Title: Free Inquiry
Topic: individualism
Date: 1907
Notes: Source: Libre Examen. Paris, Edition du groupe d’études scientifiques, 1907;
Translated: for marxists.org by Mitchell Abidor;
CopyLeft: Creative Commons (Attribute & ShareAlike) marxists.org.




      THE LAW



      THE LAW









Following a series of successive and continuous transformations, our planet has arrived at its current state. Man appeared when his life was possible; he will disappear when his life will be impossible. After the human period the earth, an aggregate of molecules, will continue to transform itself as long as its molecules and their composing parts don’t separate and disperse in space.

This is an evolution. It is fated. These are ineluctable facts which our will and activity cannot modify.

What is a historic fact?

An historic fact is the result of the activity of humans who inhabit the globe at the same moment. If this activity is driven in a certain direction these humans make a certain history. They would make another one if it went in another direction.

The evolution of societies, though dependent on universal transformism, is thus not of the same nature as cosmic evolution. It doesn’t escape our influence. It results from it.

If humans never carry out the movements indispensable for the establishment of a reasonable society, human life could cease on our globe without humanity having known the age of reason.

These movements indispensable for the establishment of a reasonable society must be determined and not waited for, since the evolution of societies depends upon HUMAN ACTIVITY


Is the affirming of the reality of an imaginative fiction the act of serious men?

God, according to Laplace, is an unnecessary hypothesis. We would add, “bizarre.”

In fact, the idea of divinity comes from the wish to explain our origin. “The world,” it was said, “could not have created itself; it was created by a Supreme Being.” The reply is easy: “Who created the Supreme Being?”

The concept of a creator is thus bizarre, since it pushes back the question without resolving it.

What is more, it is metaphysical and foreign to physics, since it is the equivalent of energy that exercises itself where there is no matter, a fact in contradiction with all experiments.

If we feel the need to go back to “primary causes” we could imagine a physical hypothesis more in accord with the current state of science.

Everything is transformed, but we have never seen anyone create anything from nothing, or turn something to nothing. It is thus not illogical to suppose that the substance (matter-energy) was not created, always existed, and is indestructible.

Nevertheless, it is important not to give the substance the name of “God,” this name that stirs up the idea, not of a physical hypothesis, but of an omnipotent metaphysical bogeyman.

Once the scientific hypothesis (the eternity of substances) is made, it is only wise to then concern oneself with reality alone, that is, of the world and of MAN


The groupings of men inhabiting certain portions of territories subject to the same laws are called fatherlands, nations.

Two nations believe or don’t that they have the same interests. In the first case there is peace, but feelings less favorable to humans of other nations, towards strangers (nationals feeling solidarity for each other). In the second case there is antipathy towards foreigners, protectionism, armed peace, war. All of this hinders individual development.

We see that the idea of the fatherland inevitably implies a sentiment less favorable towards the humans of other fatherlands, and possible, probable, or certain hatred.

To hate a mass of beings who you don’t personally know, to hate those unknown, to risk finding oneself obliged to kill them or to have oneself killed by them is absurd. Nationalists and patriots are thus dangerous madmen.

Those who desire universal peace should radically rid themselves of nationalism and patriotism, should suppress nations, fatherlands.

The common interests of all humans being the favoring of the complete satisfaction of all an individual’s natural needs, only one grouping has a chance of realizing this ideal, the grouping of all humans: HUMANITY


Acts useful or harmful to society are judged so, not in keeping with evidence that are the result of logical, indisputable deductions, but according to the whims of a portion of legislators. Nothing prevents the latter from establishing absurd and vexing rules, as long as these rules are voted and promulgated in keeping with usage.

The law being nothing but the acceptance by certain men (the majority) of an judgment contested by other men (the minority), this judgment might or might not be correct. It is not necessarily so because it has become the law. The truth could be on the side of the minority, or it could be elsewhere.

Imposing judgments by force means tyrannizing. Law is the supreme oppression, legal oppression, rule by force.

A man’s rights cannot depend on the more or less intelligent judgment of other men. Either these rights exist, or they don’t

If they exist there is no reason to prevent a man from exercising them, even despite the law.

But in order to exercise these rights they must necessarily be known. In order to know them they must be determined by LOGIC.


In order for a proposition to enter the scientific realm it must 1- be put forth with supporting proofs; 2- the proofs, always verified, must always be recognized as correct. If at a given moment they are contested and recognized to be false, the proposition is immediately ejected from the realm of science.

In order for a proposition to enter the legal realm it must 1- be voted for by representatives elected through universal suffrage; 2- be promulgated and imposed by force. Reasonable or not, under these conditions it becomes law.

Such proceedings, foreign to reason, cannot give reasonable results. Politics, an illogical method, cannot serve to establish rules of logical conduct.

Only madmen want, if these rules exist, to determine and impose them on sensible beings otherwise than by a RATIONAL METHOD.


The law, an arbitrary, anti-scientific, empirical formula: is it at least the sincere expression of the opinion of the greatest number?

No. Those who participate in its formation are the privileged (rich or intriguers) who are imposed by leaders on the imbecilic crowd.

If we consider the exercise of the right of suffrage as the official influence of a “citizen” on his time, in France this influence is 1/1460 or 1/1461 of what it should be.

In fact, from the age of 21, every four years (i.e., once every 1460 or 1461 days), the voter votes (i.e., attempts to oppress those who think differently from him); authority, for its part, functions every day, at every instant.

Universal suffrage thus means: 1 day of the right to intrigue, and 1459 or 1460 of abdication.

We see then that universal suffrage is a powerful method for lulling human activity to sleep. It has nothing in common with popular sovereignty, with the right to being as sovereign as anyone else at every moment. It has nothing in common with EQUALITY.


By law we mean either the faculty to carry out an act or the whole of laws, or the science of laws.

By natural law that which results from the nature of men and their necessary relations.

By positive law we mean that which results from laws and accords.

There is thus a natural law that can be determined by logic and imposed by reason, and which is the true one, and another law which depends on the whims of men and is imposed by force, and is not identical to the “natural,” not identical to the true one, which is thus not true law and which is called “positive.”

So if positive law is not the true law I WANT NOTHING TO DO WITH IT, and I say that recognizing such a law is the act of false spirits, for if admitting that reason is sensible, admitting that which differs from reason and which consequently is not reason cannot be sensible.

It follows from this that men will become sensible at the precise moment when they will cease to occupy themselves with “positive” law, and they will remain mad as long as long as they occupy themselves with any other right than the “natural.”

In fact, limiting my faculty to act upon things permitted by my reason means using my faculty to act with discernment, while limiting my faculty to act to those not defended by whims means alienating my faculty to act, means abdicating MY FREEDOM


The Declaration of the Rights of Man of 1789 says:

Article X: No one should be disturbed for his opinions, even religious, as long as their manifestation doesn’t trouble the public order established by the law.

Article XI: The free communication of ideas and opinions is one of man’s most precious rights. Every citizen can thus freely speak, write and publish, under penalty of answering for abuses of this freedom in cases determined by the law.

These restrictions reduce the text of the two articles to this:

We can think, say, write, publish certain things; we cannot think, say, write, or publish certain other things.

Thinking, speaking, writing, publishing freely what is not prohibited by man’s whims is not thinking, speaking, writing and publishing freely.

Freedom cannot depend on the whims of men. It must BE.

A law on the press, on opinions, is legal intolerance, is the negation of THE FREEDOM OF OPINION.


Until the present day all societies have been established on the principle of authority. Even what is wrongly called socialism is a form of this principle. Delegating one’s powers to individuals charged with sharing everything out for the good of the collective (collectivism) is equivalent to abandoning one’s rights. The comrades who do the sharing will be the privileged ones, the rulers, the oppressors; the others will be the exploited, the governed, the oppressed.

Since no one can accept that he be oppressed, he can’t authorize himself to oppress others. The logical individual necessarily arrives at the concept of libertarian communism.

Let no one say to me: “The danger of the absence of governments lies in the struggle with unreasonable individuals.” We can respond: “The danger of government is the struggle by the reasonable governed with unreasonable governors and governed.”

If we affirm that in order for government to be absent we need reasonable individuals we can also affirm that we would accept to be governed if it were proved that those who govern will always be perfectly reasonable.

We thus see that a good government implies, as well as the absence of government, reason in individuals.

Either one or the other:

Either men will be unreasonable and we will then have an unreasonable society with or without a government, or

Humans will be reasonable, and there is no need for government.

Reason leads to ANARCHY


The Declaration of the Rights of Man tells us that property is one of the natural and inalienable rights of man.

So why then are all men not property owners?

Why say to men: “Property is one of your rights,” when the majority is in no position to become landowners, when most landowners are so by the right of birth and the others are non-landowners by birth.

The men of 1789, in affirming that property is a natural and inalienable right, wanted to say that man has the right to own what he is “legally” authorized to own, even if he owns it to his neighbor’s detriment, even if he owns nothing.

This is not how an egalitarian should understand the right to property.

If property is a natural and inalienable right every man should, at all times, own in the same measure as every other.

Conclusion: Either no one a property owner or all property held in common. COMMUNISM


After having taken note that certain words were exchanged in a certain place (in France, the town hall) society recognizes in a couple the right to unite and found a family.

The law protects the spouses, and the world respects them as long as, if it applies, bigamy, lovers, or mistresses are not legally noted. The children born of married people or those attributed by the code to married people are legitimate and enjoy certain rights.

On the contrary, a couple that unites without having first had noted the exchange of certain words in a certain place is considered criminal and society condemns them, for mutual consent is not judged a sufficient tie. Society goes so far as to punish the children for the wrong of having been born outside marriage. Bastards are detested, insulted. Natural children, that is, brought into the world by non-authorized parents, they don’t have the same rights as legitimate children.

Marriage thus means the enchaining of two beings under threat of penal sanction, which implies the idea that lacking this sanction affection wouldn’t suffice to sustain the official family.

The cohesion of a family by force is the legal consecration of the right to reciprocal oppression.

The reasonable family, founded and sustained if it should be, but sustained without hypocrisy, without constraint and solely based on the intelligent will of the interested parties, will have its departure point in FREE UNIONS.


A prejudice is an opinion formed before having judged.

Parents, educators, and politicians suggest certain exclusive opinions to children and the naive. It follows from this that an adult will have beliefs (religion, law, fatherland, etc.) because these beliefs will have been imposed on him by people lacking in critical sense. These latter transmit their prejudices to others in the same way they were transmitted to them.

The so-called freedom of a father, as well as authoritarian education, in other words, the right to choose a certain cerebral state for defenseless beings, is equivalent to the licit oppression of children and the weak. This oppression will persist as long as every individual is not given the sum of knowledge he is capable of receiving as well as the faculty of controlling this knowledge.

The authoritarian method of education does not allow for the controlling of received ideas, the distinguishing of the truth of prejudices.

A libertarian educational method would consist in:

  1. In those matters in which everyone is in agreement teaching them outside of any preoccupations, solely so as to give the individual physical notions and not to inculcate certain considerations in him.

  2. On matters or opinions on which everyone is not in agreement, teaching them by placing the individual in the presence of different opinions after having been assured that he is capable of reasoning logically.

In this way we will have the possibility of accelerating the discovery of the truth, on which human progress depends. In order to arrive at this discovery it is important, in fact, not that individuals have this or that opinion, but that they have an opinion after having impartially judged, after having engaged in FREE EXAMINATION.


Is competition socially necessary? Must the human beast always be a ferocious beast defending his skin and his happiness against his contemporaries? Current society regulates competition. Must a rational society do the same?

For those who don’t admit that we can sacrifice reality to the anti-scientific hypotheses of the “immortality of the soul” and the “divinity, “ the individual’s ideal is the satisfaction of all his needs in conformity with his nature.

The individual cannot reach this ideal by living in isolation. Alone he could not find his food, make his clothing, protect himself against other animal species and bad weather, profit by old and new inventions. The human being who denies human solidarity is, if he wills it or not, in solidarity with his like. He was brought into the world, raised, protected by them; he received his language and knowledge from them. In these conditions, unable to do without others, should he not say to himself:

“Every other human, like me, wants to satisfy his natural needs. If I pursue my ideal disregarding all others, there will be struggle, competition, and consequently, I risk being the weakest, being hindered, not being able to satisfy my natural needs. If on the contrary I pursue my ideal without disturbing my neighbor, or even by helping him, the struggle will be quashed and I could expect of him that he respect my egoism and freedom as I recognize his.”

If this reasoning is correct, a rational society must not only abolish competition and the struggle between individuals, it must organize and see to it that there functions CAMARADERIE.


‘Utopia’ comes from the Greek words U (non) and TOPOS (PLACE): a country that doesn’t exist. We mean by utopia the plan of an ideal organization and, by extension, a theory considered unrealizable.

It is with the word “utopia” that people try to ridicule and to discourage those who envisage the possibility of a rational society and strive to determine its conditions.

We forget that no one has the right to a priori qualify a theory as unrealizable. Every theory implies practice, every practice implies theory. In certain cases the theory precedes practice, in others practice precedes theory. The one always calls for the other.

Scientifically, affirmations not accompanied by proofs don’t count. Affirming without proof that a theory is unrealizable, that a theory is “utopian” has no importance. The long distance transport of words, the reproduction of sounds and images, vision through opaque bodies, wireless telegraphy, color photography, yesterday’s “utopias” are today’s “practice.”

A rational society is a beautiful dream, it is said. True. But the theoreticians of this society should not allow themselves to be bothered by narrow arguments, since progress consists in make utopia A REALITY