The Cost of a Coke (documentary)

Coca Cola, we’ve found out, has actually been cooperating with paramilitaries in Colombia to execute workers in their own bottling plants that are trying to form unions and trying to demand better working conditions. So we’ve been able to bring this to the attention of Universities and say “if Coca Cola doesn’t stop doing this and if Coca Cola doesn’t adopt different practices, then our University is no longer willing to have anything to do with Coca Cola.”

In the world of the Coca-Cola Company, whenever there’s a union there’s always a bust, whenever there’s corruption there’s always the real thing, yeah!! Justice Productions second release, The Cost of a Coke: 2nd Edition is the updated version to Matt Beard’s first documentary, The Cost of a Coke.

The Cost of a Coke: 2nd Edition explores the corruption and moral bankruptcy of the world’s most popular soda, and what you can do to help end a gruesome cycle of murders and environmental degradation.

“Ethnicity, Skin Color, and Individuality” by Joe Peacott

Collectivist Thinking

In the united states, as in much of the rest of the world, people are frequently thought of in different ways depending on their skin color or perceived membership in this or that ethnic group. This happens for a variety of reasons. Sometimes people simply harbor a hatred for anyone who is a different color or ethnicity from themselves. Others have had a bad experience with another person and assume that all other people who share some superficial characteristic with this person will behave in a similar way. And there are people who are simply naïve and inexperienced and believe some inaccurate story that they have heard or read about people whose ancestry is unlike theirs.

Ideas, of course, lead to actions, and bigoted beliefs can result in discriminatory behaviors. These can range from some people’s unwillingness to befriend, do business with, or live near people whose appearance or language they do not approve of, to physical attacks against people the assailants see as somehow alien and undeserving of the freedoms other people enjoy. While few people’s prejudice is extreme enough to lead them to assault other people, great damage can be done to others when the bigotries of individuals are given a group expression through the state and the institutions it creates.

American governments have always practiced and promoted discrimination both directly and indirectly. They have legitimized, at various times, slavery, segregation, and prejudicial immigration practices. In addition, they have promoted unfair practices in the private sector by favoring businesses that practice discrimination while disenfranchising the targets of prejudice and preventing them from setting up alternative institutions of their own. It is nearly impossible, for instance, to start up an alternative to a bigoted store in one’s community if the banks refuse credit and a government monopoly of money prevents alternative financing arrangements. Over the years, government action has resulted in far more inequitable and harmful treatment of people than any bigoted individuals could ever hope to inflict.

Ethnic Preferences and Social Engineering: How Not to Fix the Problem

Many people, of all colors and ethnic groups, reject discrimination and would like to see a society free of prejudice. Unfortunately, it is common for those who seek to eradicate bigotry to share some of the outlook of those they oppose, both in their view of differences between people and in the means they favor to eliminate ethnic inequity. They tend to share an unwillingness to see others as individuals instead of members of groups and both camps favor the use of government action and coercion to promote their agendas. Until such attitudes are replaced with a commitment to individuality and a rejection of force, efforts to create an equitable society are doomed to failure.

Whether assigning people to groups is done with the intention of discriminating against or helping someone, classifying individuals based on the color of their skin or their parentage conflicts with the individualist idea that each person is unique. People’s beliefs and behavior are not determined by such superficial traits as ethnicity or primary language, and to assume that they are can only lead to misunderstanding. Individual personalities, desires, and habits are the result of an enormous number of different influences and people shortchange others when they try to reduce them to simply a sample of a larger group.

Viewing people as representatives of some ethnic “community” instead of as individuals leads opponents of inequity to support solutions to discrimination such as affirmative action. In such schemes, diversity is seen as more important than individual merit or fitness, and in order to make the ethnic numbers look good, institutions like colleges and corporations will give people “points” for their skin color when making admission or hiring decisions. Once upon a time, “tokenism” was looked down upon as a misguided “liberal” attempt to mask systemic discrimination, but now when a law school seeks out black students as tokens representing other black people so that the resulting ethnic mix “improves” the educational environment for others, it is seen by many as virtuous. If affirmative action programs focused on improving the lot of capable individuals by eliminating discrimination in hiring and admissions decisions they would be a worthy endeavor. Instead the emphasis is on how many tokens of how many different groups can be added to the mix to produce the right percentages to qualify as “diverse.”

The problem with such programs is that when someone is helped by assigning value to physical characteristics, others are necessarily disadvantaged. Discrimination is discrimination, and when people are judged and rewarded differentially because of their ancestry, not because of something they have done or achieved, a sort of injustice has been done. And anyone who holds an individualistic or any other humanistic outlook cannot but oppose such essentially illiberal behavior.

Some defenders of ethnic preferences in hiring and university admissions claim they are justified because non-white and non-asian-descended people are poorly prepared by horrid public schools1 and therefore perform poorly on conventional measures of ability. Clearly this is true. But this does not justify giving preferences to less qualified people just because they have been subjected to a lousy school system pervaded by bigotry. When people of one color are expected to perform up to a certain standard in order to demonstrate their ability to do a job or complete a course of study, so should all others. Any other means of choosing workers or students are discriminatory on their face.

To avoid this line of argument, other affirmative action supporters contend that conventional means of judging academic ability, SATs and such other old standbys, do not, in fact, predict either ability or future performance. If this is true, then such testing should be thrown out for all people since it is not a useful tool for evaluating differences between people or establishing whether someone is qualified for some job or educational program. Few recommend this, however, and advocates of ethnic favoritism instead propose to “race norm” such tests, so that people of latin ancestry, for instance, do not need to attain the same score as someone who is white in order to “qualify” on the basis of some exam. This method of discriminating between people based on their ancestry is, however, no better than any other, and holds no logical water. If a certain test is not a valid means of comparing a person of asian descent and a black american, it does not then become acceptable when used to compare individuals of the same ethnicity. Either hiring and admissions exams are valid assessment tools or they are not, and schools and employers should not pick and choose when to use them in order to promote what passes for “diversity.” Doing so simply substitutes one form of discrimination for another.

Historical Inequity and Reparations

In addition to other arguments by its supporters, some of the justification for affirmative action from the start has been that it is an inequitable, but necessary, remedy for the disadvantages black people were subjected to in the past. Advocates of this position assign the blame for the problems experienced by black americans on historical discrimination and the “legacy of slavery.” The thinking goes that there would be more integration and diversity today if slavery and other forms of now-outlawed discrimination had not existed in the past, and therefore the descendants of those who were once enslaved deserve special advantages now to make up for earlier mistreatment of their ancestors. Some of those who believe in this line of reasoning have taken their arguments even further, however, and propose that black american descendants of slaves should be given cash payouts as a reparation for the fact that their forbears were held in bondage.

There are a number of problems with such proposals. Most important, of course, is that none of the people who actually enslaved others are alive today, so it is not possible to obtain compensation from anyone who directly profited from slavery. Furthermore, many, if not most, americans are descended from people who never owned slaves. Recognizing the problems presented by these circumstances, those who support compensation for the descendants of slaves argue that non-black americans owe their present condition to an economic and social system created on the backs of enslaved black people, and therefore they owe something to the descendants of these slaves who generally are still less well-off than their non-black counterparts. But this argument is based on assumption that most americans, including millions of black people, are relatively affluent only because of the existence of slavery, an institution which ended in the united states nearly 150 years ago. Although slavery was key to the american economy for centuries in the past, attribution of the impoverished condition of some black people alive today to their ancestors’ status as slaves is based on shaky ground. It is difficult to argue, whatever discrimination or other problems they encounter in making their way in the world today, that any person’s state in life is “caused” by events that took place generations ago and involved other people long dead.

In addition to the inadequacy of the justification underlying the call for reparations, suggestions for the implementation of a system to make amends present problems of their own. Since any attempt to force money out of millions of people individually would be impractical and likely unsuccessful, reparations activists generally call on the government to make the payouts. Of course the state has no money of its own, so reparations would be paid out of tax revenues, which are extorted from working people of all skin colors and ethnicities. The people thus forced to payoff claimants would include black, eskimo, american indian, and asian-descended people, as well as white people, whether that is what was intended or not. Those calling for monetary compensation for the depredations of slave-holders against the ancestors of black (and many white) americans would force people, at least some of whose ancestors were slaves, to turn over their hard-earned money to make amends to other people they never harmed, and who may well be better-off economically than they are. This is nothing if not involuntary servitude.

Here again, the root problem is seeing people as group members and not as autonomous individuals. For those with this outlook, the calculus is simple: some people in the past harmed other people and therefore the descendants of the wrongdoers, or at least people of the same skin color as they were, must be forced to make amends to the descendants of the victims. Such a program would declare all white people responsible for, or at least the beneficiaries of, the hardships of all black people, without any need to produce any evidence that any of the parties forced to hand over the cash had ever done anything harmful to the recipients.

Diversity or Freedom?

In a world without ethnic discrimination, it is likely that many of our neighborhoods, workplaces, and social spaces would be far more heterogeneous than they are today. But the fact that people are not segregated in housing or occupation by color or language is not necessarily a sign that bigotry has been eliminated. It could just as well be accomplished by social planners who direct or manipulate people to live in certain places, enter specific lines of work, or pursue some course of study, while dissuading or barring others from doing so, because they are of one ethnicity or another which the experts have decided is too common or too scarce in some setting. Such meddling in people’s choices may well bring about a sort of diversity, but only at the price of individual liberty.

When people are truly free to choose, which is what anarchists seek, they may decide to associate with a variety of other people, or may seek to isolate themselves among others with whom they feel more comfortable because they share an ethnic background. There is no guarantee that opening up all areas of endeavor to all comers, regardless of color or ancestry would create the “diversity” sought by many who allegedly seek to root out discrimination. Living among people who differ from oneself in all sorts of ways may make life more interesting and satisfying for some, but will not suit everyone.

Equality of opportunity for all individuals regardless of skin color or ethnicity should be the goal of freedom-seekers. But it is far from clear that even if this was achieved, every group, occupation, or institution would be made up of various sorts of people in numbers that reflect the exact percentages of people of different ethnicities in the population of the region or city or world at large. And there is nothing necessarily wrong with this. Black people make up a higher proportion of players in the National Basketball Association than is true of american society at large, while white people are similarly over-represented among those in the National Hockey League. Since there is no evidence that this is the result of racism in the recruiting practices of either organization, their relative lack of “diversity” harms no one.

Anarchists and Ethnic Politics

Unfortunately, anarchists are not immune to the appeal of group-based identity politics. In the american libertarian movement today there are some who embrace the nonsense of “whiteness” theory and call for the abolition of the white “race.” Others recently organized a “people of color” conference which excluded white anarchists, while a forum this month in New York will present the case for a “black” anarchism. And though much is written in the anarchist press about discrimination and bigotry, all too often these writings, even those by people who reject separatism and anti-white bias, reflect the view that people fit into nice “racial” categories and that meaningful things can be said about people based on their ethnicity, without bothering to evaluate them as individuals. Such an uncritical acceptance of the ethnic politics so prevalent in this country is inconsistent with the anarchist traditions of promoting individuality and rejecting such manifestations of group think as ethnic bigotry, nationalism, separatism, and statism.

Being an anarchist and an individualist, I believe that people should be free to associate with or avoid whomever they like. While I prefer to live, work, and socialize among people of all sorts, if others, including some anarchists, want to live or do business only with others of the same ethnicity, there is no reason they should not be free to do so, as long as they do not interfere with the equal freedom of others to live differently. The fact that libertarians tolerate such voluntary discrimination, however, does not mean we approve of it, and those of us who seek to eliminate bigotry will continue to speak out against anyone who seeks to classify and divide people based on their ethnicity.

An anarchist society would encompass people of many kinds, some of whom would continue to harbor ethnic prejudices, but the lack of a coercive apparatus by which some could disadvantage others would make it unlikely that individuals’ bigotry would result in real harm to others. However, we do not yet live in a free society, and voluntary association or avoidance is not always an option. Many of the institutions we encounter today coerce people into participation in their workings and then proceed to treat them in discriminatory ways. Such bigoted practices should be strongly opposed.

Not surprisingly, the worst offender is the state. Government obtains its lifeblood, the taxes it imposes on working people, by threat of force, and does so whatever skin color a person has, their immigration status, or the language they speak at home. Since the state robs us all indiscriminately, it should not then be free to treat people differently based on some superficial characteristic. Nor should certain other enterprises and businesspeople, such as chartered banks, landlords, and monopoly businesses, since it is difficult or impossible to avoid doing business with these entities which owe their continued existence to the state. Thus, a bank that won’t loan to black people, a hospital that bars employees from speaking spanish, or a landlord that won’t rent to a person from the philippines are all practicing forms of discrimination that anarchists would oppose. But so is a law school which accepts government money and discriminates against white people in its admission practices, or a state-funded university which provides dormitories segregated on the basis of skin color.

It is ironic that so many who wish to end bigotry turn to government to accomplish their goal, when getting rid of the state would be the best means of solving much of the problem. Without government laws, regulations, and police, banks could not red-line, landlords could not deny people a home, and no one would work for a business that presumed to tell them what language they could or could not speak. In addition, universities would not be able to maintain their monopoly on training for certain lines of work, which allows them to pick and choose who they believe is worthy to pursue what career. And, perhaps most important, the loathsome public school system, which provides lousy and discriminatory education and lays the foundation for much of the inequity people face later in life, would be eliminated. As noted above, an anarchist society would not necessarily be free of people with bigoted ideas, but without a state to empower the haters, they would not be able to persecute those they dislike. If some institution in a libertarian community wished to exclude someone based on their skin color, those who felt differently would be free to create their own, non-discriminatory enterprise.

Although most of those who work for a society free of discrimination and bigotry turn to the state to fix the problem, it is, in fact, the state which allows ethnic discrimination to impoverish so many people and prevent them from improving their living conditions. Only by abolishing the state can we hope to abolish the harm caused by ethnic hatred and inequity. This is the insight that anarchists have to contribute to the debate about bigotry and its remedies.

Note

1. In the US sense, i.e. schools run by the State.

Originally appeared in Anchorage Anarchy, No. 3, October 2003,

“A Decentralist Manifesto” by Ralph Borsodi

A new world is being born.

If this new world is to be a better world than the one now dying and to make possible a fuller fruition of the human spirit, then it will be very different from the Capitalist world of today, and different from the world which the dictators of Russia and China are providing, and different from the Socialist world into which most of the world is now drifting.

Concerned and thoughtful men and women are challenged to arrest the present drift and drive into a mechanized barbarism, and to contribute to the birth of a world in which persons will be free to realize their potentialities as creative beings. Such leaders must have the courage to assert themselves, and must discipline themselves to think about all the institutions essential to such a world.

The time has come to recognize that good intentions are not enough, to part with sentimental follies and to expose power-seeking politicians who call the demagoguery of the Welfare State democracy. It should be clear that there is no one panacea for the problems of society. No fanatic — no one who would transform the world by hate and revolution — has anything but misery and frustration to offer mankind.

This manifesto is submitted to the thoughtful and concerned men and women of the world urging them to assume the intellectual and moral leadership of mankind in order to replace those who have demonstrated incompetence, lack of vision, greed, bigotry and brutality.

I. HUMANIZATION AND SOCIAL RENAISSANCE

Human beings must be humanized.

A good society cannot be created unless a determining number of the thoughtful and concerned men and women in each country exercise influence, and see that power is properly utilized. The process of humanizing individuals and society calls first for re-education, not for political and economic action. To depend only on new institutions is a mistake. If this mistake is made, the best set of institutions will be perverted. The letter of the new institutions will be honored but the spirit disregarded, and the ultimate end will be a repetition of those repeated declines in civilization which dot the tragic pages of history.

For this reason, some such program of educational reform as is here presented is absolutely essential.

1. A New Leadership. The leadership which the priests lost to the warriors, the warriors to the kings, the kings to the business men, the business men to the financiers, and which the financiers are now losing to the politicians, must be assumed by a group which sharply distinguishes between the exercise of influence and the exercise of power. The minority of concerned and thoughtful teachers and .writers, of poets and preachers, of artists and scientists, of physicians and lawyers, who constitute the real leadership of any society, must be. reborn. They should consecrate themselves to the search and realization of what is true, what is good, what is beautiful.

They must go even further.

They must not only seek and create, they must also teach. They must equip those whom they influence with the accumulated knowledge and wisdom of both the East and West, and of the ancient and modern world. They must furnish inspiration, not only instruction; they must motivate those whom they influence to live on a high moral, intellectual and cultural level. Without such a leadership, no good society and no good life can either be created or maintained.

2. Academic Autonomy. Universities above all other institutions should be staffed by men and women of quality. But to enable them to furnish unbiased and impartial leadership to individuals and society, the universities must be autonomous — they must be completely free and independent. They must cease being dependent upon government; they must be freed from the necessity of catering to public officials. They must be freed from the dictation of partisan ideologies, of the evangelists of religion; of commercial, industrial and financial leaders Academic autonomy is not real unless universities are completely free to seek the truth. Without this freedom, they will omit teaching what is offensive to those who control them; they will warp what they teach so as to please them; they will teach what those upon whom they depend, demand of them.

3. Basic Instruction. Every child must be taught all that is essential to their humanization — a useful craft and the cultivation of the Earth; the practice of domestic arts; to read, write and use numbers. All must be imbued with the basic virtues — the love of nature, of beauty, and of mankind without regard to race, religion or nationality Basic instruction in these matters should begin in the home and continue in the school. No good society can be created without this basic instruction.

4. Professional Instruction. Instruction to the limit of the interest and the capacities of every individual, calls for some professional instruction for the more gifted and diligent, in one of the various fields essential to maintaining a genuinely civilized society. Yet specialization should not exclude the general education essential to developing each person’s whole personality. General education must not merely furnish information, but must imbue them with high purposes and values so that professionals and managers do not use their special skills only for their own aggrandizement.

5. Academic Education. Education is clearly distinguished from instruction. Higher education in liberal arts and the humanities is the right of all exceptionally gifted men and women Every family and every community should consider it both a privilege and an obligation to enable their gifted sons and daughters to cultivate their talents. Higher education, however, must not produce only scholars and intellectuals, but a class of selfless, inspired and creative thinkers, scientists, writers, artists and professional men and women, completely dedicated to cultivating the good, the true and the beautiful. They must also be imbued with fortitude and courage along with such deep love of humanity as to live, and if necessary sacrifice their lives, for preserving the rights of free persons and the values essential to a good society. Higher education should equip the exceptionally endowed men and women to teach, to influence, to furnish the wisdom and knowledge, the vision and the direction, for social renaissance and -for the progressive humanization of human kind.

6. Moral Re-education. A moral revival is essential at this crisis in history. Education at every level must therefore deal with values and purpose. Fallacies in this area must be exposed: moral relativism and modern amoralism; the doctrine that positive law is the only binding law; the theory that all statutory and even constitutional law must be obeyed even in disregard of absolute moral law. The moral law is the natural law, universal and perpetual. Like all natural laws, it must be discovered and constantly and more explicitly formulated. Moral law should, under no circumstance, be confused with mere legislative fiat. The moral law is binding, upon all faiths, all nations, all races, all statutes. Legislative acts which disregard it [no matter how enacted nor how powerfully enforced] are null and void.

Teaching of moral law, begun in the home, should continue in school. Humanization of education in school and college is essential for the moral re-education called for here. For milleniums moral education has been warped by priesthoods. As a result moral education today is full of inappropriate theological injunctions. Moral re-education calls for separation between metaphysical creed and ethical obligation.

The true first commandment is “Harmony, not discord.” This prohibits all dogmatism, fanaticism, persecution; it is binding on all humankind. It enjoins upon every religion, nation, race and every political, social and economic doctrine, to be tolerant of every person except only the intolerant. “Harmony, not Discord” calls for the tolerance of dissent and difference which is essential if the world is to be really free. Discord, with disregard of the rights of others, is the inevitable result of intolerance. Discord is involved when violence is done to individuals by private persons or groups engaged in imposing their intolerance upon them Mass-discord is involved when mass-violence and mass-killing is indulged in by political or governmental promotion of intolerance Such intolerance calls for disciplining those who practice it, with essential force, until completely ended. Ostracising intolerants is recommended.

Discord should not be confused with disturbance. It disturbs mistaken people to learn the truth about (heir mistaken beliefs, values, activities and education. But to learn the truth* is essential to the humanization of everybody, including those whom it disturbs. Discovering truth is a kind of discipline, and mav be uncomfortable as are most other kinds of discipline. But truth creates a foundation upon which harmony replaces the static acceptance of discordant mistakes. Ralph W. Emerson said, “Choose between truth and repose. You can never have both.”

7. Humanization of the Family System. The family system should be normalized. Archaic patriarchal family systems must be modernized; the disintegrated and atomized modern family must become an organic entity again. For it is the family, not the individual, which is the primary unit of society, and the family’s responsibility for its members must be recognized if there is to be any social renaissance The evidence which establishes the family as the essential nursery of human virtues, is overwhelming. This all-important activity, now usurped by the school and the state, must once again be reestablished as the principal function of family life.

8. Revival of the Small Community. Social and cultural revival of the small community is just as essential as are economic prosperity and political autonomy. Small communities are primarily agricultural for the most part. But if life in them is to be humanized they must be centers of arts and education, as well as of trade, craft, manufacture and entertainment Small communities tend to decay if they do not provide all the institutions and enterprises to supply the basic needs and humane desires of the people who live in them.

The gifted young who have been given the privilege of higher education, perhaps in distant colleges and universities, should be inspired to bring back to the families which have nurtured them, and to the communities in which they have been reared, the skills and good taste they have been privileged to cultivate. (Too often the case today is that youth have their appetites and their ambitions stimulated for greater financial rewards which practising their professions enable them to earn in metropolitan centers. )

9. Regionalism. Not the nation, but the region is the true unit of the world. (Cultural nationalism is not to be confused with political nationalism.) The nation-state today is almost always an artificial aggregation of regional cultures. Regional arts should be developed — regional poetry and literature, music and dancing, regional festivals, costumes, architecture and the genius of each region encouraged. The present insistence upon standardization of culture, and the creation of one uniform national or world culture, should be arrested.

10. Pan-Humanism. All human beings, while members in smaller units, are members of humanity. Membership is concurrent in groups of differing area and levels. Real social renaissance for all humankind will not come until every vestige of unilateral and exclusive citizenship in nations is abolished, and people everywhere recognize that their obligations to humanity are above those of nation-states. Not the nation “right or wrong”, but the world, the region, the community and the family are entitled to claim peoples’ allegiance.

Between the region and the whole world, every social, cultural, economic and political entity is an arbitrary construct, which should be used only to develop regions more freely on the one hand, and the whole world on the other. To whatever extent nation-states now usurp the normal functions (and prevent normal development) of the whole world, they should be abolished.

II. POLITICAL LIBERTY

Creating a New Leadership and re-organizing educational institutions so that humankind may be humanized is the first step in the birth of the sort of world for which human beings are hungering But more is necessary. Good intentions and rigorous thinking must be followed by action. The social, economic and political institutions which inflict economic injustices, interfere with political liberty, and prevent the realization of the good, the true and the beautiful, must be abolished. Those which are imperfect must be reformed, and those which are missing must be created by the voluntary activities of individuals and groups, corporations and cooperatives, and where necessary by political action, statutory changes or constitutional reform.

Human beings are not mere animals. They have, it is true, in common with all other animals an inherited, instinctual drive for self-survival (an economic drive). Also in common with animals, a sexual drive for self-production. But much higher than these two is the last instinctual drive with which evolution has endowed humankind — the drive for self-expression.

It is for this reason that no political institution can be considered human and properly adapted to the nature of humankind if it in any way infringes upon liberty; if it even in the slightest, interferes with the conditions necessary to individual self-expression and to the free development of the highest potentialities of being human. Six fundamental political reforms are needed if the new world, now being born, is to provide better for human liberty than the “free” world (even at its best) is providing.

1. The Obligations and Rights of Human Beings. Every human being confronts natural obligations — the obligation to respect the person, the possessions, the premises, and the rights of other human beings; the obligation to utter no libels or slanders, not to interfere in any way with the peaceful religious, political, economic or social activities of others. Each person has the obligation to protect basic rights and enforce these obligations by the payment of just taxes and by answering every just call of any properly constituted local, regional or world authority to defend them even at the cost of life and property.

Every human being has certain inalienable rights — to life, to liberty and to property; the right to defense of his person and property; to sue others, including public officials for compensation for damages inflicted and for the redress of grievances; the right to travel anywhere in the world; to free speech and publication; to peacefully assemble and seek correction of injustices; the right to freedom from search and seizure of himself, his possessions and his premises except after a due proceeding at law — a proceeding in which he is represented by counsel, in which the judges are impartial, in which the same facilities are furnished for securing witnesses as those enjoyed by the State, and in which he is presumed to be innocent until the charges against him are proved beyond reasonable doubt. Every regulation, ordinance, statute, or constitutional provision which violates any of these natural rights — being morally null and void — must be repealed forthwith. The violation of any of these natural rights by any public official constitutes malfeasance, and such public official should be removed for usurpation.

The multiplicity of encroachments on these rights by so-called democratic governments and Welfare States must be ended and every encroachment repealed. All dictatorial governments, including those ostensibly set up to promote socialism called peoples’ democracies, are by their very nature violators of these rights.

2. Limited Government. The functions and authority of all government bodies shall be limited to those which are necessary to the preservation of these rights and to enforce the fulfillment of these obligations. The exercise of power by a government for any other purpose whatsoever is invalid. Assumption by a government of anv function which can be fulfilled by private persons and private enterprises, shall constitute usurpation; and any regulation, ordinance, statute or constitutional provision which legalizes such usurpation shall be treated by all persons as null and void.

3. Local Autonomy. No free society (in which people truly participate and so give continuing consent to what government does) can long endure unless the primary political unit (the village, borough, township, commune, canton) is autonomous. The present system by which a centralized State exercises power over local communities or “grants” limited power to them, must be ended. Ultimate power is in the people, and they grant specific powers upward to their local community; communities delegate certain powers to county or district; the counties or districts to regional federation; and so on until regional federations in the whole world finally grant specific powers to a world federation. It is usurpation for power to descend from a centralized State to the people. Today local autonomy calls for political and power-decentralization.

4. Federation. Long human history has demonstrated that democracy (real participation of the people in government) is possible only in relatively small local communities. In all larger units of government, participation by the people becomes a form only. All such larger units of government become representative or ‘republican” in form.

Representation calls for federation (not union) of all units of government larger than the local community. Federation must therefore be substituted for the present oligarchical or autocratic organisation of all larger units of government, beginning with the county or district, and ending with the world. Not national union, but regional federation — not world union but world federation — is called for. Federation calls for a multiplicity of government units, each with specific functions delegated to it by the smaller units which constitute it, until at the base, ultimate, residuary powers are exercised by the people in their own autonomous communities.

My strong condemnation of Nationalism is accompanied by a proposal for a World Authority federally organized and strong enough to maintain international peace. (Until such a world authority is a reality, it could not be expected that nations surrender their sovereignty. ) The United Nations as now organized violate basic principles of federation. In spite of the passionate devotion of those who believe in it, the United Nations is a fraud perpetrated by the great powers, upon a peace-hungry world. As now organized, the United Nations pretends to, but cannot, maintain world peace.

5. Concurrent Jurisdiction. Implicit in the two great principles of autonomy and federation, is the principle of concurrent jurisdiction. Since every unit of government (from the local community to the world federation) should have specific and limited powers only, and since those powers entrusted to larger units of government must be exercised within the areas (and over the people in) the smaller units, jurisdiction must be concurrent — not exclusive or absolute.

This principle of concurrent jurisdiction applies to all levels of government because no federated unit of government can fulfill its specific functions if its jurisdiction is limited by the government of any region in which it has to operate. Concurrent jurisdiction is essential if effective federal action is not to be frustrated and conditions result in further centralization of power rather than limiting government.

6. Consent of the Governed by Self-Determination. People of every region have a basic political right to live under a government which governs with their consent. Yet hundreds of millions of people today are governed in violation of this essential human right. Liberty and democracy are mocked by this tragic fact. Millions of people are governed by “people’s democracies” which in reality are Communist dictatorships. Other millions are ruled by combined native and foreign oligarchies under the military power of great nations. Millions of colonies are governed despotically by governments which operate more “democratically” at home. Millions more in Asia and Latin America are governed by military or political dictators and oligarchies. Tragically, dissenting minorities in these despotisms are accorded inhuman treatment.

World-wide autonomy and federation are ultimately the answers to these problems. Democracy breaks down and falls into the hands of political oligarchies, in large units of government. In such cases, nations feel justified in intervening. An adequate world federation is needed as an impartial trustee to assist formation of stable and free governments for the millions now enslaved, or subject to foreign and dictatorial rule not of their own choosing.

III. ECONON/IC JUSTICE

If the whole world is to be made free, and the peoples of the so-called free world made completely free, justice and not equality, must be the aim of the economic order. It is not true that economic equality must be imposed by government upon human kind, in order to abolish poverty. Prosperity is highest where political tyranny and economic injustice is lowest. Poverty, on the other hand, continues in proportion as equality is imposed.

Justice is in accord with nature’s laws, and should be the aim of all effort, including legal effort. Legalized equality is an attempt to abrogate nature’s laws. Justice provides economic incentives; enforced equality destroys them.

Is it justice for the slack and shiftless laborer to receive the same wage as the one who works diligently and efficiently? Is it justice to pay the person who has devoted years of life to training, the same as the person who has cultivated no skill and has been indifferent to training and education? Is it justice to reward the person who has been thrifty, invested savings productively, taken risks and responsibilities in conducting an enterprise, the same as the person who spends all his earnings, saves and invests nothing, risks nothing and takes on no responsibility of any kind?

Justice is the expression of the moral law; enforced equality is a form of compulsory charity. Charity to the victims of unavoidable misfortune is a human obligation. But this is a voluntary, individual, (and not a political) obligation.

A principle to govern a just and moral economic order is: “to each contributor in proportion to his contribution” — to labor, capital, industry, agriculture, and management — to each what each contributes to the production of wealth. To establish this principle in the new world aborning, seven fundamental reforms of the present economic order are essential.

1. Free Enterprise. No truly just social system is possible if freedom to embark upon enterprise is denied or curtailed. Freedom is not possible if special privileges are granted to one enterprise which handicap others, or if freedom to work (or employ any individual) is infringed by laws of any kind. Political freedom is mocked when economic freedom is curtailed. Equality of opportunity is essential to insure full use of capital and labor, to furnish incentive and encourage initiative, and to assure justice in the division of wealth between capital and labor, and between industry and agriculture. We must abolish all special privileges, differential tariffs, subsidies, quotas, licenses, limited liability corporations and all cartels or monopolies (particularly in banking) in the private sector of the economy.

“Liberty, justice, Humanity”

Predatory competition is permitted and encouraged by the granting of special privileges to particular persons, companies and classes. Until this is ended there can be no real free market, no fraternal competition in establishing wages and prices, no just return to agriculture and other producers of basic raw materials.

The cure for what is wrong in the so-called free world today is not to confer off-setting special privileges (which was begun during the Thirties under The Franklin Roosevelt administration). The cure is to repeal existing special privileges, instead of wholesale granting of special privileges, subjecting the whole economy to the whims, fancies and corruption of politicians and bureaucrats.

One of the most crucial and least understood special privileges are those granted to corporations. Three of these are outstandingly unjust: (1) limited liability, (2) non-assessibility of stockholders of corporations, and (3) exemption of directors and officers for liability for mis-feasance, non-feasance and mal-feasance. Such special privileges to corporations have inhibited the growth of cooperative enterprises. One responsibility of the New Leadership is to fire the imagination, stimulate the organization, and train management of cooperatives so that cooperatives develop where the nature of the enterprise calls for cooperation.

This is particularly true in banking, in the operation of public utilities, and “natural” monopolies. This occurred in Denmark and in other countries where cooperation flourishes. Leaders inspired by the Danish folk schools, transformed the economic order of Denmark. A veritable revolution took place slowly under the initiative of men and women whom I regard as consecrated members of the New Leadership.

The terrible handicaps under which proprietary enterprise in America operates, can be corrected. The existing land tenure can be changed to one which is genuinely just; the dishonest money system can become stable; the present imperfect market system can be free — and competition can work so that prices, wages, rent, interest and profits are fair and just. This calls for new leadership and re-education.

Free enterprise in a free economic order is not of one kind — (private) only. It is three totally different kinds: (1) proprietory, (2) corporate and (3) cooperative. With genuine freedom all three of these spontaneously arise and progress unless they are interfered with by the granting of special privileges to one, and handicaps imposed upon others.

2. Prices in A Complex Industrial System. Only through a free market can prices be justly established and economic activities effectively regulated. This calls for each producer producing his best, but in such a market, competition must be fraternal. In effect, in a free market cooperation between buyers and sellers establishes prices which are just. Fraternal competition must replace all the forms of predatory competition which we mistakenly accept or excuse in the present capitalistic order. To create a truly free market, all regulation and interference by government of prices, wages, rent, interest and profits must be abolished, and the market given the opportunity to regulate them in accord with the law of supply and demand.

3. Mutualization. No just society is possible unless it is recognized that not two but three distinct sectors exist in every economy: (1) the naturally private, (2) the naturally monopolistic and (3) the naturally public. All natural monopolies — railroads, power companies, water services, gas companies, pipelines, telegraph and telephone systems, irrigation districts, banks of issue — must be mutualized (owned and operated in the interests of those who use them) and by rebating all surplus earnings pro rata to users, insure that their services are furnished at cost, and no profits are appropriated by private interests nor exploited by the government.

4. Free Trade. All differential and so-called protective tariffs must be abolished, and national boundaries in essence abolished. National boundaries must cease being economic barriers; they should be reduced to administrative conveniences. Basically all peoples, all creeds, all races have the human right to trade freely with one another. If free trade is a good within a country, free trade is good between countries. Customs guards must be ended, and recognition given to the fact that all mankind belongs to one human race, if a free and just economic order is to replace the capitalistic and socialistic economies of today.

5. Free Banking: Honest Currency; Stable Money. Government control and regulation of banks — private, commercial and mutual — must be ended. Banks should be free to provide credit as needed by all legitimate borrowers. The natural monopoly of issue of legal tender currency should be restricted to cooperatively-organized reserve banks. Banking is a profession, not a business; banks which create credit and issue money should be cooperative, and not commercial enterprises.

Nothing has done more to discredit capitalism or to destroy faith in a free economy than the use of a banking system for private aggrandisement along with using the money system for meeting the deficits of government. The gross immorality of debauching the currency must be ended. The business cycle with its boom and bust is a monetary phenomenon. There are no unsolved technical difficulties in creating a stable and honest unit of currency. Capitalism’s exploitation of the banking system and the debasement of money must stop.

6. Free Access to The Possession of Land. A just system of land tenure is essential to ending employment, wage-slavery and landowners’ exploitation of farmers. By arranging equality of access to land for everyone, laborers and tenants will have the alternative of going to the land and producing on their own. This adds to their bargaining power in dealing with employers and landowners. It is their alternative to accepting unjust wages, or payment of excessive rent to landowners.

All the natural resources of the earth — the land, the forests, the oil, the minerals and the waters — are the gift of nature, or Nature’s God to nil humankind. No title to absolute ownership of any part of the Earth can be traced back to a deed issued by the creator of the Earth. All natural resources are by their nature trusterty, not property. Land should be privately possessed (not owned to buy and sell) to be used for incentive to its fullest and most efficient use. But the unearned increment (the ground rent and the mineral royalties) instead of being privately appropriated, should be used instead of taxes to pay for the necessary services provided by the community.

Apologists for capitalism defend private property in land; they defend speculation in land. Such insistence has hopelessly identified Capitalism with the injustices of the present land-tenure system in the “free” world Communist alternatives — nationalization and collectivization of land — can be avoided. A new system of land tenure can be based on the ethical principles oi Mencius in China and Henry George in America.

7. Freedom of Possession. Title to property can originate legitimately only in one way — by its production. Once created in this way, title to it can be transferred, devised, or exchanged for other property, the ownership of which has come into existence the same way. The law of property in a free world must be revised so as to distinguish not only between what is mine, and what is yours, but also what is ours. Both property and trusterty exist. Community collection of what is “ours” — the ground rent of natural resources would be in the direction of justice. Other taxes could be eliminated as limited government replaces unlimited government and as world federation replaces national efforts for defense. Reduction in costs of government would follow, and be met by the collection of community value in, or the economic rent of, land.

A NEW LEADERSHIP

An ideological vacuum exists in the free world, and in the military and communist dictatorships of the world. The world has lost its bearings People are disillusioned with mass poverty, government support, exploitation, rural decay and urban blight, imperialism and militarism, and above all languish for the denial of liberty. Many people are sick even of prosperity in which the human spirit is alienated. Because of the scientific revolution, many are ready to abandon the dogmatisms of religion. They are ready to turn from demagogues and nationalism They are looking for something fresh and new, something to give purpose and meaning worthy of the human spirit.

Promises are made to abolish all existing evils with the panacea of the State — organized force and compulsion. Masses have been, and are being, dazzled by these golden promises. What do the active leaders of the free world have to offer? In sum, they offer continuance of what we now have in the so-called democratic world But this is what most of mankind has already subconsciously rejected. This is the ideological vacuum which gives to the Statists their opportunity. But this rejection is what also affords opportunity to a New Leadership to provide truly human solutions.

A New Leadership faces a real difficulty — one they do not welcome and confront courageously. Our difficulty is that we cannot create a good world quickly.

But if the program presented is adequate; if it deals with the roots of our social and human weakness — not expedients dealing superficially with grave problems — then every year there will be improvements — which accumulate geometrically. But to reach the hard-tore common sense of people, to enlist the enthusiastic support of intelligent men and women, the program must be explicit It must be comprehensive and persuasively presented. And it must be promoted by selfless leaders who do not discredit themselves by apologizing for the evils of the present order.

Neither capitalism as it exists in the so-called free nations nor Socialism in the so-called Welfare States, nor Communism in the so-called “people’s democracies” are adequate social orders. Social renaissance calls for abandonment of Socialism and Communism and transforming Capitalism into a free and just economic order Is the Pan-Humanism with its drastic changes here called for, ready to come into its own?

No such changes in economic institutions of both democratic and dictatorial countries are possible without re-education and humanization of at least a determining number of men and women in the world. Political and economic drastic changes are not enough. In the final analysis, if human kind is to be saved from a mechanical and materialistic barbarism, if people are to be taught to live rationally, lovingly and humanely, the educators of mankind must furnish the leadership which the crisis calls for. Then men and women in every race and country can create liberty and justice for all humanity.

Originally published in 1958 by Libertarian Institute, Bombay, India; edited by Mildred Loomis and republished in 1978 by The School of Living, York, Pennsylvania

Copwatch: These Streets Are Watching (documentary)

These Streets are Watching is a 50 minute video on police accountability in three communities; Denver, Cincinnati and Berkeley. The video documents incidents of possible police brutality. Independent filmmaker, Jacob Crawford, weaves three cities responses to police brutality into a single tale of community empowerment and direct action. The film conveys basic legal concepts that can provide practical help to groups and individuals seeking an understanding of their rights when dealing with police. The film is divided into sections that explain citizen’s basic rights, tactics for documenting police activity and ideas for further action and organizing.

“The Individual, Society and the State” by Emma Goldman

The minds of men are in confusion, for the very foundations of our civilization seem to be tottering. People are losing faith in the existing institutions, and the more intelligent realize that capitalist industrialism is defeating the very purpose it is supposed to serve.

The world is at a loss for a way out. Parliamentarism and democracy are on the decline. Salvation is being sought in Fascism and other forms of “strong” government.

The struggle of opposing ideas now going on in the world involves social problems urgently demanding a solution. The welfare of the individual and the fate of human society depend on the right answer to those questions The crisis, unemployment, war, disarmament, international relations, etc., are among those problems.

The State, government with its functions and powers, is now the subject of vital interest to every thinking man. Political developments in all civilized countries have brought the questions home. Shall we have a strong government? Are democracy and parliamentary government to be preferred, or is Fascism of one kind or another, dictatorship — monarchical, bourgeois or proletarian — the solution of the ills and difficulties that beset society today?

In other words, shall we cure the evils of democracy by more democracy, or shall we cut the Gordian knot of popular government with the sword of dictatorship?

My answer is neither the one nor the other. I am against dictatorship and Fascism as I am opposed to parliamentary regimes and so-called political democracy.

Nazism has been justly called an attack on civilization. This characterization applies with equal force to every form of dictatorship; indeed, to every kind of suppression and coercive authority. For what is civilization in the true sense? All progress has been essentially an enlargement of the liberties of the individual with a corresponding decrease of the authority wielded over him by external forces. This holds good in the realm of physical as well as of political and economic existence. In the physical world man has progressed to the extent in which he has subdued the forces of nature and made them useful to himself. Primitive man made a step on the road to progress when he first produced fire and thus triumphed over darkness, when he chained the wind or harnessed water.

What role did authority or government play in human endeavor for betterment, in invention and discovery? None whatever, or at least none that was helpful. It has always been the individual that has accomplished every miracle in that sphere, usually in spite of the prohibition, persecution and interference by authority, human and divine.

Similarly, in the political sphere, the road of progress lay in getting away more and more from the authority of the tribal chief or of the clan, of prince and king, of government, of the State. Economically, progress has meant greater well-being of ever larger numbers. Culturally, it has signified the result of all the other achievements — greater independence, political, mental and psychic.

Regarded from this angle, the problems of man’s relation to the State assumes an entirely different significance. It is no more a question of whether dictatorship is preferable to democracy, or Italian Fascism superior to Hitlerism. A larger and far more vital question poses itself: Is political government, is the State beneficial to mankind, and how does it affect the individual in the social scheme of things?

The individual is the true reality in life. A cosmos in himself, he does not exist for the State, nor for that abstraction called “society,” or the “nation,” which is only a collection of individuals. Man, the individual, has always been and, necessarily is the sole source and motive power of evolution and progress. Civilization has been a continuous struggle of the individual or of groups of individuals against the State and even against “society,” that is, against the majority subdued and hypnotized by the State and State worship. Man’s greatest battles have been waged against man-made obstacles and artificial handicaps imposed upon him to paralyze his growth and development. Human thought has always been falsified by tradition and custom, and perverted false education in the interests of those who held power and enjoyed privileges. In other words, by the State and the ruling classes. This constant incessant conflict has been the history of mankind.

Individuality may be described as the consciousness of the individual as to what he is and how he lives. It is inherent in every human being and is a thing of growth. The State and social institutions come and go, but individuality remains and persists. The very essence of individuality is expression; the sense of dignity and independence is the soil wherein it thrives. Individuality is not the impersonal and mechanistic thing that the State treats as an “individual”. The individual is not merely the result of heredity and environment, of cause and effect. He is that and a great deal more, a great deal else. The living man cannot be defined; he is the fountain-head of all life and all values; he is not a part of this or of that; he is a whole, an individual whole, a growing, changing, yet always constant whole.

Individuality is not to be confused with the various ideas and concepts of Individualism; much less with that “rugged individualism” which is only a masked attempt to repress and defeat the individual and his individuality So-called Individualism is the social and economic laissez faire: the exploitation of the masses by the classes by means of legal trickery, spiritual debasement and systematic indoctrination of the servile spirit, which process is known as “education.” That corrupt and perverse “individualism” is the strait-jacket of individuality. It has converted life into a degrading race for externals, for possession, for social prestige and supremacy. Its highest wisdom is “the devil take the hindmost.”

This “rugged individualism” has inevitably resulted in the greatest modern slavery, the crassest class distinctions, driving millions to the breadline. “Rugged individualism” has meant all the “individualism” for the masters, while the people are regimented into a slave caste to serve a handful of self-seeking “supermen.” America is perhaps the best representative of this kind of individualism, in whose name political tyranny and social oppression are defended and held up as virtues; while every aspiration and attempt of man to gain freedom and social opportunity to live is denounced as “unAmerican” and evil in the name of that same individualism.

There was a time when the State was unknown. In his natural condition man existed without any State or organized government. People lived as families in small communities; They tilled the soil and practiced the arts and crafts. The individual, and later the family, was the unit of social life where each was free and the equal of his neighbor. Human society then was not a State but an association; a voluntary association for mutual protection and benefit. The elders and more experienced members were the guides and advisers of the people. They helped to manage the affairs of life, not to rule and dominate the individual.

Political government and the State were a much later development, growing out of the desire of the stronger to take advantage of the weaker, of the few against the many. The State, ecclesiastical and secular, served to give an appearance of legality and right to the wrong done by the few to the many. That appearance of right was necessary the easier to rule the people, because no government can exist without the consent of the people, consent open, tacit or assumed. Constitutionalism and democracy are the modern forms of that alleged consent; the consent being inoculated and indoctrinated by what is called “education,” at home, in the church, and in every other phase of life.

That consent is the belief in authority, in the necessity for it. At its base is the doctrine that man is evil, vicious, and too incompetent to know what is good for him. On this all government and oppression is built. God and the State exist and are supported by this dogma.

Yet the State is nothing but a name. It is an abstraction. Like other similar conceptions — nation, race, humanity — it has no organic reality. To call the State an organism shows a diseased tendency to make a fetish of words.

The State is a term for the legislative and administrative machinery whereby certain business of the people is transacted, and badly so. There is nothing sacred, holy or mysterious about it. The State has no more conscience or moral mission than a commercial company for working a coal mine or running a railroad.

The State has no more existence than gods and devils have. They are equally the reflex and creation of man, for man, the individual, is the only reality. The State is but the shadow of man, the shadow of his opaqueness of his ignorance and fear.

Life begins and ends with man, the individual. Without him there is no race, no humanity, no State. No, not even “society” is possible without man. It is the individual who lives, breathes and suffers. His development, his advance, has been a continuous struggle against the fetishes of his own creation and particularly so against the “State.”

In former days religious authority fashioned political life in the image of the Church. The authority of the State, the “rights” of rulers came from on high; power, like faith, was divine. Philosophers have written thick volumes to prove the sanctity of the State; some have even clad it with infallibility and with god-like attributes Some have talked themselves into the insane notion that the State is “superhuman,” the supreme reality, “the absolute.”

Enquiry was condemned as blasphemy. Servitude was the highest virtue. By such precepts and training certain things came to be regarded as self-evident, as sacred of their truth ,but [sic] because of constant and persistent repetition.

All progress has been essentially an unmasking of “divinity” and “mystery,” of alleged sacred, eternal “truth”; it has been a gradual elimination of the abstract and the substitution in its place of the real, the concrete. In short, of facts against fancy, of knowledge against ignorance, of light against darkness.

That slow and arduous liberation of the individual was not accomplished by the aid of the State. On the contrary, it was by continuous conflict, by a life-and death struggle with the State, that even the smallest vestige of independence and freedom has been won. It has cost mankind much time and blood to secure what little it has gained so far from kings, tsars and governments

The great heroic figure of that long Golgotha has been Man. It has always been the individual, often alone and singly, at other times in unity and co-operation with others of his kind, who has fought and bled in the age-long battle against suppression and oppression, against the powers that enslave and degrade him.

More than that and more significant: It was man, the individual, whose soul first rebelled against injustice and degradation; it was the individual who first conceived the idea of resistance to the conditions under which he chafed. In short, it is always the individual who is the parent of the liberating thought as well as of the deed.

This refers not only to political struggles, but to the entire gamut of human life and effort, in all ages and climes. It has always been the individual, the man of strong mind and will to liberty, who paved the way for every human advance, for every step toward a freer and better world; in science, philosophy and art, as well as in industry, whose genius rose to the heights, conceiving the “impossible,” visualizing its realization and imbuing others with his enthusiasm to work and strive for it. Socially speaking, it was always the prophet, the seer, the idealist, who dreamed of a world more to his heart’s desire and who served as the beacon light on the road to greater achievement.

The State, every government whatever its form, character or color — be it absolute or constitutional, monarchy or republic, Fascist, Nazi or Bolshevik — is by its very nature conservative, static, intolerant of change and opposed to it. Whatever changes it undergoes are always the result of pressure exerted upon it, pressure strong enough to compel the ruling powers to submit peaceably or otherwise, generally “otherwise” — that is, by revolution. Moreover, the inherent conservatism of government, of authority of any kind, unavoidably becomes reactionary. For two reasons: first, because it is in the nature of government not only to retain the power it has, but also to strengthen, widen and perpetuate it, nationally as well as internationally. The stronger authority grows, the greater the State and its power, the less it can tolerate a similar authority or political power along side of itself. The psychology of government demands that its influence and prestige constantly grow, at home and abroad, and it exploits every opportunity to increase it. This tendency is motivated by the financial and commercial interests back of the government, represented and served by it. The fundamental raison d’etre of every government to which, incidentally, historians of former days wilfully shut their eyes, has become too obvious now even for professors to ignore.

The other factor which impels governments to become even more conservative and reactionary is their inherent distrust of the individual and fear of individuality. Our political and social scheme cannot afford to tolerate the individual and his constant quest for innovation. In “self-defense” the State therefore suppresses, persecutes, punishes and even deprives the individual of life. It is aided in this by every institution that stands for the preservation of the existing order. It resorts to every form of violence and force, and its efforts are supported by the “moral indignation” of the majority against the heretic, the social dissenter and the political rebel — the majority for centuries drilled in State worship, trained in discipline and obedience and subdued by the awe of authority in the home, the school, the church and the press.

The strongest bulwark of authority is uniformity; the least divergence from it is the greatest crime. The wholesale mechanisation of modern life has increased uniformity a thousandfold. It is everywhere present, in habits, tastes, dress, thoughts and ideas. Its most concentrated dullness is “public opinion.” Few have the courage to stand out against it. He who refuses to submit is at once labelled “queer,” “different,” and decried as a disturbing element in the comfortable stagnancy of modern life.

Perhaps even more than constituted authority, it is social uniformity and sameness that harass the individual most. His very “uniqueness,” “separateness” and “differentiation” make him an alien, not only in his native place, but even in his own home. Often more so than the foreign born who generally falls in with the established.

In the true sense one’s native land, with its back ground of tradition, early impressions, reminiscences and other things dear to one, is not enough to make sensitive human beings feel at home. A certain atmosphere of “belonging,” the consciousness of being “at one” with the people and environment, is more essential to one’s feeling of home. This holds good in relation to one’s family, the smaller local circle, as well as the larger phase of the life and activities commonly called one’s country. The individual whose vision encompasses the whole world often feels nowhere so hedged in and out of touch with his surroundings than in his native land.

In pre-war time the individual could at least escape national and family boredom. The whole world was open to his longings and his quests. Now the world has become a prison, and life continual solitary confinement. Especially is this true since the advent of dictatorship, right and left.

Friedrich Nietzsche called the State a cold monster. What would he have called the hideous beast in the garb of modern dictatorship? Not that government had ever allowed much scope to the individual; but the champions of the new State ideology do not grant even that much. “The individual is nothing,” they declare, “it is the collectivity which counts.” Nothing less than the complete surrender of the individual will satisfy the insatiable appetite of the new deity.

Strangely enough, the loudest advocates of this new gospel are to be found among the British and American intelligentsia. Just now they are enamored with the “dictatorship of the proletariat.” In theory only, to be sure. In practice, they still prefer the few liberties in their own respective countries. They go to Russia for a short visit or as salesmen of the “revolution,” but they feel safer and more comfortable at home.

Perhaps it is not only lack of courage which keeps these good Britishers and Americans in their native lands rather than in the millennium come. Subconsciously there may lurk the feeling that individuality remains the most fundamental fact of all human association, suppressed and persecuted yet never defeated, and in the long run the victor.

The “genius of man,” which is but another name for personality and individuality, bores its way through all the caverns of dogma, through the thick walls of tradition and custom, defying all taboos, setting authority at naught, facing contumely and the scaffold — ultimately to be blessed as prophet and martyr by succeeding generations. But for the “genius of man,” that inherent, persistent quality of individuality, we would be still roaming the primeval forests.

Peter Kropotkin has shown what wonderful results this unique force of man’s individuality has achieved when strengthened by co-operation with other individualities. The one-sided and entirely inadequate Darwinian theory of the struggle for existence received its biological and sociological completion from the great Anarchist scientist and thinker. In his profound work, Mutual Aid Kropotkin shows that in the animal kingdom, as well as in human society, co-operation — as opposed to internecine strife and struggle — has worked for the survival and evolution of the species. He demonstrated that only mutual aid and voluntary co-operation — not the omnipotent, all-devastating State — can create the basis for a free individual and associational life.

At present the individual is the pawn of the zealots of dictatorship and the equally obsessed zealots of “rugged individualism.” The excuse of the former is its claim of a new objective. The latter does not even make a pretense of anything new. As a matter of fact “rugged individualism” has learned nothing and forgotten nothing. Under its guidance the brute struggle for physical existence is still kept up. Strange as it may seem, and utterly absurd as it is, the struggle for physical survival goes merrily on though the necessity for it has entirely disappeared. Indeed, the struggle is being continued apparently because there is no necessity for it. Does not so-called overproduction prove it? Is not the world-wide economic crisis an eloquent demonstration that the struggle for existence is being maintained by the blindness of “rugged individualism” at the risk of its own destruction?

One of the insane characteristics of this struggle is the complete negation of the relation of the producer to the things he produces. The average worker has no inner point of contact with the industry he is employed in, and he is a stranger to the process of production of which he is a mechanical part. Like any other cog of the machine, he is replaceable at any time by other similar depersonalized human beings.

The intellectual proletarian, though he foolishly thinks himself a free agent, is not much better off. He, too, has a little choice or self-direction, in his particular metier as his brother who works with his hands. Material considerations and desire for greater social prestige are usually the deciding factors in the vocation of the intellectual. Added to it is the tendency to follow in the footsteps of family tradition, and become doctors, lawyers, teachers, engineers, etc. The groove requires less effort and personality. In consequence nearly everybody is out of place in our present scheme of things. The masses plod on, partly because their senses have been dulled by the deadly routine of work and because they must eke out an existence. This applies with even greater force to the political fabric of today. There is no place in its texture for free choice of independent thought and activity. There is a place only for voting and tax-paying puppets.

The interests of the State and those of the individual differ fundamentally and are antagonistic. The State and the political and economic institutions it supports can exist only by fashioning the individual to their particular purpose; training him to respect “law and order;” teaching him obedience, submission and unquestioning faith in the wisdom and justice of government; above all, loyal service and complete self-sacrifice when the State commands it, as in war. The State puts itself and its interests even above the claims of religion and of God. It punishes religious or conscientious scruples against individuality because there is no individuality without liberty, and liberty is the greatest menace to authority.

The struggle of the individual against these tremendous odds is the more difficult — too often dangerous to life and limb — because it is not truth or falsehood which serves as the criterion of the opposition he meets. It is not the validity or usefulness of his thought or activity which rouses against him the forces of the State and of “public opinion.” The persecution of the innovator and protestant has always been inspired by fear on the part of constituted authority of having its infallibility questioned and its power undermined.

Man’s true liberation, individual and collective, lies in his emancipation from authority and from the belief in it. All human evolution has been a struggle in that direction and for that object. It is not invention and mechanics which constitute development. The ability to travel at the rate of 100 miles an hour is no evidence of being civilized. True civilization is to be measured by the individual, the unit of all social life; by his individuality and the extent to which it is free to have its being to grow and expand unhindered by invasive and coercive authority.

Socially speaking, the criterion of civilization and culture is the degree of liberty and economic opportunity which the individual enjoys; of social and international unity and co-operation unrestricted by man-made laws and other artificial obstacles; by the absence of privileged castes and by the reality of liberty and human dignity; in short, by the true emancipation of the individual.

Political absolutism has been abolished because men have realized in the course of time that absolute power is evil and destructive. But the same thing is true of all power, whether it be the power of privilege, of money, of the priest, of the politician or of so-called democracy. In its effect on individuality it matters little what the particular character of coercion is — whether it be as black as Fascism, as yellow as Nazism or as pretentiously red as Bolshevism. It is power that corrupts and degrades both master and slave and it makes no difference whether the power is wielded by an autocrat, by parliament or Soviets. More pernicious than the power of a dictator is that of a class; the most terrible — the tyranny of a majority.

The long process of history has taught man that division and strife mean death, and that unity and cooperation advance his cause, multiply his strength and further his welfare. The spirit of government has always worked against the social application of this vital lesson, except where it served the State and aided its own particular interests. It is this anti-progressive and anti-social spirit of the State and of the privileged castes back of it which has been responsible for the bitter struggle between man and man. The individual and ever larger groups of individuals are beginning to see beneath the surface of the established order of things. No longer are they so blinded as in the past by the glare and tinsel of the State idea, and of the “blessings” of “rugged individualism.” Man is reaching out for the wider scope of human relations which liberty alone can give. For true liberty is not a mere scrap of paper called “constitution,” “legal right” or “law.” It is not an abstraction derived from the non-reality known as “the State.” It is not the negative thing of being free from something, because with such freedom you may starve to death. Real freedom, true liberty is positive: it is freedom to something; it is the liberty to be, to do; in short, the liberty of actual and active opportunity.

That sort of liberty is not a gift: it is the natural right of man, of every human being. It cannot be given: it cannot be conferred by any law or government. The need of it, the longing for it, is inherent in the individual. Disobedience to every form of coercion is the instinctive expression of it. Rebellion and revolution are the more or less conscious attempt to achieve it. Those manifestations, individual and social, are fundamentally expressions of the values of man. That those values may be nurtured, the community must realize that its greatest and most lasting asset is the unit — the individual.

In religion, as in politics, people speak of abstractions and believe they are dealing with realities. But when it does come to the real and the concrete, most people seem to lose vital touch with it. It may well be because reality alone is too matter-of-fact, too cold to enthuse the human soul. It can be aroused to enthusiasm only by things out of the commonplace, out of the ordinary. In other words, the Ideal is the spark that fires the imagination and hearts of men. Some ideal is needed to rouse man out of the inertia and humdrum of his existence and turn the abject slave into an heroic figure.

Right here, of course, comes the Marxist objector who has outmarxed Marx himself. To such a one, man is a mere puppet in the hands of that metaphysical Almighty called economic determinism or, more vulgarly, the class struggle. Man’s will, individual and collective, his psychic life and mental orientation count for almost nothing with our Marxist and do not affect his conception of human history.

No intelligent student will deny the importance of the economic factor in the social growth and development of mankind. But only narrow and wilful dogmatism can persist in remaining blind to the important role played by an idea as conceived by the imagination and aspirations of the individual.

It were vain and unprofitable to attempt to balance one factor as against another in human experience. No one single factor in the complex of individual or social behavior can be designated as the factor of decisive quality. We know too little, and may never know enough, of human psychology to weigh and measure the relative values of this or that factor in determining man’s conduct. To form such dogmas in their social connotation is nothing short of bigotry; yet, perhaps, it has its uses, for the very attempt to do so proved the persistence of the human will and confutes the Marxists.

Fortunately even some Marxists are beginning to see that all is not well with the Marxian creed. After all, Marx was but human — all too human — hence by no means infallible. The practical application of economic determinism in Russia is helping to clear the minds of the more intelligent Marxists. This can be seen in the transvaluation of Marxian values going on in Socialist and even Communist ranks in some European countries. They are slowly realising that their theory has overlooked the human element, den Menschen, as a Socialist paper put it. Important as the economic factor is, it is not enough. The rejuvenation of mankind needs the inspiration and energising force of an ideal.

Such an ideal I see in Anarchism. To be sure, not in the popular misrepresentations of Anarchism spread by the worshippers of the State and authority. I mean the philosophy of a new social order based on the released energies of the individual and the free association of liberated individuals.

Of all social theories Anarchism alone steadfastly proclaims that society exists for man, not man for society. The sole legitimate purpose of society is to serve the needs and advance the aspiration of the individual. Only by doing so can it justify its existence and be an aid to progress and culture.

The political parties and men savagely scrambling for power will scorn me as hopelessly out of tune with our time. I cheerfully admit the charge. I find comfort in the assurance that their hysteria lacks enduring quality. Their hosanna is but of the hour.

Man’s yearning for liberation from all authority and power will never be soothed by their cracked song. Man’s quest for freedom from every shackle is eternal. It must and will go on.

Originally published by the Free Society Forum, Chicago, Illinois in 1940.

“The Economic Tendency of Freethought” by Voltairine de Cleyre

Friends, — on page 286, Belford-Clarke edition, of the “Rights of Man,” the words which I propose as a text for this discourse may be found. Alluding to the change in the condition of France brought about by the Revolution of ’93, Thomas Paine says:

“The mind of the nation had changed beforehand, and a new order of things had naturally followed a new order of thoughts.”

Two hundred and eighty-nine years ago, a man, a student, a scholar, a thinker, a philosopher, was roasted alive for the love of God and the preservation of the authority of the Church; and as the hungry flames curled round the crisping flesh of martyred Bruno, licking his blood with their wolfish tongues, they shadowed forth the immense vista of “a new order of things”: they lit the battle-ground where Freedom fought her first successful revolt against authority.

That battle-ground was eminently one of thought. Religious freedom was the rankling question of the day. “Liberty of conscience! Liberty of conscience! Non-interference between worshipper and worshipped!” That was the voice that cried out of dungeons and dark places, from under the very foot of prince and ecclesiastic. And why? Because the authoritative despotisms of that day were universally ecclesiastic despotisms; because Church aggression was grinding every human right beneath its heel, and every other minor oppressor was but a tool in the hands of the priesthood; because Tyranny was growing towards its ideal and crushing out of existence the very citadel of Liberty, — individuality of thought; Ecclesiasticism had a corner on ideas.

But individuality is a thing that cannot be killed. Quietly it may be, but just as certainly, silently, perhaps, as the growth of a blade of grass, it offers its perpetual and unconquerable protest against the dictates of Authority. And this silent, unconquerable, menacing thing, that balked God, provoked him to the use of rack, thumb-screw, stock, hanging, drowning, burning, and other instruments of “infinite mercy,” in the seventeenth century fought a successful battle against that authority which sought to control this fortress of freedom. It established its right to be. It overthrew that portion of government which attempted to guide the brains of men. It “broke the corner.” It declared and maintained the anarchy, or non-rulership, of thought.

Now you who so fear the word an-arche, remember! the whole combat of the seventeenth century, of which you are justly proud, and to which you never tire of referring, was waged for the sole purpose of realizing anarchism in the realm of thought.

It was not an easy struggle, — this battle of the quiet thinkers against those who held all the power, and all the force of numbers, and all of the strength of tortures! It was not easy for them to speak out of the midst of faggot flames, “We believe differently, and we have the right”. But on their side stood Truth! And there lies more inequality between her and Error, more strength for Truth, more weakness for Falsehood, than all the fearful disparity of power that lies between the despot and the victim. So theirs was the success. So they paved the way for the grand political combat of the eighteenth century.

Mark you! The seventeenth century made the eighteenth possible, for it was the “new order of thoughts,” which gave birth to a “new order of things”. Only by deposing priests, only by rooting out their authority, did it become logical to attack the tyranny of kings: for, under the old regime, kingcraft had ever been the tool of priestcraft, and in the order of things but a secondary consideration. But with the downfall of the latter, kingcraft rose into prominence as the pre-eminent despot, and against the pre-eminent despot revolt always arises.

The leaders of that revolt were naturally those who carried the logic of their freethought into the camp of the dominant oppressor; who thought, spoke, wrote freely of the political fetich, as their predecessors had of the religious mockery; who did not waste their time hugging themselves in the camps of dead enemies, but accepted the live issue of the day, pursued the victories of Religion’s martyrs, and carried on the war of Liberty in those lines most necessary to the people at the time and place. The result was the overthrow of the principle of kingcraft. (Not that all kingdoms have been overthrown, but find me one in a hundred of the inhabitants of a kingdom who will not laugh at the farce of the “divine appointment” of monarchs.) So wrought the new order of thoughts.

I do not suppose for a moment that Giordano Bruno or Martin Luther foresaw the immense scope taken in by their doctrine of individual judgment. From the experience of men up to that date it was simply impossible that they could foresee its tremendous influence upon the action of the eighteenth century, much less upon the nineteenth. Neither was it possible that those bold writers who attacked the folly of “hereditary government” should calculate the effects which certainly followed as their thoughts took form and shape in the social body. Neither do I believe it possible that any brain that lives can detail the working of a thought into the future, or push its logic to an ultimate. But that many who think, or think they think, do not carry their syllogisms even to the first general conclusion, I am also forced to believe. If they did, the freethinkers of today would not be digging, mole-like, through the substratum of dead issues; they would not waste their energies gathering the ashes of fires burnt out two centuries ago; they would not lance their shafts at that which is already bleeding at the arteries; they would not range battalions of brains against a crippled ghost that is “laying” itself as fast as it decently can, while a monster neither ghostly nor yet like the rugged Russian bear, the armed rhinoceros, or the Hyrcan tiger, but rather like a terrible anaconda, steel-muscled and iron-jawed, is winding its horrible folds around the human bodies of the world, and breathing its devouring breath into the faces of children. If they did, they would understand that the paramount question of the day is not political, is not religious, but is economic. That the crying-out demand of today is for a circle of principles that shall forever make it impossible for one man to control another by controlling the means of his existence. They would realize that, unless the freethought movement has a practical utility in rendering the life of man more bearable, unless it contains a principle which, worked out, will free him from the all-oppressive tyrant, it is just as complete and empty a mockery as the Christian miracle or Pagan myth. Eminently is this the age of utility; and the freethinker who goes to the Hovel of Poverty with metaphysical speculations as to the continuity of life, the transformation of matter, etc.; who should say, “My dear friend, your Christian brother is mistaken; you are not doomed to an eternal hell; your condition here is your misfortune and can’t be helped, but when you are dead, there’s an end of it,” is of as little use in the world as the most irrational religionist. To him would the hovel justly reply: “Unless you can show me something in freethought which commends itself to the needs of the race, something which will adjust my wrongs, `put down the mighty from his seat,’ then go sit with priest and king, and wrangle out your metaphysical opinions with those who mocked our misery before.”

The question is, does freethought contain such a principle? And right here permit me to introduce a sort of supplementary text, taken, I think, from a recent letter of Cardinal Manning, but if not Cardinal Manning, then some other of the various dunce-capped gentlemen who recently “biled” over the Bruno monument.

Says the Cardinal: “Freethought leads to Atheism, to the destruction of social and civil order, and to the overthrow of government.” I accept the gentleman’s statement; I credit him with much intellectual acumen for perceiving that which many freethinkers have failed to perceive: accepting it, I shall do my best to prove it, and then endeavor to show that this very iconoclastic principle is the salvation of the economic slave and the destruction of the economic tyrant.

First: does freethought lead to Atheism?

Freethought, broadly defined, is the right to believe as the evidence, coming in contact with the mind, forces it to believe. This implies the admission of any and all evidence bearing upon any subject which may come up for discussion. Among the subjects that come up for discussion, the moment so much is admitted, is the existence of a God.

Now, the idea of God is, in the first place, an exceeding contradiction. The sign God, so Deists tell us, was invented to express the inexpressible, the incomprehensible and infinite! Then they immediately set about defining it. These definitions prove to be about as self-contradictory and generally conflicting as the original absurdity. But there is a particular set of attributes which form a sort of common ground for all these definitions. They tell us that God is possessed of supreme wisdom, supreme justice, and supreme power. In all the catalogue of creeds, I never yet heard of one that had not for its nucleus unlimited potency.

Now, let us take the deist upon his own ground and prove to him either that his God is limited as to wisdom, or limited as to justice, or limited as to power, or else there is no such thing as justice.

First, then, God, being all-just, wishes to do justice; being all-wise, knows what justice is; being all-powerful, can do justice. Why then injustice? Either your God can do justice and won’t or doesn’t know what justice is, or he can not do it. The immediate reply is: “What appears to be injustice in our eyes, in the sight of omniscience may be justice. God’s ways are not our ways.”

Oh, but if he is the all-wise pattern, they should be; what is good enough for God ought to be good enough for man; but what is too mean for man won’t do in a God. Else there is no such thing as justice or injustice, and every murder, every robbery, every lie, every crime in the calendar is right and upon that one premise of supreme authority you upset every fact in existence.

What right have you to condemn a murderer if you assume him necessary to “God’s plan”? What logic can command the return of stolen property, or the branding of a thief, if the Almighty decreed it? Yet here, again, the Deist finds himself in a dilemma, for to suppose crime necessary to God’s purpose is to impeach his wisdom or deny his omnipotence by limiting him as to means. The whole matter, then, hinges upon the one attribute of authority of the central idea of God.

But, you say, what has all this to do with the economic tendency of freethought? Everything. For upon that one idea of supreme authority is based every tyranny that was ever formulated. Why? Because, if God is, no human being no thing that lives, ever had a right! He simply had a privilege, bestowed, granted, conferred, gifted to him, for such a length of time as God sees fit.

This is the logic of my textator, the logic of Catholicism, the only logic of Authoritarianism. The Catholic Church says: “You who are blind, be grateful that you can hear: God could have made you deaf as well. You who are starving, be thankful that you can breathe; God could deprive you of air as well as food. You who are sick, be grateful that you are not dead: God is very merciful to let you live at all. Under all times and circumstances take what you can get, and be thankful.” These are the beneficences, the privileges, given by Authority.

Note the difference between a right and a privilege. A right, in the abstract, is a fact; it is not a thing to be given, established, or conferred; it is. Of the exercise of a right power may deprive me; of the right itself, never. Privilege, in the abstract, does not exist; there is no such thing. Rights recognized, privilege is destroyed.

But, in the practical, the moment you admit a supreme authority, you have denied rights. Practically the supremacy has all the rights, and no matter what the human race possesses, it does so merely at the caprice of that authority. The exercise of the respiratory function is not a right, but a privilege granted by God; the use of the soil is not a right, but a gracious allowance of Deity; the possession of product as the result of labor is not a right, but a boon bestowed. And the thievery of pure air, the withholding of land from use, the robbery of toil, are not wrongs (for if you have no rights, you cannot be wronged), but benign blessings bestowed by “the Giver of all Good” upon the air-thief, the landlord, and the labor-robber.

Hence the freethinker who recognizes the science of astronomy, the science of mathematics, and the equally positive and exact science of justice, is logically forced to the denial of supreme authority. For no human being who observes and reflects can admit a supreme tyrant and preserve his self-respect. No human mind can accept the dogma of divine despotism and the doctrine of eternal justice at the same time; they contradict each other, and it takes two brains to hold them. The cardinal is right: freethought does logically lead to atheism, if by atheism he means the denial of supreme authority.

I will now take his third statement, leaving the second for the present; freethought, he says, leads to the overthrow of government. I am sensible that the majority of you will be ready to indignantly deny the cardinal’s asseveration; I know that the most of my professedly atheistic friends shrink sensitively from the slightest allusion that sounds like an attack on government; I am aware that there are many of you who could eagerly take this platform to speak upon “the glorious rights and privileges of American citizenship”; to expatiate upon that “noble bulwark of our liberties — the constitution”; to defend “that peaceful weapon of redress, the ballot”; to soar off rhapsodically about that “starry banner that floats `over the land of the free and the home of the brave.’” We are so free! and so brave! We don’t hang Brunos at the stake any more for holding heretical opinions on religious subjects. No! But we imprison men for discussing the social question, and we hang men for discussing the economic question! We are so very free and so very brave in this country! “Ah”! we say in our nineteenth century freedom (?) and bravery (?), “ it was a weak God, a poor God, a miserable, quaking God, whose authority had to be preserved by the tortuous death of a creature!” Aye! the religious question is dead, and the stake is no longer fashionable. But is it a strong State, a brave State, a conscience-proud State, whose authority demands the death of five creatures? Is the scaffold better than the faggot? Is it a very free mind which will read that infamous editorial in the Chicago “Herald”: “It is not necessary to hold that Parsons was legally, rightfully, or wisely hanged: he was mightily hanged. The State, the sovereign, need give no reasons; the State need abide by no law; the State is the law!” — to read that and applaud, and set the Cain-like curse upon your forehead and the red “damned spot” upon your hand? Do you know what you do? — Craven, you worship the fiend, Authority, again! True, you have not the ghosts, the incantations, the paraphernalia and mummery of the Church. No: but you have the “precedents,” the “be it enacteds,” the red-tape, the official uniforms of the State; and you are just as bad a slave to statecraft as your Irish Catholic neighbor is to popecraft. Your Government becomes your God, from whom you accept privileges, and in whose hands all rights are vested. Once more the individual has no rights; once more intangible, irresponsible authority assumes the power of deciding what is right and what is wrong. Once more the race must labor under just such restricted conditions as the law — the voice of the Authority, the governmentalist’s bible-shall dictate. Once more it says: “You who have not meat, be grateful that you have bread; many are not allowed even so much. You who work sixteen hours a day, be glad it is not twenty; many have not the privilege to work. You who have not fuel, be thankful that you have shelter; many walk the street! And you, street-walkers, be grateful that there are well-lighted dens of the city; in the country you might die upon the roadside. Goaded human race! Be thankful for your goad. Be submissive to the Lord, and kiss the hand that lashes you!” Once more misery is the diet of the many, while the few receive, in addition to their rights, those rights of their fellows which government has wrested from them. Once more the hypothesis is that the Government, or Authority, or God in his other form, owns all the rights, and grants privileges according to its sweet will.

The freethinker who should determine to question it would naturally suppose that one difficulty in the old investigation was removed. He would say, “at least this thing Government possesses the advantage of being of the earth, — earthy. This is something I can get hold of, argue, reason, discuss with. God was an indefinable, arbitrary, irresponsible something in the clouds, to whom I could not approach nearer than to his agent, the priest. But this dictator surely I shall be able to meet it on something like possible ground.” Vain delusion! Government is as unreal, as intangible, as unapproachable as God. Try it, if you don’t believe it. Seek through the legislative halls of America and find, if you can, the Government. In the end you will be doomed to confer with the agent, as before. Why, you have the statutes! Yes, but the statutes are not the government; where is the power that made the statutes? Oh, the legislators! Yes, but the legislator, per se, has no more power to make a law for me than I for him. I want the power that gave him the power. I shall talk with him; I go to the White House; I say: “Mr. Harrison, are you the government?” “No, madam, I am its representative.” “Well, where is the principal?-Who is the government?” “The people of the United States.” “The whole people?” “The whole people.” “You, then, are the representative of the people of the United States. May I see your certificate of authorization?” “Well, no; I have none. I was elected.” “Elected by whom? the whole people?” “Oh, no. By some of the people, — some of the voters.” (Mr. Harrison being a pious Presbyterian, he would probably add: “The majority vote of the whole was for another man, but I had the largest electoral vote.”) “Then you are the representative of the electoral college, not of the whole people, nor the majority of the people, nor even a majority of the voters. But suppose the largest number of ballots cast had been for you: you would represent the majority of the voters, I suppose. But the majority, sir, is not a tangible thing; it is an unknown quantity. An agent is usually held accountable to his principals. If you do not know the individuals who voted for you, then you do not know for whom you are acting, nor to whom you are accountable. If any body of persons has delegated to you any authority, the disposal of any right or part of a right (supposing a right to be transferable), you must have received it from the individuals composing that body; and you must have some means of learning who those individuals are, or you cannot know for whom you act, and you are utterly irresponsible as an agent.

“Furthermore, such a body of voters can not give into your charge any rights but their own; by no possible jugglery of logic can they delegate the exercise of any function which they themselves do not control. If any individual on earth has a right to delegate his powers to whomsoever he chooses, then every other individual has an equal right; and if each has an equal right, then none can choose an agent for another, without that other’s consent. Therefore, if the power of government resides in the whole people, and out of that whole all but one elected you as their agent, you would still have no authority whatever to act for the one. The individuals composing the minority who did not appoint you have just the same rights and powers as those composing the majority who did; and if they prefer not to delegate them at all, then neither you, nor any one, has any authority whatever to coerce them into accepting you, or any one, as their agent — for upon your own basis the coercive authority resides, not in the majority, not in any proportion of the people, but in the whole people.”

Hence “the overthrow of government” as a coercive power, thereby denying God in another form.

Upon this overthrow follows, the Cardinal says, the disruption of social and civil order!

Oh! it is amusing to hear those fellows rave about social order! I could laugh to watch them as they repeat the cry, “Great is Diana of the Ephesians!” “Down on your knees and adore this beautiful statue of Order,” but that I see this hideous, brainless, disproportion idol come rolled on the wheels of Juggernaut over the weak and the helpless, the sorrowful and the despairing. Hate burns, then, where laughter dies.

Social Order! Not long ago I saw a letter from a young girl to a friend; a young girl whose health had been broken behind a counter, where she stood eleven and twelve hours a day, six days in the week, for the magnificent sum of $5. The letter said: “Can’t you help me to a position? My friends want me to marry a man I do not like, because he has money. Can’t you help me? I can sew, or keep books. I will even try clerking again rather than that!” Social Order! When the choice for a young girl lies between living by inches and dying by yards at manual labor, or becoming the legal property of a man she does not like because he has money!

Walk up Fifth Avenue in New York some hot summer day, among the magnificent houses of the rich; hear your footsteps echo for blocks with the emptiness of it! Look at places going to waste, space, furniture, draperies, elegance, — all useless. Then take a car down town; go among the homes of the producers of that idle splendor; find six families living in a five-room house, — the sixth dwelling in the cellar. Space is not wasted here, — these human vermin rub each other’s elbows in the stifling narrows; furniture is not wasted, — these sit upon the floor; no echoing emptiness, no idle glories! No — but wasting, strangling, choking, vicious human life! Dearth of vitality there — dearth of space for it here! This is social order!

Next winter, when the `annual output’ of coal has been mined, when the workmen are clenching their hard fists with impotent anger, when the coal in the ground lies useless, hark to the cry that will rise form the freezing western prairies, while the shortened commodity goes up, up, up, eight, nine, ten, eleven dollars a ton; and while the syndicate’s pockets are filing, the grave-yards fill, and fill. Moralize on the preservation of social order!

Go back to President Grant’s administration, — that very “pure republican” administration; — see the settlers of the Mussel Slough compelled to pay thirty-five, forty dollars an acre for the land reclaimed from almost worthlessness by hard labor, — and to whom? To a corporation of men who never saw it! whose “grant” lay a hundred miles away, but who, for reasons of their own, saw fit to hire the “servants of the people” to change it so. See those who refused to pay it shot down by order of “the State”; watch their blood smoke upward to the heavens, sealing the red seal of justice against their murderers; and then — watch a policeman arrest a shoeless tramp for stealing a pair of boots. Say to your self, this is civil order and must be preserved. Go talk with political leaders, big or little, on methods of “making the slate,” and “railroading” it through the ward caucus or the national convention. Muse on that “peaceful weapon of redress,” the ballot. Consider the condition of the average “American sovereign” and of his “official servant,” and prate then of civil order.

Subvert the social and civil order! Aye, I would destroy, to the last vestige, this mockery of order, this travesty upon justice! Break up the home? Yes, every home that rests on slavery! Every marriage that represents the sale and transfer of the individuality of one of its parties to the other! Every institution, social or civil, that stands between man and his right; every tie that renders one a master, another a serf; every law, every statute, every be-it-enacted that represents tyranny; everything you call American privilege that can only exist at the expense of international right. Now cry out, “Nihilist — disintegrationist!” Say that I would isolate humanity, reduce society to its elemental state, make men savage! It is not true. But rather than see this devastating, cankering, enslaving system you call social order go on, rather than help to keep alive the accursed institutions of Authority, I would help to reduce every fabric in the social structure to its native element.

But is it true that freedom means disintegration? Only to that which is bad. Only to that which ought to disintegrate.

What is the history of free thought?

Is it not so, that since we have Anarchy there, since all the children of the brain are legitimate, that there has been less waste of intellectual energy, more cooperation in the scientific world, truer economy in utilizing the mentalities of men, than there ever was, or ever could be, under authoritative dominion of the church? Is it not true that with the liberty of thought, Truth has been able to prove herself without the aid of force? Does not error die from want of vitality when there is no force to keep it alive? Is it not true that natural attractions have led men into associative groups, who can best follow their chosen paths of thought, and give the benefit of their studies to mankind with better economy than if some coercive power had said, “You think in this line — you in that”; or what the majority had by ballot decided it was best to think about?

I think it is true. Follow your logic out; can you not see that true economy lies in Liberty, — whether it be in thought or action? It is not slavery that has made men unite for cooperative effort. It is not slavery that produced the means of transportation, communication, production, and exchange, and all the thousand and one economic, or what ought to be economic, contrivances of civilization. No — nor is it government. It is Self-interest. And would not self-interest exist if that institution which stands between man and his right to the free use of the soil were annihilated? Could you not see the use of a bank if the power which renders it possible for the national banks to control land, production and everything else, were broken down?

Do you suppose the producers of the east and west couldn’t see the advantage of a railroad, if the authority which makes a systematizer like Gould or Vanderbilt a curse where swept away? Do you imagine that government has a corner on ideas, now that the Church is overthrown; and that the people could not learn the principles of economy, if this intangible giant which has robbed and slaughtered them, wasted their resources and distributed opportunities so unjustly, were destroyed? I don’t think so. I believe that legislators as a rule have been monuments of asinine stupidity, whose principal business has been to hinder those who were not stupid, and get paid for doing it. I believe that the so-called brainy financial men would rather buy the legislators than be the legislators; and the real thinkers, the genuine improvers of society, have as little to do with law and politics as they conveniently can.

I believe that “Liberty is the mother, not the daughter, of Order.”

“But,” some one will say, “what of the criminals? Suppose a man steals.” In the first place, a man won’t steal, ordinarily, unless that which he steals is something he can not as easily get without stealing; in liberty the cost of stealing would involve greater difficulties than producing, and consequently he would not be apt to steal. But suppose a man steals. Today you go to a representative of that power which has robbed you of the earth, of the right of free contract of the means of exchange, taxes you for everything you eat or wear (the meanest form of robbery), — you go to him for redress from a thief! It is about as logical as the Christian lady whose husband had been “removed” by Divine Providence, and who thereupon prayed to said Providence to “comfort the widow and the fatherless.” In freedom we would not institute a wholesale robber to protect us from petty larceny. Each associative group would probably adopt its own methods of resisting aggression, that being the only crime. For myself, I think criminals should be treated as sick people.

“But suppose you have murderers, brutes, all sorts of criminals. Are you not afraid to lose the restraining influence of the law?” First, I think it can be shown that the law makes ten criminals where it restrains one. On that basis it would not, as a matter of policy merely, be an economical institution. Second, this is not a question of expediency, but of right. In antebellum days the proposition was not, Are the blacks good enough to be free? but, Have they the right? So today the question is not, Will outrages result from freeing humanity? but, Has it the right to life, the means of life, the opportunities of happiness?

In the transition epoch, surely crimes will come. Did the seed of tyranny ever bear good fruit? And can you expect Liberty to undo in a moment what Oppression has been doing for ages? Criminals are the crop of depots, as much a necessary expression of the evil in society as an ulcer is of disease in the blood; and so long as the taint of the poison remains, so long there will be crimes.

“For it must needs that offences come, but woe to him through whom the offence cometh.” The crimes of the future are the harvests sown of the ruling classes of the present. Woe to the tyrant who shall cause the offense!

Sometimes I dream of this social change. I get a streak of faith in Evolution, and the good in man. I paint a gradual slipping out of the now, to that beautiful then, where there are neither kings, presidents, landlords, national bankers, stockbrokers, railroad magnates, patentright monopolists, or tax and title collectors; where there are no over-stocked markets or hungry children, idle counters and naked creatures, splendor and misery, waste and need. I am told this is farfetched idealism, to paint this happy, povertyless, crimeless, diseaseless world; I have been told I “ought to be behind the bars” for it.

Remarks of that kind rather destroy the white streak of faith. I lose confidence in the slipping process, and am forced to believe that the rulers of the earth are sowing a fearful wind, to reap a most terrible whirlwind. When I look at this poor, bleeding, wounded World, this world that has suffered so long, struggled so much, been scourged so fiercely, thorn-pierced so deeply, crucified so cruelly, I can only shake my head and remember:

The giant is blind, but he’s thinking: and his locks are growing, fast.

“Why I Am An Anarchist” by Voltairine de Cleyre

It was suggested to me by those who were the means of securing me this opportunity of addressing you, that probably the most easy and natural way for me to explain Anarchism would be for me to give the reasons why I myself am an Anarchist. I am not sure that they were altogether right in the matter, because in giving the reasons why I am an Anarchist, I may perhaps infuse too much of my own personality into the subject, giving reasons sufficient unto myself, but which cool reflection might convince me were not particularly striking as reasons why other people should be Anarchists, which is, after all, the object of public speaking on this question.

Nevertheless, I have been guided by their judgment, thinking they are perhaps right in this, that one is apt to put much more feeling and freedom into personal reasons than in pure generalizations.

The question “Why I am an Anarchist” I could very summarily answer with “because I cannot help it,” I cannot be dishonest with myself; the conditions of life press upon me; I must do something with my brain. I cannot be content to regard the world as a mere jumble of happenings for me to wander my way through, as I would through the mazes of a department store, with no other thought than getting through it and getting out. Neither can I be contented to take anyone’s dictum on the subject; the thinking machine will not be quiet. It will not be satisfied with century-old repetitions; it perceives that new occasions bring new duties; that things have changed, and an answer that fitted a question asked four thousand, two thousand, even one thousand years ago, will not fit any more. It wants something for today.

People of the mentally satisfied order, who are able to roost on one intellectual perch all their days, have never understood this characteristic of the mentally active. It was said of the Anarchists that they were peace-disturbers, wild, violent ignoramuses, who were jealous of the successful in life and fit only for prison or an asylum. They did not understand, for their sluggish temperaments did not assist them to perceive, that the peace was disturbed by certain elements, which men of greater mental activity had sought to seize and analyze. With habitual mental phlegm they took cause for effect, and mistook Anarchists, Socialists and economic reformers in general for the creators of that by which they were created.

The assumption that Anarchists were one and all ignoramuses was quite as gratuitously made. For years it was not considered worth while to find out whether they might not be mistaken. We who have been some years in the movement have watched the gradual change of impression in this respect, not over-patiently it is true; we are not in general a patient sort — till we have at length seen the public recognition of the fact that while many professed Anarchists are uneducated, some even unintelligent (though their number is few), the major portion are people of fair education and intense mental activity, going around setting interrogation points after things; and some, even, such as Elisée and Elie and Paul Reclus, Peter Kropotkin, Edward Carpenter, or the late Prof. Daniel G. Brinton, of the University of Pennsylvania, men of scientific pre-eminence.

Mental activity alone, however, would not be sufficient; for minds may be active in many directions, and the course of the activity depends upon other elements in their composition.

The second reason, therefore, why I am an Anarchist, is because of the possession of a very large proportion of sentiment.

In this statement I may very likely not be recommending myself to my fellow Anarchists, who would perhaps prefer that I proceeded immediately to reasons. I am willing, however, to court their censure, because I think it has been the great mistake of our people, especially of our American Anarchists represented by Benj. R. Tucker, to disclaim sentiment. Humanity in the mass is nine parts feeling to one part thought; the so-called “philosophic Anarchists” have prided themselves on the exaggeration of the little tenth, and have chosen to speak rather contemptuously of the “submerged” nine parts. Those who have studied the psychology of man, however, realize this: that our feelings are the filtered and tested results of past efforts on the part of the intellect to compass the adaptation of the individual to its surroundings. The unconscious man is the vast reservoir which receives the final product of the efforts of the conscious — that brilliant, gleaming, illuminate point at which mental activity centers, but which, after all, is so small a part of the human being. So that if we are to despise feeling we must equally despise logical conviction, since the former is but the preservation of past struggles of the latter.

Now my feelings have ever revolted against repression in all forms, even when my intellect, instructed by my conservative teachers, told me repression was right. Even when my thinking part declared it was nobody’s fault that one man had so much he could neither swallow it down nor wear it out, while another had so little he must die of cold and hunger, my feelings would not be satisfied. They raised an unending protest against the heavenly administration that managed earth so badly. They could never be reconciled to the idea that any human being could be in existence merely through the benevolent toleration of another human being. The feeling always was that society ought to be in such a form that any one who was willing to work ought to be able to live in plenty, and nobody ought to have such “an awful lot” more than anybody else. Moreover, the instinct of liberty naturally revolted not only at economic servitude, but at the outcome of it, class-lines. Born of working parents (I am glad to be able to say it), brought up in one of those small villages where class differences are less felt than in cities, there was, nevertheless, a very keen perception that certain persons were considered better worth attentions, distinctions, and rewards than others, and that these certain persons were the daughters and sons of the well-to-do. Without any belief whatever that the possession of wealth to the exclusion of others was wrong, there was yet an instinctive decision that there was much injustice in educational opportunities being given to those who could scarcely make use of them, simply because their parents were wealthy; to quote the language of a little friend of mine, there was an inward protest against “the people with five hundred dollar brains getting five thousand dollar educations,” while the bright children of the poor had to be taken out of school and put to work. And so with other material concerns.

Beyond these, there was a wild craving after freedom from conventional dress, speech, and custom; an indignation at the repression of one’s real sentiments and the repetition of formal hypocrisies, which constitute the bulk of ordinary social intercourtse; a consciousness that what are termed “the amenities” were for the most oart goine through with as irksome forms, representing no real heartiness. Dress, too, — there was such an ever-present feeling that these ugly shapes with which we distort our bodes wer forced upon us by a stupid notion that we must conform to the anonymous everybody who wears a stock-collar in mid-summer and goes dé-colleté at Christmas, puts a bunch on its sleeves to-day and a hump on its back to-morrow, dresses its slim tall gentlemen in claw-hammers this season, and its fat little gentlemen in Prince Alberts the next, — in short, affords no opportunity for the individuality of the person to express itself in outward taste or selection of forms.

An eager wish, too, for something better in education than the set program of the grade-work, every child’s head measured by every other child’s head, regimentation, rule, arithmetic, forever and ever; nothing to develop originality of work among teachers; the perpetual dead level; the eternal average. Parallel with all these, there was a constant seeking for something new and fresh in literature, and unspeakable ennui at the presentation and re-presentation of the same old ideal in the novel, the play, the narrative, the history. A general disgust for the poor but virtuous fair-haired lady with blue eyes, who adored a dark-haired gentleman with black eyes and much money, and to whom, after many struggles with the jealous rival, she was happily married; a desire that there should be persons who should have some other purpose in appearing before us than to exhibit their lovesickness, people with some other motive in walking through a book than to get married at the end. A similar feeling in taking up an account of travels; a desire that the narrator would find something better worth recounting than his own astonishment at some particular form of dress he had never happened to see before, or a dish he had never eaten in his own country; a desire that he would tell us of the conditions, the aspirations, the activities of those strange peoples. Again the same unrest in reading a history, an overpowering sentiment of revolt at the spun-out details of the actions of generals, the movements of armies, the thronement and dethronement of kings, the intrigues of courtiers, the gracing or disgracing of favorites, the place-hunting of republics, the count of elections, the numbering of administrations! A never-ending query, “What were the common people doing all this time? What did they do who did not go to war? How did they associate, how did they feel, how did they dream? What had they, who paid for all these things, to say, to sing, to act?”

And when I found a novel like the “Story of An African Farm,” a drama like the “Enemy of the People” or “Ghosts,” a history like Green’s “History of the People of England,” I experienced a sensation of exaltation at leaping out from the old forms, the old prohibitions, the old narrowness of models and schools, at coming into the presence of something broad and growing.

So it was with contemplation of sculpture or drawing, — a steady dissatisfaction with the conventional poses, the conventional subjects, the fig-leafed embodiments of artistic cowardice; underneath was always the demand for freedom of movement, fertility of subject, and ease and non-shame. Above all, a disgust with the subordinated cramped circle prescribed for women in daily life, whether in the field of material production, or in domestic arrangement, or in educational work; or in the ideals held up to her in all these various screens whereon the ideal reflects itself; a bitter, passionate sense of personal injustice in this respect; an anger at the institutions set up by men, ostensibly to preserve female purity, really working out to make her a baby, an irresponsible doll of a creature into to be trusted outside her “doll’s house.” A sense of burning disgust that a mere legal form should be considered as the sanction for all manner of bestialities; that a woman should have no right to escape from the coarseness of a husband, or conversely, without calling down the attention, the scandal, the scorn of society. That in spite of all the hardship and torture of existence men and women should go on obeying the old Israelitish command, “Increase and multiply,” merely because they have society’s permission to do so, without regard to the slaveries to be inflicted upon the unfortunate creatures of their passions.

All these feelings, these intense sympathies with suffering, these cravings for something earnest, purposeful, these longings to break away from old standards, jumbled about in the ego, produced a shocking war; they determined the bent to which mental activity turned; they demanded an answer, — an answer that should co-ordinate them all, give them direction, be the silver cord running through this mass of disorderly, half-articulate contentions of the soul.

The province for the operation of conscious reasoning was now outlined; all the mental energies were set to the finding of an ideal which would justify these clamors, allay these bitternesses. And first for the great question question which over-rides all others, the question of bread. It was easy to see that any proposition to remedy the sorrows of poverty along old lines could only be successful for a locality or a season, since they must depend upon the personal good-nature of individual employers, or the leniency of a creditor. The power to labor at will would be forever locked within the hands of a limited number.

The problem is not how to find a way to relieve temporary distress, not to make people dependent upon the kind ness of others, but to allow every one to be able to stand upon his own feet.

A study into history, — that is a history of the movements of people, — revealed that, while the struggles of the past have chiefly been political in their formulated objects, and have resulted principally in the disestablishment of one form of political administration by another, the causes of discontent have been chiefly economic — too great disparity in possessions between class and class. Even those uprisings centred around some religious leader were, in the last analysis, a revolt of the peasant against an oppressive landlord and tithe-taker — the Church.

It is extremely hard for an American, who has been nursed in the traditions of the revolution, to realize the fact that that revolution must be classed precisely with others, and its value weighed and measured by its results, just as they are. I am an American myself, and was at one time as firmly attached to those traditions as anyone can be; I believed that if there were any way to remedy the question of poverty the Constitution must necessarily afford the means to do it. It required long thought and many a dubious struggle between prejudice and reason before I was able to arrive at the conclusion that the political victory of America had been a barren thing: that a declaration of equal rights on paper, while an advance in human evolution in so far that at least it crystallized a vague ideal, was after all but an irony in the face of facts; that what people wanted to make them really free was the right to things; that a “free country” in which all the productive tenures were already appropriated was not free at all; that any man who must wait the complicated working of a mass of unseen powers before he may engage in the productive labor necessary to get his food is the last thing but a free man; that those who do command these various resources and powers, and therefore the motions of their fellow-men, command likewise the manner of their voting, and that hence the reputed great safeguard of individual liberties, the ballot box, become but an added instrument of oppression in the hands of the possessor; finally, that the principle of majority rule itself, even granting it could ever be practicalized — which it could not on any large scale: it is always a real minority that governs in place of the nominal majority — but even granting it realizable, the thing itself is essentially pernicious; that the only desirable condition of society is one in which no one is compelled to accept an arrangement to which he has not consented.

Since it was a settled thing that to be free one must have liberty of access to the sources and means of production, the question arose, just what are those sources and means, and how shall the common man, whose right to them is now denied, come at them. And here I found a mass of propositions, by one school or another; all however agreed upon one point, viz.: that the land and all that was in it was the natural heritage of all, and none had a right to pre-empt it, and parcel it out to their heirs, administrators, executors, and assigns. But the practical question of how the land could be worked, how homes could be built upon it, factories, etc., brought out a number of conflicting propositions. First, there were the Socialists (that is the branch of Socialism dominant in this country) claiming that the land should become the property of the State, its apportionment to be decided by committees representing the majority of any particular community directly concerned in such apportionment, the right to reapportion, however, remaining perpetually under the control of the State, and no one to receive any more advantage from an extra-fine locality than others, since the surplus in production of one spot over another would accrue to the State, and be expended in public benefits. To accomplish this, the Socialist proposed to use the political machinery now in existence — a machinery which he assures us is in every respect the political reflex of the economic of capitalism; his plan is the old, familiar one of voting your own men in; and when a sufficient number are in, then by legal enactment to dispossess the possessors, confiscate estates, and declare them the property of all.

Examination of this program, however, satisfied me that neither in the end nor the accomplishment was it desirable. For as to the end, it appeared perfectly clear that the individual would still be under the necessity of getting somebody’s permission to go to work; that he would be subject to the decisions of a mass of managers, to regulations and regimentations without end. That while, indeed, it was possible he might have more of material comforts, still he would be getting them from a bountiful dispenser, who assumed the knowledge of how to deal them out, and when, and where. He would still be working, not at what he chose himself, but at what others decided was the most necessary labor for society. And as to the manner of bringing into power this new dispenser of opportunities, the apparent ease of it disappeared upon examination. It sounds exceedingly simple — and Socialists are considered practical people because of that apparent simplicity — to say vote your men in and let them legalize expropriation. But ignoring the fact of the long process of securing a legislative majority, and the precarious holding when it is secured; ignoring the fact that meanwhile your men must either remain honest figure-heads or become compromising dealers with other politicians; ignoring the fact that officials once in office are exceedingly liable to insensible conversions (being like the boy, “anything to get that’ere pup”); supposing all this overcome, Socialists and all legislative reformers are bound to be brought face to face with this, — that in accepting the present constitutional methods, they will sooner or later come against the judicial power, as reforms of a far less sweeping character have very often done in the past. Now the judges, if they act strictly according to their constitutional powers, have no right to say on the bench whether in their personal opinion the enactment is good or bad; they have only to pass upon its constitutionality; and certainly a general enactment for the confiscation of land-holdings to the State would without doubt be pronounced unconstitutional. Then what is the end of all the practical, legal, constitutional effort? That you are left precisely where you were.

Another school of land reformers presented itself; an ingenious affair, by which property in land is to be preserved in name, and abolished in reality. It is based on the theory of economic rent; — not the ordinary, everyday rent we are all uncomfortably conscious of, once a month or so, but a rent arising from the diverse nature of localities. Starting with the proposition that land values are created by the community, not by the individual, the logic goes as follows. The advantages created by all must not be monopolized by one; but as one certain spot can be devoted to one use only at a given time, then the person or business thereon located should pay to the State the difference between what he can get out of a good locality and a poor locality, the amount to be expended in public improvements. This plan of taxation, it was claimed, would compel speculators in land either to allow their idle lands to fall into the hands of the State, which would then be put up at public auction and knocked down to the highest bidder, or they would fall to and improve them, which would mean employment to the idle, enlivening of the market, stimulation of trade, etc. Out of much discussion among themselves, it resulted that they were convinced that the great unoccupied agricultural lands would become comparatively free, the scramble coming in over the rental of mines, water-powers, and — above all — corner lots in cities.

I did some considerable thinking over this proposition, and came to the conclusion it wouldn’t do. First, because it did not offer any chance to the man who could actually bid noting for the land, which was the very man I was after helping. Second, because the theory of economic rent itself seemed to me full of holes; for, while it is undeniable that some locations are superior to others for one purpose or another, still the discovery of the superiority of that location has generally been due to an individual. The location unfit for a brickyard may be very suitable for a celery plantation; but it takes the man with the discerning eye to see it; therefore this economic rent appeared to me to be a very fluctuating affair, dependent quite as much on the individual as on the presence of the community; and for a fluctuating thing of that sort it appeared quite plain that the community would lose more by maintaining all the officials and offices of a State to collect it, than it would to let the economic rent go. Third, this public disposing of the land was still in the hands of officials, and I failed to understand why officials would be any less apt to favor their friends and cheat the general public then than now.

Lastly and mostly, the consideration of the statement that those who possessed large landholdings would be compelled to relinquish or improve them; and that this improvement would stimulate business and give employment to the idle, brought me to the realization that the land question could never be settled by itself; that it involved the settling of the problem of how the man who did not work directly upon the earth, but who transformed the raw material into the manufactured product, should get the fruit of his toil. There was nothing in this Single Tax arrangement for him but the same old program of selling himself to an employer. This was to be the relief afforded to the fellow who had no money to bid for the land. New factories would open, men would be in demand, wages would rise! Beautiful program. But the stubborn fact always came up that no man would employ another to work for him unless he could get more for his product than he had to pay for it, and that being the case, the inevitable course of exchange and re-exchange would be that the man having received less than the full amount, could buy back less than the full amount, so that eventually the unsold products must again accumulate in the capitalist’s hands; again the period of non-employment arrives, and my landless worker is no better off than he was before the Single Tax went into operation. I perceived, therefore, that some settlement of the whole labor question was needed which would not split up the people again into land possessors and employed wage-earners. Furthermore, my soul was infinitely sickened by the everlasting discussion about the rent of the corner lot. I conceived that the reason there was such a scramble over the corner lot was because the people were jammed together in the cities, for want of the power to spread out over the country. It des not lie in me to believe that millions of people pack themselves like sardines, worry themselves into dens out of which they must emerge “walking backward,” so to speak, for want of pace to turn around, poison themselves with foul, smoke-laden, fever-impregnated air, condemn themselves to stone and brick above and below and around, if they just didn’t have to.

How, then, to make it possible for the man who has nothing but his hands to get back upon the earth the earth and make use of his opportunity? There came a class of reformers who said, “Lo, now, the thing all lies in the money question! The land being free wouldn’t make a grain of difference to the worker, unless he had the power to capitalize his credit and thus get the where-with to make use of the land. See, the trouble lies here: the possessors of one particular form of wealth, gold and silver, have the sole power to furnish the money used to effect exchanges. Let us abolish this gold and silver notion; let all forms of wealth be offered as security, and notes issued on such as are accepted, by a mutual bank, and then we shall have money enough to transact all our business without paying interest for the borrowed use of an expensive medium which had far better be used in the arts. And then the man who goes upon the land can buy the tools to work it.”

This sounded pretty plausible; but still I came back to the old question, how will the man who has nothing but his individual credit to offer, who has no wealth of any kind, how is he to be benefited by this bank?

And again about the tools: it is well enough to talk of his buying hand tools, or small machinery which can be moved about; but what about the gigantic machinery necessary to the operation of a mine, or a mill? It requires many to work it. If one owns it, will he not make the others pay tribute for using it?

And so, at last, after many years of looking to this remedy and to that, I came to these conclusions:—

That the way to get freedom to use the land is by no tampering and indirection, but plainly by the going out and settling thereon, and using it; remembering always that every newcomer has as good a right to come and labor upon it, become one of the working community, as the first initiators of the movement. That in the arrangement and determination of the uses of locations, each community should be absolutely free to make its own regulations. That there should be no such nonsensical thing as an imaginary line drawn along the ground, within which boundary persons having no interests whatever in common and living hundreds of miles apart, occupied in different pursuits, living according to different customs, should be obliged to conform to interfering regulations made by one another; and while this stupid division binds together those in no way helped but troubled thereby, on the other hand cuts right through the middle of a community united by proximity, occupation, home, and social sympathies.

Second:— I concluded that as to the question of exchange and money, it was so exceedingly bewildering, so impossible of settlement among the professors themselves, as to the nature of value, and the representation of value, and the unit of value, and the numberless multiplications and divisions of the subject, that the best thing ordinary workingmen or women could do was to organize their industry so as to get rid of money altogether. I figured it this way: I’m not any more a fool than the rest of ordinary humanity; I’ve figured and figured away on this thing for years, and directly I thought myself middling straight, there came another money reformer and showed me the hole in that scheme, till, at last , it appears that between “bills of credit,” and “labor notes” and “time checks,” and “mutual bank issues,” and “the invariable unit of value,” none of them have any sense. How many thousands of years is it going to get this sort of thing into people’s heads by mere preaching of theories. Let it be this way: Let there be an end of the special monopoly on securities for money issues. Let every community go ahead and try some member’s money scheme if it wants; — let every individual try it if he pleases. But better for the working people let them all go. Let them produce together, co-operatively rather than as employer and employed; let them fraternize group by group, let each use what he needs of his own product, and deposit the rest in the storage-houses, and let those others who need goods have them as occasion arises.

With our present crippled production, with less than half the people working, with all the conservatism of vested interest operating to prevent improvements in methods being adopted, we have more than enough to supply all the wants of the people if we could only get it distributed. There is, then, no fixed estimate to be put upon possibilities. If one man working now can produce ten times as much as he can by the most generous use dispose of for himself, what shall be said of the capacities of the free worker of the future? And why, then, all this calculating worry about the exact exchange of equivalents? If there is enough and to waste, why fret for fear some one will get a little more than he gives? We do not worry for fear some one will drink a little more water than we do, except it is in a case of shipwreck; because we know there is quite enough to go around. And since all these emasures for adjusting equivalent values have only resulted in establishing a perpetual means whereby the furnisher of money succeeds in abstracting a percentage if the product, would it not be better to risk the occasional loss in exchange of things, rater than to have this false adjuster of differences perpetually paying itself for a very doubtful service?

Third:— On the question of machinery I stopped for some time; it was easy enough to reason that the land which was produced by nobody belonged to nobody; comparatively easy to conclude that with abundance of product no money was needed. But the problem of machinery required a great deal of pro-ing and con-ing; it finally settled down so: Every machine of any complexity is the accumulation of the inventive genius of the ages; no one man conceived it; no one man can make it; no one man therefore has a right to the exclusive possession of the social inheritance from the dead; that which requires social genius to conceive and social action to operate, should be free of access to all those desiring to use it.

Fourth:— In the contemplation of the results to follow from the freeing of the land, the conclusion was inevitable that many small communities would grow out of the breaking up of the large communities; that people would realize then that the vast mass of this dragging products up and down the world, which is the great triumph of commercialism, is economic insanity; illustration: Paris butter carted to London, and London butter to Paris! A friend of mine in Philadelphia makes shoes; the factory adjoins the home property of a certain Senator whose wife orders her shoes off a Chicago firm; this firm orders of the self-same factory, which ships the order to Chicago. Chicago ships them back to the Senator’s wife; while any workman in the factory might have thrown them over her backyard fence! That, therefore, all this complicated system of freight transportation would disappear, and a far greater approach to simplicity be attained; and hence all the international bureaus of regulation, aimed at by the Socialists, would become as unnecessary as they are obnoxious. I conceived, in short, that, instead of the workingman’s planting his feet in the mud of the bottomless abyss of poverty, and seeing the trains of the earth go past his tantalized eyes, he carrying the whole thing as Atlas did the world, would calmly set his world down, climb up on it, and go gleefully spinning around it himself, becoming world-citizens indeed. Man, the emperor of products, not products the enslaver of man, became my dream.

At this point I broke off to inquire how much government was left; land titles all gone, stocks and bonds and guarantees of ownership in means of production gone too, what was left of the State? Nothing of its existence in relation to the worker: nothing buts its regulation of morals.

I had meanwhile come to the conclusion that the assumptions as to woman’s inferiority were all humbug; that given freedom of opportunity, women were just as responsive as men, just as capable of making their own way, producing as much for the social good as men. I observed that women who were financially independent at present, took very little to the notion that a marriage ceremony was sacred, unless it symbolized the inward reality of psychological and physiological mateship; that most of the who were unfortunate enough to make an original mistake, or to grow apart later, were quite able to take their freedom from a mischievous bond without appealing to the law. Hence, I concluded that the State had nothing left to do here; for it has never attempted to do more than solve the material difficulties, in a miserable, brutal way; and these economic independence would solve for itself. As to the heartaches and bitterness attendant upon disappointments of this nature in themselves, apart from third-party considerations, — they are entirely a mater of individual temperaments, not to be assuaged by any State or social system.

The offices of the State were now reduced to the disposition of criminals. An inquiry into the criminal question made plain that the great mass of crimes are crimes against property; even those crimes arising from jealousy are property crimes resulting from the notion of a right of property in flesh. Allowing property to be eradicated, both in practice and spirit, no crimes are left but such as are the acts of the mentally sick — cases of atavism, which might well be expected occasionally, for centuries to come, as the result of all the repression poor humanity has experienced these thousands of years. An enlightened people, a people living in something like sane and healthy conditions, would consider these criminals as subjects of scientific study and treatment; would not retaliate and exhibit themselves as more brutal than the criminal, as is the custom to-day, but would “use all gently.”

The State had now disappeared from my conception of society; there remained only the application of Anarchism to those vague yearnings for the outpouring of new ideals in education, in literature, in art, in customs, social converse, and in ethical concepts. And now the way became easy; for all this talking up and down the question of wealth was foreign to my taste. But education! As long ago as I could remember I has dreamed of an education which should be a getting at the secrets of nature, not as reported through another’s eyes, but just the thing itself; I had dreamed of a teacher who should go out and attract his pupils around him as the Greeks did of old, and then go trooping out into the world, free monarchs, learning everywhere — learning nature, learning man, learning to know life in all its forms, and not to hug one little narrow spot and declare it the finest one on earth for the patriotic reason that they live there, And here I picked up Wm. Morris’ “News from Nowhere,” and found the same thing. And there were the new school artists in France and Germany, the literateurs, the scientists, the inventors, the poets, all breaking way from ancient forms. And there were Emerson and Channing and Thoreau in ethics, preaching the supremacy of individual conscience over the law, — indeed, all that mighty trend of Protestantism and Democracy, which every once in a while lifts up its head above the judgments of the commonplace in some single powerful personality. That indeed is the triumphant word of Anarchism: it comes as the logical conclusion of three hundred years of revolt against external temporal and spiritual authority — the word which has no compromise to offer, which holds before us the unswerving ideal of the Free Man.

Originally appeared in Mother Earth #3, March 1908

“Direct Action” by Voltairine de Cleyre

From the standpoint of one who thinks himself capable of discerning an undeviating route for human progress to pursue, if it is to be progress at all, who, having such a route on his mind’s map, has endeavored to point it out to others; to make them see it as he sees it; who in so doing has chosen what appeared to him clear and simple expressions to convey his thoughts to others, — to such a one it appears matter for regret and confusion of spirit that the phrase “Direct Action” has suddenly acquired in the general mind a circumscribed meaning, not at all implied in the words themselves, and certainly never attached to it by himself or his co-thinkers.

However, this is one of the common jests which Progress plays on those who think themselves able to set metes and bounds for it. Over and over again, names, phrases, mottoes, watchwords, have been turned inside out, and upside down, and hindside before, and sideways, by occurrences out of the control of those who used the expressions in their proper sense; and still, those who sturdily held their ground, and insisted on being heard, have in the end found that the period of misunderstanding and prejudice has been but the prelude to wider inquiry and understanding.

I rather think this will be the case with the present misconception of the term Direct Action, which through the misapprehension, or else the deliberate misrepresentation, of certain journalists in Los Angeles, at the time the McNamaras pleaded guilty, suddenly acquired in the popular mind the interpretation, “Forcible Attacks on Life and Property.” This was either very ignorant or very dishonest of the journalists; but it has had the effect of making a good many people curious to know all about Direct Action.

As a matter of fact, those who are so lustily and so inordinately condemning it, will find on examination that they themselves have on many occasion practised direct action, and will do so again.

Every person who ever thought he had a right to assert, and went boldly and asserted it, himself, or jointly with others that shared his convictions, was a direct actionist. Some thirty years ago I recall that the Salvation Army was vigorously practising direct action in the maintenance of the freedom of its members to speak, assemble, and pray. Over and over they were arrested, fined, and imprisoned; but they kept right on singing, praying, and marching, till they finally compelled their persecutors to let them alone. The Industrial Workers are now conducting the same fight, and have, in a number of cases, compelled the officials to let them alone by the same direct tactics.

Every person who ever had a plan to do anything, and went and did it, or who laid his plan before others, and won their co-operation to do it with him, without going to external authorities to please do the thing for them, was a direct actionist. All co-operative experiments are essentially direct action.

Every person who ever in his life had a difference with anyone to settle, and went straight to the other persons involved to settle it, either by a peaceable plan or otherwise, was a direct actionist. Examples of such action are strikes and boycotts; many persons will recall the action of the housewives of New York who boycotted the butchers, and lowered the price of meat; at the present moment a butter boycott seems looming up, as a direct reply to the price-makers for butter.

These actions are generally not due to any one’s reasoning overmuch on the respective merits of directness or indirectness, but are the spontaneous retorts of those who feel oppresses by a situation. In other words, all people are, most of the time, believers in the principle of direct action, and practices of it. However, most people are also indirect or political actionists. And they are both these things at the same time, without making much of an analysis of either. There are only a limited number of persons who eschew political action under any and all circumstances; but there is nobody, nobody at all, who has ever been so “impossible” as to eschew direct action altogether.

The majority of thinking people are really opportunist, leaning, some perhaps more to directness, some more to indirectness as a general thing, but ready to use either means when opportunity calls for it. That is to say, there are those who hold that balloting governors into power is essentially a wrong and foolish thing; but who nevertheless under stress of special circumstances, might consider it the wisest thing to do, to vote some individual into office at that particular time. Or there are those who believe that in general the wisest way for people to get what they want is by the indirect method of voting into power some one who will make what they want legal; yet who all the same will occasionally under exceptional conditions advise a strike; and a strike, as I have said, is direct action. Or they may do as the Socialist Party agitators (who are mostly declaiming now against direct action) did last summer, when the police were holding up their meetings. They went in force to the meeting-places, prepared to speak whether-or-no, and they made the police back down. And while that was not logical on their part, thus to oppose the legal executors of the majority’s will, it was a fine, successful piece of direct action.

Those who, by the essence of their belief, are committed to Direct Action only are — just who? Why, the non-resistants; precisely those who do not believe in violence at all! Now do not make the mistake of inferring that I say direct action means non-resistance; not by any means. Direct action may be the extreme of violence, or it may be as peaceful as the waters of the Brook of Shiloa that go softly. What I say is, that the real non-resistants can believe in direct action only, never in political action. For the basis of all political action is coercion; even when the State does good things, it finally rests on a club, a gun, or a prison, for its power to carry them through.

Now every school child in the United States has had the direct action of certain non-resistants brought to his notice by his school history. The case which everyone instantly recalls is that of the early Quakers who came to Massachusetts. The Puritans had accused the Quakers of “troubling the world by preaching peace to it.” They refused to pay church taxes; they refused to bear arms; they refused to swear allegiance to any government. (In so doing they were direct actionists, what we may call negative direct actionists.) So the Puritans, being political actionists, passed laws to keep them out, to deport, to fine, to imprison, to mutilate, and finally, to hang them. And the Quakers just kept on coming (which was positive direct action); and history records that after the hanging of four Quakers, and the flogging of Margaret Brewster at the cart’s tail through the streets of Boston, “the Puritans gave up trying to silence the new missionaries”; that “Quaker persistence and Quaker non-resistance had won the day.”

Another example of direct action in early colonial history, but this time by no means of the peaceable sort, was the affair known as Bacon’s Rebellion. All our historians certainly defend the action of the rebels in that matter, for they were right. And yet it was a case of violent direct action against lawfully constituted authority. For the benefit of those who have forgotten the details, let me briefly remind them that the Virginia planters were in fear of a general attack by the Indians; with reason. Being political actionists, they asked, or Bacon as their leader asked, that the governor grant him a commission to raise volunteers in their own defense. The governor feared that such a company of armed men would be a threat to him; also with reason. He refused the commission. Whereupon the planters resorted to direct action. They raised volunteers without the commission, and successfully fought off the Indians. Bacon was pronounced a traitor by the governor; but the people being with him, the governor was afraid to proceed against him. In the end, however, it came so far that the rebels burned Jamestown; and but for the untimely death of Bacon, much more might have been done. Of course the reaction was very dreadful, as it usually is where a rebellion collapses or is crushed. Yet even during the brief period of success, it had corrected a good many abuses. I am quite sure that the political-action-at-all-costs advocates of those times, after the reaction came back into power, must have said: “See to what evils direct action brings us! Behold, the progress of the colony has been set back twenty-five years;” forgetting that if the colonists had not resorted to direct action, their scalps would have been taken by the Indians a year sooner, instead of a number of them being hanged by the governor a year later.

In the period of agitation and excitement preceding the revolution, there were all sorts and kinds of direct action from the most peaceable to the most violent; and I believe that almost everybody who studies United States history finds the account of these performances the most interesting part of the story, the part which dents into the memory most easily.

Among the peaceable moves made, were the non-importation agreements, the leagues for wearing homespun clothing and the “committees of correspondence.” As the inevitable growth of hostility progressed, violent direct action developed; e.g., in the matter of destroying the revenue stamps, or the action concerning the tea-ships, either by not permitting the tea to be landed, or by putting it in damp storage, or by throwing it into the harbor, as in Boston, or by compelling a tea-ship owner to set fire to his own ship, as at Annapolis. These are all actions which our commonest textbooks record, certainly not in a condemnatory way, not even in an apologetic way, though they are all cases of direct action against legally constituted authority and property rights. If I draw attention to them, and others of like nature, it is to prove to unreflecting repeaters of words that direct action has always been used, and has the historical sanction of the very people now reprobating it.

George Washington is said to have been the leader of the Virginia planters’ non-importation league; he would now be “enjoined,” probably by a court, from forming any such league; and if he persisted, he would be fined for contempt.

When the great quarrel between the North and the South was waxing hot and hotter, it was again direct action which preceded and precipitated political action. And I may remark here that political action is never taken, nor even contemplated, until slumbering minds have first been aroused by direct acts of protest against existing conditions.

The history of the anti-slavery movement and the Civil War is one of the greatest of paradoxes, although history is a chain of paradoxes. Politically speaking, it was the slave-holding States that stood for greater political freedom, for the autonomy of the single State against the interference of the United States; politically speaking, it was the non-slave-holding States that stood for a strong centralized government, which, Secessionists said and said truly, was bound progressively to develop into more and more tyrannical forms. Which happened. From the close of the Civil War one, there has been continual encroachment of the federal power upon what was formerly the concern of the States individually. The wage-slavers, in their struggles of today, are continually thrown into conflict with that centralized power against which the slave-holder protested (with liberty on his lips by tyranny in his heart). Ethically speaking, it was the non-slave-holding States that in a general way stood for greater human liberty, while the Secessionists stood for race-slavery. In a general way only; that is, the majority of northerners, not being accustomed to the actual presence of negro slavery about them, thought it was probably a mistake; yet they were in no great ferment of anxiety to have it abolished. The Abolitionists only, and they were relatively few, were the genuine ethicals, to whom slavery itself — not secession or union — was the main question. In fact, so paramount was it with them, that a considerable number of them were themselves for the dissolution of the union, advocating that the North take the initiative in the matter of dissolving, in order that the northern people might shake off the blame of holding negroes in chains.

Of course, there were all sorts of people with all sorts of temperaments among those who advocated the abolition of slavery. There were Quakers like Whittier (indeed it was the peace-at-all-costs Quakers who had advocated abolition even in early colonial days); there were moderate political actionists, who were for buying off the slaves, as the cheapest way; and there were extremely violent people, who believed and did all sorts of violent things.

As to what the politicians did, it is one long record of “hoe-not-to-to-it,” a record of thirty years of compromising, and dickering, and trying to keep what was as it was, and to hand sops to both sides when new conditions demanded that something be done, or be pretended to be done. But “the stars in their courses fought against Sisera;” the system was breaking down from within, and the direct actionists from without as well were widening the cracks remorselessly.

Among the various expressions of direct rebellion was the organization of the “underground railroad.” Most of the people who belonged to it believed in both sorts of action; but however much they theoretically subscribed to the right of the majority to enact and enforce laws, they didn’t believe in it on that point. My grandfather was a member of the “underground;” many a fugitive slave he helped on his way to Canada. He was a very patient, law-abiding man in most respects, though I have often thought that he respected it because he didn’t have much to do with it; always leading a pioneer life, law was generally far from him, and direct action imperative. Be that as it may, and law-respecting as he was, he had no respect whatever for slave laws, no matter if made by ten times of a majority; and he conscientiously broke every one that came in his way to be broken.

There were times when in the operation of the “underground” that violence was required, and was used. I recollect one old friend relating to me how she and her mother kept watch all night at the door, while a slave for whom a posse was searching hid in the cellar; and though they were of Quaker descent and sympathies, there was a shotgun on the table. Fortunately it did not have to be used that night.

When the fugitive slave law was passed with the help of the political actionists of the North who wanted to offer a new sop to the slave-holders, the direct actionists took to rescuing recaptured fugitives. There was the “rescue of Shadrach,” and the “rescue of Jerry,” the latter rescuers being led by the famous Gerrit Smith; and a good many more successful and unsuccessful attempts. Still the politicals kept on pottering and trying to smooth things over, and the Abolitionists were denounced and decried by the ultra-law-abiding pacificators, pretty much as Wm. D. Haywood and Frank Bohn are being denounced by their own party now.

The other day I read a communication in the Chicago Daily Socialist from the secretary of the Louisville local Socialist Party to the national secretary, requesting that some safe and sane speaker be substituted for Bohn, who had been announced to speak there. In explaining why, Mr. Dobbs makes this quotation from Bohn’s lecture: “Had the McNamaras been successful in defending the interests of the working class, they would have been right, just as John Brown would have been right, had he been successful in freeing the slaves. Ignorance was the only crime of John Brown, and ignorance was the only crime of the McNamaras.”

Upon this Mr. Dobbs comments as follows: “We dispute emphatically the statements here made. The attempt to draw a parallel between the open — if mistaken — revolt of John Brown on the one hand, and the secret and murderous methods of the McNamaras on the other, is not only indicative of shallow reasoning, but highly mischievous in the logical conclusions which may be drawn from such statements.”

Evidently Mr.Dobbs is very ignorant of the life and work of John Brown. John Brown was a man of violence; he would have scorned anybody’s attempt to make him out anything else. And once a person is a believer in violence, it is with him only a question of the most effective way of applying it, which can be determined only by a knowledge of conditions and means at his disposal. John Brown did not shrink at all from conspiratorial methods. Those who have read the autobiography of Frederick Douglas and the Reminiscences of Lucy Colman, will recall that one of the plans laid by John Brown was to organize a chain of armed camps in the mountains of West Virginia, North Carolina, and Tennessee, send secret emissaries among the slaves inciting them to flee to these camps, and there concert such measures as times and conditions made possible for further arousing revolt among the negroes. That this plan failed was due to the weakness of the desire for liberty among the slaves themselves, more than anything else.

Later on, when the politicians in their infinite deviousness contrived a fresh proposition of how-not-to-do-it, known as the Kansas-Nebraska Act, which left the question of slavery to be determined by the settlers, the direct actionists on both sides sent bogus settlers into the territory, who proceeded to fight it out. The pro-slavery men, who got in first, made a constitution recognizing slavery and a law punishing with death any one who aided a slave to escape; but the Free Soilers, who were a little longer in arriving since they came from more distant States, made a second constitution, and refused to recognize the other party’s laws at all. And John Brown was there, mixing in all the violence, conspiratorial or open; he was “a horse-thief and a murderer,” in the eyes of decent, peaceable, political actionists. And there is no doubt that he stole horses, sending no notice in advance of his intention to steal them, and that he killed pro-slavery men. He struck and got away a good many times before his final attempt on Harper’s Ferry. If he did not use dynamite, it was because dynamite had not yet appeared as a practical weapon. He made a great many more intentional attacks on life than the two brothers Secretary Dobbs condemns for their “murderous methods.” And yet history has not failed to understand John Brown. Mankind knows that though he was a violent man, with human blood upon his hands, who was guilty of high treason and hanged for it, yet his soul was a great, strong, unselfish soul, unable to bear the frightful crime which kept 4,000,000 people like dumb beasts, and thought that making war against it was a sacred, a God-called duty, (for John Brown was a very religious man — a Presbyterian).

It is by and because of the direct acts of the forerunners of social change, whether they be of peaceful or warlike nature, that the Human Conscience, the conscience of the mass, becomes aroused to the need for change. It would be very stupid to say that no good results are ever brought about by political action; sometimes good things do come about that way. But never until individual rebellion, followed by mass rebellion, has forced it. Direct action is always the clamorer, the initiator, through which the great sum of indifferentists become aware that oppression is getting intolerable.

We have now and oppression in the land — and not only in this land, but throughout all those parts of the world which enjoy the very mixed blessings of Civilization. And just as in the question of chattel slavery, so this form of slavery has been begetting both direct action and political action. A certain percent of our population (probably a much smaller percent than politicians are in the habit of assigning at mass meetings) is producing the material wealth upon which all the rest of us live; just as it was 4,000,000 chattel Blacks who supported all the crowd of parasites above them. These are the land workers and the industrial workers.

Through the unprophesied and unprophesiable operation of institutions which no individual of us created, but found in existence when he came here, these workers, the most absolutely necessary part of the whole social structure, without whose services none can either eat, or clothe, or shelter himself, are just the ones who get the least to eat, to wear, and to be housed withal — to say nothing of their share of the other social benefits which the rest of us are supposed to furnish, such as education and artistic gratification.

These workers have, in one form or another, mutually joined their forces to see what betterment of their condition they could get; primarily by direct action, secondarily by political action. We have had the Grange, the Farmer’s Alliance, Co-operative Associations, Colonization Experiments, Knights of Labor, Trade Unions, and Industrial Workers of the World. All of them have been organized for the purpose of wringing from the masters in the economic field a little better price, a little better conditions, a little shorter hours; or on the other hand to resist a reduction in price, worse conditions, or longer hours. None of them has attempted a final solution of the social war. None of them, except the Industrial Workers, has recognized that there is a social war, inevitable so long as present legal-social conditions endure. They accepted property institutions as they found them. They were made up of average men, with average desires, and they undertook to do what appeared to them possible and very reasonable things. They were not committed to any particular political policy when they were organized, but were associated for direct action of their own initiation, either positive or defensive.

Undoubtably there were and are among all these organizations, members who looked beyond immediate demands; who did see that the continuous development of forces now in operation was bound to bring about conditions to which it is impossible that life continue to submit, and against which, therefore, it will protest, and violently protest; that it will have no choice but to do so; that it must do so or tamely die; and since it is not the nature of life to surrender without struggle, it will not tamely die. Twenty-two years ago I met Farmer’s Alliance people who said so, Knights of Labor who said so, Trade Unionists who said so. They wanted larger aims than those to which their organizations were looking; but they had to accept their fellow members as they were, and try to stir them to work for such things as it was possible to make them see. And what they could see was better prices, better wages, less dangerous or tyrannical conditions, shorter hours. At the stage of development when these movements were initiated, the land workers could not see that their struggle had anything to do with the struggle of those engaged in the manufacturing or transporting service; nor could these latter see that theirs had anything to do with the movement of the farmers. For that matter very few of them see it yet. They have yet to learn that there is one common struggle against those who have appropriated the earth, the money, and the machines.

Unfortunately the great organizations of the farmers frittered itself away in a stupid chase after political power. It was quite successful in getting the power in certain States; but the courts pronounced its laws unconstitutional, and there was the burial hole of all its political conquests. Its original program was to build its own elevators, and store the products therein, holding these from the market till they could escape the speculator. Also, to organize labor exchanges, issuing credit notes upon products deposited for exchange. Had it adhered to this program of direct mutual aid, it would, to some extent, for a time at least, have afforded an illustration of how mankind may free itself from the parasitism of the bankers and the middlemen. Of course, it would have been overthrown in the end, unless it had so revolutionized men’s minds by the example as to force the overthrow of the legal monopoly of land and money; but at least it would have served a great educational purpose. As it was, it “went after the red herring” and disintegrated merely from its futility.

The Knights of Labor subsided into comparative insignificance, not because of failure to use direct action, nor because of its tampering with politics, which was small, but chiefly because it was a heterogenous mass of workers who could not associate their efforts effectively.

The Trade Unions grew strong as the Knights of Labor subsided, and have continued slowly but persistently to increase in power. It is true the increase has fluctuated; that there have been set-backs; that great single organizations have been formed and again dispersed. But on the whole trade unions have been a growing power. They have been so because, poor as they are, they have been a means whereby a certain section of the workers have been able to bring their united force to bear directly upon their masters, and so get for themselves some portion of what they wanted — of what their conditions dictated to them they must try to get. The strike is their natural weapon, that which they themselves have forged. It is the direct blow of the strike which nine times out of ten the boss is afraid of. (Of course there are occasions when he is glad of one, but that’s unusual.) And the reason he dreads a strike is not so much because he thinks he cannot win out against it, but simply and solely because he does not want an interruption of his business. The ordinary boss isn’t in much dread of a “class-conscious vote;” there are plenty of shops where you can talk Socialism or any other political program all day long; but if you begin to talk Unionism you may forthwith expect to be discharged or at best warned to shut up. Why? Not because the boss is so wise as to know that political action is a swamp in which the workingman gets mired, or because he understands that political Socialism is fast becoming a middle-class movement; not at all. He thinks Socialism is a very bad thing; but it’s a good way off! But he knows that if his shop is unionized, he will have trouble right away. His hands will be rebellious, he will be put to expense to improve his factory conditions, he will have to keep workingmen that he doesn’t like, and in case of strike he may expect injury to his machinery or his buildings.

It is often said, and parrot-like repeated, that the bosses are “class-conscious,” that they stick together for their class interest, and are willing to undergo any sort of personal loss rather than be false to those interests. It isn’t so at all. The majority of business people are just like the majority of workingmen; they care a whole lot more about their individual loss or gain than about the gain or loss of their class. And it is his individual loss the boss sees, when threatened by a union.

Now everybody knows that a strike of any size means violence. No matter what any one’s ethical preference for peace may be, he knows it will not be peaceful. If it’s a telegraph strike, it means cutting wires and poles, and getting fake scabs in to spoil the instruments. If it is a steel rolling mill strike, it means beating up the scabs, breaking the windows, setting the gauges wrong, and ruining the expensive rollers together with tons and tons of material. IF it’s a miners’ strike, it means destroying tracks and bridges, and blowing up mills. If it is a garment workers’ strike, it means having an unaccountable fire, getting a volley of stones through an apparently inaccessible window, or possibly a brickbat on the manufacturer’s own head. If it’s a street-car strike, it means tracks torn up or barricaded with the contents of ash-carts and slop-carts, with overturned wagons or stolen fences, it means smashed or incinerated cars and turned switches. If it is a system federation strike, it means “dead” engines, wild engines, derailed freights, and stalled trains. If it is a building trades strike, it means dynamited structures. And always, everywhere, all the time, fights between strike-breakers and scabs against strikers and strike-sympathizers, between People and Police.

On the side of the bosses, it means search-lights, electric wires, stockades, bull-pens, detectives and provocative agents, violent kidnapping and deportation, and every device they can conceive for direct protection, besides the ultimate invocation of police, militia, State constabulary, and federal troops.

Everybody knows this; everybody smiles when union officials protest their organizations to be peaceable and law-abiding, because everybody knows they are lying. They know that violence is used, both secretly and openly; and they know it is used because the strikers cannot do any other way, without giving up the fight at once. Nor to they mistake those who thus resort to violence under stress for destructive miscreants who do what they do out of innate cussedness. The people in general understand that they do these things through the harsh logic of a situation which they did not create, but which forces them to these attacks in order to make good in their struggle to live or else go down the bottomless descent into poverty, that lets Death find them in the poorhouse hospital, the city street, or the river-slime. This is the awful alternative that the workers are facing; and this is what makes the most kindly disposed human beings — men who would go out of their way to help a wounded dog, or bring home a stray kitten and nurse it, or step aside to avoid walking on a worm — resort to violence against their fellow men. They know, for the facts have taught them, that this is the only way to win, if they can win at all. And it has always appeared to me one of the most utterly ludicrous, absolutely irrelevant things that a person can do or say, when approached for relief or assistance by a striker who is dealing with an immediate situation, to respond with “Vote yourself into power!” when the next election is six months, a year, or two years away.

Unfortunately the people who know best how violence is used in union warfare cannot come forward and say: “On such a day, at such a place, such and such specific action was done, and as a result such and such concession was made, or such and such boss capitulated.” To do so would imperil their liberty and their power to go on fighting. Therefore those that know best must keep silent and sneer in their sleeves, while those that know little prate. Events, not tongues, must make their position clear.

And there has been a very great deal of prating these last few weeks. Speakers and writers, honestly convinced I believe that political action and political action only can win the workers’ battle, have been denouncing what they are pleased to call “direct action” (what they really mean is conspiratorial violence) as the author of mischief incalculable. One Oscar Ameringer, as an example, recently said at a meeting in Chicago that the Haymarket bomb of ’86 had set back the eight-hour movement twenty-five years, arguing that the movement would have succeeded but for the bomb. It’s a great mistake. No one can exactly measure in years or months the effect of a forward push or a reaction. No one can demonstrate that the eight-hour movement could have been won twenty-five years ago. We know that the eight-hour day was put on the statute books of Illinois in 1871 by political action, and has remained a dead letter. That the direct action of the workers could have won it, then, cannot be proved; but it can be shown that many more potent factors than the Haymarket bomb worked against it. On the other hand, if the reactive influence of the bomb was really so powerful, we should naturally expect labor and union conditions to be worse in Chicago than in the cities where no such thing happened. On the contrary, bad as they are, the general conditions of labor are better in Chicago than in most other large cities, and the power of the unions is more developed there than in any other American city except San Francisco. So if we are to conclude anything for the influence of the Haymarket bomb, keep these facts in mind. Personally I do not think its influence on the labor movement, as such, was so very great.

It will be the same with the present furore about violence. Nothing fundamental has been altered. Two men have been imprisoned for what they did (twenty-four years ago they were hanged for what they did not do); some few more may yet be imprisoned. But the forces of life will continue to revolt against their economic chains. There will be no cessation in that revolt, no matter what ticket men vote or fail to vote, until the chains are broken.

How will the chains be broken?

Political actionists tell us it will be only by means of working-class party action at the polls; by voting themselves into possession of the sources of life and the tools; by voting that those who now command forests, mines, ranches, waterways, mills, and factories, and likewise command the military power to defend them, shall hand over their dominion to the people.

And meanwhile?

Meanwhile, be peaceable, industrious, law-abiding, patient, and frugal (as Madero told the Mexican peons to be, after he sold them to Wall Street)! Even if some of you are disenfranchised, don’t rise up even against that, for it might “set back the party.”

Well, I have already stated that some good is occasionally accomplished by political action — not necessarily working-class party action either. But I am abundantly convinced that the occasional good accomplished is more than counterbalanced by the evil; just as I am convinced that though there are occasional evils resulting through direct action, they are more than counterbalanced by the good.

Nearly all the laws which were originally framed with the intention of benefitting the workers, have either turned into weapons in their enemies’ hands, or become dead letters unless the workers through their organizations have directly enforced their observance. So that in the end, it is direct action that has to be relied on anyway. As an example of getting the tarred end of a law, glance at the anti-trust law, which was supposed to benefit the people in general and the working class in particular. About two weeks since, some 250 union leaders were cited to answer to the charge of being trust formers, as the answer of the Illinois Central to its strikers.

But the evil of pinning faith to indirect action is far greater than any such minor results. The main evil is that it destroys initiative, quenches the individual rebellious spirit, teaches people to rely on someone else to do for them what they should do for themselves; finally renders organic the anomalous idea that by massing supineness together until a majority is acquired, then through the peculiar magic of that majority, this supineness is to be transformed into energy. That is, people who have lost the habit of striking for themselves as individuals, who have submitted to every injustice while waiting for the majority to grow, are going to become metamorphosed into human high-explosives by a mere process of packing!

I quite agree that the sources of life, and all the natural wealth of the earth, and the tools necessary to co-operative production, must become freely accessible to all. It is a positive certainty to me that unionism must widen and deepen its purposes, or it will go under; and I feel sure that the logic of the situation will gradually force them to see it. They must learn that the workers’ problem can never be solved by beating up scabs, so long as their own policy of limiting their membership by high initiation fees and other restrictions helps to make scabs. They must learn that the course of growth is not so much along the line of higher wages, but shorter hours, which will enable them to increase membership, to take in everybody who is willing to come into the union. They must learn that if they want to win battles, all allied workers must act together, act quickly (serving no notice on bosses), and retain their freedom to do so at all times. And finally they must learn that even then (when they have a complete organization) they can win nothing permanent unless they strike for everything — not for a wage, not for a minor improvement, but for the whole natural wealth of the earth. And proceed to the direct expropriation of it all!

They must learn that their power does not lie in their voting strength, that their power lies in their ability to stop production. It is a great mistake to suppose that the wage-earners constitute a majority of the voters. Wage-earners are here today and there tomorrow, and that hinders a large number from voting; a great percentage of them in this country are foreigners without a voting right. The most patent proof that Socialist leaders know this is so, is that they are compromising their propaganda at every point to win the support of the business class, the small investor. Their campaign papers proclaimed that their interviewers had been assured by Wall Street bond purchasers that they would be just as ready to buy Los Angeles bonds from a socialist as a capitalist administrator; that the present Milwaukee administration has been a boon to the small investor; their reading notices assure their readers in this city that we need not go to the great department stores to buy — buy rather of So-and-so on Milwaukee Avenue, who will satisfy us quite as well as a “big business” institution. In short, they are making every desperate effort to win the support and to prolong the life of that middle-class which socialist economy says must be ground to pieces, because they know they cannot get a majority without them.

The most that a working-class party could do, even if its politicians remained honest, would be to form a strong faction in the legislatures which might, by combining its vote with one side or another, win certain political or economic palliatives.

But what the working-class can do, when once they grow into a solidified organization, is to show the possessing class, through a sudden cessation of all work, that the whole social structure rests on them; that the possessions of the others are absolutely worthless to them without the workers’ activity; that such protests, such strikes, are inherent in the system of property and will continually recur until the whole thing is abolished — and having shown that effectively, proceed to expropriate.

“But the military power,” says the political actionist; “we must get political power, or the military will be used against us!”

Against a real General Strike, the military can do nothing. Oh, true, if you have a Socialist Briand in power, he may declare the workers “public officials” and try to make them serve against themselves! But against the solid wall of an immobile working-mass, even a Briand would be broken.

Meanwhile, until this international awakening, the war will go on as it had been going, in spite of all the hysteria which well-meaning people who do not understand life and its necessities may manifest; in spite of all the shivering that timid leaders have done; in spite of all the reactionary revenges that may be taken; in spite of all the capital that politicians make out of the situation. It will go on because Life cries to live, and Property denies its freedom to live; and Life will not submit.

And should not submit.

It will go on until that day when a self-freed Humanity is able to chant Swinburne’s Hymn of Man:

“Glory to Man in the highest,

For Man is the master of Things.”

“Anarchism and American Traditions” by Voltairine de Cleyre

American traditions, begotten of religious rebellion, small self-sustaining communities, isolated conditions, and hard pioneer life, grew during the colonization period of one hundred and seventy years from the settling of Jamestown to the outburst of the Revolution. This was in fact the great constitution-making epoch, the period of charters guaranteeing more or less of liberty, the general tendency of which is well described by Wm. Penn in speaking of the charter for Pennsylvania: “I want to put it out of my power, or that of my successors, to do mischief.”

The revolution is the sudden and unified consciousness of these traditions, their loud assertion, the blow dealt by their indomitable will against the counter force of tyranny, which has never entirely recovered from the blow, but which from then till now has gone on remolding and regrappling the instruments of governmental power, that the Revolution sought to shape and hold as defenses of liberty.

To the average American of today, the Revolution means the series of battles fought by the patriot army with the armies of England. The millions of school children who attend our public schools are taught to draw maps of the siege of Boston and the siege of Yorktown, to know the general plan of the several campaigns, to quote the number of prisoners of war surrendered with Burgoyne; they are required to remember the date when Washington crossed the Delaware on the ice; they are told to “Remember Paoli,” to repeat “Molly Stark’s a widow,” to call General Wayne “Mad Anthony Wayne,” and to execrate Benedict Arnold; they know that the Declaration of Independence was signed on the Fourth of July, 1776, and the Treaty of Paris in 1783; and then they think they have learned the Revolution — blessed be George Washington! They have no idea why it should have been called a “revolution” instead of the “English War,” or any similar title: it’s the name of it, that’s all. And name-worship, both in child and man, has acquired such mastery of them, that the name “American Revolution” is held sacred, though it means to them nothing more than successful force, while the name “Revolution” applied to a further possibility, is a spectre detested and abhorred. In neither case have they any idea of the content of the word, save that of armed force. That has already happened, and long happened, which Jefferson foresaw when he wrote:

“The spirit of the times may alter, will alter. Our rulers will become corrupt, our people careless. A single zealot may become persecutor, and better men be his victims. It can never be too often repeated that the time for fixing every essential right, on a legal basis, is while our rulers are honest, ourselves united. From the conclusion of this war we shall be going down hill. It will not then be necessary to resort every moment to the people for support. They will be forgotten, therefore, and their rights disregarded. They will forget themselves in the sole faculty of making money, and will never think of uniting to effect a due respect for their rights. The shackles, therefore, which shall not be knocked off at the conclusion of this war, will be heavier and heavier, till our rights shall revive or expire in a convulsion.”

To the men of that time, who voiced the spirit of that time, the battles that they fought were the least of the Revolution; they were the incidents of the hour, the things they met and faced as part of the game they were playing; but the stake they had in view, before, during, and after the war, the real Revolution, was a change in political institutions which should make of government not a thing apart, a superior power to stand over the people with a whip, but a serviceable agent, responsible, economical, and trustworthy (but never so much trusted as not to be continually watched), for the transaction of such business as was the common concern and to set the limits of the common concern at the line of where one man’s liberty would encroach upon another’s.

They thus took their starting point for deriving a minimum of government upon the same sociological ground that the modern Anarchist derives the no-government theory; viz., that equal liberty is the political ideal. The difference lies in the belief, on the one hand, that the closest approximation to equal liberty might be best secured by the rule of the majority in those matters involving united action of any kind (which rule of the majority they thought it possible to secure by a few simple arrangements for election), and, on the other hand, the belief that majority rule is both impossible and undesirable; that any government, no matter what its forms, will be manipulated by a very small minority, as the development of the States and United States governments has strikingly proved; that candidates will loudly profess allegiance to platforms before elections, which as officials in power they will openly disregard, to do as they please; and that even if the majority will could be imposed, it would also be subversive of equal liberty, which may be best secured by leaving to the voluntary association of those interested in the management of matters of common concern, without coercion of the uninterested or the opposed.

Among the fundamental likeness between the Revolutionary Republicans and the Anarchists is the recognition that the little must precede the great; that the local must be the basis of the general; that there can be a free federation only when there are free communities to federate; that the spirit of the latter is carried into the councils of the former, and a local tyranny may thus become an instrument for general enslavement. Convinced of the supreme importance of ridding the municipalities of the institutions of tyranny, the most strenuous advocates of independence, instead of spending their efforts mainly in the general Congress, devoted themselves to their home localities, endeavoring to work out of the minds of their neighbors and fellow-colonists the institutions of entailed property, of a State-Church, of a class-divided people, even the institution of African slavery itself. Though largely unsuccessful, it is to the measure of success they did achieve that we are indebted for such liberties as we do retain, and not to the general government. They tried to inculcate local initiative and independent action. The author of the Declaration of Independence, who in the fall of ’76 declined a re-election to Congress in order to return to Virginia and do his work in his own local assembly, in arranging there for public education which he justly considered a matter of “common concern,” said his advocacy of public schools was not with any “view to take its ordinary branches out of the hands of private enterprise, which manages so much better the concerns to which it is equal”; and in endeavoring to make clear the restrictions of the Constitution upon the functions of the general government, he likewise said:

“Let the general government be reduced to foreign concerns only, and let our affairs be disentangled from those of all other nations, except as to commerce, which the merchants will manage for themselves, and the general government may be reduced to a very simple organization, and a very inexpensive one; a few plain duties to be performed by a few servants.”

This then was the American tradition, that private enterprise manages better all that to which it IS equal. Anarchism declares that private enterprise, whether individual or cooperative, is equal to all the undertakings of society. And it quotes the particular two instances, Education and Commerce, which the governments of the States and of the United States have undertaken to manage and regulate, as the very two which in operation have done more to destroy American freedom and equality, to warp and distort American tradition, to make of government a mighty engine of tyranny, than any other cause, save the unforeseen developments of Manufacture.

It was the intention of the Revolutionists to establish a system of common education, which should make the teaching of history one of its principal branches; not with the intent of burdening the memories of our youth with the dates of battles or the speeches of generals, nor to make the Boston Tea Party Indians the one sacrosanct mob in all history, to be revered but never on any account to be imitated, but with the intent that every American should know to what conditions the masses of people had been brought by the operation of certain institutions, by what means they had wrung out their liberties, and how those liberties had again and again been filched from them by the use of governmental force, fraud, and privilege. Not to breed security, laudation, complacent indolence, passive acquiescence in the acts of a government protected by the label “home-made,” but to beget a wakeful jealousy, a never-ending watchfulness of rulers, a determination to squelch every attempt of those entrusted with power to encroach upon the sphere of individual action — this was the prime motive of the revolutionists in endeavoring to provide for common education.

“Confidence,” said the revolutionists who adopted the Kentucky Resolutions, “is everywhere the parent of despotism; free government is founded in jealousy, not in confidence; it is jealousy, not confidence, which prescribes limited constitutions to bind down those whom we are obliged to trust with power; our Constitution has accordingly fixed the limits to which, and no further, our confidence may go… In questions of power, let no more be heard of confidence in man, but bind him down from mischief by the chains of the Constitution.”

These resolutions were especially applied to the passage of the Alien laws by the monarchist party during John Adams’ administration, and were an indignant call from the State of Kentucky to repudiate the right of the general government to assume undelegated powers, for said they, to accept these laws would be “to be bound by laws made, not with our consent, but by others against our consent — that is, to surrender the form of government we have chosen, and to live under one deriving its powers from its own will, and not from our authority.” Resolutions identical in spirit were also passed by Virginia, the following month; in those days the States still considered themselves supreme, the general government subordinate.

To inculcate this proud spirit of the supremacy of the people over their governors was to be the purpose of public education! Pick up today any common school history, and see how much of this spirit you will find therein. On the contrary, from cover to cover you will find nothing but the cheapest sort of patriotism, the inculcation of the most unquestioning acquiescence in the deeds of government, a lullaby of rest, security, confidence — the doctrine that the Law can do no wrong, a Te Deum in praise of the continuous encroachments of the powers of the general government upon the reserved rights of the States, shameless falsification of all acts of rebellion, to put the government in the right and the rebels in the wrong, pyrotechnic glorifications of union, power, and force, and a complete ignoring of the essential liberties to maintain which was the purpose of the revolutionists. The anti-Anarchist law of post-McKinley passage, a much worse law than the Alien and Sedition acts which roused the wrath of Kentucky and Virginia to the point of threatened rebellion, is exalted as a wise provision of our All-Seeing Father in Washington.

Such is the spirit of government-provided schools. Ask any child what he knows about Shays’ rebellion, and he will answer, “Oh, some of the farmers couldn’t pay their taxes, and Shays led a rebellion against the court-house at Worcester, so they could burn up the deeds; and when Washington heard of it he sent over an army quick and taught ‘em a good lesson” — “And what was the result of it?” “The result? Why — why — the result was — Oh yes, I remember — the result was they saw the need of a strong federal government to collect the taxes and pay the debts.” Ask if he knows what was said on the other side of the story, ask if he knows that the men who had given their goods and their health and their strength for the freeing of the country now found themselves cast into prison for debt, sick, disabled, and poor, facing a new tyranny for the old; that their demand was that the land should become the free communal possession of those who wished to work it, not subject to tribute, and the child will answer “No.” Ask him if he ever read Jefferson’s letter to Madison about it, in which he says:

“Societies exist under three forms, sufficiently distinguishable.

  1. Without government, as among our Indians.
  2. Under government wherein the will of every one has a just influence; as is the case in England in a slight degree, and in our States in a great one.
  3. Under government of force, as is the case in all other monarchies, and in most of the other republics.

To have an idea of the curse of existence in these last, they must be seen. It is a government of wolves over sheep. It is a problem not clear in my mind that the first condition is not the best. But I believe it to be inconsistent with any great degree of population. The second state has a great deal of good in it…It has its evils too, the principal of which is the turbulence to which it is subject. …But even this evil is productive of good. It prevents the degeneracy of government, and nourishes a general attention to public affairs. I hold that a little rebellion now and then is a good thing.”

Or to another correspondent:

“God forbid that we should ever be twenty years without such a rebellion!…What country can preserve its liberties if its rulers are not warned from time to time that the people preserve the spirit of resistance? Let them take up arms… The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants. It is its natural manure.”

Ask any school child if he was ever taught that the author of the Declaration of Independence, one of the great founders of the common school, said these things, and he will look at you with open mouth and unbelieving eyes. Ask him if he ever heard that the man who sounded the bugle note in the darkest hour of the Crisis, who roused the courage of the soldiers when Washington saw only mutiny and despair ahead, ask him if he knows that this man also wrote, “Government at best is a necessary evil, at worst an intolerable one,” and if he is a little better informed than the average he will answer, “Oh well, he [Tom Paine] was an infidel!” Catechize him about the merits of the Constitution which he has learned to repeat like a poll-parrot, and you will find his chief conception is not of the powers withheld from Congress, but of the powers granted.

Such are the fruits of government schools. We, the Anarchists, point to them and say: If the believers in liberty wish the principles of liberty taught, let them never entrust that instruction to any government; for the nature of government is to become a thing apart, an institution existing for its own sake, preying upon the people, and teaching whatever will tend to keep it secure in its seat. As the fathers said of the governments of Europe, so say we of this government also after a century and a quarter of independence: “The blood of the people has become its inheritance, and those who fatten on it will not relinquish it easily.”

Public education, having to do with the intellect and spirit of a people, is probably the most subtle and far-reaching engine for molding the course of a nation; but commerce, dealing as it does with material things and producing immediate effects, was the force that bore down soonest upon the paper barriers of constitutional restriction, and shaped the government to its requirements. Here, indeed, we arrive at the point where we, looking over the hundred and twenty five years of independence, can see that the simple government conceived by the revolutionary republicans was a foredoomed failure. It was so because of:

  1. the essence of government itself;
  2. the essence of human nature
  3. the essence of Commerce and Manufacture.

Of the essence of government, I have already said, it is a thing apart, developing its own interests at the expense of what opposes it; all attempts to make it anything else fail. In this Anarchists agree with the traditional enemies of the Revolution, the monarchists, federalists, strong government believers, the Roosevelts of today, the Jays, Marshalls, and Hamiltons of then — that Hamilton, who, as Secretary of the Treasury, devised a financial system of which we are the unlucky heritors, and whose objects were twofold: To puzzle the people and make public finance obscure to those that paid for it; to serve as a machine for corrupting the legislatures; “for he avowed the opinion that man could be governed by two motives only, force or interest”; force being then out of the question, he laid hold of interest, the greed of the legislators, to set going an association of persons having an entirely separate welfare from the welfare of their electors, bound together by mutual corruption and mutual desire for plunder. The Anarchist agrees that Hamilton was logical, and understood the core of government; the difference is, that while strong governmentalists believe this is necessary and desirable, we choose the opposite conclusion, No Government Whatsoever.

As to the essence of human nature, what our national experience has made plain is this, that to remain in a continually exalted moral condition is not human nature. That has happened which was prophesied: we have gone down hill from the Revolution until now; we are absorbed in “mere money-getting.” The desire for material east long ago vanquished the spirit of ’76. What was that spirit? The spirit that animated the people of Virginia, of the Carolinas, of Massachusetts, of New York, when they refused to import goods from England; when they preferred (and stood by it) to wear coarse, homespun cloth, to drink the brew of their own growths, to fit their appetites to the home supply, rather than submit to the taxation of the imperial ministry. Even within the lifetime of the revolutionists, the spirit decayed. The love of material ease has been, in the mass of men and permanently speaking, always greater than the love of liberty. Nine hundred and ninety nine women out of a thousand are more interested in the cut of a dress than in the independence of their sex; nine hundred and ninety nine men out of a thousand are more interested in drinking a glass of beer than in questioning the tax that is laid on it; how many children are not willing to trade the liberty to play for the promise of a new cap or a new dress? That it is which begets the complicated mechanism of society; that it is which, by multiplying the concerns of government, multiplies the strength of government and the corresponding weakness of the people; this it is which begets indifference to public concern, thus making the corruption of government easy.

As to the essence of Commerce and Manufacture, it is this: to establish bonds between every corner of the earths surface and every other corner, to multiply the needs of mankind, and the desire for material possession and enjoyment.

The American tradition was the isolation of the States as far as possible. Said they: We have won our liberties by hard sacrifice and struggle unto death. We wish now to be let alone and to let others alone, that our principles may have time for trial; that we may become accustomed to the exercise of our rights; that we may be kept free from the contaminating influence of European gauds, pageants, distinctions. So richly did they esteem the absence of these that they could in all fervor write: “We shall see multiplied instances of Europeans coming to America, but no man living will ever seen an instance of an American removing to settle in Europe, and continuing there.” Alas! In less than a hundred years the highest aim of a “Daughter of the Revolution” was, and is, to buy a castle, a title, and rotten lord, with the money wrung from American servitude! And the commercial interests of America are seeking a world empire!

In the earlier days of the revolt and subsequent independence, it appeared that the “manifest destiny” of America was to be an agricultural people, exchanging food stuffs and raw materials for manufactured articles. And in those days it was written: “We shall be virtuous as long as agriculture is our principal object, which will be the case as long as there remain vacant lands in any part of America. When we get piled upon one another in large cities, as in Europe, we shall become corrupt as in Europe, and go to eating one another as they do there.” Which we are doing, because of the inevitable development of Commerce and Manufacture, and the concomitant development of strong government. And the parallel prophecy is likewise fulfilled: “If ever this vast country is brought under a single government, it will be one of the most extensive corruption, indifferent and incapable of a wholesome care over so wide a spread of surface.” There is not upon the face of the earth today a government so utterly and shamelessly corrupt as that of the United States of America. There are others more cruel, more tyrannical, more devastating; there is none so utterly venal.

And yet even in the very days of the prophets, even with their own consent, the first concession to this later tyranny was made. It was made when the Constitution was made; and the Constitution was made chiefly because of the demands of Commerce. Thus it was at the outset a merchant’s machine, which the other interests of the country, the land and labor interests, even then foreboded would destroy their liberties. In vain their jealousy of its central power made enact the first twelve amendments. In vain they endeavored to set bounds over which the federal power dare not trench. In vain they enacted into general law the freedom of speech, of the press, of assemblage and petition. All of these things we see ridden roughshod upon every day, and have so seen with more or less intermission since the beginning of the nineteenth century. At this day, every police lieutenant considers himself, and rightly so, as more powerful than the General Law of the Union; and that one who told Robert Hunter that he held in his fist something stronger than the Constitution, was perfectly correct. The right of assemblage is an American tradition which has gone out of fashion; the police club is now the mode. And it is so in virtue of the people’s indifference to liberty, and the steady progress of constitutional interpretation towards the substance of imperial government.

It is an American tradition that a standing army is a standing menace to liberty; in Jefferson’s presidency the army was reduced to 3,000 men. It is American tradition that we keep out of the affairs of other nations. It is American practice that we meddle with the affairs of everybody else from the West to the East Indies, from Russia to Japan; and to do it we have a standing army of 83,251 men.

It is American tradition that the financial affairs of a nation should be transacted on the same principles of simple honesty that an individual conducts his own business; viz., that debt is a bad thing, and a man’s first surplus earning should be applied to his debts; that offices and office holders should be few. It is American practice that the general government should always have millions [of dollars] of debt, even if a panic or a war has to be forced to prevent its being paid off; and as to the application of its income office holders come first. And within the last administration it is reported that 99,000 offices have been created at an annual expense of 1663,000,000. Shades of Jefferson! “How are vacancies to be obtained? Those by deaths are few; by resignation none.” [Theodore] Roosevelt cuts the knot by making 99,000 new ones! And few will die — and none resign. They will beget sons and daughters, and Taft will have to create 99,000 more! Verily a simple and a serviceable thing is our general government.

It is American tradition that the Judiciary shall act as a check upon the impetuosity of Legislatures, should these attempt to pass the bounds of constitutional limitation. It is American practice that the Judiciary justifies every law which trenches on the liberties of the people and nullifies every act of the Legislature by which the people seek to regain some measure of their freedom. Again, in the words of Jefferson: “The Constitution is a mere thing of wax in the hands of the Judiciary, which they may twist and shape in any form they please.” Truly, if the men who fought the good fight for the triumph of simple, honest, free life in that day, were now to look upon the scene of their labors, they would cry out together with him who said:

“I regret that I am now to die in the belief that the useless sacrifices of themselves by the generation of ’76 to acquire self-government and happiness to their country, is to be thrown away by the unwise and unworthy passions of their sons, and that my only consolation is to be that I shall not live to see it.”

And now, what has Anarchism to say to all this, this bankruptcy of republicanism, this modern empire that has grown up on the ruins of our early freedom? We say this, that the sin our fathers sinned was that they did not trust liberty wholly. They thought it possible to compromise between liberty and government, believing the latter to be “a necessary evil,” and the moment the compromise was made, the whole misbegotten monster of our present tyranny began to grow. Instruments which are set up to safeguard rights become the very whip with which the free are struck.

Anarchism says, Make no laws whatever concerning speech, and speech will be free; so soon as you make a declaration on paper that speech shall be free, you will have a hundred lawyers proving that “freedom does not mean abuse, nor liberty license”; and they will define and define freedom out of existence. Let the guarantee of free speech be in every man’s determination to use it, and we shall have no need of paper declarations. On the other hand, so long as the people do not care to exercise their freedom, those who wish to tyrannize will do so; for tyrants are active and ardent, and will devote themselves in the name of any number of gods, religious and otherwise, to put shackles upon sleeping men.

The problem then becomes, Is it possible to stir men from their indifference? We have said that the spirit of liberty was nurtured by colonial life; that the elements of colonial life were the desire for sectarian independence, and the jealous watchfulness incident thereto; the isolation of pioneer communities which threw each individual strongly on his own resources, and thus developed all-around men, yet at the same time made very strong such social bonds as did exist; and, lastly, the comparative simplicity of small communities.

All this has disappeared. As to sectarianism, it is only by dint of an occasional idiotic persecution that a sect becomes interesting; in the absence of this, outlandish sects play the fool’s role, are anything but heroic, and have little to do with either the name or the substance of liberty. The old colonial religious parties have gradually become the “pillars of society,” their animosities have died out, their offensive peculiarities have been effaced, they are as like one another as beans in a pod, they build churches — and sleep in them.

As to our communities, they are hopelessly and helplessly interdependent, as we ourselves are, save that continuously diminishing proportion engaged in all around farming; and even these are slaves to mortgages. For our cities, probably there is not one that is provisioned to last a week, and certainly there is none which would not be bankrupt with despair at the proposition that it produce its own food. In response to this condition and its correlative political tyranny, Anarchism affirms the economy of self-sustenance, the disintegration of the great communities, the use of the earth.

I am not ready to say that I see clearly that this will take place; but I see clearly that this must take place if ever again men are to be free. I am so well satisfied that the mass of mankind prefer material possessions to liberty, that I have no hope that they will ever, by means of intellectual or moral stirrings merely, throw off the yoke of oppression fastened on them by the present economic system, to institute free societies. My only hope is in the blind development of the economic system and political oppression itself. The great characteristic looming factor in this gigantic power is Manufacture. The tendency of each nation is to become more and more a manufacturing one, an exporter of fabrics, not an importer. If this tendency follows its own logic, it must eventually circle round to each community producing for itself. What then will become of the surplus product when the manufacturer shall have no foreign market? Why, then mankind must face the dilemma of sitting down and dying in the midst of it, or confiscating the goods.

Indeed, we are partially facing this problem even now; and so far we are sitting down and dying. I opine, however, that men will not do it forever, and when once by an act of general expropriation they have overcome the reverence and fear of property, and their awe of government, they may waken to the consciousness that things are to be used, and therefore men are greater than things. This may rouse the spirit of liberty.

If, on the other hand, the tendency of invention to simplify, enabling the advantages of machinery to be combined with smaller aggregations of workers, shall also follow its own logic, the great manufacturing plants will break up, population will go after the fragments, and there will be seen not indeed the hard, self-sustaining, isolated pioneer communities of early America, but thousands of small communities stretching along the lines of transportation, each producing very largely for its own needs, able to rely upon itself, and therefore able to be independent. For the same rule holds good for societies as for individuals — those may be free who are able to make their own living.

In regard to the breaking up of that vilest creation of tyranny, the standing army and navy, it is clear that so long as men desire to fight, they will have armed force in one form or another. Our fathers thought they had guarded against a standing army by providing for the voluntary militia. In our day we have lived to see this militia declared part of the regular military force of the United States, and subject to the same demands as the regulars. Within another generation we shall probably see its members in the regular pay of the general government. Since any embodiment of the fighting spirit, any military organization, inevitably follows the same line of centralization, the logic of Anarchism is that the least objectionable form of armed force is that which springs up voluntarily, like the minute men of Massachusetts, and disbands as soon as the occasion which called it into existence is past: that the really desirable thing is that all men — not Americans only — should be at peace; and that to reach this, all peaceful persons should withdraw their support from the army, and require that all who make war shall do so at their own cost and risk; that neither pay nor pensions are to be provided for those who choose to make man-killing a trade.

As to the American tradition of non-meddling, Anarchism asks that it be carried down to the individual himself. It demands no jealous barrier of isolation; it knows that such isolation is undesirable and impossible; but it teaches that by all men’s strictly minding their own business, a fluid society, freely adapting itself to mutual needs, wherein all the world shall belong to all men, as much as each has need or desire, will result.

And when Modern Revolution has thus been carried to the heart of the whole world — if it ever shall be, as I hope it will — then may we hope to see a resurrection of that proud spirit of our fathers which put the simple dignity of Man above the gauds of wealth and class, and held that to, be an American was greater than to be a king.

In that day there shall be neither kings nor Americans — only Men ; over the whole earth, Men.

“The Principles of Anarchism” by Lucy E. Parsons

Comrades and Friends:

I think I cannot open my address more appropriately than by stating my experience in my long connection with the reform movement.

It was during the great railroad strike of 1877 that I first became interested in what is known as the “Labor Question.” I then thought as many thousands of earnest, sincere people think, that the aggregate power, operating in human society, known as government, could be made an instrument in the hands of the oppressed to alleviate their sufferings. But a closer study of the origin, history and tendency of governments, convinced me that this was a mistake; I came to understand how organized governments used their concentrated power to retard progress by their ever-ready means of silencing the voice of discontent if raised in vigorous protest against the machinations of the scheming few, who always did, always will and always must rule in the councils of nations where majority rule is recognized as the only means of adjusting the affairs of the people. I came to understand that such concentrated power can be always wielded in the interest of the few and at the expense of the many. Government in its last analysis is this power reduced to a science. Governments never lead; they follow progress. When the prison, stake or scaffold can no longer silence the voice of the protesting minority, progress moves on a step, but not until then.

I will state this contention in another way: I learned by close study that it made no difference what fair promises a political party, out of power might make to the people in order to secure their confidence, when once securely established in control of the affairs of society that they were after all but human with all the human attributes of the politician. Among these are: First, to remain in power at all hazards; if not individually, then those holding essentially the same views as the administration must be kept in control. Second, in order to keep in power, it is necessary to build up a powerful machine; one strong enough to crush all opposition and silence all vigorous murmurs of discontent, or the party machine might be smashed and the party thereby lose control.

When I came to realize the faults, failings, shortcomings, aspirations and ambitions of fallible man, I concluded that it would not be the safest nor best policy for society, as a whole, to entrust the management of all its affairs, with all their manifold deviations and ramifications in the hands of finite man, to be managed by the party which happened to come into power, and therefore was the majority party, nor did it ten, nor does it now make one particle of difference to me what a party, out of power may promise; it does not tend to allay my fears of a party, when entrenched and securely seated in power might do to crush opposition, and silence the voice of the minority, and thus retard the onward step of progress.

My mind is appalled at the thought of a political party having control of all the details that go to make up the sum total of our lives. Think of it for an instant, that the party in power shall have all authority to dictate the kind of books that shall be used in our schools and universities, government officials editing, printing, and circulating our literature, histories, magazines and press, to say nothing of the thousand and one activities of life that a people engage in, in a civilized society.

To my mind, the struggle for liberty is too great and the few steps we have gained have been won at too great a sacrifice, for the great mass of the people of this 20th century to consent to turn over to any political party the management of our social and industrial affairs. For all who are at all familiar with history know that men will abuse power when they possess it, for these and other reasons, I, after careful study, and not through sentiment, turned from a sincere, earnest, political Socialist to the non-political phase of Socialism, Anarchism, because in its philosophy I believe I can find the proper conditions for the fullest development of the individual units in society, which can never be the case under government restrictions.

The philosophy of anarchism is included in the word “Liberty”; yet it is comprehensive enough to include all things else that are conducive to progress. No barriers whatever to human progression, to thought, or investigation are placed by anarchism; nothing is considered so true or so certain, that future discoveries may not prove it false; therefore, it has but one infallible, unchangeable motto, “Freedom.” Freedom to discover any truth, freedom to develop, to live naturally and fully. Other schools of thought are composed of crystallized ideas — principles that are caught and impaled between the planks of long platforms, and considered too sacred to be disturbed by a close investigation. In all other “issues” there is always a limit; some imaginary boundary line beyond which the searching mind dare not penetrate, lest some pet idea melt into a myth. But anarchism is the usher of science — the master of ceremonies to all forms of truth. It would remove all barriers between the human being and natural development. From the natural resources of the earth, all artificial restrictions, that the body might be nurtures, and from universal truth, all bars of prejudice and superstition, that the mind may develop symmetrically.

Anarchists know that a long period of education must precede any great fundamental change in society, hence they do not believe in vote begging, nor political campaigns, but rather in the development of self-thinking individuals.

We look away from government for relief, because we know that force (legalized) invades the personal liberty of man, seizes upon the natural elements and intervenes between man and natural laws; from this exercise of force through governments flows nearly all the misery, poverty, crime and confusion existing in society.

So, we perceive, there are actual, material barriers blockading the way. These must be removed. If we could hope they would melt away, or be voted or prayed into nothingness, we would be content to wait and vote and pray. But they are like great frowning rocks towering between us and a land of freedom, while the dark chasms of a hard-fought past yawn behind us. Crumbling they may be with their own weight and the decay of time, but to quietly stand under until they fall is to be buried in the crash. There is something to be done in a case like this — the rocks must be removed. Passivity while slavery is stealing over us is a crime. For the moment we must forget that was are anarchists — when the work is accomplished we may forget that we were revolutionists — hence most anarchists believe the coming change can only come through a revolution, because the possessing class will not allow a peaceful change to take place; still we are willing to work for peace at any price, except at the price of liberty.

And what of the glowing beyond that is so bright that those who grind the faces of the poor say it is a dream? It is no dream, it is the real, stripped of brain-distortions materialized into thrones and scaffolds, mitres and guns. It is nature acting on her own interior laws as in all her other associations. It is a return to first principles; for were not the land, the water, the light, all free before governments took shape and form? In this free state we will again forget to think of these things as “property.” It is real, for we, as a race, are growing up to it. The idea of less restriction and more liberty, and a confiding trust that nature is equal to her work, is permeating all modern thought. From the dark year — not so long gone by — when it was generally believed that man’s soul was totally depraved and every human impulse bad; when every action, every thought and every emotion was controlled and restricted; when the human frame, diseased, was bled, dosed, suffocated and kept as far from nature’s remedies as possible; when the mind was seized upon and distorted before it had time to evolve a natural thought — from those days to these years the progress of this idea has been swift and steady. It is becoming more and more apparent that in every way we are “governed best where we are governed least.”

Still unsatisfied perhaps, the inquirer seeks for details, for ways and means, and whys and werefores. How ill we go on like human beings eating and sleeping, working and loving, exchanging and dealing, without government? So used have we become to “organized authority” in every department of life that ordinarily we cannot conceive of the most common-place avocations being carried on without their interference and “protection.” But anarchism is not compelled to outline a complete organization of a free society. To do so with any assumption of authority would be to place another barrier in the way of coming generations. The best thought of today may become the useless vagary of tomorrow, and to crystallize it into a creed is to make it unwieldy.

We judge from experience that man is a gregarious animal, and instinctively affiliates with his kind co-operates, unites in groups, works to better advantage, combined with his fellow men than when alone. This would point to the formation of co-operative communities, of which our present trades-unions are embryonic patterns. Each branch of industry will no doubt have its own organization, regulations, leaders, etc.; it will institute methods of direct communications with every member of that industrial branch in the world, and establish equitable relations with all other branches. There would probably be conventions of industry which delegates would attend, and where they would transact such business as was necessary, adjourn and from that moment be delegates no longer, but simply members of a group. To remain permanent members of a continuous congress would be to establish a power that is certain soon or later to be abused.

No great, central power, like a congress consisting of men who know nothing of their constituents’ trades, interests, rights or duties, would be over the various organizations or groups; nor would they employ sheriffs, policemen, courts or jailers to enforce the conclusions arrived at while in session. The members of groups might profit by the knowledge gained through mutual interchange of thought afforded by conventions if they choose, but they will not be compelled to do so by any outside force.

Vested rights, privileges, charters, title deeds, upheld by all the paraphernalia of government — the visible symbol of power — such as prison, scaffold and armies will have no existence. There can be no privileges bought or sold, and the transaction kept sacred at the point of the bayonet. Every man will stand on an equal footing with his brother in the race of life, and neither chains of economic thralldom nor metal drags of superstition shall handicap the one to the advantage of the other.

Property will lose a certain attribute which sanctifies it now. The absolute ownership of it — “the right to use or abuse” — will be abolished, and possession, use, will be the only title. It will be seen how impossible it would be for one person to “own” a million acres of land, without a title deed, backed by a government ready to protect the title at all hazards, even to the loss of thousands of lives. He could not use the million acres himself, nor could he wrest from its depths the possible resources it contains.

People have become so used to seeing the evidences of authority on every hand that most of them honestly believe that they would go utterly to the bad if it were not for the policeman’s club or the soldier’s bayonet. But the anarchist says, “Remove these evidence of brute force, and let man feel the revivifying influences of self responsibility and self control, and see how we will respond to these better influences.”

The belief in a literal place of torment has nearly melted away; and instead of the direful results predicted, we have a higher and truer standard of manhood and womanhood. People do not care to go to the bad when they find they can as well as not. Individuals are unconscious of their own motives in doing good. While acting out their natures according to their surroundings and conditions, they still believe they are being kept in the right path by some outside power, some restraint thrown around them by church or state. So the objector believes that with the right to rebel and secede, sacred to him, he would forever be rebelling and seceding, thereby creating constant confusion and turmoil. Is it probable that he would, merely for the reason that he could do so? Men are to a great extent creatures of habit, and grow to love associations; under reasonably good conditions, he would remain where he commences, if he wished to, and, if he did not, who has any natural right to force him into relations distasteful to him? Under the present order of affairs, persons do unite with societies and remain good, disinterested members for life, where the right to retire is always conceded.

What we anarchists contend for is a larger opportunity to develop the units in society, that mankind may possess the right as a sound being to develop that which is broadest, noblest, highest and best, unhandicapped by any centralized authority, where he shall have to wait for his permits to be signed, sealed, approved and handed down to him before he can engage in the active pursuits of life with his fellow being. We know that after all, as we grow more enlightened under this larger liberty, we will grow to care less and less for that exact distribution of material wealth, which, in our greed-nurtured senses, seems now so impossible to think upon carelessly. The man and woman of loftier intellects, in the present, think not so much of the riches to be gained by their efforts as of the good they can do for their fellow creatures. There is an innate spring of healthy action in every human being who has not been crushed and pinched by poverty and drudgery from before his birth, that impels him onward and upward. He cannot be idle, if he would; it is as natural for him to develop, expand, and use the powers within him when no repressed, as it is for the rose to bloom in the sunlight and fling its fragrance on the passing breeze.

The grandest works of the past were never performed for the sake of money. Who can measure the worth of a Shakespeare, an Angelo or Beethoven in dollars and cents? Agassiz said, “he had no time to make money,” there were higher and better objects in life than that. And so will it be when humanity is once relieved from the pressing fear of starvation, want, and slavery, it will be concerned, less and less, about the ownership of vast accumulations of wealth. Such possessions would be but an annoyance and trouble. When two or three or four hours a day of easy, of healthful labor will produce all the comforts and luxuries one can use, and the opportunity to labor is never denied, people will become indifferent as to who owns the wealth they do not need. Wealth will be below par, and it will be found that men and women will not accept it for pay, or be bribed by it to do what they would not willingly and naturally do without it. Some higher incentive must, and will, supersede the greed for gold. The involuntary aspiration born in man to make the most of one’s self, to be loved and appreciated by one’s fellow-beings, to “make the world better for having lived in it,” will urge him on the nobler deeds than ever the sordid and selfish incentive of material gain has done.

If, in the present chaotic and shameful struggle for existence, when organized society offers a premium on greed, cruelty, and deceit, men can be found who stand aloof and almost alone in their determination to work for good rather than gold, who suffer want and persecution rather than desert principle, who can bravely walk to the scaffold for the good they can do humanity, what may we expect from men when freed from the grinding necessity of selling the better part of themselves for bread? The terrible conditions under which labor is performed, the awful alternative if one does not prostitute talent and morals in the service of mammon; and the power acquired with the wealth obtained by ever so unjust means, combined to make the conception of free and voluntary labor almost an impossible one. And yet, there are examples of this principle even now. In a well bred family each person has certain duties, which are performed cheerfully, and are not measured out and paid for according to some pre-determined standard; when the united members sit down to the well-filled table, the stronger do not scramble to get the most, while the weakest do without, or gather greedily around them more food than they can possibly consume. Each patiently and politely awaits his turn to be served, and leaves what he does not want; he is certain that when again hungry plenty of good food will be provided. This principle can be extended to include all society, when people are civilized enough to wish it.

Again, the utter impossibility of awarding to each and exact return for the amount of labor performed will render absolute communism a necessity sooner or later. The land and all it contains, without which labor cannot be exerted, belong to no one man, but to all alike. The inventions and discoveries of the past are the common inheritance of the coming generations; and when a man takes the tree that nature furnished free, and fashions it into a useful article, or a machine perfected and bequeathed to him by many past generations, who is to determine what proportion is his and his alone? Primitive man would have been a week fashioning a rude resemblance to the article with his clumsy tools, where the modern worker has occupied an hour. The finished article is of far more real value than the rude one made long ago, and yet the primitive man toiled the longest and hardest. Who can determine with exact justice what is each one’s due? There must come a time when we will cease trying. The earth is so bountiful, so generous; man’s brain is so active, his hands so restless, that wealth will spring like magic, ready for the use of the world’s inhabitants. We will become as much ashamed to quarrel over its possession as we are now to squabble over the food spread before us on a loaded table. “But all this,” the objector urges, “is very beautiful in the far off future, when we become angels. It would not do now to abolish governments and legal restraints; people are not prepared for it.”

This is a question. We have seen, in reading history, that wherever an old-time restriction has been removed the people have not abused their newer liberty. Once it was considered necessary to compel men to save their souls, with the aid of governmental scaffolds, church racks and stakes. Until the foundation of the American republic it was considered absolutely essential that governments should second the efforts of the church in forcing people to attend the means of grace; and yet it is found that the standard of morals among the masses is raised since they are left free to pray as they see fit, or not at all, if they prefer it. It was believed the chattel slaves would not work if the overseer and whip were removed; they are so much more a source of profit now that ex-slave owners would not return to the old system if they could.

So many able writers have shown that the unjust institutions which work so much misery and suffering to the masses have their root in governments, and owe their whole existence to the power derived from government we cannot help but believe that were every law, every title deed, every court, and every police officer or soldier abolished tomorrow with one sweep, we would be better off than now. The actual, material things that man needs would still exist; his strength and skill would remain and his instinctive social inclinations retain their force and the resources of life made free to all the people that they would need no force but that of society and the opinion of fellow beings to keep them moral and upright.

Freed from the systems that made him wretched before, he is not likely to make himself more wretched for lack of them. Much more is contained in the thought that conditions make man what he is, and not the laws and penalties made for his guidance, than is supposed by careless observation. We have laws, jails, courts, armies, guns and armories enough to make saints of us all, if they were the true preventives of crime; but we know they do not prevent crime; that wickedness and depravity exist in spite of them, nay, increase as the struggle between classes grows fiercer, wealth greater and more powerful and poverty more gaunt and desperate.

To the governing class the anarchists say: “Gentlemen, we ask no privilege, we propose no restriction; nor, on the other hand, will we permit it. We have no new shackles to propose, we seek emancipation from shackles. We ask no legislative sanction, for co-operation asks only for a free field and no favors; neither will we permit their interference.(”?) It asserts that in freedom of the social unit lies the freedom of the social state. It asserts that in freedom to possess and utilize soil lie social happiness and progress and the death of rent. It asserts that order can only exist where liberty prevails, and that progress leads and never follows order. It asserts, finally, that this emancipation will inaugurate liberty, equality, fraternity. That the existing industrial system has outgrown its usefulness, if it ever had any is I believe admitted by all who have given serious thought to this phase of social conditions.

The manifestations of discontent now looming upon every side show that society is conducted on wrong principles and that something has got to be done soon or the wage class will sink into a slavery worse than was the feudal serf. I say to the wage class: Think clearly and act quickly, or you are lost. Strike not for a few cents more an hour, because the price of living will be raised faster still, but strike for all you earn, be content with nothing less.