God or Labor: The Two Camps
You taunt us with disbelieving in God. We charge you with believing
in him. We do not condemn you for this We do not even indict you.
We pity you. For the time of illusions is past. We cannot be deceived
Whom do we find under God's banner? Emperor, kings, the official
and the officious world; our lords and our nobles; all the privileged
poisons of Europe whose names are recorded in the Almana de Gotha;
all the guinea pigs of the industrial, commercial and banking
world; the patented professors of our universities; the civil
service servants; the low and high police officers; the gendarmes;
the gaolers; the headsman or hangman, not forgetting the priests,
who are now the black police enslaving our souls to the State;
the glorious generals, defenders of the public order; and lastly,
the writers of the reptile Press.
This is God's army !
Whom do we find in the camp opposite? The army of revolt; the
audacious donors of God and repudiators of all divine and authoritarian
principles! These who are therefore, the believers in humanity,
the asserters of human liberty.
You reproach us with being Atheists. We do not complain of
this. We have no apology to offer. We admit we are. With what
pride is allowed to frail individuals-who, like passing waves,
rise only to disappear again in the universal ocean of the collective
life--we pride ourselves on being Atheists. Atheism is Truth--or,
rather the real basis of all Truths.
We do not stoop to consider practical consequences. We want
Truth above everything. Truth for all!
We believe in spite of all the apparent contradictions in spite
of the wavering political wisdom of the Parliamentarians--and
of the skepticism of the times--that truth only can make for the
practical happiness of the people. This is our first article of
It appears as if you were not satisfied in recording our Atheism.
You jump to the conclusion that we can have neither love nor respect
for mankind, informing that all these great ideas or emotions
which, in all ages, have set heart s throbbing are dead letters
to us. Trailing at hazard our miserable existence's--crawling,
rather than walking, as you wish to imagine us--you assume that
we cannot know of other feelings than the satisfaction of our
coarse and sensual desires.
Do you want to know to what an extent we love the beautiful
things that you revere? Know then that we love them so much that
we are both angry and tired at seeing them hanging, out of reach,
from your idealistic sky. We feel sorrow to see them stolen from
our mother earth, transmuted into symbols without life, or into
distant premises never to be realized. No longer are we satisfied
with the fiction of things. We want them in their full reality.
This is our second article of faith.
By hurling at us the epithet of materialists, you believe you
have driven us to the wall. But you are greatly mistaken. Do you
know the origin of your error?
What you and we call matter are two things totally different.
Your matter is a fiction. In this it resembles your God, your
Satan, and your immortal soul. Your matter is nothing beyond coarse
lowliness, brutal lifelessness. It is an impossible entity, as
impossible as your pure spirit-- "immaterial," "absolute"
The first thinkers of mankind wore necessarily theologians
and metaphysicians. Our earthly mind is so constituted that it
begins to rise slowly--through a maze of ignorance-by errors and
mistakes--to the possession of a minute parcel of Truth. This
fact does not recommend "the glorious conditions of the past."
But our theologians and metaphysicians, owing to their ignorance,
took all that to them appeared to constitute power, movement,
life, intelligence; and, by a sweeping generalization, called
it, spirit! To the lifeless and shapeless residue they thought
remained after such preliminary selection--unconsciously evolved
from the whole world of reality--they gave the namo of matter!
They wore then surprised to see that this matter--which, like
their spirit existed only in their imagination--appeared to be
so lifeless and stupid when compared to their god, the eternal'
spirit! To be candid, we de not knew this God. We de not recognize
By the words matter and material, we understand the totality
of things, the whole gradation of phenomenal reality as We know
it, from the most simple inorganic bodies to the complex functions
of the mind of a man of genius; the most beautiful sentiments,
the highest thoughts; the most heroic deeds; the actions of sacrifice
and devotion; the duties and the rights, the abnegation and the
egoism of our social life. The manifestations of organic life,
the properties and qualities of simple bodies; electricity, light,
heat, and molecular attraction, are all to cur mind but so many
different evolution's of that totality of things that we call
matter. These evolution's are characterized by a close solidarity,
a unity of motive power.
We de not look upon this totality of being and of forms as
an eternal and absolute substance, as Pantheist do. But we look
upon it as the result, always changed and always changing, of
a variety of actions and reactions, and of the continuous working
of real beings that are born and live in its very midst. Against
the creed of the theologians I set these propositions:
1. That if there wore a God who created it the world could
never have existed.
2. That if God were,or had been, the ruler of nature, natural,
physical, and social law could never have existed I t would have
presented a spectacle of complete chaos. Ruled from above, downwards,
it would have resembled the calculated and designed disorder of
the political State.
3. That moral law is a moral, logical and real law, only in
so far as it emanates from the needs of human society.
4. That the idea of God is not necessary to the existence and
working of the moral law. Far from this, it is a disturbing and
socially demoralizing factor.
5. That all gods, past and present, have owed their existence
to a human imagination unfired from the fetters of its primordial
6. That any and every god, once established on his throne becomes
the curse of humanity, and the natural ally of all tyrants, social
charlatans, and exploiters of humanity.
7. That the routing of God will be a necessary consequence
of the triumph of mankind. The abolition of the idea of God will
be a fateful result of the proletarian emancipation.
From the moral point of view, Socialism is the advent of self
respect to mankind. It will mean the passing of degradation and
From the practical viewpoint,Socialism is the final acceptance
of a great principle that is leavening society more and more every
day. It is making itself more and more by the public conscience.
It has become the basis of scientific investigations and progress,
and of the proletariat. It is making its way everywhere. Briefly,
this principle is as follows:
As in what we call the material world, the inorganic matter-mechanical,
physical, and chemical--is the determinant basis of the organic
matter--vegetable, animal intellectual-in like matter in the social
world, the development of economical questions has been, and is
the basis that determines our religious, philosophical, political,
and social developments. On this subject Bakunin agrees with Marx.
This principle audaciously destroys all religious ideas and
metaphysical beliefs. It is a rebellion far greater than that
which, born during the Renaissance and the seventeenth century,
leveled down all scholastic doctrine--once the powerful rampart
of the Church, of the absolute monarchy, and of the feudal nobility--and
brought about the dogmatic culture of the so-called pure reason,
so favorable to our latter-day rulers the bourgeois classes. We
therefore, say, through the International : The economical enslavement
of the workers--to these who control the necessities of life and
the instruments of labor, tools and machinery--is the solo and
original cause of the present slavery in all its forms. To it
are attributable mantel degeneration and political submission.
The economic emancipation of the workers, therefore, is the aim
to which any political movement must subordinate its being, merely
as a means to that end. This briefly is the central idea of the
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