resist Capital. Be aware of the evils of hierarchy and capitalism, and learn about various leftist ideologies.

2. Direct action: help with environmental cleanups and protests. Show your support. We must organise, for together we are strong.

3. Do not be apolitical. Politics is pervasive, everything is political, and the choice to remain apolitical is usually just an endorsement of the status quo. The personal is political.

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What is Government? What is God? -Pierre-Joseph Proudhon

What is Government? What is its principle, its object, its right? — This is incontestably the first question that the political man poses to himself.

Now, this question, which appears so simple and the solution of which seems so easy, we find that faith alone can answer. Philosophy is as incapable of demonstrating Government as it is of proving God. Authority, like Divinity, is not a matter of knowing; it is, I repeat, a matter of faith.

That insight, so paradoxical at first glance, and yet so true, merits some development. We are going to try, without any significant scientific apparatus, to make ourselves understood.

The principal attribute, the signal trait of our species, after THOUGHT, is belief, and above all things, the belief in God. Among the philosophers, some saw in that faith in a superior Being a prerogative of humanity, while others discovered there only its weakness. Whatever there is of merit or demerit in the belief in the idea of God, it is certain that the beginning of all metaphysical speculation is an act of worship of the Creator: it is that which the human mind, among all the Peoples, records in an invariable manner.

But what is God? That is what the philosopher and the believer immediately, and with an irresistible movement, demand. And, as a corollary to that first interrogation, this one arises immediately: What, of all the religions, is the best? Indeed, if there exists a Being superior to Humanity, there must also exist a system of relations between that Being and Humanity: what then is that system? The search for the best religion is the second step that the human mind makes in Reason and Faith.

To this double question, no response is possible. The definition of Divinity escapes the intelligence. Humanity has been by turns fetishist, idolater, Christian and Buddhist, Jew and Mohammedan, deist and pantheist: it has worshiped in turn plants, animals, stars, the heavens, the soul of the world, and, finally, itself: it has wandered from superstition to superstition, without managing to determine its God. The problem of the attributes and essence of God and of the worship that is proper to him, like a trap set for his ignorance, torments Humanity from its origin. The Peoples are sacrificed for their idols, society is exhausted by the elaboration of its beliefs, without the solution being advanced a step.

The deist and the pantheist, like the Christian and the idolater, is reduced to pure faith. One could even say, and it is the only progress we have made in this study, that it is repugnant to reason to know and understand God: it is only given to us to believe. And this is why in all eras, and under all religions, we encounter a small number of men, bolder in appearance than the others, who, not understanding God, have taken the part of denying him: we have given them the name of free spirits or atheists.

But it is clear that atheism is still less logical than faith. The basic, conclusive fact of the spontaneous belief in the supreme Being remaining always, and the problem implied by that fact inevitably posing itself, atheism could not be accepted as a solution. Far from testifying to the strength of the mind, it would only prove its desperation. It is with atheism as it is with suicide: it has only been embraced by the smallest number. The People have always had a horror of it!

Things were thus. Humanity seemed eternally placed between an insoluble question and an impossible negation, when, at the end of the last century, a philosopher, Kant, as remarkable for his profound piety, as for the incomparable power of his reflection, realized how to attack the theological problem in an entirely new manner.

He no longer asked himself, as everyone had before him: What is God? and what is the true religion? From a question of fact he made a question of form, and he said to himself: Why does it happen that I believe in God? How, by virtue of what is that idea produced in my mind? What is its point of departure and its development? What are its transformations, and, if need be, its decline? How, finally, is it that, in the religious soul, the things, the ideas, come to be?

Such was the course of studies proposed, on God and Religion, by the philosopher of Kœnigsberg. Renouncing further pursuit of the content, or the reality of the idea of God, he set himself to writing, if I dare put it in this way, the biography of that idea. Instead of taking, like an anchorite, the idea of God for the object of his meditations, he analyzed the faith in God, as a religious period of six thousand years presented it to him. In short, he considered in religion, not an external and supernatural revelation of the infinite Being, but a phenomenon of our understanding.

From this moment the spell was broken: the mystery of religion was revealed to philosophy. What we seek and what we see in God, as Malebranche said, is not at all that being, or to speak more fairly, that chimerical entity, that our imagination constantly enlarges, and that, by the very fact that it must be after all the notion that our mind makes of it, cannot in reality be anything: it is our own ideal, the pure essence of Humanity.

What the theologian pursues, without knowing it, in the dogma that he teaches, is not the mysteries of the infinite: it is the laws of our collective and individual spontaneity. The human soul does not perceive itself at first by reflective contemplation on itself, as the psychologist believe; it perceives itself outside itself, as if it was a different being placed in front of it: it is that mirror image that it calls God.

Thus, morals, justice, order, laws, are no longer things revealed from on high, imposed on our free will by a so-called creator, unknown, unintelligible; they are things that are as proper and essential as our faculties and organs, as our flesh and blood. In short: Religion and Society are synonymous terms; Man is sacred pour himself as if he was God. Catholicism and Socialism, identical at base, differ only in form: in this was we explain faith, and the primitive face of the belief in God, and the indisputable progress of the religions.

Now, what Kant did nearly sixty years ago for Religion; what he had previously done for Certainty; what others before him had attempted for Happiness or the Sovereign Good, the Voix du Peuple proposes to undertake for Government.

After the belief in God, that which occupies the most prominent place in the general thought is the belief in Authority. Everywhere that there are men grouped in society, we encounter, with the rudiments of a religion, the rudiments of power, the embryo of a government. That fact is as basic, as universal, as indisputable as that of the religions.

But what is Power, and what is the best form of Government? for it is clear that if we manage to understand the essence and attributes of power, we will know at the same time the best form to give to it, what is, of all the constitutions, the most perfect. We would have, in this way, resolved one of the two great problems posed by the February Revolution: we would have resolved the political problem, principle, means and end, — we do not prejudge anything, — of economic reform.

Well! On Government, as on Religion, the controversy has endured since the origin of societies, and with as little success. It is for governments as for religions, for political theories as for systems of philosophy: that is to say, there is no solution. More than two thousand years before Montesquieu and Machiavelli, Aristotle gathered the various definitions of government, distinguishing them according to their forms: patriarchies, democracies, oligarchies, aristocracies, absolute monarchies, constitutional monarchies, theocracies, federative republics, etc. He declared, in short, that the problem was insoluble. Aristotle, with regard to government, as with regard to religion, was a skeptic. He had faith neither in God nor in the State.

And we who, in sixty years, have gone through seven or eight kinds of governments; who, hardly entered into the Republic, are already weary of our Constitution; we, for whom the exercise of power has only been, from the conquest of the Gauls by Julius Caesar until the ministry of the brothers Barrot, the practice of oppression and tyranny; we, finally, who witness in this moment the saturnalia of the governments of Europe, do we then have more faith than Aristotle? Isn’t it time that we get out of this unhappy rut, and instead of exhausting ourselves any more in the search fort the best government, the best organization to make of the political idea, we should pose the question, no longer of the reality, but of the legitimacy of that idea?

Why do we believe in Government? From where, in human society, comes that idea of Authority, of Power; that fiction of a superior Person, called the State?

How is that fiction produced? How is it developed? What is its law of evolution, its economy?

Won’t it be with Government as with God and the Absolute, which have so long and so fruitlessly occupied the philosophers? Would this not still be on of the first-born conceptions of our understanding, which we wrongly give the name of ideas, and that, without reality, without possibility of realization, expresses only something indefinite, which only has tyranny for its essence?

And then, relative to God and Religion, we have already found, by philosophical analysis, that beneath the allegories of its religious myths, Humanity pursues nothing other than its own ideal, could we still seek what we want beneath the allegory of its political myths? For in the end, the political institutions, so different, so contradictory, exist neither for themselves, nor by themselves; like the cults, they are not essential to society, they are hypothetical formulas or combinations, by means of which civilization maintains an appearance of order, or to put it better, seeks order. What then, once again, is the secret meaning of these institutions, the real reason why the political concept, the notion of government, comes to nothing?

In short, instead of seeing in government, with the absolutists, the organ and expression of society; with the doctrinaires, an instrument of order, or rather of policy; with the radicals, a means of revolution: let us try to see simply a phenomenon of the collective life, the external representation of our right, the education of some one of our faculties. Who knows if we could not discover then that all these governmental formulas, for which the Peoples and citizens have slit each others’ throats for sixty centuries, are only a phantasmagoria of our mind, that the first duty of a free reason is to return to the museums and libraries?

Such is the question posed and resolved in the Confessions of a Revolutionary, and of which the Voix du Peuple proposes, with the aid of facts furnished to it by the power and the parties who dispute it, to give daily commentary.

Just like Religion, Government is a manifestation of social spontaneity, a preparation of Humanity for a higher state.

What Humanity seeks in Religion, and calls God, is itself.

What the citizen seeks in Government and names King, Emperor or President, is also himself, it is Liberty.

Without Humanity, no God; the theological concept makes no sense: — Without Liberty, no Government; the political concept is without value.

The best form of Government, like the most perfect of religions, taken in the literal sense, is a contradictory idea. The problem is not to know how we will be governed best, but how we will be the most free. Liberty suitable and identical to order, that is all that power and politics really contain. How is that absolute liberty, synonym of ordered, constituted? that is what the analysis of the different formulas of authority will teach us. For all the rest, we do not accept the government of man by man, any more than the exploitation of man by man…

Thus, the march that we propose to follow, in treating the political question and in preparing the materials for a constitutional revision, will be the same that we have followed up to this day in treating the social question. La Voix du Peuple, in completing the work of the two journals that preceded it, will be faithful to their wanderings.

What should we say, in these two papers, fallen one after the other under the blows of the reaction and the state of siege?

We should not as, as our predecessors and associates have thus far:

What is the best system of community? the best organization of property? Or better still: Is property or community worth more? the theory of Saint-Simon or that of Fourier? the system of Louis Blanc or that of Cabet?

Following the example of Kant, who should pose the question in this way:

How does man possess? How does he acquire property? How is it lost? What is the law of its evolution and transformation? Where is it going? What does it want? What, finally, does it represent? For it appears sufficiently, by the indissoluble mixture of good and evil that accompanies it, by the tyranny that is its essence (jus utendi et abutendi) and which is the condition sine quâ non of its wholeness, that it is still, just like Religion and Government, only a hypothesis, or rather, a hypotyposis of Society, that is to say, an allegorical representation of a conception of our intelligence.

How, next, does man labor? How do we establish the comparison of products? How will circulation take place in society? On what conditions? According to what laws?

And the conclusion of all these monographs on property has been this:

Property indicates a function or allocation; community, reciprocity of action: usury, always decreasing, identity of labor and capital.

In order to bring about the disengagement and realization of all these terms, until now shrouded beneath the old proprietary symbols, what must we do? Let the workers guarantee work and outlets to one another; to that end, let them accept, as currency, their reciprocal obligations.

Well! today we say:

Political liberty will result for us, like industrial liberty, from our mutual guarantee. It is by guaranteeing liberty to one another, that we will pass from this government, whose purpose is to symbolize the republican motto: Liberty, Equality, Fraternity, leaving to our intelligence the care to find its realization. Now, what is the formula of that political and liberal guarantee? presently, universal suffrage, later, free contract…

Economic and social reform, by the mutual guarantee of credit;

Political reform, by the commerce of individual liberties;

Such is the program of the Voix du Peuple.

The Revolution advances, cried an absolutist paper yesterday, with regard to the message of Louis Bonaparte. Those people see the Revolution only in catastrophes and coups d’état. We say in our turn: Yes, the Revolution advance, for it has found interpreters. Our strength may fall short of the task; our devotion, never!

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An Appeal To the Young – Kropotkin

“Peter Kropotkin…was recognized by friend and foe as one of the greatest minds…of the nineteenth century…The lucidity and brilliance of his mind combined with his warm-heartedness into the harmonious whole of a fascinating and gracious personality.”

Emma Goldman


Addressed to young men and women preparing to enter the professions, An Appeal to the Young was first published in 1880 in Kropotkin’s paper, La Revolte, and was soon thereafter issued as a pamphlet. An American edition was brought out by Charles H. Kerr in 1899, in the wake of the great Anarchist’s first U.S. speaking tour; his Memoirs of a Revolutionist was also published (by Houghton-Mifflin) that year. A new edition in Kerr’s “Pocket Library of Socialism” appeared in 1901; just after Kropotkin’s second U.S. tour. (In Chicago, he had been introduced to a large audience by Clarence Darrow, a close associate of the Kerr Company.) Yet another Kerr edition in the 1910s went through many printings, and was still on the Kerr list well into the 1930s.

Long unavailable in any U.S. edition, it is reprinted here in the standard English translation by pioneer British socialist H.M. Hyndman, whose lush Victorian prose ably captures the eloquence, fervor and charm of this celebrated revolutionary classic.

Revolutionary Classics
Charles H. Kerr Publishing Company
Established 1886

An Appeal to the Young

It is to the young that I wish to address myself today. Let the old — I mean of course the old in heart and mind — lay the pamphlet down therefore without tiring their eyes in reading what will tell them nothing.

I assume that you are about eighteen or twenty years of age; that you have finished your apprenticeship or your studies; that you are just entering into life. I take it for granted that you have a mind free from the superstition which your teachers have sought to force upon you; that you don’t fear the devil, and that you do not go to hear parsons and ministers rant. More, that you are not one of the fops, sad products of a society in decay, who display their well-cut trousers and their monkey faces in the park, and who even at their early age have only an insatiable longing for pleasure at any price…I assume on the contrary that you have a warm heart, and for this reason I talk to you.

A first question, I know, occurs to you — you have often asked yourself: “What am I going to be?” In fact when a man is young he understands that after having studied a trade or a science for several years — at the cost of society, mark — he has not done this in order that he should make use of his acquirements as instruments of plunder for his own gain, and he must be depraved indeed and utterly cankered by vice who has not dreamed that one day he would apply his intelligence, his abilities, his knowledge to help on the enfranchisement of those who today grovel in misery and in ignorance.

You are one of those who has had such a vision, are you not? Very well, let us see what you must do to make your dream a reality.

I do not know in what rank you were born. Perhaps, favored by fortune, you have turned your attention to the study of science; you are to be a doctor, a barrister, a man of letters, or a scientific man; a wide field opens up before you; you enter upon life with extensive knowledge, with a trained intelligence. Or, on the other hand, you are perhaps only an honest artisan whose knowledge of science is limited by the little that you have learnt at school; but you have had the advantage of learning at first hand what a life of exhausting toil is the lot of the worker of our time.

I stop at the first supposition, to return afterward to the second; I assume then that you have received a scientific education. Let us suppose you intend to be — a doctor. Tomorrow a man in corduroys will come to fetch you to see a sick woman. He will lead you into one of those alleys where the opposite neighbors can almost shake hands over the heads of the passersby; you ascend into a foul atmosphere by the flickering light of a little illtrimmed lamp; you climb two, three, four, five flights of filthy stairs, and in a dark, cold room you find the sick woman, lying on a pallet covered with dirty rags. Pale, livid children, shivering under their scanty garments, gaze at you with their big eyes wide open. The husband has worked all this life twelve or thirteen hours a day at, no matter what; now he has been out of work for three months. To be out of employ is not rare in his trade; it happens every year, periodically. But, formerly, when he was out of work his wife went out a charwoman — perhaps to wash your shirts — at the rate of fifteen pence a day; now she has been bedridden for two months, and misery glares upon the family in all its squalid hideousness.

What will you prescribe for the sick woman, doctor — you who have seen at a glance that the cause of her illness is general anemia, want of good food, lack of fresh air? Say, a good beefsteak every day? a little exercise in the country? a dry and well-ventilated bedroom? What irony! If she could have afforded it this would have been done long since without waiting for your advice.

If you have a good heart, a frank address, an honest face, the family will tell you many things. They will tell you that the woman on the other side of the partition, who coughs a cough which tears your heart, is a poor ironer; that a flight of stairs lower down all the children have the fever; that the washerwoman who occupies the ground floor will not live to see the spring; and that in the house next door things are still worse.

What will you say to all these sick people? Recommend them generous diet, change of air, less exhausting toil…You only wish you could but you daren’t and you go out heartbroken, with a curse upon your lips.

The next day, as you still brood over the fate of the dwellers in this dog-hutch, your partner tells you that yesterday a footman came to fetch him, this time in a carriage. It was for the owner of a fine house, for a lady worn out with sleepless nights, who devotes all her life to dressing, visits, balls, and squabbles with a stupid husband. Your friend has prescribed for her a less preposterous habit of life, a less heating diet, walks in the fresh air, an even temperament, and, in order to make up in some measure for the want of useful work, a little gymnastic exercise in her bedroom.

The one is dying because she has never had enough food nor enough rest in her whole life; the other pines because she has never known what work is since she was born.

If you are one of those miserable natures who adapt themselves to anything, who at the sight of the most revolting spectacles console themselves with a gentle sigh and a glass of sherry, then you wilt gradually become used to these contrasts, and the nature of the beast favoring your endeavors, your sole idea will be to lift yourself into the ranks of the pleasure-seekers, so that you may never again find yourself among the wretched. But if you are a Man, if every sentiment is translated in your case into an action of the will; if, in you, the beast has not crushed the intelligent being, then you will return home one day saying to yourself, “No, it is unjust; this must not go on any longer. It is not enough to cure diseases; we must prevent them. A little good living and intellectual development would score off our lists half the patients and half the diseases. Throw physic to the dogs! Air, good diet, less crushing toil — that is how we must begin. Without this, the whole profession of a doctor is nothing but trickery and humbug.”

That very day you will understand Socialism. You will wish to know it thoroughly, and if altruism is not a word devoid of significance for you, if you apply to the study of the social question the rigid induction of the natural philosopher, you will end by finding yourself in our ranks, and you will work as we work, to bring about the Social Revolution.

But perhaps you will say, “Mere practical business may go to the devil! I will devote myself to pure science: I will be an astronomer, a physiologist, a chemist. Such work as that always bears fruit, if only for future generations.”

Let us first try to understand what you seek in devoting yourself to science. Is it only the pleasure — doubtless immense — which we derive from the study of nature and the exercise of our intellectual faculties? In that case I ask you in what respect does the philosopher, who pursues science in order that he may pass life pleasantly to himself, differ from that drunkard there, who only seeks the immediate gratification that gin affords him? The philosopher has, past all question, chosen his enjoyment more wisely, since it affords him a pleasure far deeper and more lasting than that of the toper. But that is all! Both one and the other have the same selfish end in view, personal gratification.

But no, you have no wish to lead this selfish life. By working at science you mean to work for humanity, and that is the idea which will guide you in your investigations.

A charming illusion! Which of us has not hugged it for a moment when giving himself up for the first time to science?

But then, if you are really thinking about humanity, if you look to the good of mankind in your studies, a formidable question arises before you; for, however little you may have of the critical spirit, you must at once note that in our society of today science is only an appendage to luxury, which serves to render life pleasanter for the few, but remains absolutely inaccessible to the bulk of mankind.

More than a century has passed since science laid down sound propositions as to the origins of the universe, but how many have mastered them or possess the really scientific spirit of criticism? A few thousands at the outside, who are lost in the midst of hundreds of millions still steeped in prejudices and superstitions worthy of savages, who are consequently ever ready to serve as puppets for religious impostors.

Or, to go a step further, let us glance at what science has done to establish rational foundations for physical and moral health. Science tells us how we ought to live in order to preserve the health of our own bodies, how to maintain in good conditions of existence the crowded masses of our population. But does not all the vast amount of work done in these two directions remain a dead letter in our books? We know it does. And why? Because science today exists only for a handful of privileged persons, because social inequality which divides society into two classes — the wage-slaves and the grabbers of capital-renders all its teachings as to the conditions of a rational existence only the bitterest irony to nine-tenths of mankind.

I could give plenty more examples, but I stop short: only go outside Faust’s closet, whose windows, darkened by dust, scarce let the light of heaven glimmer on its shelves full of books; look round, and at each step you will find fresh proof in support of this view.

It is now no longer a question of accumulating scientific truths and discoveries. We need above everything to spread the truths already mastered by science, to make them part of our daily life, to render them common property. We have to order things so that all, so that the mass of mankind, may be capable of understanding and applying them; we have to make science no longer a luxury but the foundation of every man’s life. This is what justice demands.

I go further: I say that the interests of science itself lie in the same direction. Science only makes real progress when a new truth finds a soil already prepared to receive it. The theory of the mechanical origin of heat, though enunciated in the last century in the same terms that Hirn and Clausius formulate it today, remained for eighty years buried in the academical records until such time as knowledge of physics had spread widely enough to create a public capable of accepting it. Three generations had to go by before the ideas of Erasmus Darwin on the variations of species could be favorably received from his grandson and admitted by academical philosophers, and not without pressure from public opinion even then. The philosopher, like the poet or artist, is always the product of the society in which he moves and teaches.

But, if you are imbued with these ideas, you will understand that it is above all important to bring about a radical change in this state of affairs which today condemns the philosopher to be crammed with scientific truths, and almost the whole of the rest of human beings to remain what they were five, ten centuries ago — that is to say, in the state of slaves and machines, incapable of mastering established truths. And the day when you are imbued with wide, deep, humane, and profoundly scientific truth, that day you will lose your taste for pure science. You will set to work to find out the means to effect this transformation, and if you bring to your investigations the impartiality which has guided you in your scientific researches you will of necessity adopt the cause of Socialism; you .make an end of sophisms and you will come amongst us. Weary of working to procure pleasures for this small group, which already has a large share of them, you will place your information and devotion at the service of the oppressed.

And be sure that, the feeling of duty accomplished and of a real accord established between your sentiments and your actions, you will then find powers in yourself of whose existence you never even dreamed. When, too, one day — it is not far distant in any case, saving the presence of our professors — when one day, I say, the change for which you are working shall have been brought about, then, deriving new forces from collective scientific work, and from the powerful help of armies of laborers who will come to place their energies at its service, science will take a new bound forward, in comparison with which the slow progress of today will appear the simple exercises of tyros.

Then you will enjoy science; that pleasure will be a pleasure for all.

If you have finished reading law and are about to be called to the bar, perhaps you, too, have some illusions as to your future activity — I assume that you are one of the nobler spirits, that you know what altruism means. Perhaps you think, “To devote my life to an unceasing and vigorous struggle against all injustice! To apply my whole faculties to bringing about the triumph of law, the public expression of supreme justice — can any career be nobler?” You begin the real work of life confident in yourself and in the profession you have chosen.

Very well: let us turn to any page of the Law Reports and see what actual life will tell you.

Here we have a rich landowner; he demands the eviction of a cotter tenant who has not paid his rent. From a legal point of view the case is beyond dispute; since the poor farmer can’t pay, out he must go. But if we look into the facts we shall learn something like this: The landlord has squandered his rents persistently in rollicking pleasure; the tenant has worked hard all day and every day. The landlord has done nothing to improve his estate. Nevertheless its value has trebled in fifty years owing to rise in price of land due to the construction of a railway, to the making of new highroads, to the draining of a marsh, to the enclosure and cultivation of wastelands. But the tenant, who has contributed largely towards this increase, has ruined himself; he fell into the hands of usurers, and, head over ears in debts, he can no longer pay the landlord. The law, always on the side of property, is quite clear: the landlord is in the right. But you, whose feeling of justice has not yet been stifled by legal fictions, what will you do? Will you contend that the farmer ought to be turned out upon the high road? — for that is what the law ordains — or will you urge that the landlord should pay back to the farmer the whole of the increase of value in his property which is due to the farmer’s labor? — that is what equity decrees. Which side will you take? For the law and against justice, or for justice and against the law?

Or when workmen have gone out on strike against a master without notice, which side will you take then? The side of the law, that is to say, the part of the master who, taking advantage of a period of crisis, has made outrageous profits? or against the law, but on the side of the workers who received during the whole time only 2s. A day as wages, and saw their wives and children fade away before their eyes? Will you stand up for that piece of chicanery which consists in affirming “freedom of contract”? Or will you uphold equity, according to which a contract entered into between a man who has dined well and the man who sells his labor for bare subsistence, between the strong and the weak, is not a contract at all?

Take another case. Here in London a man was loitering near a butcher’s shop. He stole a beefsteak and ran off with it. Arrested and questioned, it turns out that he is an artisan out of work, and that he and his family have had nothing to eat for four days. The butcher is asked to let the man off, but he is all for the triumph of justice! He prosecutes, and the man is sentenced to six months’ imprisonment. Blind Themis so wills it! Does not your conscience revolt against the law and against society when you hear similar judgments pronounced every day?

Or again, will you call for the enforcement of the law against this man who, badly brought up and ill-used from his childhood, has arrived at man’s estate without having heard one sympathetic word, and completes his career by murdering his neighbor in order to rob him of a shilling? Will you demand his execution, or — worse still — that he should be imprisoned for twenty years, when you know very well that he is rather a madman than a criminal, and in any case, that his crime is the fault of our entire society?

Will you claim that these weavers should be thrown into prison who in a moment of desperation have set fire to a mill; that this man who shot at a crowned murderer should be imprisoned for life; that these insurgents should be shot down who plant the flag of the future on the barricades? No, a thousand times no!

If you reason instead of repeating what is taught you; if you analyze the law and strip off those cloudy fictions with which it has been draped in order to conceal its real origin, which is the right of the stronger, and its substance, which has ever been the consecration of all the tyrannies handed down to mankind through its long and bloody history; when you have comprehended this, your contempt for the law will be profound indeed. You will understand that to remain the servant of the written law is to place yourself every day in opposition to the law of conscience, and to make a bargain on the wrong side; and, since this struggle cannot go on forever, you will either silence your conscience and become a scoundrel, or you will break with tradition, and you will work with us for the utter destruction of all this injustice, economic, social and political.

But then you will be a Socialist, you will be a Revolutionist.

And you, young engineer, you who dream of improving the lot of the workers by the application of science to industry — what a sad disappointment, what terrible disillusions await you! You devote the useful energy of your mind to working out the scheme of a railway which, running along the brink of precipices and burrowing into the very heart of mountains of granite, will bind together two countries which nature has separated. But once at work, you see whole regiments of workers decimated by privations and sickness in this dark tunnel — you see others of them returning home carrying with them, maybe, a few pence, and the undoubted seeds of consumption; you see human corpses — the results of a groveling greed — as landmarks along each yard of your road; and, when the railroad is finished, you see, lastly, that it becomes the highway for the artillery of an invading army…

You have given up the prime of your youth to perfect an invention which will facilitate production and, after many experiments, many sleepless nights, you are at length master of this valuable discovery. You make use of it and the result surpasses your expectations. Ten, twenty thousand “hands” are thrown out upon the streets! Those who remain, most of them children, will be reduced to mere machines! Three, four, ten masters will make their fortunes and will drink deep on the strength of it…Is this your dream?

Finally, you study recent industrial advances, and you see that the seamstress has gained nothing, absolutely nothing, by the invention of the sewing machine; that the laborer in St. Gothard tunnel dies of ankylosis, not — withstanding diamond drills; that the mason and the day-laborer are out of work, just as before, at the foot of the Giffard lifts. If you discuss social problems with the same independence of spirit which has guided you in your mechanical investigations, you necessarily come to the conclusion that under the domination of private property and wage-slavery, every new invention only makes his slavery heavier, his labor more degrading, the periods of slack work more frequent, the crisis sharper, and that the man who already has every conceivable pleasure for himself is the only one who profits by it.

What will you do when you have once come to this conclusion? Either you will begin by silencing your conscience by sophisms; then one fine day you will bid farewell to the honest dreams of your youth and you will try to obtain, for yourself, what commands pleasure and enjoyment — you will then go over to the camp of the exploiters. Of, if you have a tender heart, you will say to yourself: “No, this is not the time for inventions. Let us work first to transform the domain of production. When private property is put to an end, then each new advance in industry will be made for the benefit of all mankind; and this mass of workers, mere machines as they are today, will then become thinking beings who apply to industry their intelligence, strengthened by study and skilled in manual labor, and thus mechanical progress will take a bound forward which will carry out in fifty years what nowadays we cannot even dream of.”

And what shall I say to the schoolmaster — not to the man who looks upon his profession as a wearisome business, but to him who, when surrounded by a joyous band of young pickles, feels exhilarated by their cheery looks and in the midst of their happy laughter — to him who tries to plant in their little heads those ideas of humanity which he cherished himself when he was young?

Often I see that you are sad, and I know what it is that makes you knit your brows. This very day, your favorite pupil who is not very well up in Latin, it is true, but who has nonetheless an excellent heart, recited the story of William Tell with so much vigor! His eyes sparkled; he seemed to wish to stab all tyrants there and then; he gave with such fire the passionate lines of Schiller:

Before the slave when he breaks his chain,

Before the free man tremble not.

But when he returned home, his mother, his father, his uncle sharply rebuked him for want of respect to the minister or the rural policeman; they held forth to him by the hour on “prudence, respect of authority, submission to his betters,” till he put Schiller aside in order to read “Self-Help.”

And then, only yesterday, you were told that your best pupils have all turned out badly. One does nothing but dream of becoming an officer; another in league with his master robs the workers of their slender wages; and you, who brood over the sad contrast between your ideal, and life as it is.

You still brood over it! Then I foresee that in two years, at the outside, after having suffered disappointment after disappointment, you will lay your favorite authors on the shelf, and you will end by saying that Tell was no doubt a very honest fellow, but after all a trifle cracked; that poetry is a first-rate thing for the fireside, especially whan a man has been teaching the rule-of-three all day long, but still poets are always in the clouds and their views have nothing to do with the life of today, nor with the next visit of the Inspector of Schools…

Or, on the other hand, the dreams of your youth will become the firm convictions of your mature age. You will wish to have wide, human education for all, in school and out of school; and seeing that this is impossible in existing conditions, you will attack the very foundations of bourgeois society. Then, discharged as you will be by the Education Department, you will leave your school and come among us and be of us; you will tell men of riper years but of smaller attainments than yourself how enticing knowledge is, what mankind ought to be — nay, what we could be. You will come and work with Socialists for the complete transformation of the existing system, will strive side by side with us to attain true equality, real fraternity, never-ending liberty for the world.

Lastly, you, young artist, sculptor, painter, poet, musician, do you not observe that the sacred fire which inspired your predecessors is wanting in the men of today? that art is commonplace and mediocrity reigns supreme?

Could it be otherwise? The delight of having rediscovered the ancient world, of having bathed afresh in the springs of nature which created the masterpieces of the Renaissance no longer exists for the art of our time; the revolutionary ideal has left it cold until now, and, failing an ideal, our art fancies that it has found one in realism when it painfully photographs in colors the dewdrop on the leaf of a plant, imitates the muscles in the leg of a cow, or describes minutely in prose and verse the suffocating filth of a sewer, the boudoir of a whore of high degree.

“But, if this is so, what is to be done?” you say. If, I reply, the sacred fire that you say you possess is nothing better than a smoldering wick, then you will go on doing as you have done, and your art will speedily degenerate into the trade of decorator of tradesmen’s shops, of a purveyor of librettos to third-rate operettas, and tales for Christmas Annuals — most of you are already running down that grade with a head of steam on…

But, if your heart really beats in unison with that of humanity, if like a true poet you have an ear for Life, then gazing out upon this sea of sorrow whose tide sweeps up around you, face to face with these people dying of hunger, in the presence of these corpses piled up in the mines, and these mutilated bodies lying in heaps on the barricades, looking on these long lines of exiles who are going to bury themselves in the snows of Siberia and in the marshes of tropical islands; in full view of this desperate battle which is being fought, amid the cries of pain from the conquered and the orgies of the victors, of heroism in conflict with cowardice, of noble determination face to face with contemptible cunning — you cannot remain neutral; you will come and take the side of the oppressed because you know that the beautiful, the sublime, the spirit of life itself are on the side of those who fight for light, for humanity, for justice!

You stop me at last!

“What the devil!” you say. “But if abstract science is a luxury and practice of medicine mere chicane; if law spells injustice, and mechanical invention is but the means of robbery; if the school, at variance with the wisdom of the ‘practical man,’ is sure to be overcome; and art without the revolutionary idea can only degenerate, what remains for me to do?”

Well, I will tell you.

A vast and most enthralling task; a work in which your actions will be in complete harmony with your conscience, an undertaking capable of rousing the noblest and most vigorous natures.

What work? — I will now tell you.

It rests with you either to palter continually with your conscience, and in the end to say, one fine day: “Perish humanity, provided I can have plenty of pleasures and enjoy them to the full, so long as the people are foolish enough to let me.” Or, once more the inevitable alternative, to take part with the Socialists and work with them for the complete transformation of society. Such is the irrefragable consequence of the analysis we have gone through. That is the logical conclusion which every intelligent man must perforce arrive at, provided that he reasons honestly about what passes around him, and discards the sophisms which his bourgeois education and the interested views of those about him whisper in his ear.

This conclusion once arrived at, the question “What is to be done?” is naturally put.

The answer is easy.

Leave this environment in which you are placed and where it is the fashion to say that the people are nothing but a lot of brutes; come among these people — and the answer will come of itself.

You will see that everywhere, in England as well as in France, in Germany as well as in Italy, in Russia as welt as in the United States, everywhere where there is a privileged and an oppressed class, there is a tremendous work going on in the midst of the working class, whose object is to break down forever the slavery enforced by the capitalist feudality and to lay the foundation of a society established on the basis of justice and equality. It is no longer enough for the man of the people today to pour forth his complaints in one of those songs whose melody breaks your heart, such as were sung by the serfs of the eleventh century, and are still sung by the Slav peasant; he labors with his fellow toilers for the enfranchisement, with the knowledge of what he is doing, and against every obstacle put in his way.

His thoughts are constantly exercised in considering what should be done in order that life, instead of being a curse for three-fourths of mankind, may be a real enjoyment for all. He takes up the hardest problems of sociology and tries to solve them by his good sense, his spirit of observation, his hard experience. In order to come to an understanding with others as miserable as himself, he seeks to form groups, to organize. He forms societies, maintained with difficulty by small contributions; he tries to make terms with his fellows beyond the frontier; and he prepares the days when wars between peoples shall be impossible, far better than the frothy philanthropists who now potter with the fad of universal peace. In order to know what his brothers are doing, to have a closer connection with them, to elaborate his ideas and pass them around, he maintains — but at the price of what privations, what ceaseless efforts! — his working press. At length, when the hour has come, he rises, reddening the pavements and the barricades with his blood, he bounds forward to conquer those liberties which the rich and powerful will afterward know how to corrupt and to turn against him again.

What an unending series of efforts! What an incessant struggle! What toil perpetually begun afresh; sometimes to fill up the gaps occasioned by desertion — the results of weariness, corruption, prosecutions; sometimes to rally the broken forces decimated by the fusillades and cold-blooded butchery! At another time to recommence the studies sternly broken off by wholesale slaughter.

The newspapers are set on foot by men who have been obliged to force from society scraps of knowledge by depriving themselves of sleep and food; the agitation is kept up by halfpence deducted from the amount needed to get the barest necessaries of life; and all this under the constant dread of seeing his family reduced to the most fearful misery, as soon as the master learns that “his workman, his slave, is tainted with Socialism.”

This is what you will see if you go among the people.

And in this endless struggle how often has not the toiler vainly asked, as he stumbled under the weight of his burden:


Where are they, indeed?

Why, some are taking their ease with the most cowardly indifference; others, the majority, despise the “dirty mob,” are ready to pounce upon them if they dare touch one of their privileges.

Now and then, it is true, a young man comes among us who dreams of drums and barricades and seeks sensational scenes, but he deserts the cause of the people as soon as he perceives that the road to the barricade is long, that the work is heavy, and that the crowns of laurel to be won in the campaign are intermingled with thorns. Generally these are ambitious schemers, out of work, who, having failed in their first efforts, try in this way to cajole people out of their votes, but who a little later will be the first to denounce them when the people wish to apply the principles which they themselves have professed; perhaps will even be ready to turn artillery and Gatlings upon them if they dare to move before they, the heads of the movement, give the signal.

Add mean insult, haughty contempt, cowardly calumny from the great majority, and you know what the people may expect nowadays from most of the youth of the upper and middle classes in the way of help towards the social evolution.

But then, you ask, “What shall we do?” When there is everything to be done! When a whole army of young people would find plenty to employ the entire vigor of their youthful energy, the full force of their intelligence and their talent to help the people in the vast enterprise they have untertaken!

What shall we do? Listen.

You lovers of pure science, if you are imbued with the principles of Socialism, if you have understood the real meaning of the revolution which is even now knocking at the door, don’t you see that all science has to be recast in order to place it in harmony with the new principles; that it is your business to accomplish in this field a revolution far greater than that which was accomplished in every branch of science during the eighteenth century? Don’t you understand that history — which today is an old wives’ tale about great kings, great statesmen and great parliaments — that history itself has to be written from the point of view of the people, from the point of view of work done by the masses in the long evolution of mankind? That social economy — which today is merely the sanctification of capitalist robbery — has to be worked out afresh in its fundamental principles as well as in its innumerable applications? That anthropology, sociology, ethics, must be completely recast, and that the very natural sciences themselves, regarded from another point of view, must undergo a profound modification, alike in regard to the conception of natural phenomena and with respect to the method of exposition.

Very well, then, set to work! Place your abilities at the command of the good cause. Especially help us with your clear logic to combat prejudice and to lay, by your synthesis, the foundations of a better organization; yet more, teach us to apply in our daily arguments the fearlessness of true scientific investigation and show us, as your predecessors did, how men dare sacrifice even life itself for the triumph of the truth.

You, doctors, who have learnt Socialism by a bitter experience, never weary of telling us today, tomorrow, onward to decay if men remain in the present conditions of existence and work; that all your medicaments must be powerless against disease while the majority of mankind vegetate in conditions absolutely contrary to those which science tells us are healthful; convince the people that it is the causes of disease which must be uprooted, and show us all what is necessary to remove them.

Come with your scalpel and dissect for us, with an unerring hand, this society of ours, hastening to putrefaction. Tell us what a rational existence should and might be. Insist, as true surgeons, that a gangrenous limb must be amputated when it may poison the whole body.

You, who have worked at the application of science to industry, come and tell us frankly what has been the outcome of your discoveries. Convince those who dare not march boldly toward the future what new inventions the knowledge we have acquired carried in its womb, what industry could do under better conditions, what man might easily produce if he produced always with a view to enhance his own productions.

You poets, painters, sculptors, musicians, if you understand your true mission and the very interests of art itself, come with us. Place your pen, your pencil, your chisel, your ideas at the service of the revolution. Figure forth to us, in your eloquent style, or your impressive pictures, the heroic struggles of the people against their oppressors; fire the hearts of our youth with that revolutionary enthusiasm which inflamed the souls of our ancestors; tell women what a noble career is that of a husband who devotes his life to the great cause of social emancipation! Show the people how hideous is their actual life, and place your hand on the causes of its ugliness; tell us what a rational life would be if it did not encounter at every step the follies and the ignominies of our present social order.

Lastly, all of you who possess knowledge, talent, capacity, industry, if you have a spark of sympathy in your nature, come, you and your companions, come and and place your services at the disposal of those who most need them. And remember, if you do come, that you come not as masters, but as comrades in the struggle; that you come not to govern but to gain strength for yourselves in a new life which sweeps upward to the conquest of the future; that you come less to teach than to grasp the aspirations of the many; to divine them, to give them shape, and then to work, without rest and without haste, with all the fire of youth and all the judgment of age, to realize them in actual life. Then and then only will you lead a complete, a noble, a rational existence. Then you will see that your every effort on this path bears with it fruit in abundance, and this sublime harmony once established between your actions and the dictates of your conscience will give you powers you never dreamt lay dormant in yourselves.

The never-ceasing struggle for truth, justice and equality among the people, whose gratitude you will earn — what nobler career can the youth of all nations desire than this?

It has taken me long to show you, of the well-to-do classes, that in view of the dilemma which life presents to you, you will be forced, if courageous and sincere, to come and work side by side with the Socialists, and champion in their ranks the cause of the social revolution. And yet how simple this truth is after all! But when one is speaking to those who have suffered from the effects of bourgeois surroundings, how many sophisms must be combated, how many prejudices overcome, how many interested objections put aside!

It is easy to be brief today in addressing you, the youth of the people. The very pressure of events impels you to become Socialists, however little you may have the courage to reason and to act.

To rise from the ranks of the working people, and not to devote oneself to bringing about the triumph of Socialism, is to misconceive the real interests at stake, to give up the cause and the true historic mission.

Do you remember the time, when still a mere lad, you went down one winter’s day to play in your dark court? The cold nipped your shoulders through your thin clothes, and the mud worked into your worn-out shoes. Even then when you saw chubby children richly clad pass in the distance, looking at you with an air of contempt, you knew right well that these imps, dressed up to the nines, were not the equals of yourself and your comrades, either in intelligence, common sense, or energy. But, later, when you were forced to shut yourself up in a filthy factory from five or six o’clock in the morning, to remain twelve hours on end close to a whirling machine, and, a machine yourself, were forced to follow, day after day, for whole years in succession, its movement with relentless throbbing — during all this time they, the others, were going quietly to be taught at fine schools, at academies, at the universities. And now these same children, less intelligent, but better taught than you, have become your masters, are enjoying all the pleasures of life and all the advantages of civilization. And you? What sort of lot awaits you?

You return to little, dark, damp lodgings where five or six human beings pig together within a few square feet; where your mother, sick of life, aged by care rather than years, offers you dry bread and potatoes as your only food, washed down by blackish fluid called, in irony, tea; and to distract your thoughts, you have ever the same never-ending question, “How shall I be able to pay the baker tomorrow, and the landlord the day after?”

What! Must you drag on the same weary existence as your father and mother for thirty and forty years? Must you toil your life long to procure for others all the pleasures of well-being, of knowledge, of art, and keep for yourself only the eternal anxiety as to whether you can get a bit of bread? Will you wear yourself out with toil and have in return only trouble, if not misery, when hard times — the fearful hard times — come upon you? Is this what you long for in life?

Perhaps you will give up. Seeing no way out of your condition whatever, maybe you say to yourself, “Whole generations have undergone the same lot, and I, who can alter nothing in the matter, I must submit also. Let us work on, then, and endeavor to live as well as we can!”

Very well. In that case life itself will take pains to enlighten you.

One day a crisis comes, one of those crises which are no longer mere passing phenomena, as they were a while ago, but a crisis which destroys a whole industry, which plunges thousands of workers into misery, which crushes whole families. You struggle like the rest against the calamity. But you will soon see how your wife, your child your friend, little by little succumb to privations and fade away under your very eyes. For sheer want of food for lack of care and of medical assistance, they end their days on the pauper’s stretcher, while the life of the rich sweeps past in joyous crowds through the streets of the great city gleaming in the sunlight — utterly careless and indifferent to the dying cries of those who perish.

Then you will understand how utterly revolting this society is; you will reflect upon the causes of this crisis and your examination will go to the very depths of this abomination which puts millions of human beings at the mercy of the brutal greed of a handful of useless triflers; then you will understand that Socialists are right when they say that our present society can be, that it must be reorganized from top to bottom.

To pass from general crises to your particular case. One day when your master tires by a new reduction of wages to squeeze out of you a few more pence in order to increase his fortune still further, you will protest; but he will haughtily answer, “Go and eat grass, if you will not work at the price I offer.” Then you will understand that your master not only tries to shear you like a sheep, but that looks upon you as an inferior kind of animal altogether; that, not content with holding you in his relentless grip by means of the wage-system, he is further anxious to make you a slave in every respect. Then you will either bow down before him, you will give up the feeling of human dignity, and you will end by suffering every possible humiliation; or the blood will rush to your head, you shudder at the hideous slope on which you are slipping down, you will retort, and, turned out workless on the street, you will understand how right Socialists are when they say, “Revolt! Rise against this economical slavery!” Then you will come and take your place in the ranks of the Socialists and you will work with them for the complete destruction of all slavery — economic, social and political.

Some day, again, you will learn the story of that charming young girl whose brisk gait, frank manners, and cheerful conversation you so lovingly admired. After having struggled for years and years against misery, she left her native village for the metropolis. There she knew right well that the struggle for existence must be hard, but she hoped at least to be able to gain her living honestly. Well, now you know what has been her fate. Courted by the son of some capitalist, she allowed herself to be enticed by his fine words, she gave herself up to him with all the passion of youth, only to see herself abandoned with a baby in her arms. Ever courageous, she never ceased to struggle on; but she broke down in this unequal strife against cold and hunger, and she ended her days in one of the hospitals, no one knows which…

What will you do? Once more there are two courses open to you. Either you will push aside the whole unpleasant reminiscence with some stupid phrase. “She wasn’t the first and won’t be the last,” you will say. Perhaps, some evening, you will be heard in a public room, in company with other beasts like yourself, outraging the young girl’s memory by some dirty stories; or, on the other hand, your remembrances of the past will touch your heart; you will try to meet the seducer to denounce him to his face; you will reflect upon the causes of these events which recur every day, and you will comprehend that they will never cease so long as society is divided into two camps; on one side the wretched and on the other the lazy — the jugglers with fine phrases and bestial lusts. You will understand that it is high time to bridge over this gulf of separation, and you will rush to place, yourself among the Socialists.

And you, woman of the people, has this left you cold and unmoved? While caressing the pretty head of that child who nestles close to you, do you never think about the lot that awaits him, if the present social conditions are not changed? Do you never reflect on the future awaiting your young sister, and all your own children? Do you wish that your sons, they too, should vegetate as your father vegetated, with no other care than how to get his daily bread, with no other pleasure than that of the gin-palace? Do you want your husband, your lads, to be ever at the mercy of the first comer who has inherited from his father a capital to exploit them with? Are you anxious that they should remain slaves for master, food for powder, mere dung wherewith to manure the pasture lands of the rich exproprietor?

Nay, never; a thousand times no! I know right well that your blood has boiled when you have heard that your husbands, after they entered on a strike, full of fire and determination, have ended by accepting, cap in hand, the conditions dictated by the bloated bourgeois in a tone of haughty contempt! I know that you have admired those Spanish women who in a popular rising presented their breasts to the bayonets of the soldiery, in the front ranks of the insurrectionists. I am certain that you mention with reverence the name of the woman who lodged a bullet in the chest of that ruffianly official who dared to outrage a Socialist prisoner in his cell. And I am confident that your heart beats faster when you read how the women of the people in Paris gathered under a rain of shells to encourage “their men” to heroic action.

Every one of you, then, honest young folks, men and women, peasants, laborers, artisans and soldiers, you will understand what are your rights and you will come along with us; you will come in order to work with your brethren in the preparation of that Revolution which, sweeping away every vestige of slavery, tearing the fetters asunder, breaking with the old worn-out traditions, and opening to all mankind a new and wider scope of joyous existence, shall at length establish true Liberty, real Equality, ungrudging Fraternity throughout human society: work with all, work for all — the full enjoyment of the fruits of their labor, the complete development of all their faculties; a rational, human and happy life!

Don’t let anyone tell us that we — but a small band — are too weak to attain unto the magnificent end at which we aim.

Count and see how many of us there are who suffer this injustice.

We peasants who work for others and who mumble the straw while our masters eat the wheat, we by ourselves are millions of men.

We workers who weave silks and velvets in order that we may be clothed in rags, we, too, are a great multitude; and when the clang of the factories permits us a moment’s repose, we overflow the streets and squares like the sea in a spring tide.

We soldiers who are driven along to the word of command, or by blows, we who receive the bullets for which our officers get crosses and pensions, we, too, poor fools who have hitherto known no better than to shoot our brothers, why, we have only to make a right-about-face towards these plumed and decorated personages who are so good as to command us, to see a ghastly pallor overspread their faces.

Ay, all of us together, we who suffer and are insulted daily, we are a multitude whom no man can number, we are the ocean that can embrace and swallow up all else.

When we have but the will to do it, that very moment will Justice be done: that very instant the tyrants of the Earth shall bite the dust.

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