war against power

If you possess social science, you know that the problem of association consists in organizing, not only the non-producers, — in that direction, thank heaven! little remains to be done, — but also the producers, and by this organization subjecting capital and subordinating power. Such is the war that you have to sustain: a war of labor against capital; a war of liberty against authority; a war of the producer against the non-producer; a war of equality against privilege. What you ask, to conduct the war to a successful conclusion, is precisely that which you must combat. Now, to combat and reduce power, to put it in its proper place in society, it is of no use to change the holders of power or introduce some variation into its workings: an agricultural and industrial combination must be found
by means of which power, today the ruler of society, shall become its slave. Have you the secret of that combination?

But what do I say? That is precisely the thing to which you do not consent. As you cannot conceive of society without hierarchy, you have made yourselves the apostles of authority; worshippers of power, you think only of strengthening it and muzzling liberty; your favorite maxim is that the welfare of the people must be achieved in spite of the people; instead of proceeding to social reform by the extermination of power and politics, you insist on a reconstruction of power and politics. Then, by a series of contradictions which prove your sincerity, but the illusory character of which is well known to the real friends of power, the aristocrats and monarchists, your competitors, you promise us, in the name of power, economy in expenditures, an equitable assessment of taxes, protection to labor, gratuitous education, universal suffrage, and all the utopias repugnant to authority and property.

Consequently power in your hands has never been anything but ruinous, and that is why you have never been able to retain it; that is why, on the Eighteenth of Brumaire,(11*) four men were sufficient to take it away from you, and why today the bourgeoisie, which is as fond of power as you are and which wants a strong power, will not restore it to you.

Thus power, the instrument of collective might, created in society to serve as a mediator between labor and privilege, finds itself inevitably enchained to capital and directed against the proletariat. No political reform can solve this contradiction, since, by the confession of the politicians themselves, such a reform would end only in increasing the energy and extending the sphere of power, and
since power would know no way of touching the prerogatives of monopoly without overturning the hierarchy and dissolving society. The problem before the laboring classes, then, consists, not in capturing, but in subduing both power and monopoly, — that is, in generating from the bowels of the people, from the depths of labor, a greater authority, a more potent fact, which shall envelop capital
and the State and subjugate them. Every proposition of reform which does not satisfy this condition is simply one scourge more, a rod doing sentry duty, virgem vigilantem, as a prophet said, which threatens the proletariat.

 

P.J. Proudhon – Philosophy of Misery

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