Kings and Emperors not only should not be indignant at such murders as those
but they should be surprised that such murders are so rare, considering the
continual and universal example of murder that they give to mankind.
The crowd are so hypnotized that they see what is going on before their eyes,
but do not understand its meaning. They see what constant care Kings,
Emperors, and Presidents devote to their disciplined armies; they see the
reviews, parades, and manœuvres the rulers hold, about which they boast to
one another; and the people crowd to see their own brothers, brightly dressed
up in fools’ clothes, turned into machines to the sound of drum and trumpet,
all, at the shout of one man, making one and the same movement at one and the
same moment — but they do not understand what it all means. Yet the meaning
of this drilling is very clear and simple: it is nothing but a preparation
It is stupefying men in order to make them fit instruments for murder. And
those who do this, who chiefly direct this and are proud of it, are the
Kings, Emperors and Presidents. And it is just these men — who are specially
occupied in organizing murder and who have made murder their profession, who
wear military uniforms and carry murderous weapons at their sides — that are
horrified and indignant when one of themselves is murdered.
The murder of Kings — the murder of Humbert — is terrible, but not on account
of its cruelty. The things done by command of Kings and Emperors — not only
past events such as
the massacre of St. Bartholomew,
religious persecution, the terrible repressions of peasant rebellions, and
Paris coups d’êtat, but the
present-day Government executions, the torture of prisoners in solitary
confinement, the Disciplinary Battallions, the hangings, the beheadings, the
shootings and slaughter in wars — are incomparably more cruel than the
murders committed by Anarchists.
Nor are these murders terrible because undeserved. If Alexander
Ⅱ and Humbert did not
deserve death, still less did the thousands of Russians who perished at
Plevna, or of Italians who
perished in Abyssinia.
Such murders are terrible, not because they are cruel or unmerited, but
because of the unreasonableness of those who commit them.
If the regicides act under the influence of personal feelings of indignation
evoked by the sufferings of an oppressed people, for which they hold
Alexander or Carnot or Humbert responsible, or if they act from personal
feelings of revenge, then — however immoral their conduct may be — it is at
least intelligible; but how is it that a body of Anarchists such as those by
whom, it is said,
Bréssi was sent,
and who are now threatening another Emperor — how is it that they cannot
devise any better means of improving the condition of humanity than by
killing people whose destruction can no more be of use than the decapitation
of that mythical
monster on whose neck a new head appeared as soon as one was cut off?
Kings and Emperors have long ago arranged for themselves a system like that
of a magazine-rifle: as soon as one bullet has been discharged another takes
its place. Le roi est mort, vive le
roi! So what is the use of killing them?…
It is the people who sacrifice their dignity as men for material profit that
produce these men who cannot act otherwise than as they do act, and with whom
it is useless to be angry for their stupid and wicked actions. To kill such
men is like whipping children whom one has first spoilt.
That nations should not be oppressed, and that there should be none of these
useless wars, and that men may not be indignant with those who seem to cause
these evils, and may not kill them — it seems that only a very small thing is
necessary. It is necessary that men should understand things as they are,
should call them by their right names, and should know that an army is an
instrument for killing, and that the enrolment and management of an army — the very things which Kings, Emperors, and Presidents occupy themselves with
so self-confidently — is a preparation for murder.
If only each King, Emperor, and President understood that his work of
directing armies is not an honourable and important duty, as his flatterers
persuade him it is, but a bad and shameful act of preparation for murder — and if each private individual understood that the payment of taxes wherewith
to hire and equip soldiers, and, above all, army-service itself, are not
matters of indifference, but are bad and shameful actions by which he not
only permits but participates in murder — then this power of Emperors, Kings,
and Presidents, which now arouses our indignation, and which causes them to
be murdered, would disappear of itself.