Kings and Emperors not only should not be indignant at such murders as those of Alexander Ⅱ and [King] Humbert, 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 for killing.
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 Battalions, 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.