Dezember 09, 2011

169 Jahre Pëtr Alekseevič Kropotkin

Und noch ein alter Text eines bärtigen Verstorbenen, diesmal etwas länger geraten:

Free agreement

Accustomed as we are by heredity prejudices and our unsound education and training to represent ourselves the beneficial hand of Government, legislation and magistracy everywhere, we have come to believe that man would tear his fellow-man to pieces like a wild beast the day the police took his eye off him; that absolute chaos would come about if authority were overthrown during a revolution. And with our eyes shut we pass by thousands and thousands of human groupings which form themselves freely, without any intervention of the law, and attain results infinitely superior to those achieved under governmental tutelage.
If you open a daily paper you find that its pages are entirely devoted to Government transactions and to political jobbery. A man from another world, reading it, would believe that, with the exception of the Stock Exchange transactions, nothing gets done in Europe save by order of some master. You find nothing in the paper about institutions that spring up, grow up, and develop without ministerial prescription! Nothing—or almost nothing! Even where there is a heading, "Sundry Events" (Faits divers, a favorite column in the French papers), it is because they are connected with the police. A family drama, an act of rebellion, will only be mentioned if the police have appeared on the scene.
Three hundred and fifty million Europeans love or hate one another, work, or live on their incomes; but, apart from literature, theatre, or sport, their lives remain ignored by newspapers if Governments have not intervened in it in some way or other. It is even so with history. We know the least details of the life of a king or of a parliament; all good and bad speeches pronounced by the politicians have been preserved: "speeches that have never had the least influence on the vote of a single member," as an old parliamentarian said. Royal visits, the good or bad humour of politicians, their jokes and intrigues, are all carefully recorded for posterity. But we have the greatest difficulty to reconstitute a city of the Middle Ages, to understand the mechanism of that immense commerce that was carried on between Hanseatic cities, or to know how the city of Rouen built its cathedral. If a scholar spends his life in studying these questions, his works remain unknown, and parliamentary histories—that is to say, the defective ones, as they only treat of one side of social life—multiply; they are circulated, they are taught in schools.
In this way we do not even perceive the prodigious work, accomplished every day by spontaneous groups of men, which constitutes the chief work of our century.
We therefore propose to point out some of these most striking manifestations, and to show how men, as soon as their interests do not absolutely clash, act in concert, harmoniously, and perform collective work of a very complex nature.
It is evident that in present society, based on individual property—that is to say, on plunder, and on a narrow-minded, and therefore foolish individualism—facts of this kind are necessarily limited; agreements are not always perfectly free, and often they have a mean, if not execrable aim.
But what concerns us is not to give examples which might be blindly followed, and which, moreover, present society could not possibly give us. What we have to do is to show that, in spite of the authoritarian individualism which stifles us, there remains in our life, taken as a whole, a very great part in which we only act by free agreement; and that therefore it would be much easier than is usually thought, to dispense with Government.
In support of our view we have already mentioned railways, and we will now return to them.
We know that Europe has a system of railways, over 175,000 miles long, and that on this network you can nowadays travel from north to south, from east to west, from Madrid to Petersburg, and from Calais to Constantinople, without delays, without even changing carriages (when you travel by express). More than that: a parcel deposited at a station will find its addressee anywhere, in Turkey or in Central Asia, without more formality needed for sending it than writing its destination on a bit of paper.
This result might have been obtained in two ways. A Napoleon, a Bismarck, or some potentate having conquered Europe, would from Paris, Berlin, or Rome, draw a railway map and regulate the hours of the trains. The Russian Tsar Nicholas I. dreamt of such a power. When he was shown rough drafts of railways between Moscow and Petersburg, he seized a ruler and drew on the map of Russia a straight line between these two capitals, saying, "Here is the plan." And the road was built in a straight line, filling in deep ravines, building bridges of a giddy height, which had to be abandoned a few years later, after the railway had cost about £120,000 to £150,000 per English mile.
This is one way, but happily things were managed differently. Railways were constructed piece by piece, the pieces were joined together, and the hundred different companies, to whom these pieces belonged, gradually came to an understanding concerning the arrival and departure of their trains, and the running of carriages on their rails, from all countries, without unloading merchandise as it passes from one network to another.
All this was done by free agreement, by exchange of letters and proposals, and by congresses at which delegates met to discuss well specified special points, and to come to an agreement about them, but not to make laws. After the congress was over, the delegates returned to their respective companies, not with a law, but with the draft of a contract to be accepted or rejected.
Of course difficulties were met in the way. There were obstinate men who would not be convinced. But a common interest compelled them to agree in the end, without invoking the help of armies against the refractory members.
This immense network of railways connected together, and the enormous traffic it has given rise to, no doubt constitutes the most striking trait of the nineteenth century; and it is the result of free agreement. If somebody had foretold it eighty years ago, our grandfathers would have thought him idiotic or mad. They would have said: "Never will you be able to make the shareholders of a hundred companies listen to reason! It is a Utopia, a fairy tale. A central Government, with an 'iron' dictator, can alone enforce it."
And the most interesting thing in this organization is, that there is no European Central Government of Railways! Nothing! No minister of railways, no dictator, not even a continental parliament, not even a directing committee! Everything is done by free agreement.
So we ask the believers in the State, who pretend that "we can never do without a central Government, were it only for regulating the traffic," we ask them: "But how do European railways manage without them? How do they continue to convey millions of travellers and mountains of luggage across a continent? If companies owning railways have been able to agree, why should railway workers, who would take possession of railways, not agree likewise? And if the Petersburg-Warsaw Company and that of Paris-Belfort can act in harmony, without giving themselves the luxury of a common commander, why, in the midst of our societies, consisting of groups of free workers, should we need a Government?"

When we endeavour to prove by examples that even to-day, in spite of the iniquitous organization of society as a whole, men, provided their interests be not diametrically opposed, agree without the intervention of authority, we do not ignore the objections that will be put forth.
All such examples have their defective side, because it is impossible to quote a single organization exempt from the exploitation of the weak by the strong, the poor by the rich. This is why the Statists will not fail to tell us with their wonted logic: "You see that the intervention of the State is necessary to put an end to this exploitation!"
Only they forget the lessons of history; they do not tell us to what extent the State itself has contributed towards the existing order by creating proletarians and delivering them up to exploiters. They forget to prove us that it is possible to put an end to exploitation while the primal causes—private capital and poverty, two-thirds of which are artificially created by the State—continue to exist.
When we speak of the accord established among the railway companies, we expect them, the worshippers of the bourgeois State, to say to us: "Do you not see how the railway companies oppress and ill-use their employees and the travellers! The only way is, that the State should intervene to protect the workers and the public!"
But have we not said and repeated over and over again, that as long as there are capitalists, these abuses of power will be perpetuated? It is precisely the State, the would-be benefactor, that has given to the companies that monopoly and those rights upon us which they possess to-day. Has it not created concessions, guarantees? Has it not sent its soldiers against railwaymen on strike? And during the first trials (quite lately we saw it still in Russia), has it not extended the privilege of the railway magnates as far as to forbid the Press to mention railway accidents, so as not to depreciate the shares it guaranteed? Has it not favoured the monopoly which has anointed the Vanderbilts and the Polyakoffs, the directors of the P.L.M., the C.P.R., the St. Gothard, "the kings of our days"?
Therefore, if we give as an example the tacit agreement come to between railway companies, it is by no means as an ideal of economical management, nor even an ideal of technical organization. It is to show that if capitalists, without any other aim than that of augmenting their dividends at other people's expense, can exploit railways successfully without establishing an International Department,—societies of working men will be able to do it just as well, and even better, without nominating a Ministry of European railways.
Another objection is raised that is more serious at first sight. We may be told that the agreement we speak of is not perfectly free, that the large companies lay down the law to the small ones. It might be mentioned, for example, that a certain rich German company, supported by the State, compel travellers who go from Berlin to Bâle to pass via Cologne and Frankfort, instead of taking the Leipzig route; or that such a company carries goods a hundred and thirty miles in a roundabout way (on a long distance) to favour its influential shareholders, and thus ruins the secondary lines. In the United States travellers and goods are sometimes compelled to travel impossibly circuitous routes so that dollars may flow into the pocket of a Vanderbilt.
Our answer will be the same: As long as Capital exists, the Greater Capital will oppress the lesser. But oppression does not result from Capital only. It is also owing to the support given them by the State, to monopoly created by the State in their favour, that the large companies oppress the small ones.
The early English and French Socialists have shown long since how English legislation did all in its power to ruin the small industries, drive the peasant to poverty, and deliver over to wealthy industrial employers battalions of men, compelled to work for no matter what salary. Railway legislation did exactly the same. Strategic lines, subsidized lines, companies which received the International Mail monopoly, everything was brought into play to forward the interests of wealthy financiers. When Rothschild, creditor to all European States, puts capital in a railway, his faithful subjects, the ministers, will do their best to make him earn more.
In the United States, in the Democracy that authoritarians hold up to us as an ideal, the most scandalous fraudulency has crept into everything that concerns railroads. Thus, if a company ruins its competitors by cheap fares, it is often enabled to do so because it is reimbursed by land given to it by the State for a gratuity. Documents recently published concerning the American wheat trade have fully shown up the part played by the State in the exploitation of the weak by the strong. Here, too, the power of accumulated capital has increased tenfold and a hundredfold by means of State help. So that, when we see syndicates of railway companies (a product of free agreement) succeeding in protecting their small companies against big ones, we are astonished at the intrinsic force of free agreement that can hold its own against all-powerful Capital favoured by the State.
It is a fact that little companies exist, in spite of the State's partiality. If in France, land of centralization, we only see five or six large companies, there are more than a hundred and ten in Great Britain who agree remarkably well, and who are certainly better organized for the rapid transit of travellers and goods than the French and German companies.
Moreover, that is not the question. Large Capital, favoured by the State, can always, if it be to its advantage, crush the lesser one. What is of importance to us is this: The agreement between hundreds of capitalist companies to whom the railways of Europe belong, was established without intervention of a central government to lay down the law to the divers societies; it has subsisted by means of congresses composed of delegates, who discuss among themselves, and submit proposals, not laws, to their constituents. It is a new principle that differs completely from all governmental principle, monarchical or republican, absolute or parliamentarian. It is an innovation that has been timidly introduced into the customs of Europe, but has come to stay.
(aus: The conquest of bread, New York, 1926, S.119-125. Ursprünglich La conquête du pain, 1892)

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