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groups of bees there were several hundreds in the hive. The result would
be the destruction of the hive.

It is _above all things_ in the family that the sovereignty of the
people ought to prevail. It ought above all things to refuse to
recognise the association of the family, and to wage war against it
wherever it finds it. It should leave to parents the right of embracing
their children, but nothing more. The right to educate them in ideas
perhaps contrary to those of their parents belongs to the people, which,
here as well as elsewhere, perhaps even more than elsewhere for the
interests at stake are more important, must be absolutely sovereign.

This, then, is what the schoolmaster, with a relentless logic which
appears to me to be irresistible, deduces from the principle of the
national sovereignty.

From the principle of equality he deduces another point. "All men are
equal by nature and before the law." That is to say, if there were
justice, all men ought to have been equal by nature, and further, if
there is to be justice, all men ought to be equal before the law.

Very obviously, however, all men are not equal before the law, and they
are not equal by nature. Very well then, we must make them so.

They are not equal before the law. They appear to be so, but they are
not. The rich man, even supposing that the magistrates are perfectly and
strictly honest, by reason of the fact that he can remunerate the best
solicitors, advocates, and witnesses, by reason further of the fact that
he intimidates by his influence all those who could appear against him,
is not in every respect the equal of the poor man before the law.

Even less does this equality exist in the presence of that union of
constituted social forces which we call society. In this respect the
rich man will be the "influential man"; the "man well connected," the
man on whom no one depends, but whom no one likes to cross or to
contradict. There is, between the rich and the poor man, however equal
we may pretend them to be before the law, the difference between the man
who gives orders and the man who is obliged to obey. _Real_ equality,
in society, in presence of society and even in presence of the law,
only exists where there is neither rich nor poor.

But there will always be rich and poor, as long as the institution of
inheritance remains. Abolish inheritance therefore!

But, even with inheritance abolished, there will still be rich and poor.
The man who can make his fortune rapidly will be a strong man relatively
to the man who can not make a fortune, and, I would have you note it,
even when we have abolished inheritance, the son of the strong man,
during the life of his father, will be strong himself, so that even if
we abolish inheritance, a privilege, namely, the privilege of birth will
still exist and equality will not exist.

There is only one state of affairs under which equality is possible,
that is when no one possesses and no one can acquire anything. The only
social policy so devised that no one can possess and no one can acquire
anything is the policy of a community of goods, that is Communism or
Collectivism. Collectivism is nothing very wonderful. Collectivism is
equality; and equality is collectivism, otherwise our equality will be
nothing but a phantom and an hypocrisy. Every one who is a convinced and
sincere _egalitarian_, and who takes the trouble to think, is forced to
be a collectivist. Bonald asked very wittily: "Do you know what is a
deist? It is a man who has not lived long enough to be an atheist." We
in our turn ask: "Do you know what is an anti-collectivist democrat? It
is a man who has not lived long enough to be a collectivist, or who,
having lived long enough, has never taken the trouble to think, and to
perceive what are the necessary consequences of his own principles."

But surely collectivism is a chimæra, an utopia, a thing impossible.
Certainly it is impossible in the sense that in the country which adopts
it the source of all initiative will be destroyed. No man will make an
effort to improve his position, since it must never be improved. The
whole country will become one of those stagnant pools to which one of
our ministers lately referred. Everyone having become an official,
everyone will realise the ideal of the official which the Goncourts have
very neatly described. "The good official," they say, "is the man who
combines laziness with extreme accuracy." It is a definitive
definition. The country that reformed itself in this way would be
conquered at the end of ten years by some neighbouring people more or
less ambitious.

That admits of no question; but what does it prove? That collectivism is
only impossible because it is only possible if established in every
country at once. Very well, and in order to establish it in every
country at once, only one thing is needful, namely, that there shall no
longer be distinct and separate countries and no longer any
nationalities. It surely will not answer to establish collectivism
before the abolition of nationalities, since, once established, it will
serve no purpose except to bring into prominent relief the vast
superiority of countries which have not adopted collectivism. We must,
therefore, take our problems in order and abolish nationalities before
we can establish collectivism.

Now if nations organise themselves against nature (the nature that, the
schoolmaster assumes, makes all men equal), if instinctively they
organise themselves in a hierarchy which is aristocratic, if they have
their leaders and their subordinates, their stronger and their weaker
members, it is because this arrangement is necessary in a camp, and each
nation feels that it is a camp. If each feels that it is a camp, it is
simply because there are other nations round it, because it feels and
knows that there are others round it. When there are no longer other
nations, each nation will organise itself no longer against nature, but
naturally, that is to say on _egalitarian_ principles. Nature perhaps
strictly speaking is not _egalitarian_, but it tends towards equality in
the sense that it produces many more, indeed infinitely more,
mediocrities than superior intelligences.

Thus equality demands the abolition of inheritance, and the equality of
possessions. Equality of possessions necessitates collectivism, and
collectivism requires the abolition of nationalities. We are
_egalitarians_, then collectivists, and by logical consequence

So argue the great majority of school teachers, with an absolute logic,
in my opinion, irrefutable, with the logic which takes no account of
facts, and which only takes account of its own principle and of itself.
So they will all argue to-morrow, if they continue, as it is probable
they will continue, to be very excellent dialecticians.

Will they go back to the premises and say, that if the sovereignty of
the people and equality lead logically and imperatively to these
conclusions, it is perhaps because the sovereignty of the people and
equality are false ideas, and because these conclusions prove them to be
false? This is a course not likely to be taken, for the sovereignty of
the people and the principle of equality are something more than general
ideas, they are sentiments.

They are sentiments which have become ideas, as is the case doubtless
with all general ideas, and they are sentiments of great strength. The
sovereignty of the people is the truth for him who believes in it,
because it ought to be true, because it is a thing as full of majesty
for him as was Cæsar in all his pomp for the ancient Roman, or Louis
XIV. in all his glory for the man of the seventeenth century.

Equality is truth for him who believes, because it ought to be true,
because it is justice, and because it would be infamous if justice and
truth were not one. For the democrat, the world has ever been rising
gradually, since its creation, towards the sovereignty of the people and
the doctrine of equality; the latter contains the former, the former is
destined to found the latter and has this mission for its purpose in
life; together they constitute civilisation, and if they are not
attained, there is a relapse into barbarism.

They are dogmas of faith. A dogma is an overmastering sentiment which
has found expression in a formula. From these two dogmas everything that
can be deduced without breach of logic is truth which it is our right
and duty to proclaim.

We must add that the schoolmaster is urged in this same direction by
sentiments of a less general character, which nevertheless have an
influence of their own. He is placed in his commune in direct opposition
to the priest, the only person very often who is, like himself, in that
place a man of some little education. Hence rivalry and a struggle for
influence. Now the priest, by a series of historical incidents, is a
more or less warm partisan sometimes of monarchy but almost always of
aristocracy. He is a member of a body that once was an estate of the
realm, and he is persuaded that his corporation is still an estate of
the realm, notwithstanding all that has happened. If the existing order
is regulated by the _concordat_, the existing order recognises his
corporation as a body legitimatised by the State, since it treats it on
the same terms as the magistracy and the army. If the existing order is
one based on the separation of State and Church, his corporation appears
to him still more to be an estate of the realm, because being forced
into an attitude of solid organisation, and recognising no limitations
of frontier, it becomes a collective personage which, not without peril,
but also not without a certain measure of success, has often ventured to
cross swords with the State itself.

As the priest then belongs to an order endowed with an historic
authority which is nevertheless distinct from, and in no wise a
delegation from, the authority of the people, the priest cannot fail
more or less definitely and consciously to adopt an attitude of mind
favourable to aristocracy.

The school teacher, his rival, is thrown then all the more inevitably
towards the adoption of democratic principles, and he embraces them with
a fervour into which enters jealousy quite as much as conviction. They
mean more to him than even to an eighteenth century philosopher, because
he has a much greater personal interest in believing them, the interest
of personal dislike and animosity; for it is his belief that everything
taught by the priest is the pure invention of ingenious oppressors who
wish to enslave the people in order to consolidate their own tyranny;
and that is his reason for professing philosophical ideas resuscitated
from the teaching of Diderot, and Holbach. For the school teacher it is
almost inconceivable that the priest should be anything but a rascal.

"Atheism is aristocratic," said Robespierre, thinking of Rousseau.
Atheism is democratic, say our present-day school teachers. Whence comes
this difference of opinion? First because it was fashionable among the
great lords of the eighteenth century to be libertines and
free-thinkers, but among the people the belief in God was unanimous.
Secondly, because the priests of our day, for the reasons which I have
given and from remembrance of the persecutions suffered by their Church
at the date of the first triumphs of democracy, have remained
aristocrats or have become so even more firmly than they ever were
before. Atheism then has become democratic as a weapon against the
deists who are generally aristocrats.

Besides, atheism fits in very well, whatever Robespierre may have
thought, with the general sentiments of the baser demagogy. To be
restrained by nothing, to be limited by nothing, that is the dominant
idea of the people, or rather it is the dominant idea of the democrat
for the people, that it should be restrained by nothing and limited by
nothing in its sovereign power. Now God is a limit, God is a restraint.
And just as the democrat will not admit of a secular constitution which
the people could not destroy and which would prevent him from making bad
laws; just as the democrat will not submit - if we may adopt the
terminology of Aristotle - to being governed by _laws_, to be governed
that is by an ancient body of law which would check the people and
obstruct it in its daily fabrication of _decrees_; so just in the same
spirit the democrat does not admit of a God Who has issued His
commandments, Who has issued His body of laws, anterior and superior to
all the laws and all the decrees of men, and Who sets His limit on the
legislative eccentricities of the people, on its capricious omnipotence,
in a word, on the sovereignty of the people.

After Sedan, Bismarck was asked: "Now that Napoleon has fallen, on whom
do you make war?" He replied: "On Louis XIV." So the democrat questioned
on his atheism could reply: "I am warring against Moses."

This is the origin of the atheism of democrats and schoolmasters. This
is the origin of the formula: "Neither God nor Master," which for the
anarchist requires no correction nor supplement, which for the democrat
has only to be modified: "Neither God nor Master, save the People."

At the end of one of his great political speeches in 1849 or 1850,
Victor Hugo said: "In the future there will only be two powers; the
People and God." The modern democrat has persuaded himself that if there
be a God, the sovereignty of the people is infringed, if he believe in

Lastly, the school teacher is confirmed in his democratic sentiments, in
all his democratic sentiments, by the political position which has been
made for him in France. It is a strange thing, a disconcerting anomaly,
that the Governments of the nineteenth century (especially, we must do
it this justice, the present Government), have very handsomely respected
the liberty of professors of higher education, and of secondary
education, and have not in the very slightest degree respected the
liberty of the teachers of elementary education. The professor of higher
education, especially since 1870, can teach exactly what he pleases,
except immorality and contempt of our country and its laws. He can even
discuss our laws, provided always that he maintains the principle that,
such as they are, they ought to be obeyed till they are repealed. His
liberty as to his opinions political, social and religious is complete.
It is only occasionally constrained by the disorderly demonstrations of
his students. The professor of secondary education enjoys a liberty
almost equally wide. He is subject, but only in an extremely liberal
fashion, to a programme or syllabus of studies. As to the spirit in
which he conducts his work he is practically never molested. He is
given a free hand.

Nor has it ever occurred to any Government to ask a professor of higher
and secondary education how he votes at political elections, still less
to require him to canvass in favour of the candidates agreeable to the

When, however, we pass to elementary education we see everything is
changed. The elementary teacher is not appointed by his natural chief,
the _recteur_ or Minister of Public Education, he is appointed by the
_préfet_, that is by the Minister of the Interior, the political head of
the Government. In other words, this is the same process as the
appointment of officials by the people, described a few pages back, but
with one intermediary the less. It is pre-eminently the Minister of the
Interior who represents the political will of the nation at any given
date. And it is the Minister of the Interior who through his _préfets_
appoints the elementary school teacher. It is then the political will of
the nation which chooses the school teachers. It would be impossible to
convey to them more clearly (which is only fair, for people should be
made to understand their duties) that they are chosen for
considerations of politics and that they ought to consider themselves as
political agents.

And indeed they are nothing else, or perhaps we should say they are
something else but above all they are politicians. The schoolteachers
depend on the _préfets_ and the _préfets_ depend much on the deputies,
yet it is not the deputies who appoint them, but it is they who can
remove them, who can get them promoted or disgraced, who by constant
removals can reduce them to destitution. Surely, every candid person
will exclaim, given the difficult and scandalous situation in which they
are put by the hand which appoints them, they ought at least to have the
guarantee and assurance, very relative and ineffectual though it be, of
irremovability. But they have not got it. The professors of higher
education who do not require it have got it, the professors of secondary
education have it to all intents and purposes. The elementary school
teacher has it not.

He is, therefore, delivered over to the politicians who make of him an
electioneering agent, who reckon him as such, and who would never pardon
him if he failed them.

The result is that the majority of school teachers are demagogues
because they like it, and with magnificent enthusiasm and passion. The
minority who have no turn for demagogy are demagogues though they do not
like it, and because they are forced by necessity.

Even those who have no disposition that way become demagogues in the
end, for that is the way of the world. "In the heat of the _mêlée_,"
said Augier, "there are no mercenaries." Our school teachers, thrown,
sometimes against their will, into the battle, forced at least to appear
to be fighting, receive knocks and when they have received them, they
become attached to the cause on whose behalf they have suffered. We
always end by having the opinions which are attributed to us, and being
taken for a demagogue the moment he arrives at his village, the young
school teacher, not daring to say anything to the contrary, and being
very ill received by all other parties, naturally becomes a demagogue
with some show of conviction the very next year.

* * * * *

So the democracy receives no instruction that does not confirm and
strengthen it in its errors.

For its good some one ought to teach it not to believe itself
omnipotent, to have scruples as to its omnipotence, and to believe that
this omnipotence should have defined limits; it is taught without
reserve the dogma of the unlimited sovereignty of the people.

For its good it should believe that equality is so contrary to nature
that we have no right to torture nature in order to establish real
equality among men, and that the people which has established such a
state of things, which is quite possible, must succumb to the fate of
those who try to live exactly in opposition to the laws of nature.
Instead, it is taught, and it is true enough, that equality is not
possible, if it is not complete, if it is not thorough, that it ought to
be applied to differences of fortune, social position, intelligence,
perhaps even to our stature and personal appearance, and that no effort
should be spared to bring all things to one absolute level.

For its good, since it is natural enough that it should dislike heavy
taxation, sentiments of patriotism should be reinforced; it is taught on
the contrary that military service is a painful legacy left by a hateful
and barbarous past, and that it ought to disappear very soon before the
warming rays of a peaceful civilisation.

In a word, to use again the language of Aristotle, the pure wine of
democracy is poured out to the people as it was by the demagogues to the
Athenians; and from the quarter whence a remedy might have been expected
there come only incitements to deeper intoxication.

Aristotle has made yet another wise and profound observation on the
question of equality: "_We must establish equality_," he said, "_in the
passions rather than in the fortunes of men._" And he adds: "And this
equality can only be the fruit of education derived from the influence
of good laws." That is indeed the point. Education should have but one
object; to reduce the passions to equality, or rather to _equanimity_,
and to a certain equilibrium of mind. The education given to modern
democracy does not lead to this, but leads in the opposite direction.



What remedies can we apply to this modern disease, the worship of
intellectual and moral incompetence? What is, as M. Fouillée puts it,
the best way of avoiding the hidden rocks which threaten democracies? It
is hard to say, for we have to do with an evil which can only be cured
by itself, with an evil which is more than content with itself.

M. Fouillée (in the _Revue des Deux Mondes_ of November, 1909) proposes
an aristocratic Upper Chamber, that is to say, one that would represent
all the competence of the country, inasmuch as it would be appointed by
everything which is based on some particular form of excellence, the
magistracy, the army, the university, the chambers of commerce, and so

Nothing could be better; but the consent of the democracy would be
necessary, and it is precisely these incorporations of efficiency that
the democracy cannot abide, looking on them, not without reason, as
being in a sense aristocracies.

He proposes also an energetic intervention on the part of the State to
restore public morality, action for the suppression of alcoholism,
gambling and pornography.

Beyond the fact that his argument savours of reaction, for it recalls to
us the programme of "moral order" of 1873, we must remark, as indeed M.
Fouillée himself acknowledges, that the democratic State can hardly
afford to kill the thing which enables it to live, to destroy its
principal source of revenue. Democracy, as its most authoritative
representatives have admitted, is not a cheap form of government. It has
always been instituted with the hope, and partly with the expressed
design, of being an economical government, and it has always been
ruinous, because it requires a much larger number of partisans than
other forms of government, and a smaller number of malcontents than
other forms of government, and these partisans have to be remunerated in
one fashion or another and the malcontents have to be silenced and
bought in one way or another.

Democracy, whether ancient or modern, lives always in terror of tyrants
who are always imminent or thought by it to be imminent. Against this
possible tyrant who would govern with an energetic minority, the
democracy requires an immense majority which it has to bind to it by the
grant of many favours; it has also to detach from this tyrant the
malcontents who would be his supporters if it did not disarm them by a
still more lavish distribution of favours.

Democracy requires therefore plenty of money. It will find this by
despoiling the wealthy as much as possible; but this is a very limited
source of revenue, for the wealthy are not a numerous class. It will
find it more easily, more abundantly also, by exploiting the vices of
all, for all is a very numerous group. Hence the complaisance shown to
drinking shops, which, as M. Fouillée remarks, it would be more
dangerous for the Government to close than to close the churches. As the
needs of the Government increase, as M. Fouillée predicts, without much
doubt it will claim a monopoly in houses of ill-fame and in the
publication of indecent literature; enterprises in which there would be
money. And after all, tolerating such things for the profit of certain
traders and annexing them to be worked for the profit of the State, is
surely much the same thing from a moral point of view. And the financial
operation would be much more beneficent in the second case than in the

M. Fouillée also argues that reform must come "from above and not from
below," and that "the movement for regeneration can come from above and
not from below."

I ask nothing better, but I ask also how is it going to be done?
Inasmuch as everything depends upon the people, who, what, can influence
the people except the people itself? Everything depends on the people,
by what then can it be moved except by a force that is innate. We are
here confronted - we are talking to a philosopher and can make use of
scientific terms - with a {Kinêtês akinêtos} with a motive force
which causes but does not receive motives.

A principle has disappeared, a prejudice if you like to call it so, the
prejudice in favour of competence. We no longer think that the man who
understands how to do a thing ought to be doing that thing, or ought to

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Online LibraryÉmile FaguetThe cult of incompetence → online text (page 10 of 12)