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Manual Against the State: An Introduction to Anarchist Political Theory

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This conception was summed up by the Roi Soleil when he said 'L'etat, cest moi'. But Hobbes insisted that logically his theory applied equally to a governing assembly, who could claim to represent and so embody the wills of the people. This point is important, as De Jouvenel brings out. Other theorists [32] more or less contemporary with Hobbes were claiming that the King's right to rule derived from divine authority. But Hobbes made the real source of authority the people. The sovereign monarch is at the same time the representative of the people; his will represents their wills, and the absoluteness of his power stems from this delegation of authority.

When, as in the French Revolution, the 'people' or the 'nation' claim their sovereignty and overthrow the tyranny of princes, then they elect a popular assembly to represent their will -- the concepts of the Revolutionaries derived in part from Hobbes via Rousseau. But a government ruling through the 'will of the people', and so bound neither by belief in the eternal laws of God, nor by the previous customary laws of the country, may become the most arbitrary despotism, against which there is no appeal. And the people may discover that they are no better off than before, indeed they may be worse off.

De Jouvenel comments:. How very strange! When their masters were kings, the peoples never stopped complaining at having to pay war taxes.

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Then, when they have overthrown these masters and taken to taxing themselves, the currency in which they pay is not merely a part of their incomes but their very lives! Power , If the despotism inherent in the unitary and secular State can sometimes be seen even more clearly in an era of 'democracy' than kingship, so also can the outlines of State power.

It is probably only in a period of democratic aspiration and overthrow of governments that the idea of a 'state machinery' separate from government could take shape. Whilst earlier kings, as Kropotkin stresses, had their own growing bureaucracies, and their armies and personal spies, the focal position of the monarch as the centre of allegiance, and living symbol of the State, influenced language and imagery about the nature of government.

'Anarchism', in the Encyclopaedia Britannica

But when in a period of years successive ministries of differing political hues might be in office, or even more radical changes in government -- from constitutional monarchy, for example, to parliamentary republic to dictatorship -- could occur without greatly altering day to day administration and policies, then people began to notice the specific organs of the State.

These features have been particularly visible in France, and were noted by three nineteenth-century thinkers of markedly different political tendencies: De Tocqueville, Marx and Kropotkin. De Tocqueville comments at the end of his book on The Old Regime and the French Revolution that, after the first period of revolutionary enthusiasm and the spirit of freedom it generated, Napoleon's capture of power led to the salvaging of the institutions of the old regime and their integration into the new. Centralization was built up anew, and in the process all that had once kept it within bounds was carefully eliminated Napoleon fell but the more solid parts of his achievement lasted on; his government died, but his administration survived, and every time that an attempt is made to do away with absolutism the most that could be done has been to graft the head of Liberty onto a servile body The Old Regime , This executive power, with its enormous bureaucratic and military organisation Napoleon perfected this state machinery..

While Kropotkin illustrates his thesis on the State by reference to the Third French Republic, which 'in spite of its republican form of government, has remained monarchical in its essence'. How has this come about? Kropotkin answers:. It comes from France having remained as much a State as it was thirty years ago. The holders of power have changed their name; but all the immense scaffolding of centralised organisation, the imitation of the Rome of the Caesars which has been elaborated in France, has remained The State , France has proved a useful model for generalizations about the modern State, and it also provides illustrations for a specific critique of bureaucracy.

In their analysis of French bureaucracy De Tocque-ville and Kropotkin converge. De Tocqueville draws on his knowledge of the ancien regime to develop his case -- the damaging effects of the administration on the French economy, its inherent cumber-someness and rigidity, its disregard of individual rights and of the law, and its enervating influence on social attitudes.

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Anarchism - Wikipedia

In eighteenth-century France Government inspectors made peasants tear up vines not planted in soil specified by official regulations; the Controller General in Paris had to decide the site of a workhouse hundreds of mues away, or regulate a village fete; a passion for building highways in perfectly straight lines led to the tearing down of houses [34] in the way and confiscation of land without just compensation; and the Administration frequently overstepped its statutory powers; worst of all local councillors became abjectly servile before central authority, and every Frenchman became accustomed to the idea that the only way to get things done was to petition Paris.

Looking at France at the turn of the century Kropotkin comments that when a tree blows down on the National highway about fifty documents have to be exchanged between the Home Office and the Treasury before the tree can be sold. If it were only this, it would be but twenty thousand functionaries too many, and a thousand million francs more added to the budget But there is worse beneath all this, for the principle kills everything.

The peasants of a village have a thousand interests in common But the State cannot allow them to unite! It gives them school and priest, police and judge; these must suffice, and should other interests arise, they must apply in the regular way to Church and State The State , Kropotkin adds that until villagers were forbidden by law to unite even to irrigate their fields. The notable increase in the size of central administration in all 'advanced' countries in this century has strengthened Kropotkin's general case.

Indeed some of the more obvious problems of bureaucracy have been acknowledged in both liberal and socialist democracies. Italy's overweighted civil service, for example, has long been an incubus on the body politic, but since successive governments have failed to achieve any civil service reforms. Every so often a scandal would blow up to spur them on' Muriel Grindrod, Italy, Italy's civil service is in part a product of inertia and corruption, and reflects wider social and political problems. As Herbert Read once remarked: 'every country has the bureaucracy it deserves.

But the potential efficiency of bureaucracy is undermined both by a general tendency towards excess of red tape, and by the specific problems of centralized economic planning. Modern industrial [35] development appears both to require State intervention and to multiply the difficulties of central control -- a fact which has led to the French attempt at regionalism in economic planning.

In the Soviet Union 'the planners' task has become about one thousand times niore complex than it was when the first Five Year Plan was launched in Indeed, one Soviet expert has estimated that if the planning system were allowed to continue unchecked along its present lines, by it would occupy every adult member of the population' Erik De Mauny, Russian Prospect, This trend has promoted the limited measures of decentralization to regions and factories in the mids, and the Liberman reforms introducing the profit incentive in the s.

Under the old system, forty to fifty of a factory's "indicators" directives on prices, delivery dates, production schedules and so on were handed down from above. Now, only five or six are handed down'.


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Whether strictly controlled decentralization and use of market mechanisms can do more than mitigate bureaucratic chaos is still to be proven. But from an anarchist standpoint both approaches are totally unsatisfactory in principle, and fail to tap resources of initiative and responsibility which stem from free co-operation and participation in decisionmaking.

The criteria for measuring a concept like 'efficiency' in relation to bureaucratic and economic organization are far from unambiguous -- and in Kropotkin's approach they overlap with an assessment of the total quality of social, cultural and personal life. It may be relevant that where a serious movement away from bureaucratic centralism has occurred in socialist countries, as in Yugoslavia, and briefly in Czechoslovakia in , narrowly defined questions of economic efficiency have been closely related to issues of political and industrial democracy, local autonomy and cultural freedom.

The anarchists' main concern is certainly with the wider social implications of bureaucracy. Herbert Read noted in in relation to the Soviet Union that: 'since the revolution of the State machine has year by year grown in size and importance Alex Comfort remarks that centralized administration means a proliferation of new laws and regulations, thus increasing the quantity of State defined 'crimes' in society.

This is the situation in Italy. In , for example, a former director of the Superior [36] Institute of Health was charged with irregularities in his administration. His arrest promoted widespread protests among scientists, who alleged that 'the antiquated condition of Italian administrative regulations makes scientific research impossible without some form of evasion of the law', for example in procedures for ordering equipment The Times , 1 May , Soviet planning regulations have similarly forced managers to improvise and co-operate in defiance of the rules in order to fulfil their required quotas.

The authorities have turned a blind eye, but punished severely those who have taken private enterprise too far. Erik De Mauny notes in relation to the Shakerman case that, after reading the trial records of the complex transactions involved in building up an illegal commercial empire, a Russian acquaintance commented: 'I wouldn't have put him on trial -- I'd have made him Minister of Finance! Comfort is less concerned than Read about the power of a bureaucratic class, but is afraid that the effect of centralization of functions and power is to provide opportunities for psychopathic leadership.

In this connexion it is relevant to note that the new German State created in the s could boast an efficient civil service, an efficient army and a booming economy: what it lacked was a tradition of political responsibility and civil liberty -- a lack which manifested itself in the signal failure of the numerically strong Social Democratic Party to challenge either State repression or German militarism.

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Max Weber saw in Bismark's Germany a type of bureaucratic absolutism, in which the top officials tended to maintain a high degree of secrecy, and so become a power-seeking clique who were a law unto themselves. Weber emphasized that the effects of bureaucracy in general on the majority of its lesser officials was to encourage timidity, longing for order, and narrowness of vision. When considering the implications of the trend to growing bureaucracy in all spheres of life he is appalled:.

It is horrible to think that the world could one day be filled with nothing but those little cogs, little men clinging to little jobs and striving towards bigger ones It is as if in politics Weber, deeply committed to a code of aristocratic values in which concepts of freedom and citizenship had a conservative and patriotic cast, but were linked to the constitutional tradition was repelled partly by the pettiness of this mode of life, as De Tocqueville was repelled by the picture of 'democratic' uniformity in a centralized State.

The erosion of a sense of 'citizenship' among bureaucratic officials may have more directly sinister implications if conjoined to division of functions and the parcelling out of responsibility, since bureaucratic anonymity may allow men to commit atrocities they would never condone as individuals. Comfort comments that: 'The Policymaker's assessment of the orders which he gives is blunted by the fact that he is separated from their physical execution -- that of the executive by the fact that it is not responsible for them' Authority and Delinquency in the Modern State, Camus notes: 'One of the Dachau executioners weeps in prison and says, "I only obeyed orders.

The Fuhrer and Reichsfuhrer, alone, planned all this. Gluecks received orders from Kaltenbrunner and, finally, I received orders The worst perversions of bureaucracy occur however in conjunction with two other organs of State power deplored by anarchists: the military establishment and the police.

In the economic and social spheres of government it is necessary to distinguish between anarchist criticisms and common liberal-conservative complaints about bureaucracy. The anarchist objection to 'welfare services' administered by civil servants, for example, is not that community welfare saps individual initiative and responsibility but that officially administered welfare is liable to be given inflexibly, officiously and heartlessly -- objections envisaged by Kropotkin.

Nor would anarchists subscribe to critiques of bureaucracy based primarily on judicial fears for the 'rule of law' or parliamentary fears about the lack of parliamentary control, though they might well agree that absence of adequate judicial and parliamentary checks increased the dangers of irresponsible use of power. The spirit of De Tocqueville's attack on bureaucratic centralism is, however, closer to anarchist concerns, though his answer marks him sharply off from anarchism.

De Tocqueville discovered in America and England a political alternative to State centralization, which led nun to formulate a theoretical distinction between the spheres of government' and of 'administration'. There are, he suggests, certain [38] interests common to a whole country, like passing general laws and securing defence: these interests may usefully be centralized.

There are also local interests; to centralize these is to create a rigid and unwieldy centralized administration. Instead local affairs should be conducted through the political initiative of local citizens through municipal government and voluntary associations. Whether De Tocqueville's distinction between local and central interests, and between the role of voluntary associations and bureaucratic organizations, is still valid, and whether it can be maintained in practice, is best answered in relation to other features of State power, and in the light of historical developments since he wrote.

A second feature of the State machinery of great importance for anarchists is a police force. While De Tocqueville is committed to the need for a government to maintain order, his comments on the role of mounted police under the ancicn regime in France are pertinent:. To the mind of the great majority of people only the government was capable of maintaining order in the land The mounted policeman was, in fact, the embodiment of law and order, not merely its chief defender No one seemed to have had the faintest inkling that the protector might one day become the master The Old Regime , De Tocqueville then quotes the remarks of an uncomprehending French emigre in England on the absence of a military police: 'It is the literal truth that the average Englishman consoles himself for having been robbed with the reflection that his country has no mounted police!


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But now an anarchist arguing against the existence of a police force is likely to be regarded with the same incredulity and condescension as the emigre then regarded the English. It was in France under Napoleon that the organizational model of a modern political police was first created. Under Fouche, former Revolutionary Minister of Police, the Ministry of Police was reorganized in and provided an efficient instrument of surveillance and repression to maintain Napoleon in power.


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Fouche's department declined in influence after the fall of Napoleon, but many of its methods were retained by succeeding regimes, and the political [39] police was strengthened again by Louis Napoleon to maintain his own dictatorship after After his fall the police under the Third Republic changed its leading personnel, but 'its functions altered little' see E. Bramstedt, Dictatorship and Political Police , Government ministers were reputed to live in fear of the dossiers of the police.

In the early years of the Fourth Republic a public scandal revealed the bizarre workings of the rival secret services attached to the Ministry of the Interior and the Prime Minister's Office.