The following quotations are taken from:
Ricardo Flores-Magón, “Liberty, Equality, Fraternity,” from Dreams of Freedom: A Ricardo Flores Magón Reader, ed. Chaz Bufe and Mitchell Cowen Verter. AK Press 2005.
“No revolution has seriously concerned itself with Equality, which is the basis for Liberty and Fraternity. Equality before the law, which was won in the French Revolution, is a lie which is rejected by modern consciousness. Revolutions up till now have been superficial wildfires. They could burn the trees in the woods, but the roots remained intact. Thus the revolutions so far have been superficial because they haven’t gotten to the root of social evil; they haven’t scraped away the putrefied flesh to get to the bottom of the wound; and for this their so-called leaders are to blame.
The leaders have always been less radical than the men they pretend to lead, and there is a reason for this: power makes a man conservative, and in addition he falls in love with ruling others. In order not to lose their positions, leaders moderate their radicalism; they compromise it; they disfigure it; they avoid clashes with opposing interests. And if in the nature of things a clash is inevitable and armed struggle is necessary, leaders always arrange things so that their positions are not in danger and they conciliate, as much as they can, with the interest of the ruling class, managing thus to diminish the intensity of the clash and the duration of the struggle; they content themselves with obtaining a more or less easy, superficial victory. The idea… the ideal remains very distant after these struggles of dwarves. With such struggles one scratches the surface and not much more.
Because of this, and despite the blood spilled throughout the ages; despite the sacrifice of so many noble men; despite the beautiful words Liberty, Equality, Fraternity having glowed on a hundred banners, the chains still exist. Society is still divided into classes and the war of all against all is still what is normal, what is legal, what is honored, what the ‘serious’ call ‘order,’ what the tyrants call ‘progress,’ and what the slaves, blinded by their ignorance and made timid by centuries of oppression and injustice, venerate and sustain through their submission.
It’s necessary to go deeper, to get to the bottom of things. The leaders are cowards; they don’t go deep and they don’t get to the bottom of things. The revolutionary impulse always stumbles over the moderation of the so-called leaders, who are deft politicians, if you will, but who lack revolutionary vigor. Above all, if you want to do something revolutionary rather than the vulgar work of politicians, it is necessary to place one’s hands upon ‘private’ lands. While the earth continues to be the property of a few; while there are millions of human beings who have no more than the tiny space needed to lay out their cadaver when they die; while the poor continue to work the land for their bosses, any ‘revolution’ will have no other outcome than a change of bosses—and at times the new ones will be worse than the ones thrown out.” 191-192
“It’s necessary to say it one more time: political liberty doesn’t give the people anything to eat; it is necessary to achieve economic liberty, which is the basis of all the liberties; and without it political liberty is a bloody irony which converts ‘the people as king’ into the king of jokes, because if in theory the people are free, in reality they are slaves. So it is necessary to take possession of the land, to yank it form the claws that hold it now, and deliver it to the people. Then the poor will have bread; then the people will come to be free; then, with a little more effort, we’ll come close to the ideal that we see from afar because the leaders of the revolutions haven’t had the guts to throw down idols, to slay prejudices, to break into pieces the law which protects this crime called private property.
One must, however, speak honestly. The people’s taking possession of the land will be a great step toward the ideal of Liberty, Equality, Fraternity. But only a great step. However, thanks to it, the people will have the opportunity to obtain the education they need in order to construct, in the more or less near future, the just and wise society that today is only a pretty illusion.
And while there is no effective advance along the road of economic liberation, no healthy work will be done. Liberty cannot exist while one part of society makes the laws that the rest must obey. Since it’s easy to comprehend that nobody will make a law contrary to their own interests, and as the class that possesses the riches makes the laws or, at least, orders that they be made, this must result, in toto, in laws favorable to the capitalists and unfavorable to the poor. That’s the reason that the law doesn’t extend its reach to punish the rich and doesn’t bother them at all for any reason. All of the social and political costs fall upon the poor. Taxes must be paid exclusively by the poor. Gratuitous services, such as night watchman rounds, unpaid extra hours of work, and others, weigh exclusively upon the backs of the poor; the army recruits exclusively among the proletariat; and in brothels the daughters of the rich are not degraded, solely the daughters of the poor. This is inevitable: it’s absurd to think that the rich would make laws contrary to their own interests.
Under such conditions, can equality exist? Socially, equality is a chimera under present conditions. How can the rich and poor be equals? Neither in appearance, nor in dress, nor in living style are the dominators and the dominated similar. The work of the poor is hard and tiring; their lives are a series of privations and worries, caused by their misery; their distractions are scarce: alcohol and sex; they can’t partake in the enjoyments of the rich because those cost a lot of money and, besides, they don’t have the clothes to mingle with elegant people; the manner in which they’ve lived hasn’t been the best preparation for acquiring cultivated manners; the opera and drama, apart from being costly, require a certain artistic or literary preparation that the poor cannot have, having been pushed since children to earn the bread they need to survive.
So, equality before the law is one of the greatest idiocies those who wish to govern offer the masses. If social equality is impossible while there are social classes, the same holds true politically. The judges rule in favor of the rich and against the poor when they hand down their decisions; the exercise of the right to vote is always directed, organized, and carried to a head by the dominant classes, because they have the time for it, leaving to the poor only the ‘right’ to carry their ballots to the ballot boxes with the name marked of someone chosen by those who have organized and directed the election. This results in the workers electing whomever the ruling class wants them to elect. The right of free expression cannot be exercised by the poor, because they haven’t been able to acquire the necessary facility in writing or public speaking, so this right is taken advantage of, almost exclusively, by the dominant classes. And if one would compile a list of all political rights, one would eventually arrive at the conclusion that the poor cannot exercise these rights because their slave jobs leave them only the time absolutely necessary to rest themselves in their short hours of sleep. They don’t have the social presence provided by education; they don’t have economic independence; they don’t even dress well; and they lack the polish to compete well with the smoke-blowing bourgeois intellectuals.” 192-194
Ricardo Flores Magón, “Without Rulers,” from Dreams of Freedom: A Ricardo Flores Magón Reader, ed. Chaz Bufe and Mitchell Cowen Verter. AK Press 2005.
“To want rulers and at the same time to want to be free is to want the impossible. One must choose definitively one or the other: to be free, entirely free refusing all authority, or to be slaves, perpetuating man’s command over man.
A ruler or governor is necessary only under a system of economic inequality. If I have more than Pedro, I fear, naturally, that Pedro may seize me by the throat and take from me what he needs. In this case, a governor or ruler is needed to protect me against the possible attacks of Pedro; but if Pedro and I are economically equals, if the two of us have the same opportunity to take advantage of the natural riches, such as the earth, the water, the forests, as well as the riches created by the hands of man, such as the machinery, the houses, the railroads, and the thousand and one manufactured objects, reason indicates that it would be impossible that Pedro and I would grab each other by the hair fighting over things we both enjoy equally; and in this case, there would be no need to have a ruler.
To speak of a ruler among equals is a contradiction, unless one is speaking of equals in servitude, of brothers in chains, as we workers currently are.
There are many who say that it is impossible to live without a ruler or a government; when it is the bourgeoisie who say such things, we admit they are right, because they fear that the poor will seize them by the throat and take back from them the riches they amassed by making workers sweat. But why do the poor need a ruler or government?
In Mexico, we have had and we still have hundreds of proofs that humanity does not need a ruler or a government except when economic inequality exists. In the villages or rural communities, the inhabitants have not felt the need for a government. The lands, the forests, the waters, and the fields have been, until recently, the common property of the inhabitants of the regions. When one speaks about government to these simple people, they begin trembling with fear, because the government, for them, has been the same as a tormenter: it means the same as a tyrant. They lived happily in their freedom, without, in many cases, even knowing the name of the president of the republic, and the only knew that a government existed when the military chiefs passed through their territory searching for males to draft as soldiers, or when the government’s tax collectors made visits to collect levies. The government has been, then, for a great portion of the Mexican population, the tyrant that uprooted the hard-working Mexican men from their homes to make them soldiers, or it has been the brutal profiteer who snatched taxes from them in the name of the state treasury.
Could these villages have felt that it was necessary to have a government? They had no need for it, and thus they were able to live for hundreds of years, until their natural wealth was stolen from them by the hacendados (great landowners). They did not devour each other, as those who have only known the capitalist system fear might happen, because under capitalism, every human being must compete with every other to be able to lift a crust of bread to his mouth. In these villages the strong did not tyrannize the weak, as they do in capitalist civilization, in which the most knavish, the most greedy, and the most clever dominate the good and the noble. All were brothers in these communities; everyone helped everyone else, and with all feeling equal, as they truly are, they did not need any authority to watch over the interests of owners, who dread possible assault by those who have nothing.
Right now, is government needed by the free communities of the Yaqui, in Durango, in southern Mexico,, and in the many other communities throughout the country where the people have taken possession of the earth? From the moment they considered each other as equals, with the same right to Mother Earth, they have not needed a ruler to protect prvileges against those who do not have privileges, because everyone was privileged.
Disabuse yourselves of illusions, proletarians: government must only exist when there is economic inequality…” 259-260