The Guillotine (Part Four: Mutatis Mutandis)

The Storming of the Bastille — Jean-Pierre Houël

At last, since 1789, justice has been exercised directly by the State, which alone gives enforceable judgments… What have the people gained by this change? Nothing. Justice remains what it was before, an emanation from authority; that is to say, a formula for coercion, fundamentally void, and open to challenge in all its decisions. We do not even know what real justice is.

In general, we can say that carnage was never an effective means to exterminate political parties; it was proved particularly ineffective against the privileged classes, since power resides less in men themselves than in the circumstances created for men of privilege by the organization of material goods, that is, the institution of the State and its natural basis, individual property.

Therefore, to make a successful revolution, it is necessary to attack conditions and material goods; to destroy property and the State. It will then become unnecessary to destroy men and be condemned to suffer the sure and inevitable reaction which no massacre has ever failed and ever will fail to produce in every society.

The Terror of Robespierre necessarily ended in that of Tallien, and this in the dictatorship of Bonaparte. Robespierre hatched Napoleon.

Souvenirs of the Commune — The Burnt Guillotine at the Foot of the Statue of Voltaire

Lenin, Trotsky and their comrades are assuredly sincere revolutionaries (…) and they will not be turning traitors — but they are preparing the governmental structures which those who will come after them will utilize to exploit the Revolution and do it to death. They will be the first victims of their methods and I am afraid that the Revolution will go under with them.

History repeats itself: mutatis mutandis, it was Robespierre’s dictatorship that brought Robespierre to the guillotine and paved the way for Napoleon.

Lenin’s last days, crippled and isolated.
Trotsky’s death bed, exiled and betrayed.

The guillotine still exists, is still part of our institutions. Its ceremony summons the magistrature, the church, armed policemen, and in the shadows the President of the Republic — in short, the whole power structure. There is something in this that is both physically and politically unbearable.

…cannot take its poetry from the past but only from the future. It cannot begin with itself before it has stripped away all superstition about the past. The former revolutions required recollections of past world history in order to smother their own content. The revolution… must let the dead bury their dead in order to arrive at its own content. There the phrase went beyond the content — here the content goes beyond the phrase.

When we glance at the mass of Revolutionists, Marxists, Possibilists, Blanquist, or even bourgeois — because everyone partakes in the revolution which is now growing… and when we analyse their principles, their aims and their methods — we find with dismay that they are all looking backward; that none dare face the future, and that each of these parties has but one idea — to reproduce Louis Blanc or Blanqui, Robespierre or Marat; they are all strong on the question of government, but equally powerless to bring forth a single idea capable of revolutionizing the world.

…All dream of the revolution as the legal massacre of their enemies; of the revolutionary tribunal, the public prosecutor, the guillotine, and their own employees — the hangman and the jailer.

…This is the dream of 99 per cent of those who usurp the name of revolutionists. The Jacobin tradition stifles them, as the monarchical tradition stifled the Jacobins of 1793.

1700s state repression: easier than ever to assemble

One kills for a nation or a class that has been granted divine status. One kills for a future society that has likewise been given divine status. Whoever thinks he has omniscience imagines he has omnipotence. Temporal idols demanding an absolute faith tirelessly decree absolute punishments. And religions devoid of transcendence kill great numbers of condemned men devoid of hope.

Le triomphe de la guillotine, huile sur toile peinte vers 1795 par Nicolas-Antoine Taunay

Bibliography

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Mikhail Bearkunin

Mikhail Bearkunin

I like history and thinking about freedom. I have a background in International Relations, Strategic Studies and I work for the Military Industrial Complex