The fundamental error of the reformists is that of dreaming of a sincere collaboration, between masters and servants, between proprietors and the property-less which even if it might have existed here and there in a few unique periods of history, is utterly impossible. Those who envisage a society of “social peace” based on abundance for all will remain a dream, so long as society is divided into antagonistic classes, that is employers and employees. And there will be neither peace nor abundance. There will never be a sincere understanding between bosses and workers for the better exploitation of the forces of nature in the interests of mankind, because the bosses above all want to remain bosses and secure always more power at the expense of the workers, as well as by competition with other bosses, whereas the workers have had their fill of bosses and don’t want more.
Reformers are wasting their time when they tell us that a little freedom is better than a brutal and unbridled tyranny; that a reasonable working day, a wage that allows people to live better than animals, and protection of women and children, are preferable to the exploitation of human labour to the point of human exhaustion. In most cases it is an illusion. No matter; even if some minor advances were the direct result of an electoral victory, the Socialist Party will not flock to the polling booths or cease to preach their methods of class struggle. Governments and the privileged classes are naturally always guided by instincts of self preservation, of consolidation and the development of their powers and privileges; and when they consent to reforms it is either because they consider that they will serve their ends or because they do not feel strong enough to resist, and give in, fearing what might otherwise be a worse alternative.
It is not true to say therefore, that the Socialist Party are opposed to all improvements, to reforms. They oppose the reformists on the one hand because their methods are less effective for securing reforms from governments and employers, who only give in through fear, and on the other hand because very often the reforms they prefer are those which not only bring doubtful immediate benefits, but also serve to consolidate the existing regime and to give the workers a vested interest in its continued existence. All working people must be convinced of their right to the means of production, and be prepared to exercise this basic right by expropriating the landowners, the industrialists and financiers, and putting all social wealth at the disposal of the people. If one really wants to change the system in fact and not just superficially, it will be necessary to destroy capitalism de facto, expropriating those who now control all social wealth.
Capitalists have robbed the people, with violence and dishonesty, of the land and all the means of production, and in consequence of this initial theft can each day take away from the workers the product of their labor. But they have been lucky thieves, they have become strong, have made laws to legitimate their situation, and have organized a whole system of repression to defend themselves both from the demands of the workers as well as from those who would want to replace them by the same means. And now the theft of the former is called property, commerce, industry, etc.; whereas the term robbers in common parlance, is reserved for those who would wish to follow the example of capitalists but who, having arrived too late, and in unfavourable circumstances, cannot do so without rebelling against the law. The capitalist is a thief who has succeeded through his efforts or those of his ancestors; the common thief is a would-be capitalist, who is simply waiting to become one in fact, to live, without working, on the proceeds of his hauls, that is on the work of others.
As enemies of the capitalists, we cannot have sympathy for the thief who aspires to become a capitalist. As advocates of expropriation by the people for the benefit of everybody, we cannot, as anarchists, have anything in common with actions, the purpose of which, is simply to transfer wealth from the hands of one boss into the hands of another. Of course, we are speaking of the professional criminal, the person who does not want to work and seeks the means to live parasitically on the work of others. It is quite another matter when a man denied the means of working robs in order that he or his family shall not die of hunger. In such a case, theft (if it can thus be called) is a revolt against social injustice. It is true that the professional thief is also a victim of the social environment. The example set by his superiors, his educational background, and the disgusting conditions in which many people are obliged to work, easily explain why some men, who are not morally better than their contemporaries, finding themselves with the choice of being exploiters or exploited choose to be the former and seek to become exploiters with the means they are capable of. But these extenuating circumstances could equally be applied to the capitalists, but in so doing one only demonstrates more clearly the basic identity between the two professions.
Since socialist ideas cannot be used to push people into becoming capitalists, neither can they be used to make people into thieves. On the contrary, by giving discontented people ideas about a better life and the hope of general emancipation, socialists if anything advocate withdrawal from all legal or illegal actions which encourage adaptation to the capitalist system and tend to perpetuate it.
Every Socialist Party member is familiar with the objection: who will keep criminals in check in a socialist society? We consider it rather an exaggerated supposition since a vast amount of malicious anti-social behaviour will disappear with the appearance of material well-being. The fact remains that delinquency and the fear of crime today will certainly not magically vanish in the early days following the socialist revolution, no matter how radical and individually uplifting it may turn out to be. One must eliminate all the social causes of crime, one must develop feelings of mutual respect. If a crime tends to consciously increase human suffering; it is the violation of the right of all to the greatest possible enjoyment of equal freedom. It will infringe upon a community’s sense of reciprocity.
But if, and so long as, there are criminals, people will find the means to defend themselves against them. With the growth of civilisation, and of social relations; with the growing awareness of human solidarity which unites mankind there is certainly a corresponding growth of social duties, and many actions which were considered as strictly individual rights and independent of any collective control will be considered, indeed they already are, matters affecting everybody, and must therefore be carried out in conformity with the general interest. But who will judge? Who will provide the necessary defence? Who will establish what measures of restraint are to be used? We do not see any other way than that of leaving it to the interested parties, to the people, that is the mass of citizens, who will act in different ways according to the circumstances and according to their different degrees of social development. We must seek the means to achieve our goal, without falling into the dangers of authoritarianism.
Fortunately only a very few are born, or become, bloodthirsty and sadistic monsters.