Proudhon, who had learned the hard way how politics really works, warned reformers against being taken-in by the promises of reform offered by stake-holders in the current system. The Exploiters are always singing the same song as they dance over the bodies of the Oppressed. Says Proudhon in the People’s Election Manifesto… “Throughout history, the ambitious and scheming have, in more or less pompous language, promised the people… Liberty and Equality, Work and Family, Property and Progress, Credit, Education, Association, Order, and Peace” [along with] “participation in government, equitable distribution of taxes, honest and inexpensive administration, fair courts, movement towards equality of income, emancipation of the proletariat, and eradication of poverty.”
Malatesta agreed with Proudhon that what the government promised and what it delivered– indeed, what it ever intended to deliver– were two entirely different things. The State is always full of talk of equality and justice– while it simultaneously works at the behest of the elite to maintain the foundations of the status quo. A government, said Malatesta, “cannot ensure respect for the life of the Privileged without seeming to seek respect for everyone’s life. It cannot secure acceptance for the privileges of some without going through the motions of safe-guarding everybody’s rights.” Karl Marx said much the same.
Malatesta understood that people in power will say or do anything to stay in power, not infrequently becoming so fixated on maintaining their positions that everything else is tossed overboard in the effort to keep afloat their place in society. People in power, said Malatesta, wind-up… “squandering the greater part of their energies upon keeping themselves in power, appeasing friends, quelling malcontents, and thwarting rebels.”
Kropotkin held no delusions that power-holders would simply shrug and walk away from the institutions of Authority and Property which perpetuate their privileged positions. Wrote Kropotkin… “There looms before us the mammoth undertaking of demolishing the institutions which serve to perpetuate economic and politically slavery.” The Revolution must come, and with it, the State must be swept away. Kropotkin was convinced that any true Revolution will necessarily result in the victory of Anarchist principles… “There is no Revolution unless there is Anarchy,” he said. “Revolution and Government are incompatible.”
For all these reasons listed above (and more), Anarchists, no matter their ilk, usually foresee the eventual dismantling of the State not as something gradual or something accomplished through parliamentary debate, but as something sudden, probably violent. The leviathan of the State is self-perpetuating and unredeemable. The only way to tame it is to kill it. It is the old concept of “creative destruction”– before the New can be built, the Old must be demolished.
“We must start with the work of destruction,” wrote terrorist Emile Henry in a letter to the Director of his prison. “The old worm-eaten structure must be cast down.” Henry saw Anarchy as a government-strangling flower which “sprouts from the bosom of a rotten society.” He felt that the roots of this violent, breast-blooming plant stretched deeply, and throughout the underpinnings of society. “It is everywhere,” he warns his top jailer. “That is what makes it indomitable, and it will end by defeating you and killing you.”
Max Stirner was convinced that the Revolution is about much more than merely replacing one government with a supposedly better one. Revolution is about getting rid of government… period. “The war should be declared on every existing order,” he wrote in The Ego And His Own, “which is to say, on the State, and not on any particular State.”
“I am listening for the sublime hour of cannon fire,” said Proudhon, impatient to hear the signal that the Real Revolution has commenced, and that humanity has began its march toward true freedom and dignity. Proudhon died without ever hearing the shot fired that would have begun the Real Revolution… Must we all?