Thursday, 24 March 2022

The Pyramid of Tyranny By F. Domela Nieuwenhuis

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The Pyramid of Tyranny

By F. Domela Nieuwenhuis



“The old man of the North, whose blue eyes and smiling face, framed by long white hair, indicate immense goodness”. Andre Lorulot.

Ferdinand Domela Nieuwenhuis, born in the Netherlands on the 31st of December 1846 was a very important socialist advocate and leader amongst the Dutch labour movement of the 19th century. I confess I had not heard of him before stumbling upon a 1913 Esperanto translation of his pamphlet De piramide van tirannie (The Pyramid of Tyranny). But happily he has an English language wiki page and short biography written by Anarchist historian Nick Heath, which filled quite a few gaps. He was raised as Lutheran preacher but gravitated towards socialism. He resigned from the priesthood in 1879 after becoming an atheist and threw his energy into the labour movement. He initially became a leading personality within the Dutch Social Democratic movement, after meeting with some members while working for the Dutch branch of the Peace Union.

He was the editor of the first socialist magazine to be published in the Netherlands Recht voor Allen (Justice for All) which started publication in 1879. By 1881 the scattered social democrat movement united and established the Social Democratic League (SDB) with Nieuwenhuis as one of its most active propagandists in the north. Throughout the 1880s the SDB grew in size and supported many actions from campaigns for universal suffrage, to funds for striking workers spreading anti-militarist leaflets in army barracks. Because of these activities Nieuwenhuis spent eight months in a prison in Utrecht before being pardoned.

From 1888-91 Nieuwenhuis became the first and only SDB member elected to the Dutch parliament. He was not re-elected in 1891. Ideologically Nieuwenhuis was open and non-doctrinal. In the early 1880s he had corresponded with an elderly Karl Marx, and wrote and published a Dutch language abridgement of Marx’s Capital. He also corresponded with other socialist groups and thinkers in Europe.

By the 1890s the SDB found itself in the midst of a crisis. The lack of success since 1881 caused a lot of divisions with a small majority increasingly critical of the electoral approach favoured by the orthodox social democrats and popularised by the German Social Democratic Party. Nieuwenhuis sided with this majority and in 1894 the resulting splits left Nieuwenhuis and his supporters in an odd position, still part of the Second International (Social Democratic) but openly rejecting parliamentary means “The revolutionary idea is suppressed by confidence in parliamentarism”.

For a few years this position was maintained with the new Socialist Union being established to evade a ban on the SDB for its increasing us of direct action and even weapons. The Socialist Union increasingly collaborated with Anarchists and Nieuwenhuis increasingly advocated for a more libertarian socialism and worried about the authoritarian leanings of the mainstream social democratic parties.

Nieuwenhuis left the social democratic movement completely by shutting down Justice for All, instead publishing the openly Anarchist magazine De Vrije Socialist (the Free Socialist). In the same year he also published the book Socialism in Danger, which heavily criticises the compromises of the social democratic movement with the state and capitalism. For the next several years he would continue to advocate for a free society and called for strikes and demonstrations. In 1904 he joined the International Anti-Militarist Association, an Amsterdam based war resistance league. What made this organisation different from other pacifist groups active at the time is that members were expected to be committed to supporting revolts by workers if their nations went to war. Because of this members were monitored and harassed heavily by the police, the Association barely existed by 1908 when it collapsed.

When the First World War broke out in 1914, Nieuwenhuis was adamantly opposed to it and although his health had started declining he threw himself in anti-war activity risking arrest, injury and even death when demonstrations were broken up by Dutch police. He was appalled by Kropotkin’s pro war stance and signed circulated a rival anti-war manifesto written by Malatesta and the Anarchists of Italy. By 1917-19 his health had collapsed, he supported the Russian Revolution but grew opposed to the counter-revolutionary actions of the Bolsheviks, he was also concerned about the power that the German Social Democratic Party held within the ongoing German Revolution. He died on the 19th of November 1919.

Further reading


Domela Nieuwenhuis, Ferdinand Jacobus (1846-1919) by Nick Heath

“A powerful hierarchy of patronage had evolved from the fruits of plunder of 1939. The dozen or so key advisers and principal beneficiaries of Franco’s favours had been granted large swathes of land, important properties, the government of provinces, the control of ministries and monopolies, director-generalships, etc., in return for a commitment to serve as instruments of policy.

These people executed orders unquestioningly at the appropriate time and, in turn, maintained below them further concatenating networks of dependants who profited under them and relied on them for promotion and advancement — and so on.

In this way the oppressive hierarchical pyramid permeated down through the ranks of Spanish society until hundreds of thousands — perhaps millions — were bound to Franco by this cord”.

Stuart Christie, My Granny Made me an Anarchist Part 1, 1946 – 1964

This passage from Christie’s autobiography outline and echo a theory of repression and tyranny that Nieuwenhuis explores more fully in this pamphlet. The background is the Netherlands of the late 19th through to the early 20th century. Industrial capitalism and international connections are firmly cemented and the workers movement is still viewed with fear and fiercely denounced and repressed by the authorities.

This pamphlet is an investigation into the power relationships that underpin a society that is still familiar to us in the 21st century. The pyramid model would prove popular as a metaphor for class society, there is a very famous cartoon made by members of the Industrial Workers of the World syndicalist union in the United States of America that makes use of it.


This sketch is essentially a visual summary of Nieuwenhuis’s thesis. The following text simply elaborates and explains the purpose of each layer of the pyramid. Aside from a few modernising touches to the uniforms of the security enforces, and perhaps inserting some representatives of the press and entertainment industry to rub shoulders with the priests and teachers there’s not much that dates either the image nor the pamphlet. This is a little depressing, but it also means that both it and the argument that underpins both is still relevant and important to those who are serious about struggling for human liberation.


​Note on the text

This is a translation into English from the 1913 Esperanto translation from the Dutch original by Wijtze Nutters (pictured). Nutters was a Dutch social democrat who became a communist in later years. He translated several works in to Esperanto from Dutch and German, including On Offence and Defence by Wilhelm Liebknecht. There was an updated Esperanto translation released in 1999, but I haven’t been able to acquire a copy. The Pyramid of Tyranny was translated into English in 1901 by the Freedom Publishing house for its pamphlet series. It must’ve been popular as in 1909 they released a second printing, though I haven’t been able to track down a copy of either editions except for a very expensive second hand listing for one copy. Because of this I’ve decided to turn what was a personal exercise into a publication to help fill in the gap.

The Pyramid of Tyranny

By F. Domela Nieuwenhuis

The famous German author Michael Flürscheim said in his book Individualism and Socialism, that the thinnest crust (made up of the possessing class) of the burning lava of the social world, is no more than 2% in diameter. In other words: out of every hundred people only two belong to the class of owners i.e. capitalism, while 98 can be classified amongst the working class.

To avoid ambiguity, let's start with some definitions, what we need to understand by the words "worker" and "Capitalist". Everyone who needs to work, whether by hand, whether by the head - a strange distinction, as if physical labour does not need a head and mental work no hands, but we follow the ordinary mode of expression - all those who without work cannot live, we call: worker. A professor, a doctor, a teacher, an engineer all belong to the working class, if they exist by their salary and if they, on losing it, are without refuge. And by the name of "capitalist" we mean anyone who can live without working. We think that this limit is in line with reality.

So, out of a hundred, two are capitalists, and strangely they behave like masters, and the other ninety eight allow themselves to be oppressed.

How is this possible?

The secret to how a some people are able to dominate a large mass is found in an interesting but nearly forgotten text by the 16th Century author Étienne de La Boétie, whose Discourse on Voluntary Servitude says:

“And now I come to the point, which is in my opinion the secret and mainspring of domination, the support and foundation of tyranny. Those who think that it is the halberds of the sentries, the watch of guards that shields tyrants, is in my view completely mistaken. It seems to me that they are used more for ceremony and as a show of force and method of intimidation, than for trusted protection. The guards protect the palace from the entry of the poor, not those who are well armed and could enact plots. This is easy to prove by the consultation of history, for example the case of the Roman Emperors, the number of Emperors protected by their Praetorians from some threat is small compared to the number who were killed by their own guardians. Its not cavalry nor footsoldiers nor weapons that shield the tyrants; but though this seems incredible at first, it is true that only about four or five people sustain the dictator: always four or five people who hold the whole land in subject to him; five or six who have the tyrants confidence. And this small group draw near to the dictator, to be his companions in cruelty and to take part in his pleasures and plunder. These six or so do there jobs so well that in the eyes of society the Tyrant is not just responsible for his own misdeeds but for those of his close circle too. Those six have under their care six hundred, and this six hundred do for the six what the six do for the Tyrant. This six hundred bind to themselves six thousand, whom they have taught in order to be entrusted with the management of the provinces, the administration of finances etc. on the condition that in addition to looking after themselves, these six thousand also do at all times what their superiors desire; and that they always keep in mind that it is only through their superiors that they remain in office and can avoid laws and punishment only with their superiors support. The consequences of this are very important. And if you look at it like the unfolding of a thread you will see that through this arrangement it is not only the six thousand, but hundreds of thousands, millions even, that are linked to the Tyrant by this thread, just like in Homer where Zeus supreme God boasts that he can bring to himself all the other Gods by the pulling of a chain.”

In other words, the great Tyrant is only a Tyrant on the condition that he give to a chosen few the opportunity to let him play the role of Tyrant; and that these few then permit others to become tyrants of a smaller circle, so that one is faced with a pyramid of Tyranny, at the base of which lies a Tyrannised mass and at the point a Chief Tyrant.

This how the artificial construction of Domination is constructed. This is the only way to explain how it is possible that such a small number of capitalists, at most 2%, dominate masses.

The capitalists drew upon all their powers. These can be divided into two types, namely:

  1. Spiritual Means

  2. Material Means

Both types can be further subdivided into three parts, observe:

Spiritual Means; 1. Education 2. Religion 3. The press.

Material Means; 1. Police 2. Courts 3. Army

We will discuss all these in further detail.

I. Education

There are still people who live with the naive belief that school is intended for the free, spiritual enlightenment of children, this is very wrong. No, the teachers, usually hungry proletarians themselves are unconsciously influential tools in the hands of capitalism, who are used to educate children from an early age to accept resignation and obedience.

The capitalists understand very well; that the youth are the key to the future, so it should come as no surprise that in all countries the school is the object of fierce fighting.

In the class based state there must necessarily also be a class education.

Because of this there is not even one school were children of all social classes are taught together and view themselves as one group, parts of one connected whole. On the contrary, everywhere there are separate schools for the poor and disadvantaged who have to be content with a minimum of education. -workers children are no longer needed “in their own state.” - and separate schools for the upper classes, in which the teaching is extended in proportion to the wallets of their parents.

All teaching is based on lies and hypocrisy.

The Constitution of the Netherlands stipulates that;

  1. That everywhere within the Kingdom the magistrates will establish sufficient elementary public education.

  2. That the legal regulation of public education must “respect the religious views of all.”

And, according to the constitution, the law on first grade teaching requires that “the teacher refrain from teaching anything, doing something or allowing something that offends the respect due to the religious opinions of other thinkers.” But, while the law clearly requires this, it at the same time demands that school teaching “be used for education in all Christian and social virtues.”

Well now, how can one respect everyone’s religious opinions and at the same time educate every child in “Christian virtues” that is, in the virtues specific to one religion, namely Christianity? What is to be done if and when a Christian virtue conflicts with other religious opinions? To teach Christian virtue, are we not in reality promoting a version of religion opinion to the detriment and exclusion of others?

So, according to the law of the Netherlands there exist both Christian and Social virtues. The teacher must teach them both. But what to do if the two come into conflict with each other? And they conflict with each other at every step, here are a few examples;

Christian virtue: not to swear an oath: as Jesus himself made clear during his sermon on the Mount, do not take an oath, simply let your yes be a yes, your no a no1.
Social virtue; to swear an oath whenever the lords demand it, otherwise the prison looms.

Christian virtue not to kill: as Jesus again made clear during his Sermon on the Mount.
Social virtue however; that youths as young as 19 go calmly to the barracks to be trained in the murder of his neighbour.

Christian virtue: to not worry about tomorrow, because every day has its own worries.
Social virtue: to save, and the schools teach the children the importance of saving.

Poor teacher, condemned to teach children two things at the same time, each in direct opposition to the other.

What’s more, the children are filled with lies, all so the schools can be turned to the advantage of the property owners!

We would need too much space if we wanted to demonstrate this in details. However we may be required to provide some evidence for our own statements, statements which may sound harsh to the ears of others. So, we will cite some proofs. Children are taught to sing:

We live freely
We live happily
On the dear land of the Netherlands!

When the child reaches the age of maturity and looks back on these days after experience the real world, what will they learn? They will learn that they were taught three lies! For instead of living freely, the worker must due to the fear of starvation submit to the slavery and imposition of his master. The worker has no reason to rejoice, for, as a labourer in this society he is kept away from all that a beautiful land offers for pleasure. And finally, this land on which he was born cannot be dear to him, because not even the tiniest spec of it belongs to him; and so, to feel a love for his homeland, where he must suffer misery and slavery, would prove beyond doubt that even the last trace of human decency has been extinguished within him.

In school you are taught: Knowledge is power, however experience of life teaches instead that the Biblical preacher was correct when he said: Knowledge is good, but a common heritage, it is better accompanied with a sack of money. Knowledge with an independent character does not bring prosperity, only if knowledge is humble, servile and reptilian, can knowledge be used as a means for obtaining money, provided one is also an obedient tool in the hands of capital.

The school teaches: Work ennobles; but the experience of life will soon make the children understand, that indeed there is no greater shame than work. Who are the most esteemed in society? Those do nothings who have never worked but consume much, or those pitiable souls who done nothing in their lifetime but work? The nobility of work, the working of hands, are highly praised and glorified in meetings and speeches, but everyone would rather leave the real joys of working to others. The blessing of work, taught so extensively in the schools, only serves to educate to people as quickly as possible on the true role of workers, i.e. the source of the riches for the idle rich.

In school, children are taught that: Honesty is the greatest good. But, if a child in its naivety asked whether those who live in the vast estates are the most honest, while those living in slums are the most dishonest, could the teacher conscientiously answer `yes` to this question? This is untrue; therefore school serves to root in the minds of children sayings and teachings which are false.

We could easily have continued, but, it seems to us that these few examples are so clear, so convincing, that no one can accuse us of not giving evidence for our claims. Don't you learn to respect your superior in school? Well, who are those superiors? A worker ennobled by his work? the scientist, the artist? No, let us be honest, let us admit that it is those who have a full purse that are ordinarily regarded as superior, though they are anything but respectable in conduct and way of life; or one who is powerful for the moment, though he may have betrayed his principles in order to advance.

In a society so unrestricted and so hypocritically arranged as ours, and so based on class difference, the inability to educate our children as truthful, just, self-conscious people; for, supposing that they are educated in that direction at home, all external influences endeavor to weaken that influence. Nothing in the world is less forgiving than: being oneself; and especially this is not forgiven by the vast majority. Character perishes altogether, though certain knowledge is cultivated; and so what, then, is the meaning of a society in which character has been lost?

Education, as now organised, must create the appearance that young people are educated and turned into thinking human beings; but this is an illusion. On the contrary the children have to be educated in a way that does not disturb the owners. The teachers are not to blame though, despite the large number of them who defend a system that oppresses and harms; it is the system of class society itself that is to blame.

If it concerns the children from the owning class, than we can quickly see that much better care is taken. In a society where everything is measured by money, the best measure of the love of its masters for something is the amount of money they are willing to spend on it. Consider, every child visiting the elementary school, so the children of the workers cost 25 guilders per year; every child in middle school, so the children of the most prosperous, cost 125 guilders, five times as much; and each high school student, so the future rulers and powerful ones, costs 630 guilders, twenty-five times more than a working child.

Therefore, all the hypocrisy over education, as if one spends so much and shows so much interest in the growing generation, all this means, in fact, nothing. Kneading the children’s spirits in such a way that they, as adults, will be usable tools in the hands of the capitalists, only their own interests are taken care of. And that's the job of the school. It is true that the little knowledge which the children of the people receives may motivate some of them to aim for further enlightenment; but, that is an inescapable fact, and not at all intended or desired.

II. The Church

The second spiritual power that the capitalists apply to keep the people suppressed is the Church. It also begins with children whose spirits are to be confused by all sorts of nonsense and lies. They give them a sort of spiritual chloroform that puts to their intellect to sleep. The priests then continues the process with its sermons in church. Do we ever hear about rights there? It's as if man has only duties! Surrender, submission, contentment - this is the beginning and the end.

They even dare to console the doubters - who throughout their lives have known nothing but overwork - with the promise of the afterlife, with life after this one, during which they will find a reward for all their suffering, provided they behave quietly and obediently here. So, what do the sufferings and hardships of the present matter, when compared with eternal happiness in the afterlife? And if some have doubts, or even ask the priest, how he knows this, and whether it is really true, then they must hear a rebuke via sermon for this unbelief and their heretical inclinations. If people say “That is all well and good, but we want something in this life too!” Then they are denounced as being under the influence of the devil, of succumbing to temptations which must be overcome.

“Be obedient” - is constantly preached, and nothing else. Obedience to your parents, obedience to your superiors, obedience to all authorities!

But how do the lords of the church live? Ordinarily they are not strangers to the good comforts provided by the earthly sphere. On the contrary, they are famous gourmets and wine lovers: They prefer to eat at the abundant tables of the rich, than sharing from the humble plates of the poor. They know well, the difference between the rich and poor, they do not tell the wealthy the truth, out of fear of being disinterred from their posts, even though the words of Jesus are not kind to the great. To the poor they do their best to teach them to accept a happy resignation to a fate that is inevitably imposed upon them anyway.

Do the rich really believe in the gospel? Of course not, if they did believe would it be possible for them to stay peacefully in their great mansions, surrounded by splendour, while their brothers toiled in constant suffering? If they really believed that the poor will inherit the kingdom of heaven, then they would not trade this short period of luxury for an eternity condemned to suffering.

That they can allow such a state to exist is effective proof that they do not seriously believe what they allow others to preach for them.

Imagine a father, who gives to one child everything, while allowing another to live in misery. What would we call such a parent? A tyrant. And that would be just! So, does God act any differently? Giving other people at birth a life of abundance and opportunity, and others born into lives of misery and want? If the church preaches against such heretical thinking then it is the church itself that undermines the belief in the existence of God for it is more logical to accept that God does not exist, than to accept that God does exist and that it does evil.

A child who calls on his father in vain does not sin. A father who lets his child’s calls for him go unanswered is acting cruelly. And it is more beautiful to believe that there is no father, than to believe that the father chooses to be deaf to his child.

But the priesthood restrained the masses: it serves as a moral police and in that role is more effective than the regular police.

It acted with the aid of reward and punishment; it threatened eternal pain, and it promised eternal happiness. Through this it became a power, and capitalism willing granted its priests a good life in return for keeping the people under illusions in a better afterlife. Distractions that kept them from recognising the root causes of their misery.

Its true that a minority of the more enlightened have broken through, become free thinkers and risen above the crowd. But as soon as free thought started to penetrate the lower strata it withdrew. That wasn’t the intent they were aiming for. Certainly, freedom of thought is beneficial for the upper classes, but the lower classes must not suffer under its light. They must seek their comfort within religion. Why? Well for this simple reason, if the heaven above us and the hell beneath us is banished then what remains? Just the earth on which we stand and move upon. Then the people will say to themselves that this hell on earth must not remain, it must be changed into a heaven, think what if could become! With eyes fully open, this state of misery and injustice cannot remain, and efforts will be made immediately to end the oppression of the many by the few.

Consider the conversation between the priests and the people in the work of Volney:

The priests: Dear brothers! Beloved children! God has given us office over you.

The people: Show us your heavenly authorisation!

The priests: To do that you must believe, rational thought obscures.

The people: So, do you rule without reason?

The priests: God desires peace; religion requires obedience.

The people: Peace presupposes justice; obedience requires knowledge of the law.

The priests: You are on this earth just to suffer.

The people: Use yourselves as examples of this.

The priests: Do you want to live without Gods and without Kings?

The people: We want to live without despots.

The priests: You need intermediaries.

The people: Go intermediate between God and with kings! Courtiers and priests, your services are too expensive; from now on we will arrange our own affairs.

Then the small band of priests cried: We are perishing, the people have become enlightened. And the people answered: “We are saved, and since we are enlightened, we will not misuse our strength, we demand only our rights. We have complaints but we will forget them; we were slaves, we could now command, but we only want to be free. Freedom consists simply in justice.”

Effectively, it is so: from the moment the people are enlightened, they no longer need intermediaries nor priests. Taking advantage of ignorance and a certain penchant for mysteries, capitalism uses the church as an instrument to hold people in the night of ignorance, and in the twilight of mysticism.

​III. The Press

Without a doubt when considering the powers that exist in our current time to mislead and influence the masses special attention must be paid to the press. It is the press that talks to the people every day. Well like with nutritious food a body can get accustomed to poison, and its astounding how much one can consume if they start with small doses. “Lying is a European power”. Theses quick words of Lassalle deserve to be remembered. And capitalism fervently uses lying, i.e. thorough the press; it is not surprising then that people drown in lies, more and more every day.

Who owns the free press?
The owners are big capital

Do these statements conflict with each other? Far from it. We know for a fact that bankers snatched up the press to use for their own profit. That is why the editor of a capitalist newspaper is one of the dirtiest trades found in the world. He is the mouthpiece that capitalists use to spread their lies; he is the pen that they use; he is simply their instrument; he must dance to the tune of the capitalists. He is a spiritual prostitute, he stands lower than a prostitute who rents their body to a stranger for a piece of bread. And woe to the few who want to act on their own and in accordance with their own judgement, for them they quickly learn that they must bow their down, or face dismissal.

News about the stock exchange, about theatre, art, all this unsolicited work, and through money one can even buy criticism if needed. Woe to those who still trust in press releases, which are the same today, and the opposite tomorrow, just as capitalism demands. Rumours about war are circulated to cause the market to rise or fall, to set courses so a few can profit. Mr. Capitalist sends an instruction to his paid lackey, requiring that certain messages be communicated to the people. Immediately the public read that such and such important thing has occurred, or that war is inevitable, and the market immediately reacts. The shares fall. And Mr Capitalist who knows better has agents in several cities; they buy these shares affected by the news. Then, after some time has passed, news is printed in these same newspapers stating that thanks to experienced diplomats the threatened danger of war has now disappeared and the stick market relaxes, and the speculators who have bought up much of the stock cheaply now sell. The difference between the drop and rise that was sparked by his lies is pocketed. This how the little people are deceived by falsehoods, the news in the press is at the service of the big capitalists who enrich themselves out from their savings. And the editors are faithful instruments, they do everything the capitalists want, and do exactly as instructed. The influence of the press is huge, and capital knows this well, otherwise it would’ve acted very foolishly to invest as much as they have in a tool that was useless. Today, the press is implicated in every scandal: in all scandals one reads about the sums of money used to bribe the press. The good hearted, simple people are still too naive and do not realise these deception, and so they will keep being deceived.

The so-called popular press are mostly capitalist enterprises, so the people in effect end up paying its lackeys to deceive them and glorify their oppressors. From where else does the hateful attitude towards everything concerning the labour movement come from? Or the unrelenting praise for the manufacturers and capitalists? Every little thing they do, is treated like the actions of a world famous celebrity. Meaningless trivia about princes and great men fill the columns, space which could easily be used to benefit the general interest. And the people are always incited to oppose those who have dedicated themselves to helping the workers break free from the shackles of capital. Capital and science in the press and in books work hand-in-hand to keep the people low. Science says: capital is the greatest blessing for humanity, through it you exist, as well as your family, and thousands of others. Thrice blessed capital, without which the world would return to a time of barbarism! This is the anthem to capital that is sung by the press and the bought scientists. And capital says: listen to the voice of science: these visionary people will teach and inform you about your good fortune. This is why professional scientists protect capital and capital supports science. They both have a pleasant connection, they both find that the world as it is is not so bad. Woe to him who comes into disfavour with these powers; they will defame him, mock him, and even destroy him materially if that is what it takes to silence him. I will right about one example: A man who “makes a cry of battle, a fundamental threat to every country that values safety and order” this was how one of our (Netherlands) newspapers described it. As if the people were in danger! And order… who dares to speak of order in this world of total disorder. The press systematically present things upside-down, and this is why it is so difficult to present a counterweight to these powerhouses, because there arms are so long!

The press in the hands of capitalism is a plague, instead of explaining it has to obscure. It poisons everything; Everything gets worse when the capitalist breathes upon it.

Imagine for a second that all the bought scientists, every journalist and all of the priests had united to prepare a better future – and this future must come, for all our society is sick to death. Well, if that were case think how quickly we would have progressed! The capitalists themselves know very well how sick our society is. One of them the Dutch Grand Banker Wertheim2 declared at a gathering of senators: “Work is overpriced, salaries are not sufficient, food is poor, they’re oppressed throughout life, their education is neglected, their knowledge is deficient, all material needs are miserably provided, in short, they long for fresh air in the material and moral sense”. According to this accusation, thrown at capitalism by a capitalist, nothing on this earth is fit for purpose. And yet the preservation of this society is still presented as necessary and desirable for everyone! Even hymns are sung to express that everything has been arranged to the best of their ability in the best of all worlds! t is, however, before all the men of science, the men of the press who day after day recommends the capitalist system.

From the fruit you can begin to know the tree. So, what are the fruits of this tree? Are they truly deserving of praise? They are in fact praising evil. They are the servants of the oppressors and opponents of the oppressed, they use their intelligence and talents to defend capitalism by sophistry. However, their situation is hopeless, because:

They can confuse the minds of the people for a long time, but deceiving stomachs is another matter entirely.

Well, the stomachs are complaining, because the material needs are making themselves heard. And even if the intellectuals spill ink onto every page of white paper to prove that this current state of affairs cannot possibly be approved upon, that the capitalists have already done everything possible for the people, in the long run it will not succeed in keeping the people foolish. The labour movement will go over their heads, it will destroy much built by the obstinacy of the property owners, and the deception of journalists, but it will save much through the timely surrender to the just demands of the people.

Of course, that power - the press - is also very important, and the capitalists have not misunderstood that with it they will be able to confuse and fool the spirits in every way and every day - in the guise of enlightening the people.

The three powers mentioned above are much more stronger than the others; at least in our opinion. However, they are not the only ones; they act hand in hand with those of the second kind, which we shall now discuss in some detail.

​The Material Powers

There number is also three, we will deal with them one at a time.

​I. The Courts

In a class state like ours, every institution demonstrates its character. And so we have, - of course, class judgement. This can be seen clearly if you keep two things in mind, firstly: who is given the position of a judge. Secondly: The judgments that the judges make.

Who are our judges?
Obviously they come from the ranks of the propertied class, as they are the only ones who can afford the academic education necessary for the role for them and their sons. And if they are a few exceptions who come from the lower orders, these are examples of talented young men who had their education provided for them, by some rich man’s intervention, which they pay back by faithful service to the class of property.

So, what could we expect anything less? Of course the judges are defenders of the class to which they belong.

An example. Imagine some judicial body, whose members really like hunting. They would look upon every action that impedes hunting as a serious crime deserving of the death penalty; therefore, every alleged hunt saboteur would be punished severely by them. He would however receive a much lighter punishment if the judges themselves disliked hunting, and saw it as a Medieval stain for a time and society that claims to be “civilised”.

Every Judge will, involuntarily, favour or disfavour in accordance with his own values and beliefs concerning justice. It is a certainty, that you will find a Judge treats a striking worker or one who does not behave in the customary style of total servility towards his master severely, if that Judge is the son of a factory owner. The atmosphere in which he matured is so bestial that he is simply not fit to judge with impartiality disputes between employers and their employees. In the opposite scenario we would get the same result. Now, imagine instead that the ranks of the Judiciary were filled by workers who judged these disputes; Who among us is not certain that these judges would favour the workers as much as possible? This situation is totally natural, and after some thought, prudence will compel us to conclude that such a relationship is necessary if we are to have Judges and courts. This is not the fault of the individuals themselves, they often declare themselves to be impartial and deny that they are subject to any kind of class sentiments, nevertheless it is so.

And the most miserable factor for workers is that, they really fall before the most enlightened members of this class, on the contrary they usually face the worst and least educated.

Who really chooses the career of a Judge?
Not the most talented lawyers. Why not? Simply because they can make more money by remaining lawyers. So only those who have failed within the legal professions make up the ranks: all who feel that for want of ingenuity or lack of eloquence they will not prosper - they are the ones who hold office among the judiciary. That’s why we can say that every time we fall into the hands of the court, it is into the hands of the least capable. There exist no guarantees that the power of the judge is honest and impartial. We can prove this with the words of many competent people who have long belonged to the judiciary. They admit that acquiring a job does not depend on ability or aptitude, but only on friendship, political calculation, kinship, and so on. Another, a Minister no less, assures us that they usually do not look for information on ability or zeal. And a third expert, who himself has sat in various colleges for 20 years, says that a judge often has to work with colleagues who are not only completely incompetent, but whose intellect is obviously abnormal - a "parliamentary" expression for madness.

And their judgements also show incontrovertibly that their actions are dictated strongly by class sentiment. Workers are placed under confinement for even the most minor offences, while wealthy criminals are afforded every opportunity for lenience and escape! Look at how differently they treat workers and gentlemen! And how severely they punish any act against the sacredness of property!

Poverty, instead of being treated as mediating circumstances ifs often regarded as an aggravating motive. We would need too much space to cite a full series of ruthless verdicts for trivialities. It is true that in similar circumstances we would have done the same. But in the courts sit uniformed gentlemen, paid by capitalism to ensure that the working class allows itself to be used without protest by the possessing class, out of fear and terror; to allow itself to be sucked dry, down to its very blood and marrow.

Enemies of human people - this is what the early Christians were called, because they protested against the social order of the time, based on injustice. The same title is given today to anyone who does not want to submit to the order created by the capitalists and secured by violence. In a legal way we are condemned and punished, to the greater glory of our social order, which is the greatest disorder.

A mother who kills her child ---- this is an act of the utmost despair, for how much must’ve happen to her for murder seems to her the only solution! However, such a mother is severely condemned, and the Judge, who may have fathered the child and then left them both to their fate – remains a “respectable” man in the world. And his fellow judges, though they know it, nonetheless remain working with him in the same clubs, instead of expelling him as a despicable man, or shunning him themselves - what would their honour require of them if they do not have honour?

Those who do evil remain free, while those who uncover their crimes are punished instead for causing offence! In all countries the working class keeps in mind facts which clearly show that there is a particular justice for the rich and a particular one for the poor - the former - gentle, lenient, forgiving, gloved; the latter - stern, ruthless, unmoved, a clenched fist.

It is totally unsurprising that the people have even less respect for the courts as an institution; that, on the contrary, it has many spiritual proverbs and puns which express its contempt for that institution which judges the people according to the state of their purse. It is felt deeply that rights can be bought with money, and for the workers proper girts do not exist. The people know instinctively and by conviction that the courts as an institution are nothing more than a tool in the hands of the capitalist class, to be used against the working class.

Let’s explain this through a fable.

A pack of wolves has ambushed a flock of sheep. Some lambs were ripped apart during the bloodletting. There was a great commotion among the flock, and especially one Ram passionately protested against the wolves, urging the flock to defend themselves against the beasts of prey. One day, however, he was dragged before the Judges… because he offended the wolves. Sheep and wolves were called to testify. Al the sheep declared that the Ram told the truth; and a horse who had seen it all gave his support to the statements of the sheep. But the wolves who had attacked the flock asserted and strengthened their claim by swearing that, on the contrary, they had been threatened by the sheep, and were therefore compelled to defend themselves against attack. So, what did the tribunal do? It rejected the testimony of the sheep and believed the claims of the wolves. The verdict: “in the name of our king, the lion, one leg will be cut off from every ram, for offending the wolves”. The whole of animal kind rejected this verdict, the indignation was general. An old wolf who had listened to all the outcry said while smiling to the sheep; “Why are you surprised by this judgement? I am only surprised that the verdict was not more severe and that you were not all torn apart. For you see, the Judges are all wolves themselves!

He who has ears to hear, let him hear!

​II. The Police

In addition to the lawyers, uniformed in white collar and black toga, who do the delicate work (?), there are still other people to do the dirty, rough work. That task is given to the police. And amazingly, those who do that dirty work, so dirty, that they themselves are usually disgusted by it, being ready to leave it at once, if they can earn the same wage in any other way - these people do not belong to the possessing class, but to the working class! People who themselves have no property are the protectors of the property of others! People, belonging to the class of thieves, make sure that the thieves can enjoy the loot quietly! Out of zeal for craft, out of hope for reward and advancement, they often act brutally and ruthlessly against their own brothers and classmates.

Police despotism is today like a supreme law, and the bourgeoisie has fallen so low that it must rely on the police. The hero, the caress of our bourgeoisie, that is the police. The police are the search dog who must catch the poor devils if they, in order to alleviate the hunger of wife and children, dare to take some of the supply that is created from their work, and previously stolen from them.

Why the poor see in the police their enemy, the rich on the other hand see the police as their friend. This is proof that it really is a class based institution, a product of a class society.

How brutally it acts against workers; how it dares to treat them badly, knowing full well that this will not be disapproved of! And how reptilian and submissive it is against the rich!

However, neither does it have much reason to be content. Aren't they also sent home with a starving salary? Is it not made up of proletarians, of slaves, bent by the same yoke as the other workers? Aren't they often bought and ready for a bribe, if not to kill then to at least look the other way if others kill?

The police, for example, are the engine of prostitution, as evidenced by the unmasking of the trade in girls and women, which is an international affair, under the high protection of the police.

The police, for example, are the bane of every strike, because without any examination, to find out which is the right side, it immediately puts itself on the side of the boss, against the workers.

It is the hope and consolation of the rich who entrusts it with the protection of its property.

So,- everything for the capitalists, and everything possible to oppose the workers.

Who pounces on the workers first, like a watchdog, as soon as they try to lighten the loads that weigh them down? The Police and Gendarme3.

Who will treat the workers to beatings with a stick or a sabre if they try to break their chains of slavery? Again: police and gendarmerie.

That they are acting on a high-ranking order is utterly egotistical. If someone attacks us on the way, do we then ask him if he is acting on his own initiative or at the request of others? Not at all.

If you are beaten, kicked and mistreated by order or insistence of others, or of the attackers own free will, in both cases the result is the same for you.
Some people say: don't blame these people, they are also products of social relations. Well, literally, the killer who kills by order is more despicable than the ordinary killer; since the former is like a career killer, sometimes he does not even know why he is doing it, while a person who commits murder, on his own impulse, has, in any case, some reason.

"There are decent policemen, too," they say. Chattering babble. There are also "decent" people among robbers. Among the greatest robbers are Rothschild, Carnegie, and so on. Aren't these men very decent people, accepted and glorified in all circles? It doesn't matter to the victim whether he is shot dead by a "decent" bandit or an indecent one.

A great newspaper wrote, not incorrectly that:

"Just as there is a papal spirit and a bourgeois spirit, so there is a police spirit. Anyone who sets foot in the police station to get a job there will be infected with that spirit, even though he did not own it before.” - What is the make up of this police spirit? Its main trait is; hatred of the poor. The police in effect, were created solely so the wealthy could sleep soundly. Its main purpose in social life is to protect the owners and prevent the dispossessed from depriving those who own everything. The police must see in a poor man his natural enemy. The police are trained to see in every poor person: a criminal, or at least a man who bears the germ of a crime that can flourish at any moment. The police are not shielding the poor man while he gains an honest existence. It guards him as a free-living criminal, and arrests him if he makes a minor suspicious move. The police don't have any interest in exterminating the actual crime. The existence of criminals is indeed the only pretext for its own existence. Instinctively it nurtures crime - because of an instinct for self-preservation.

However, although the bourgeoisie is spending more and more on the police, it will not be able to meet the demands in the long run; besides, the police have a final trump card. On the day when the possessing class is defeated and its destruction is certain, the police will pass entirely to the victors. It is all the same to him who is its master; it shouts with the same ease today: Long live the king, long live the Emperor! than tomorrow: long live the Republic. Reptilian souls always join the party, which momentarily triumphs.

As the ruling class is an internationally organized power, it is only natural that it should organize the police internationally in order to prevent the internationally organizing working class from becoming self-organized4.

In the long run, however, it will not be able to oppose the workers; for in order to be able to do that, one would have to put a police officer in front of or next to each property, and that is not feasible. What would the world look like then? Next to each poor man, pale with hunger: one rich man, pale with fear, and between the two: the police, armed from head to toe, ready to beat, stab and shoot the poor man, on any suspicious move. In the long run, however, it will not be able to oppose the workers; for in order to be able to do that, one would have to put a police officer in front of or next to each property, and that is not feasible. What would the world look like then? Next to each poor man, pale with hunger: one rich man, pale with fear, and between the two: the police, armed from head to toe, ready to beat, stab and shoot the poor man, on any suspicious move.

The police and the judiciary usually help each other, both of whom are servants of the same master: capitalism. And, if the police have acted too brutally, or too foolishly, then the judiciary may, in order to preserve appearances, disapprove of it, however, in balance they are solitary and unreliable. Some are calling for a reorganization, an improvement in the police force, but that will be of little use. Try to improve a prison - you will never be able to make a good prison, because prison and good, these two things are in stark contrast, to want to unite them is to want to carry out nonsense. The same goes for the police; one can never do good policing, because what is bad in itself cannot be improved no matter how one arranges it.

In addition capitalism uses every means to keep power in its hands. Espionage, inciting one person against another, sowing distrust among those who need each other to be able to obtain liberation, dividing in order to rule - these are the means that are used every day. Capitalism despises the traitor, but uses betrayal; he despises the liar, but he applies the lie.

The police are therefore one of the most powerful instrument of the ruling class to stay in power. This class therefore uses part of the working people to keep the other, larger part in slavery. When asked, what is the power of the police? how can it obey the crowd? then one can answer that the cause is not so much the staff and the sabre, but, moreover, the certainty that the police can beat at will, even kill the people, while the people know that every blow on the holy body of a policeman will be punished by weeks, months, even years in prison. Shielded by that impunity, it is strong against the unarmed mass.

III. The Army

The last stronghold on which capitalism relies is the army, with its cannons and rifles and its strong organisation. If the people ask their governments – who are nothing more than proxies for the property owners- what the army is for, they would reply that the army is needed to guarantee the independence of the country. However, this is not the case. This is a cover given to the army. In reality the army is often used against the workers to secure the ruling class.

Don't we see that in every case the army is used inland, to guarantee order (?) And tranquillity (?). There is hardly a strike anywhere, that soldiers are not immediately sent to stand by the master's side, and to protect him. If one wants to squeeze taxes, then don't the soldiers help the police prevent resistance from the people? If the people demand their rights through large rallies and demonstrations, they immediately keep the military ready in the barracks, who can march against the people at the first sign.

In all its manifestations of power the ruling class uses the army. The first and most ordinary cry of the bourgeoisie at every movement of the people is: send soldiers against them, shoot the rebels!

Isn't this thing too cunningly arranged? One part of the people is forced, at a certain age, to say goodbye to home and family, work and the environment, to be dressed in a mocking suit with multicoloured ornaments, and to be trained in the craft of killing. With strict isolation, an effort is being made to make them a separate class that views the rest of the people as enemies, and is therefore ready to smash and machine-gun them at all times. It is claimed that it is an honour to be a soldier; caste culture is cultivated to encourage soldiers and citizens against each other - so that the former can be better used against the latter. And who are our soldiers? Working-class boys whose interests are and remain the same as those of the whole working class, in spite of being given a different costume for some time.

If, therefore, soldiers appear during a strike, then in fact, workers in uniform and workers in ordinary clothes stand against each other. And if commanded: fire! then those soldier-workers must shoot at their colleagues, at their co-workers, among whom are, perhaps, their fathers and mothers, their brothers and sisters. They are therefore used to wage a war on brothers, at the behest of capitalism, which is certain of its leadership, as long as it can apply any theory: divide and conquer.

Recruited from the people, paid by the people, the army is used when necessary against the people. This is what the facts to teach to one who will see and hear.

So it is not the owners themselves who are defending their property; for that they even seem too cowardly and too powerless; they hand over that task to the dispossessed. If they had honour, then the owners would certainly not do so; if they had the courage, then they wouldn't even trust that task to anyone else.

Now they have arranged the matter so well that they themselves remain out of danger, hobbling one part of the people with the other.

However, this same militarism with its voracious maw is one of the means by which capitalism leads itself to destruction.

It always wants new sacrifices, to the point of exhaustion; one goes round in a fatal circle: to fight socialism, one strengthens militarism, and militarism, slavishly, displeases many and pushes them into the arms of socialism. So: the means of combat becomes the incubator of new followers. In the long run it leads a society to general bankruptcy, because it is insatiable and if it is given a finger, then immediately it takes the whole hand, the arm, everything.

It is therefore a double-edged sword that at the decisive hour can turn against the one who uses it. The iron discipline, the rigorous organization compels the soldiers to do what their superiors command, on pain of death. But who could stop them from firing into the air, over their heads? Besides, we must be careful not to recruit soldiers of our own. Let us not forget that the workers dislike nothing as much as being a soldier; we must take advantage of that dislike. Education will be the best way to do this. Frederick II of Prussia rightly understood: if my soldiers think, then none of them would stay in the ranks. Let us therefore learn from him that knowledge is the greatest enemy of militarism. Naturally, because thinking people do not allow themselves to be used as involuntary tools in the hands of others. Therefore, knowledge is the best way to undermine this stronghold of the bourgeoisie: militarism. Tolstoy5 rightly remarks: “How is it possible that men, from the point of view of their own peril, can tolerate the heavy, cruel, deadly power of any government that relies on the army! The bloodiest band of robbers is less dangerous than it is. The authority of the leader is limited because the members of the gang have partial freedom, they can oppose the committing of crimes that displease them. But the men who make up an organized government are not limited by any obstacle. One cannot imagine a crime which the people belonging to the government or to the army would not be prepared to commit at the behest of the one whom chance has placed upon them”.

Militarism is a cancer that bites into the well being of the people. However, it is preserved because of the purse that rules everything, controls everything, turns everything around, while the people who produce everything through their work can see that others are enjoying the fruits, while it lacks everything that ennobles, beautifies, makes life pleasant. And all this for big business, which absorbs everything, which uses heads of state, ministers and statesmen as puppets to do whatever the real powers of our time want: the werewolves, the bankers and the financiers. Everything is subject to them, they are the rulers of the world; by invisible threads they dispose of the fate of millions.

So we have seen first-hand the powers that be that allow a handful of people to control everything and everyone. Although the subject has not been exhausted at all yet, we think that we have explained enough the ways in which they have arranged it. An artistic building of tyranny has been created, in which every little tyrant has a sphere to rule in it with supreme power, provided he submits to a higher tyrant, who in turn has a region for his tyranny; thus ascending the pyramid we find a capital enthroned on the top of the whole building. This is very artistically arranged. Everything and everyone depends on each other, just like the links in a chain. If we ask ourselves by what means we keep this system, then Tolstoy and I point out the following four:

  1. Fear; such that men fear every change which is presented to them as if it were a phantom:

  2. Bribery; so that the people are sucked dry, to fatten a few:

  3. Hypnosis, as if to drug the people; for this they apply religion and patriotism, church and school, as well as the material means of cattle-raising: alcohol, the pleasures of low theatres, prostitution of the spirit through press and science, and prostitution of the body.

  4. The power of the army, which closes the circle of violence.

How to rid ourselves of this?
By resisting tyranny, by undermining all authority, each in his own way, wherever he can. If it is said that resistance has little effect if it does not occur on a large scale, then we answer: how can you set up large-scale resistance if you do not start on a small scale? We believe that any refusal of military service, that any opposition to tyrants and their cronies helps to undermine the whole building of authority. Let us not forget that the example of the brave few who have the courage to do this work will inspire others; for such resistance immediately leads to imitation. That is why people are silent about these actions.

Certainly, a force emerges, a mysterious but great force from those men who have enough energy to break the chains placed around their pulses. And let’s not forget, the people are what they deserve to be. If the people are chained in slavery, then they do not deserve a better fate, because they obviously feel like slaves. For it is not a tyrant who enslaves a people, but an enslaved people that enables tyrants to play the role of tyrant. How could it be possible to rule tyrannically for just one week over a free people? Such a people would not tolerate tyranny for a single day! But the people themselves form tyrants, and when they behave like tyrants, then the people complain of their own deed, and it is so powerless that it adapts to circumstances.

Didn't Multatuli6 say truly:

Tyrants – Without a doubt they exist, but who enables them? The people. All the tyrants of whom history is told could not have existed if the people among whom these monsters lived had not enabled them, from century to century, to play their part as tyrants. Always, the people, the environment - crawled, hypocritically, applauded every arbitrary act, every tyrannical act of the tyrants - where an ox grazes, there must be grass, and the people always accepted a style of grass that the two-legged cattle - predators - ate and trampled. The people therefore deserve the fate they have. No, no tyrant, no bloodsucker could exist if the people wanted them not to exist. The people have remained the same. When Nero set fire to Rome, then then the people demanded action. It was the people who shouted, "Crucify Jesus, free us, Barabbas!" Pioneers, announcers of new ideas are always insulted and covered in mud by the Judases and so on, from the people”.

First of all one must be aware of one's situation, he must feel his slavery, because before that is done he will not seek a means to free himself. So: we have to revolutionize the heads so that it is understood that for the 98 subjects it will be a small effort: to get rid of those two who have wrapped themselves around those others in order to get the best juice.

In doing so, we encounter one of the obstacles in our path: hypocrisy. This one takes, oh! an extremely beautiful mask to create a false appearance. So much is being done for the people! - that's the usual saying. Well, apart from the fact that all this is philanthropy - and philanthropy always degenerates the giver as well as the recipient - except that philanthropy is like a small return after stealing wholesale, to be praised as a benefactor of the human race - if you pay attention and count all that is taken from the people, well, then there is little actually done for them.

Tolstoy understood this game and wrote: "One deals with sobriety, but in such a way that intoxication cannot disappear; with the teaching, but in such a way that one, instead of diminishing ignorance, increases it still more; with freedom and with the constitution, but in such a way that despotism is not prevented; with the fate of the workers, but in such a way that they are not protected from slavery; with Christianity, but only with official Christianity, which supports governments instead of overthrowing them”.

When the feeling of self-worth awakens, then everything will no longer be tolerated; we must begin by being a man himself, a man who thinks, who thinks for himself. In doing so, we are freeing not only ourselves, but at the same time encouraging others to help us put aside some more tyrants.

To rule means to use violence to force others; to submit means to tolerate what one does not want. So let's start shouting: Away with tyranny! It is better not to live than to always have to discard oneself and be nothing for others to be everything.

Then we will also finish the High and the Low of

today, and we will sing with the poet:

The robbers stand tall.

Low: the workers.

High: owners, low: people.

High: enjoyers.

Low: sweaty.

High: deceivers, low: the honest.

High nobles.

Low: "Rogue",

High: rulers, low: people,

High: violent.

Low: our daughters,

High: “gentlemen”, low: “cheating.

Down with that "Height"!

Up with that "Low"!

Up with right, down with violence!

Away with repression!

Live free!

Away from idleness, long live Labour ’!

Down with the luxury

Of the palaces,

Instead: bread in every cabin ’-

For the "subordinates",

Also for them:

Art and knowledge, justice and peace.

1“Again you have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not swear falsely, but shall perform to the Lord what you have sworn.’ 34 But I say to you, Do not take an oath at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, 35 or by the earth, for it is his footstool, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. 36 And do not take an oath by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. 37 Let what you say be simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything more than this comes from evil.”

2Abraham Carel Wertheim (1832-1897), was a wealthy Dutch banker who among other things invested heavily in the expansion of the American railroad, he was also a liberal politician who served in the Dutch Senate.

3Special militarised police used in several countries including France and Belgium.

4Interpol was founded in 1928 after multiple international gatherings of police forces, many of which had a stated goal of combatting the workers movement internationally. An important forerunner to Interpol was the International Conference of Rome for Social Defence Against Anarchists which was held in 1898.

5Leo Tolstoy, 1828-1910, the famous author of War & Peace, was also a fervent Christian Anarchist, pacifist and critic of government, militarism, patriotism and the use of religion to support unjust societies.

6The pen name of Eduard Duwes Dekker 1820-1887. Multatuli (Latin for I have suffered much) was a satirist and critic, and open opponent of Dutch colonialism.

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