März 25, 2010

137 Jahre Rudolf Rocker

Letztes Jahr hatten wir Rudolf Rockers Geburtstag mit der Wiedergabe des Artikels "Über den Begriff des Kleinbürgers" begangen; dieses Jahr habe ich einen Auszug aus dem Kapitel über Liberalismus und Demokratie aus Rockers Hauptwerk Nationalism and Culture (veröffentlicht 1937), eine scharfe Abrechnung mit Rousseau, ausgewählt:

"There is an essential difference between liberalism and democracy, based on two different conceptions of the relationship between man and society. Indeed, we have stated in advance that we have in view here solely the social and political trends of liberal and democratic thought, not the endeavours of the liberal and democratic parties, which frequently bear a relationship to their original ideals similar to that which the practical political efforts of the socialistic labor parties bear to socialism. Most of all, one must here beware of throwing liberalism into the same pot with the so-called 'Manchester doctrines', as is frequently done.

The ancient wisdom of Protagoras, that man is the measure of all things, has weight for liberalism, also. On the basis of this doctrine it judges the social environment according as it furthers the natural development of the individual or is a hindrance to his personal freedom and Independence. Its conceptions of society are those of an organic process resulting from man's natural necessities and leading to free associations, which exist as long as they fulfil their purpose, and dissolve again when this purpose has become meaningless. The less this natural course of things is affected by forceful interference and mechanical regulation from outside, the freer and more frictionless will be all social procedure and the more fully can man enjoy the happiness of his personal freedom and independence.

From this point of view liberalism judged also the state and all forms of government. Its advocates believed, however, that government in certain matters cannot be entirely dispensed with. Yet they saw clearly that every form of government menaces man's freedom, hence they always endeavoured to guard the individual from the encroachments of governmental power and strove to confine this to the smallest possible field of activity. The administration of things always meant more to them than the government of men; hence, the state, for them, had a right to exist only as long as its functionaries strove merely to protect the personal safety of its citizens against forcible attacks. The state constitution of liberalism was, therefore, predominantly of a negative nature; the focal point of all the socialpolitical thought of its advocates was the largest possible degree of freedom for the individual.

In contradistinction to liberalism, the starting point of democracy was a collective concept of the people, the community. But although this abstract concept on which the democratic ideal is founded could only lead to results disastrous to the independence of human personality, it was surrounded by the aureole of a fictitious concept of freedom, whose worth or unworth was yet to be proved. Rousseau, the real prophet of the modern democratic state idea, in his Contrat social, had opposed 'the sovereignty of the king' with 'the sovereignty of the people'. Thus the dominance of the people was for him the watchword of freedom against the tyranny of the old regime. This alone necessarily gave the democratic idea a great prestige; for no power is stronger than that which pretends to be founded on the principles of freedom.

Rousseau proceeded in his socialphilosophical speculations from the doctrine of the social contract, which he had taken over from the advocates of political radicalism in England; and it was this doctrine which gave his work the power to inflict such terrible wounds on royal absolutism in France. This is also the reason why there came to be current so many contradictory opinions concerning Rousseau and his teachings. Everyone knows to what a degree his ideas contributed to the overthrow of the old system and how strongly the men of the great revolution were influenced by his doctrines. But just because of that it is all too frequently overlooked that Rousseau was at the same time the apostle of a new political religion, whose consequences had just as disastrous effects on the freedom of men as had formerly the belief in the divine right of kings. In fact, Rousseau was one of the inventors of that new abstract state idea arising in Europe after the fetish worship of the state which found its expression in the personal and absolute monarch had reached its end.

Not unjustly Bakunin called Rousseau 'the true creator of modern reaction'. For was he not one of the spiritual fathers of that monstrous idea of an allruling, allinclusive, political providence which never loses sight of man and mercilessly stamps upon him the mark of its superior will? Rousseau and Hegel are -- each in his own way -- the two gatekeepers of modern state reaction, which is today, in fascism, preparing to climb to the highest pinnacle of its dominance. But the influence of the 'citizen of Geneva' on the course of this development was by far the greater, for his works stirred public opinion in Europe more deeply than did Hegel's obscure symbolism.

Rousseau's ideal state is an artificial structure. Although he had learned from Montesquieu to explain the various state systems from the climatic environment of each people, he nevertheless followed in the footsteps of the alchemists of his time, who made every conceivable experiment with 'the ignoble constituents of human nature' in the constant hope of some day pouring out from the crucible of their idle speculation the pure gold of the state founded on absolute reason. He was most positively convinced that it depended only on the right form of government or the best form of legislation to develop men into perfected beings. Thus he declares in his Confessions:

'I found that politics was the first means for furthering morals; that, approach the matter as one may, the character of a people will always evolve according to the kind of government it has. In this respect, it seemed to me that the great question concerning the best form of the state can be reduced to this: how must the government be constituted to form a people into the most virtuous, the most enlightened, the wisest, in one word, the best, people in the fullest sense.'

This idea is a characteristic starting point for democratic lines of thought in general, and is peculiarly indicative of Rousseau's mentality. Since democracy starts from a collective concept and values the individual accordingly, 'man' became for its advocates an abstract being with whom they could continue to experiment until he should take on the desired mental norm and, as model citizen, be fitted to the forms of the state. Not without reason, Rousseau called the legislator 'the mechanic who invents the machine.' In fact there is about democracy something mechanical behind whose gearwheels man vanishes. But as democracy, even in Rousseau's sense, cannot function without man, it first stretches him on the bed of Procrustes that he may assume the mental pattern the state requires.

Just as Hobbes gave the absolute state a power embodied in the person of the monarch, against whom no right of the individual could exist, so Rousseau invented a phantom on which he conferred the same absolute rights. The 'Leviathan' which he envisioned derived its fullness of power from a collective concept, the so-called 'common will' the volonté générale. But Rousseau's common will was by no means that will of all which is formed by adding each individual will to the will of all others, by this means reaching an abstract concept of the social will. No. Rousseau's common will is the immediate result of the 'social contract' from which, according to his concept of political society, the state has emerged. Hence, the common will is always right, is always infallible, since its activity in all instances has the general good as a presumption.

Rousseau's idea springs from a religious fancy having its root in the concept of a political providence which, being endowed with the gifts of allwisdom and complete perfection, can consequently never depart from the right way. Every personal protest against the rule of such a providence amounts to political blasphemy. Men may err in the interpretation of the common will; for, according to Rousseau, 'the people can never be bribed, but may often be misled!' The common will itself, however, remains unaffected by any false interpretations; it floats like the spirit of God over the waters of public opinion; and while this may stray from time to time into strange paths, it will always find its way back again to the centre of social equilibrium, as the misguided Jews to Jehovah. Starting from this speculative concept, Rousseau rejects every separate association within the state, because by such association the clear recognition of the common will is blurred.

The Jacobins, following in his footsteps, therefore threatened with death the first attempts of the French workers to associate themselves into trade guilds, and declared that the National Convention could tolerate no 'state within the state' because by such associations the pure expression of the common will would be disturbed. Today Bolshevism in Russia, fascism in Germany and Italy, enforce the same doctrine and suppress all inconvenient separate associations, transforming those which they permit to exist into organs of the state.

Thus there grew from the idea of the common will a new tyranny, whose chains were more enduring because they were decorated with the false gold of an imaginary freedom, the freedom of Rousseau, which was just as meaningless and shadowy as was the famous concept of the common will. Rousseau became the creator of new idols to which man sacrificed liberty and life with the same devotion as once to the fallen gods of a vanished time. In view of the unlimited completeness of the power of a fictitious common will, any independence of thought became a crime; all reason, as with Luther, 'the whore of the devil'. For Rousseau, the state became also the creator and preserver of all morality, against which no other ethical concept could maintain itself. It was but a repetition of the same age-old bloody tragedy: God everything, man nothing!

There is much insincerity and glamorous shamfight in Rousseau's doctrine for which the explanation is perhaps found only in the man's shocking narrowness of mind and morbid mistrust. How much mischievous histication and hypocrisy is concealed in the words: 'In order that the Social Contract may be no empty formula it tacitly impies that obtigation which alone can give force to all the others: namely, that anyone who aegses obedience to the general will is to be forced to it by the whole body. This merely means that he is to be compelled to be free'. [1]

'That he is to be compelled to be free!' -- the freedom of the state power's straitjacket! Could there be a worse parody of libertarian feeling than this? And the man whose sick brain bred such a monstrosity is even today praised as an apostle of freedom! But after all, Rousseau's concept is only the result of thoroughly doctrinaire thinking, which sacrifices every living thing to the mechanics of a theory, and whose representatives, with the obsessed determination of madmen, ride roughshod over human destinies as unconcernedly as if they were bursting bubbles. For real man, Rousseau had as little understanding as Hegel. His man was the artificial product of the retort, the homunculus of a political alchemist, responsive to all the demands the common will had prepared for him. He was master neither of his own life nor of his own thought. He felt, thought, acted, with the mechanical precision of a machine put in motion by a set of fixed ideas. If he lived at all, it was only by the grace of a political providence, so long as it found no offence in his personal existence.

'For the social contract served the purposes of the contractors. Who wills the end wills also the means, and these means are inseparable from some danger, indeed, even from some loss. He who wishes to preserve his life at the expense of others must also be willing to sacrifice it for them when that becomes necessary. The citizen of a state is therefore no longer the judge concerning the danger to which he must expose himself at the demand of the law, and when the prince (state) says to him, 'Thy death is necessary for the state,' he must die, since it is only upon this condition that he has thus far lived in security, and his life is no longer merely a gift of nature, but is a conditional grant from the state.' [2]

What Rousseau calls freedom is the freedom to do that which the state, the guardian of the common will, prescribes for the citizen. It is the tuning of all human feeling to one note, the rejection of the rich diversity of life, the mechanical fitting of all effort to a designated pattern. To achieve this is the high task of the legislator, who with Rousseau plays the part of a political high priest, a part vouchsafed to him by the sanctity of his calling. It is his duty to correct nature, to transform man into a peculiar political creature no longer having anything in common with his original status.

'He who possesses the courage to give a people institutions must be ready, as it were, to change human nature, to transform every individual, who by himself is a complete and separate whole, into a part of a greater whole from which this individual in a certain sense receives his life and character; to change the constitution of man in order to strengthen it, and to substitute for the corporeal and independent existence which we all have received from nature a merely partial and moral existence. In short, he must take from man his native individual powers and equip him with others foreign to his nature, which he cannot understand or use without the assistance of others. The more completely these natural powers are annihilated and destroyed and the greater and more enduring are the ones acquired, the more secure and the more perfect is also the constitution.' [3]

These words not only reveal the whole misanthropic character of this doctrine, but bring out more sharply the unbridgeable antithesis between the original doctrines of liberalism and the democracy of Rousseau and his successors. Liberalism, which emanates from the individual and sees in the organic development of all man's natural capacities and powers the essence of freedom, strives for a condition that does not hinder this natural course but leaves to the individual in greatest possible measure his individual life. To this thought Rousseau opposed the equality principle of democracy, which proclaims the equality of all citizens before the law. And since he quite correctly saw in the manifold and diverse factors in human nature a danger to the smooth functioning of his political machine, he strove to supplant man's natural being by an artificial substitute which was to endow the citizen with the capacity of functioning in rhythm with the machine.

This uncanny idea, aiming not merely at the complete destruction of the personality but really including also the complete abjuration of all true humanity, became the first assumption of a new reason of state, which found its moral justification in the concept of the communal will. Everything living congeals into a dead scheme; all organic function is replaced by the routine of the machine; political technique devours all individual lifejust as the technique of modern economics devours the soul of the producer. The most frightful fact is that we are not here dealing with the unforeseen results of a doctrine whose effects the inventor himself could not anticipate. With Rousseau everything happened consciously and with inherent logical sequence. He speaks about these things with the assurance of a mathematician. The natural man existed for him only until the conclusion of the social contract. With that his time was fulfilled. What has developed since then is but the product of society become the statethe political man. 'The natural man is a whole in himself; he is the numerical unit, the absolute whole, which has relation y ship only to itself and to its equals. Man, the citizen, is only a partial unit, whose worth lies in its relation to the whole which constitutes the social body '. [4]

It is one of the most curious phenomena that the same man who professed to despise culture and preached the 'return to nature,' the man who for reasons of sentiment declined to accept the thought structure of the Encyclopaedists and whose writings released among his contemporaries such a deep longing for the simple natural life, it is curious that this same man, as a state theoretician, violated human nature far more cruelly than the cruelest despot and staked everything on making it yield itself to the technique of the law.

It might be objected that liberalism likewise rests on a fictitious assumption, since it is difficult to reconcile personal freedom with the existing economic system. Without doubt the present inequality of economic interests and the resulting class conflicts in society are a continued danger to the freedom of the individual and lead inevitably to a steadily increasing enslavement of the working masses. However, the same is also true for the famous 'equality before the law,' on which democracy is based. Quite apart from the fact that the possessing classes have always found ways and means to corrupt the administration of justice and make it subservient to their ends, it is the rich and the privileged who make the laws today in all lands. But this is not the point: if liberalism fails to function practically in an economic system based on monopoly and class distinction, it is not because it has been mistaken in the correctness of its fundamental point of view, but because the undisturbed natural development of human personality is impossible in a system which has its root in the shameless exploitation of the great mass of the members of society. One cannot be free either politically or personally so long as one is in the economic servitude of another and cannot escape from this condition. This was recognised long ago by men like Godwin, Warren, Proudhon, Bakunin, and many others who subsequently reached the conviction that the dominion of man over man will not disappear until there is an end of the exploitation of man by man.

An 'ideal state', however, such as Rousseau strove to achieve, would never make men free, even if they enjoyed the largest possible degree of equality of economic conditions. One creates no freedom by seeking to take from man his natural characteristics and to replace these by foreign; ones in order that he may function as the automaton of the common will. From the equality of the barracks no breath of freedom will ever blow. Rousseau's error, if one can, indeed, speak of error lies in the starting point of his social theory. His idea of a fictitious common will was the Moloch which swallowed men." (...)

[1] Jean Jacques Rousseau, The Social Contract, or, The Principles of State Right. Bk 1, Chap. VII.
[2] The Social Contract. Bk. 11, Chap. V.
[3] The Social Contract. Book 11, Chap. Vll.
[4] Rousseau, Emile. First Book.

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