by Mikhail Bakunin Via: Anarcho-Syndicalism 101
“Only individuals, and a small number of them at that, can be carried away by an abstract and “pure” idea. The millions, the masses, not only of the proletariat but also of the enlightened and privileged classes, are carried away only by the power and logic of “facts,” apprehending and envisaging most of the time only their immediate interests or moved only by their monetary, more or less blind, passions. Therefore, in order to interest and draw the whole proletariat into the work of the International, it is necessary approach it not with general and abstract ideas, but with a living tangible comprehension of its own pressing problems, of which evils the workers are aware in a concrete manner.”
Awakening of Labor on the Eve of the International
In 1863 and 1864, the years of the founding of the International, in nearly all of the countries of Europe, and especially those where modern industry had reached its highest development — in England, France, Belgium, Germany, and Switzerland — two facts made themselves manifest, facts which facilitated and practically made mandatory the creation of the International. The first was the simultaneous awakening in all the countries of the consciousness, courage, and spirit of the workers, following twelve or even fifteen years of a state of depression which came as a result of the terrible debacle of 1848 and 1851. The second fact was that of the marvelous development of the wealth of the bourgeoisie and, as its necessary accompaniment, the poverty of the workers in all the countries. This was the fact which spurred these workers to action, while their awakening consciousness and spirit endowed them with the essential faith.
The Central Sections
But, as it often happens, this renascent faith did not manifest itself at once among the great masses of the European workers. Out of all the countries of Europe there were only two — soon followed by others — in which it made its first appearance. Even in those privileged countries it was not the whole mass but a small number of little, widely scattered workers’ associations which felt within themselves the stirrings of a reborn confidence, felt it strongly enough to resume the struggle; and in those associations it was at first a few rare individuals, the more intelligent, the more energetic, the more devoted among them, and in most cases those who already had been tried and developed by previous struggles, and who, full of hope and faith, mustered the courage to take the initiative of starting the new movement.
Those individuals, meeting casually in London in 1864, in connection with the Polish question – a problem of the highest political importance, but one that was completely alien to the question of international solidarity of labor-formed, under the direct influence of the founders of the International, the first nucleus of this great association. Then, having returned to their respective countries — France, Belgium, Germany, and Switzerland — the delegates formed nuclei in those lands. That is how the initial Central Sections (of the International) were set up.
The Central Sections do not represent any special industry, since they comprise the most advanced workers in all kinds of industries. Then what do those sections represent? They represent the idea of the International itself. What is their mission? The development and propagandizing of this idea. And what is this idea It is the emancipation not only of workers in such and such an industry or in such and such a country, but of all workers in all industries — the emancipation of the workers of all the countries in the world. It is the general emancipation of all those who, earning, with difficulty their miserable livelihood by any productive labor what ever, are economically exploited and politically oppressed by capital, or I rather by the owners and the privileged brokers of capital.
Such is the negative, militant, or revolutionary power of this idea. And the positive force? It is the founding of a new social world, resting only upon emancipated labor and spontaneously created upon the ruins of the old world, by the organization and the free federation of workers’ associations liberated from the economic and political yoke of the privileged classes.
Those two aspects of the same question, one negative and the other positive, are inseparable from each other.
Central Sections Are Mere Ideological Groupings
The Central Sections are the active and living centers where the new faith is preserved, where it develops, and where it is being clarified. No one joins them in the capacity of a special worker of such and such a trade with the view of forming any particular trade union organizations. Those who join those sections are workers in general, having in view the general emancipation and organization of labor, and of the new social world based on labor. The workers comprising the membership of those sections leave behind them their character of special or “real” workers, presenting themselves to the organization as workers “in general.” Workers for what? Workers for the idea, the propaganda and organization of the economic and militant might of the International, workers for the Social Revolution.
The Central Sections represent an altogether different character from that of the trade sections, even being diametrically opposed to them. Whereas the latter, following a natural course of development, begin with the fact in order to arrive at the idea, the Central Sections, following, on the contrary, the course of ideal or abstract development, begin with the idea in order to arrive at the fact. It is evident that in contradistinction to the fully realistic or positivist method of the trade sections, the method of the Central Sections appears to be artificial and abstract. This manner of proceeding from the idea to the fact is precisely the one used by the idealists of all schools, theologians, and metaphysicians, whose final impotence has by now become a matter of historical record. The secret of this impotence lies in the absolute impossibility of arriving at the real and concrete fact by taking the absolute idea as the starting point.
The Central Sections in Themselves Would be Powerless to Draw in Great Masses of Workers
If the International Workingmen’s Association were made up only of Central Sections, undoubtedly it would never attain even one hundredth part of the impressive power upon which it is priding itself now. Those sections would be merely so many workers academies where all questions would perpetually be discussed, including of course the question of organization of labor, but without the slightest attempt being made to carry it into practice, nor even having the possibility of doing it…
…If the International were made up only of Central Sections, the latter probably would have succeeded by now in forming conspiracies for the overthrow of the present order of things; but such conspiracies would be confined only to mere intentions, being too impotent to attain their goal since they would never be able to draw in more than a very small number of workers – the most intelligent, most energetic, most convinced and devoted among them. The vast majority, the millions of proletarians, would remain outside of those conspiracies, but in order to overthrow and destroy the political and social order which now crushes us, it would be necessary to have the co-operation of those millions.
The Empirical Approach of Workers to Their Problems
Only individuals, and a small number of them at that, can be carried away by an abstract and “pure” idea. The millions, the masses, not only of the proletariat but also of the enlightened and privileged classes, are carried away only by the power and logic of “facts,” apprehending and envisaging most of the time only their immediate interests or moved only by their monetary, more or less blind, passions. Therefore, in order to interest and draw the whole proletariat into the work of the International, it is necessary to approach it not with general and abstract ideas, but with a living tangible comprehension of its own pressing problems, of which evils the workers are aware in a concrete manner.
Their daily tribulations, although presenting to a social thinker a problem of a general character and being actually only the particular effects of general and permanent causes, are in reality infinitely diverse, taking on a multitude of different aspects, produced by a multitude of transitory and contributory causes. Such is the daily reality of those evils. But the mass of workers who are forced to live from hand to mouth and who find hardly a moment of leisure in which to think of the next day, apprehend the evils from which they suffer precisely and exclusively in the context of this particular reality but never or scarcely ever in their general aspect.
Concrete Statement Offers the Only Effective Approach to the Great Mass of Workers
It follows then that in order to touch the heart and gain the confidence, the assent, the adhesion, and the co-operation of the illiterate legions of the proletariat — and the vast majority of proletarians unfortunately still belong in this category — it is necessary to begin to speak to those workers not of the general sufferings of the international proletariat as a whole but of their particular, daily, altogether private misfortunes. It is necessary to speak to them of their own trade and the conditions of their work in the specific locality where they live; of the harsh conditions and long hours of their daily work, of the small pay, the mean ness of their employer, the high cost of living, and how impossible it is for them properly to support and bring up a family.
And in laying before them the means to combat those evils and to better their position, it is not necessary at all to speak to them at first of the general and revolutionary means which now constitute the program of action of the International Workingmen’s Association, such as the abolition of individual hereditary property and the collectivization of property the abolition of the juridical right and that of the State, and their replacement by the organization and free federation of producers’ associations The workers, in all probability, would hardly understand all that. It also is possible that, finding themselves under the influence of the religious political, and social ideas which governments and priests have tried to implant in their minds, they will turn away in anger and distrust from any imprudent propagandist who tries to convert them by using such arguments.
No, they should be approached only by way of holding up before them such means of struggle the usefulness of which they cannot fail to comprehend hend, and which they are prone to accept upon the promptings of their good sense and daily experience. Those first elementary means are, as we already have said, the establishing of complete solidarity with their fellow-workers in the shop, in their own defense and in the struggle against their common master; and then the extension of this solidarity to all workers in the same trade and in the same locality in their joint struggle against the employers — that is, their formal entrance as active members into the section of their trade, a section affiliated with the International Workingmen’s Association.
The economic fact, the conditions in a special industry and the particular conditions of exploitation of that industry by capital, the intimate and particular solidarity of interests, of needs, sufferings, and aspirations which amongst all workers who are members of the same trade section – all that forms the real basis of their association. The idea comes afterward as the explanation or the adequate expression of the development and the mental reflection of this fact in the collective consciousness.
Solidarity of Trade Union Members Rooted in Actuality
A worker not need any great intellectual preparation to become a member of trade union section [of the International] representing his trade. He is a member of it, in quite a natural way, before even being aware of it. All he has to know is that he is being worked to death and that this killing work, so poorly paid that he has hardly enough to provide for his family, enriches his employer, which means that the latter is his ruthless exploiter, his tireless oppressor, his enemy, his master, toward whom he owes no other feeling but that of hate and the rebelliousness of a slave, to give place much later, after he has vanquished the employer in the final struggle, to a sense of justice and a feeling of brotherhood toward the former employer as one who is now a free man.
The worker also must realize — and this is not difficult for him to understand that by himself he is powerless against his master and that to prevent his being utterly crushed by the latter, he must first unite with his fellow-workers in the shop, and be loyal to them in all the struggles arising there against the master.
Internationalism Growing Out of Actual Experiences of Proletarian struggles
He also must know that merely a union of workers in the same shop is not sufficient, that it is necessary that all the workers in the same trade employed in the same locality should unite. Once he realizes this — and if he is not exceedingly stupid, his daily experience will teach him as much as that &8212; he consciously becomes a devoted member of his corporative section. The latter already exists as a matter of fact, but it is still devoid of international consciousness, it is still only a local fact. The same experience, at this time collective, will soon overcome in the consciousness of the least intelligent worker the narrow limits of exclusively local solidarity.
There comes a crisis, a strike. The workers in a certain locality belonging to the same trade make common cause, demanding from their employers a wage increase or a reduction of hours of work. The employers do not want to grant those demands; and since they cannot do without workers, they bring them from other localities or other provinces of the same country or even from foreign countries. But in those countries the workers work longer hours for less pay; and the employers there can sell their products cheaper, successfully competing against countries where workers working less earn more, and thus force the employers in the latter countries to cut wages and increase the hours of their workers.
Hence it follows that in the long run the relatively tolerable position of the workers in one country can be maintained only on condition that it be more or less the same in other countries. All this repeats itself too often to escape the attention of even the most simple-minded workers Then they come to realize that in order to protect themselves against the ever-growing exploitation by the employers, it is not enough to organize solidarity on a local scale, but that it is necessary to unite the workers of the same trade not in one province only – and not even in just one country – but in all countries, and above all in those countries which are inter-linked by commercial and industrial ties. When the workers come to realize all this, then an organization will be formed not only on a local nor even on a national scale, but a truly international organization embracing all the workers in a given trade.
But this is not yet an organization of workers in general, it is only an international organization of a single trade. And in order that non-educated workers realize and recognize the actual solidarity existing among all the trade unions of all the countries of the world, it is necessary that the other workers, intellectually more developed than the rest and having some knowledge of economic science, should come to their aid. Not that the ordinary worker lacks daily experience in that respect, but the economic phenomena through which this solidarity manifests itself are exceedingly complex, so that their true meaning may be above the comprehension of the unenlightened worker.
If we assume that international solidarity has been established in a single trade while lacking in the others, it follows that in this organized industry wages will be higher and hours of work shorter than in all other industries And it having been proven that because of the competition of employers and capitalists, the source of real profits of both is the comparatively low wages and the long hours imposed upon workers, it is clear that in the industry in which the workers are organized along international lines, the capitalists and the employers will earn less than in all the others, as a result of which the capitalists will gradually transfer their capital and credit, and the employers their exploiting activity, into the less organized or altogether unorganized branches of industry.
This will necessarily lead to a falling off in the demand for labor in the internationally organized industry, which will naturally result in a worsening of the situation of the workers in that industry, who will have to accept lower wages in order not to starve. Hence it follows that conditions of labor cannot get worse or better in any particular industry without immediately affecting the workers in other industries, and that workers of all trades are interlinked with real and indissoluble ties of solidarity.
Internationalism Issues from the Living Experiences of the Proletariat
This solidarity has been proven by science as well as by experience — science for that matter being simply universal experience, clearly expressed, systematically and properly explained. But solidarity manifests itself in the workers’ world by a mutual, profound, and passionate sympathy, which, — in a measure that economic factors and their political and social consequences keep on developing, factors telling more and more distressingly upon the workers of all trades — grows and becomes ever more of an intense passion with the proletariat.
The workers in every trade and in every country; owing on one hand to the material and moral support which in the course of their struggle they find among workers in other trades and other countries, and on the other hand, because of the condemnation and the systematic, hate-breathing opposition with which they meet not only from their own employers but also from employers in other, even very remote industries, and from the bourgeoisie as a whole — become fully aware of their situation and the principal conditions necessary to their emancipation. They see that the social world is in reality divided into three main categories:
1. The countless millions of exploited workers;
2. A few hundred thousand second – or third-rank exploiters;
3. A few thousand, or, at the most, a few tens of thousands of the larger beasts of prey, big capitalists who have grown fat on directly exploiting the second category and indirectly the first category, pocketing at least half the profits obtained from the collective labor of humanity.
As soon as the worker takes note of this special and abiding fact, he must soon realize, backward though he may be in his development, that if there is any means of salvation for him, it must lie along the lines of establishing and organizing the closest practical solidarity among the proletarians of the whole world, regardless of industries, or countries, in their struggle against the exploiting bourgeoisie.
The Necessary Historic Premises of the International
Here then is the ready framework of the International Workingmen’s Association. It was given to us not by a theory born in the head of one or several profound thinkers, but by the actual development of economic facts, by the hard trials to which those facts subject the working masses, and the reflections, the thoughts, which they naturally engender in the minds of the workers.
That the International Association could come into existence it was necessary that the elements involved in its making — the economic factors, the experience, strivings, and thoughts of the proletariat — should already have been developed strongly enough to form a solid base for it. It was necessary that there already should have been, in the midst of the proletariat, groups or associations of sufficiently advanced workers who, scattered throughout the world, could take upon themselves the initiative of the great emancipatory movement of the workers. Following that comes, of course, the personal initiative of a few intelligent individuals fully devoted to the cause of the people.
It is not enough that the working masses come to realize that international solidarity is the only means of their emancipation; it also is necessary that they have faith in the real efficacy and certainty of this means of salvation, that they have faith in the possibility of their impending deliverance. This faith is a matter of temperament, collective disposition, and mental state. Temperament is given to various peoples by nature, but it is subject to historic development. The collective disposition of the proletarian is always a two-fold product: first, of all preceding events, and then, especially, of his present economic and social situation.
By: Emile Pouget 1898
At the last Congrès Corporatif in Toulouse, where a bunch of terrific guys came from the four corners of France, sent by the unions, SABOTAGE was loudly acclaimed.
The place went wild over it.
And all the delegates promised that once they’d gotten home to spread the word on the thing so that the working stiffs could practice it all over.
And I can assure you, my pals, that that enthusiasm is not the result of a passing fancy, a fad.
Not in the least!
The idea of SABOTAGE will not remain an empty dream: it’ll be carried out.
And the exploiters will finally understand that the boss’ job isn’t a bed of roses.
That said, for the guys who don’t know what this is all about, I’m gonna explain what sabotage is.
Sabotage is the conscious kicking of the boss in the ass, it’s the screwing up of a job, it’s a grain of sand snuck into the gears so the machine breaks down, it’s the systematic sinking of the boss’ system…All of this carried out secretly, letting know one know what’s going on when it’s being done.
Sabotage is the baby cousin of the boycott. And fuck it, in a bunch of cases when a strike is impossible it can render some damn good service to the working stiffs.
When an exploiter feels like his workers can’t pull off a strike he doesn’t hesitate to screw them over. Stuck in the gears of exploitation the poor buggers don’t dare speak up for fear of being sacked. They’re eaten up with rage and bend their necks. Eaten up with rage, they still put up with the boss’ prickeries.
But they put up with them. And angry or not, the boss doesn’t give a damn, as long as things go the way he wants.
Why are things like this?
Because the working stiffs haven’t found the right way to respond tit for tat to the big ape and, with their actions, neutralize his screwing.
But the way exists:
The English have been doing this for a long time – and they find it a terrific fucking thing.
For example, suppose a big prison, er… factory whose boss suddenly has a thieving whim; maybe he’s got a new mistress to keep up, maybe he’s got his eye on a chateau…or maybe he has some other fantasy that calls for an increase in his benefices. The bastard doesn’t hesitate; to get the profit he aims at he lessens the number of working stiffs, saying things are going badly. Fuck, he doesn’t ever lack for some kind of reasons.
Let’s suppose that this mangy dog has carefully worked out his plans and his vise squeezing coincides with a situation so messed up that his workers can’t even try to strike. What happens?
In France, the poor exploited would piss and moan, cursing the vampire. A few- the hardiest of them – would make a real stink and find themselves in the calaboose. As for the others, they’d just put up with the hand they were dealt.
In England, dammit, things would happen differently. And this is because of sabottage. The workers would secretly pass the word from ear to ear: “Hey, mates, we’re gonna sabotage the place…we gotta do it on the QT.” And before you know it, production would be slowed down. So slow that if the boss isn’t as dumb as a stump he won’t persist in his prickery. He’ll return to the former pay rate, ‘cause he’ll have understood that going like this for every five cents he saves on each worker’s day he loses four times that amount.
That’s what it means to do what you gotta do.
While those who just lay down and take it would have had their asses kicked, these guys, taking some initiative, manage to pull themselves out of the shit.
* * *
The Brits learned lessons in sabotage from the Scots, and they even borrowed from them the baptismal name of the system: Go canny!
Lately the International Longshoremen’s Union, which has its offices in London, sent out a manifesto calling for sabotage, so that the dockers start doing it, since up till now it’s mainly in the mines and the textile factories that the Brit workers have carried it out.
Here’s the manifesto in question:
What does “Go canny” mean?
It’s a short and useful word to designate a new tactic employed by workers instead of going on strike.
If two Scotsmen are walking together and one is going too fast the other says to him: “Go canny,” which means, “Slow down.”
If someone wants to buy a hat worth five francs he has to pay five francs. But if he wants to only pay four then he’ll have one of lesser quality. A hat is a form of “merchandise.”
If someone wants to buy six shirts at two francs each he has to pay twelve francs. If he only pays ten he’ll only get five shirts. A shirt is a form of “merchandise sold in the market.”
If a housewife wants to buy a piece of beef worth three francs she has to pay for it. And if she only offers two francs then she’ll be given bad meat. Beef, too, is a “merchandise sold in the market.”
Well, the bosses declare that labor and skill are “merchandises for sale in the market,” like hats, shirts, and beef.
Perfect, we answer. We’ll take you at your word.
If it is “merchandise” we’ll sell it like the hat maker his hats and the butcher his meat. They give bad merchandise for bad prices, and we’ll do the same.
The bosses have no right to count on our charity. If they refuse to discuss our demands, well, we’ll put in practice the “Go canny,” the slowdown, while waiting for them to listen to us.
So here we see a beautiful definition of sabotage: for bad pay, bad work.
And goddam this’ll be great when it enters into our way of thinking. It’ll be too damn bad for the boss’ band when the fat monkeys learn from experience that that tile is always ready to fall on their noggins. The fear of losing money and of going bankrupt will calm the arrogance of the fat cats.
Feeling the vulnerability of their cash boxes -which serve as their hearts – they’ll think twice before unloading one of their customary dirty deals on us.
Of course there’ll be some good buggers who, on the pretext that we have to have our eye on the radical disappearance of capital, will find it too petty to limit ourselves to keeping the fat apes in their places and preventing them from showing their claws.
These people have forgotten the two faces of the social question: the present and the future.
Well, the present prepares the future. If there was ever a time when the saying “You made your bed, now lie in it” is appropriate, it’s this one.
The less we allow ourselves to be beaten by the bosses the less intense will be our exploitation, the stronger will our revolutionary resistance, the greater will be our consciousness of our dignity and the more vigorous will be our desire for freedom and well-being.
And consequently, we’ll be better able to prepare the blossoming of that great society where there’ll be no more rulers, no more fat cats.
And we’ll be better able too, when we get there, to evolve in our new surroundings.
If on the contrary instead of starting our apprenticeship in freedom now we show no interest in current life, showing contempt for the needs and passions of the present hour, it won’t be long before we dry out in a world of abstractions and become terrific at splitting hairs And then, living in our dreams, our activity will dullen and, since we’ll have lost all contact with the masses, the day we’ll want to shake ourselves out of our torpor we’ll find ourselves stuck in the mud like an elephant.
So there’s no two ways about it: in order to bring about equilibrium in life, in order to take human activity to its highest level, neither the present nor the future should be neglected.
When one weighs more than the other the rupture of equilibrium isn’t pretty. When we’re stuck in the present we get lost in the pointless and the petty; if we fly off into the clouds we manage to freeze in the ideal.
And this is why I tell the boys who have some balls: don’t lose sight of either the present or the future.
In this way they’ll reactivate the germination of hopeful ideas and the spirit of revolt.
Interview in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch Sunday Magazine, October 24, 1897 via The Emma Goldman Papers
“What does anarchy hold out to me–a woman?”
“More to woman than to anyone else–everything which she has not–freedom and equality.”
Quickly, earnestly Emma Goldman, the priestess of anarchy, exiled from Russia, feared by police, and now a guest of St. Louis Anarchists,1 gave this answer to my question.
I found her at No. 1722 Oregon avenue, an old-style two-story brick house, the home of a sympathizer2–not a relative as has been stated.
I was received by a good-natured, portly German woman, and taken back to a typical German dining-room–everything clean and neat as soap and water could make them. After carefully dusting a chair for me with her apron, she took my name back to the bold little free-thinker. I was welcome. I found Emma Goldman sipper her coffee and partaking of bread and jelly, as her morning’s repast. She was neatly clad in a percale shirt waist and skirt, with white collar and cuffs, her feet encased in a loose pair of cloth slippers. She doesn’t look like a Russian Nihilist who will be sent to Siberia if she ever crosses the frontier of her native land.
“Do you believe in marriage?” I asked.
“I do not,” amswered the fair little Anarchist, as promptly as before. “I believe that when two people love each other that no judge, minister, or court, or body of people, have anything to do with it. They themselves are the ones to determine the relations which they shall hold with one another. When that relation becomes irksome to either party, or one of the parties, then it can be as quietly terminated as it was formed.”
Miss Goldman gave a little nod of her head to emphasize her words, and quite a pretty head it was, crowned with soft brown heair, combed with a bang and brushed to one side. Her eyes are the honest blue, her complexion clear and white. Her nose though rather broad and of a Teutonic type, was well formed. She is short of stature, with a well-rounded figure. Her whole type is more German than Russian. The only serious physical failing that she has is in her eyes. She is so extremely nearsighted that with glasses she can scarcely distinguish print.
“The alliance should be formed,” she continued, “not as it is now, to give the woman a support and home, but because the love is there, and that state of affairs can only be brought about by an internal revolution, in short, Anarchy.”
She said this as calmly as though she had just expressed an ordinary every-day fact, but the glitter in her eyes showed the “internal revolutions” already at work in her busy brain.
What does Anarchy promise woman?”
It holds everything for woman—freedom, equality–everything that woman has not now.”
“Isn’t woman free?”
“Free! She is the slave of her husband and her children. She should take her part in the business world the same as the man; she should be his equal before the world, as she is in the reality. She is as capable as he, but when she labors she gets less wages. Why? Because she wears skirts instead of trousers.”
“But what is to become of the ideal home life, and all that now surrounds the mother, according to a man’s idea?”
“Ideal home life, indeed! The woman, instead of being the household queen, told about in stroy books, is the servant, the mistress, and the slave of both husband and children. She loses her own individuality entirely, even her name she is not allowed to keep. She is the mistress of John Brown or the mistress of Tom Jones; she is that and nothing else. That is the way I think of her.”
Miss Goldman has a pleasant accent. She rolls her r’s and changes her r’s into v’s and vice-versa, with a truly Russian pronunciation. She gesticulates a great deal. When she becomes exited her hands and feet and shoulders all help to illustrate her meanings.
What would you do with the children of the Anarchistic era?”
“The children would be provided with common homes, big boarding schools, where they will be properly cared for and educated and in every way as good, and in most cases, better care than they would receive in their own homes. Very few mothers know how to take proper care of their children, anyway. It is a science only a very few have learned.”
“But the women that desire a home life and the care of their own children, the domestic woman, what of her?”
Oh, of course, the women that desire could keep their children home and confine themselves as strictly as domestic duties as they desired. But it would give those women who desire something broader, a chance to attain any height they desired. With no poor, and no capitalists, and one common purse, this earth will afford the heaven that the Christians are looking for in another world.”
She gazed contemplatively in the bottom of the empty coffee cup, as though she saw in imagination the ideal State, already an actuality.
“Who will take care of the children?” I asked, breaking in upon her reverie.
“Every one,” she answered, “has tastes and qualifications suiting them to some occupation. I am a trained nurse. I like to care of the sick. So it will be with some women. They will want to care for and teach the children.”
“Won’t the children lose their love for their parents and feel the lack of their companionship?” A thought of the affectionate little darlings being relegated to a sort of orhan asylum crossed my mind.
“The parents will have the same opportunities of gaining their confidences and affections as they have now. They can spend just as much time there as they please of have tehm with them just as often as desired. They will be the children of love–healthy, strong-minded–and not as now, in most cases, born of hate and domestic dissensions.”
“What do you call love?”
“When a man or a woman finds some quality or qualities in another that they admire and has an overweening desire to please that person, even to the sacrificing of personal feeling; when there is that subtle something drawing them together, that those who love recognize, and feel it in the inmost fiber of their being, then I call that love.” She finished speaking and her face was suffused with a rosy blush.
“Can a person love more than one at a time?”
“I don’t see why not–if they find the same lovable qualities in several persons. What should prevent one loving the same things in all of them?”
“If we cease to love the man or woman and find some one else, as I said before, we talk it over and quietly change the mode of living. The private affairs of the family need not then be talked over in the courts and become public property. No one can control the affections, therefore there should be no jealousies.
“Heartaches? Oh, yes,” she said, sadly, “but not hatred because he or she has tired of the relations. The human race will always have heartaches as long as the heart beats in the breast.
“My religion,” she laughingly repeated. “I was of the Hebrew faith when a girl–you know I am a Jewess–but now I am an atheist. No one has been able to prove either the insipiration of the Bible or the existence of a God to my satisfaction. I believe in no hereafter except the hereafter that is found by the physical matter existing in the human body. I think that lives again in some other form, and I don’t think that anything once created over is lost–it goes on and on in first one shape, then another. There is no such thing as a soul–it is all the physical matter.”
Pretty Miss Goldman finished speaking, and a delicate flush mounted to her cheek as I asked her if she intended to marry.
“No; I don’t believe in marriage for others, and I certainly should not preach one thing and practice another.”
She sat in an easy attitude with one leg crossed over the other. She is in every sense a womanly looking woman, with masculine mind and courage.
She laughed as she said there were fifty police at her lecture on Wednesday night, and she added, “If there had been a bomb thrown I surely would have been blamed for it.”
St. Louis Post-Dispatch Sunday Magazine, 24 October 1897, p. 9; includes three sketches of Goldman based on “photographs taken by the Sunday Post-Dispatch photographer for whome Miss Goldman posed.” Reprinted witb permission of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
1 EG’s eight days in St. Louis, beginning 16 October 1897, were extensively covered by the local press and drew the keen interest of the authorities. When it was erroneously reported that she planned to speak at an open-air meeting on 19 October in front of the city’s statue of President Ulysses Grant, Mayor Ziegenheim declared such a gathering illegal and ordered police to bar any attempt. Simulatenously, the city’s House of Delegates passed a resolution approving the actions of the mayor and the police department in stifling the “un-American” and “unpatriotic” teachings of a “notorious Anarchist.” Under police surveillance, EG spoke the next night at Walhalla Hall to an overflow audience of hundreds. So successful were her meetings in St. Louis that her stay there the following year garnered no coverage at all since, according to Solidarity: “the dailies found out they were helping the Anarchists in their propaganda.” See St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 20 October 1897, EGP, reel 47; and Solidarity, 1 May 1898, p. 4.
2 EG stayed at the home of August Sendlein, an anarchist and cheesemaker.
By: Rudolf Rocker The Methods of Anarcho-Syndicalism
The point of attack in the political struggle lies, not in the legislative bodies, but in the people. Political rights do not originate in parliaments; they are, rather, forced on parliaments from without. And even their enactment into law has for a long time been no guarantee of their security. Just as the employers always try to nullify every concession they had made to labour as soon as opportunity offered, as soon as any signs of weakness were observable in the workers’ organisations, so governments also are always inclined to restrict or to abrogate completely rights and freedoms that have been achieved if they imagine that the people will put up no resistance. Even in these countries where such things as freedom of the press, right of assembly, right of combination and the like have long existed, governments are constantly trying to restrict these rights or to reinterpret them by juridical hair-splitting. Political rights do not exist because they have been legally set down on a piece of paper, but only when they have become the ingrown habit of a people, and when any attempt to impair them will meet with the violent resistance of the populace. Where this is not the case, there is no help in any parliamentary Opposition or any Platonic appeals to the constitution. One compels respect from others when he knows how to defend his dignity as a human being. This is not only true in private life, it has always been the same in political life as well.
The peoples owe all the political rights and privileges which we enjoy today in greater or lesser measure, not to the good will of their governments, but to their own strength. Governments have employed every means that lay in their power to prevent the attainment of these rights or to render them illusory. Great mass movements among the people and whole revolutions have been necessary to wrest these rights from the ruling classes, who would never have consented to them voluntarily. One need only study the history of the past three hundred years to understand by what relentless struggles every right has to be wrested inch by inch from the despots. What hard struggles, for example, had the workers in England, France, Spain, and other countries to endure to compel their governments to recognise the right of trade union organisation. In France the prohibition against trade unions persisted until 1886. Had it not been for the incessant struggles of the workers, there would be no right of combination in the French Republic even today. Only after the workers had by direct action confronted parliament with accomplished facts, did the government see itself obliged to take the new situation into account and give legal sanction to the trade unions.What is important is not that governments have decided to concede certain rights to the people, but the reason why they have had to do this. To him who fails to understand the connection here history will always remain a book with seven seals.
Of course, if one accepts Lenin’s phrase and thinks of freedom as merely a “bourgeois prejudice,” then, to be sure, political rights and liberties have no value at all for the workers. But then all the countless struggles of the past, all the revolts and revolutions to which we owe these rights, are also without value. To proclaim this bit of wisdom it would hardly have been necessary to overthrow tsarism, for even the censorship of Nicholas II would certainly have had no objection to the designation of freedom as a “bourgeois prejudice.” Moreover, the great theorists of reaction, Joseph de Maistre and Louis Bonald, has already done this, though in different words, and the defenders of absolutism had been very grateful to them.
But the Anarcho-Syndicalists would be the every last to mistake the importance of these rights to the workers. If they, nevertheless, reject any participation in the work of bourgeois parliaments, it is not because they have no sympathy with political struggles in general, but because they are firmly convinced that parliamentary activity is for the workers the very weakest and the most hopeless form of the political struggle. For the bourgeois classes the parliamentary system is without a doubt an appropriate instrument for the settlement of such conflicts as arise, and for making profitable collaboration possible, as they are all equally interested in maintaining the existing economic order and the political organisation for the protection of that order. Now, where a common interest exists, a mutual agreement is possible and serviceable to all parties. But for the working class the situation is very different. For them the existing economic order is the source of their economic exploitation, and the organised power of the state the instrument of their political and social subjection. Even the freest ballot cannot do away with the glaring contrast between the possessing and non-possessing classes in society. It can only serve to impart to a system of social injustice the stamp of legal right and to induce the slave to set the stamp of legality on his own servitude.
But, most important of all, practical experience has shown that the participation of the workers in parliamentary activity cripples their power of resistance and dooms to futility their warfare against the existing system. Parliamentary participation has not brought the workers one iota nearer to their final goal; it has even prevented them from protecting the rights they have won against the attacks of the reaction. In Prussia, for example, the largest state in Germany, where the Social Democrats until shortly before Hitler’s accession to power were the strongest party in the government and had control of the most important ministries in the country, Herr von Papen, after his appointment as Reichskanzler by Hindenburg, could venture to violate the constitution of the land and dissolve the Prussian ministry with only a lieutenant and a dozen soldiers. When the Socialist Party in its helplessness could think of nothing to do after this open breach of the constitution except to appeal to the high court of the Reich instead of meeting the perpetrators of the coup d’etat with open resistance, the reaction knew they had nothing more to fear and from then on could offer the workers what they pleased. The fact is that von Papen’s coup d’etat was merely the start along the road to the Third Reich.
Anarcho-Syndicalists, then, are not in any way opposed to the political struggle, but in their opinion this struggle, too, must take the form of direct action, in which the instruments of economic power which the working class has at its command are the most effective. The most trivial wage fight shows clearly that, whenever the employers find themselves in difficulties, the state steps in with the police, and even in some cases with the militia, to protect the threatened interests of the possessing classes. It would, therefore, be absurd for them to overlook the importance of the political struggle. Every event that affects the life of the community is of a political nature. In this sense, every important economic action, such, for example, as a general strike, is also a political action and, moreover, one of incomparably greater importance than any parliamentary proceeding. Of a political nature is likewise the battle of the Anarcho-Syndicalists against Fascism and the anti-militarist propaganda, a battle which for decades was carried on solely by the libertarian Socialists and the Syndicalists, and which was attended by tremendous sacrifices.
Rudolf Rocker via The Methods of Anarcho-Syndicalism
The sentiment is widespread – the slogan has been tirelessly repeated, but almost nothing has been said about what actually can be done to “smash the State”. Here are a few practical suggestions:
Refuse to work for any agency, department, or bureau of government. Disaffiliate yourself from any employment that furthers coercion, no matter what form. Forget about trying to “change from within”; sure you have to make a living, but if you’re working in a government research laboratory or a Selective Service office, your efforts aid, not hinder, government control. Remember – the State desperately needs to co-opt your talents. If you and thousands like you resigned, far more good could be accomplished than by furthering authoritarianism in fact while opposing it in theory. Build alternatives to the present form of society.
Actively resist the State’s domination over you in whatever ways you are able. But don’t feel guilty when you find there are too many injustices for you to fight them all. The State should feel guilty, not you. Do what you can.
Continually improve your ability to express yourself in at least one language. Strive after perfection in the usage of your native tongue. Learn it well and use it often. It is your one friend, your basic tool, and your fluency and persuasiveness in it will ultimately determine whether or not your ideas are accepted by the people.
Write write write write write. Constantly write and speak to get your thoughts before a wide audience. Set forth what you have to say in as understandable a form as you can contrive. Don’t be afraid to reiterate; the diffuse genius with scores of ideas he expresses once only, will be overlooked and lost in obscurity. The persistent man who expresses, restates, enlarges upon, and expounds his single thought – he stands a chance of being heard. Incessant repetition and doggedness elevates mediocre or false ideas to the stature of truth, and low, mean men to high positions. Now let’s use the technique to get rid of them.
If you oppose authority, you are an Anarchist. The implements of your trade are the typewriter and the printing press. Ignore the secret police provocateurs who will try to persuade you to take up bombs and guns against the State. If every Anarchist in the world killed twenty government agents and dynamited $100,000 worth of government offices, all that would happen would be that every Anarchist in the world would be sentenced to death. The State would not be deflected even an iota from its normal patterns. But with the typewriter and the printing press, you can manufacture articles far more deadly and effective than bombs. Buy a mimeograph machine and learn how to use it. Long after the smoke and destruction of a bomb is forgotten, products of your imagination and creativity can live on, making tiny explosions inside people’s minds.
Running through the streets screaming unintelligibly; giving the clenched fist salute and yelling “power to the people” – are superb gestures. For the insane. But if you think about it, the very thing we want to end is “power”, at least power of people over other people. So a slogan like “power to the people” (What power? Which people? Power to do what? To whom?) essentially has no meaning. Too inexact. And even if it did have any meaning, shrieking and howling it through the streets at night in a mob would be a next to worthless way of communicating that meaning. It might be even worse than worthless, because some individuals who might have taken you seriously will now dismiss you and your ideas as idiocy. Who knows? Maybe they’re right. Reject the pigs who call for trashing and looting. Nine of ten such episodes end in punishment for innocent people, while the pigs who caused it all get safely away. Even if anything does come down on the guilty, they just rip off their friends to pay the fine, or bail or whatever. They never suffer. In fact, they’re probably chortling all the way to the FBI office. Keep away from such people if you really want to smash the State.
Never neglect your education. Learn as much as you can about as many subjects as you can – avoid writing or speaking in ignorance. If you have no idea what’s inside a computer, don’t spout reams of theory about what computers can do or you may be wrong. If you can’t produce a coherent explanation of how an electric doorbell works, don’t extol the virtues of technology, or you may be made to appear ridiculous. Talk about subjects you know, otherwise you will only do harm.
Thoroughly dissect and expose the numberless inconsistencies of governmental theory. Hammer away at the State’s lies, false assurances, mistakes, stupid errors and injustices. The time hasn’t quite arrived when back numbers of newspapers and magazines are altered daily to conform to a legislated view of reality; hence, though politicians strive frantically to maintain an air of infallibility, we can still point out how their hasty, expedient prognostications of yesteryear have not yet been borne out by subsequent facts.
Oppose religion wherever and however possible. When at long last deistic superstition vanishes from the face of the earth, the States of the world will have lost their principal mode of effecting and enforcing subservience and abject humility. Erasure of religion’s mind-befuddling contradictionism will enable individuals to live without fear and psychosis, freely interacting and accepting responsibility for their own actions.
Always fight on your own battlefield. Refuse to be drawn into disadvantageous conflict planned and stacked against you. If pigs stop you when you are alone and push you and call you names, flash a glassy smile and say nothing. Why fight when and where they choose? Wait till you get to the place of your choosing – the typewriter, printing press, or microphone, for instance; then hit them with all you’ve got. If they try to beat you at your own game, they will be as much at a disadvantage as you were in theirs. Basic logic patterns and language fluency you have developed can cast pigs into ridicule and annihilate them.
At some time you will discover that an associate close to you is a secret police agent. People you thought were friends will slowly reveal themselves as latent politicians or thieves trying to rip off movement funds. Don’t tremble or become discouraged – fight on – write on.
Never trust anyone. Nobody but you can be depended upon to carry out projects you conceive, so learn how to do everything yourself. That way, no matter if everyone abandon you, all will continue as before. Propaganda will roll on with no lessening of intensity, and the Anarchist idea will be broadcast without even a moment’s dead air.
Intensify your life. Struggle to cut down on the amount of time you lose by sleeping. Naturally one must rest, but an extra hour of working time a day adds up to more than a whole extra day each month, more time available than most so-called “anarchists” put in during a year of do-nothing ego-trips. Using time wisely, a single fanatic can equal or surpass the efforts of an entire organization of whimps.
Work selflessly and untiringly, give everything you can, do whatever is in your power to aid those unjustly imprisoned by the State. Know, however, that when you are imprisoned, inevitable in this totalitarian society, you and your efforts will be forgotten, and you will languish abandoned.
So live every day as though it is your last. Save time out to look at the trees and stars; to consider what you are doing; to reaffirm your committment to the world of ideas, to propaganda, to non-violence – to Anarchism!
The world will be little changed for what you do. Your work will be misunderstood and grossly misrepresented. You will be detested. But you are smashing the State.
Don’t ever give up.
“I was taught to see racism only in individual acts of meanness, not in invisible systems conferring dominance on my group”
Through work to bring materials from women’s studies into the rest of the curriculum, I have often noticed men’s unwillingness to grant that they are overprivileged, even though they may grant that women are disadvantaged. They may say they will work to women’s statues, in the society, the university, or the curriculum, but they can’t or won’t support the idea of lessening men’s. Denials that amount to taboos surround the subject of advantages that men gain from women’s disadvantages. These denials protect male privilege from being fully acknowledged, lessened, or ended.
Thinking through unacknowledged male privilege as a phenomenon, I realized that, since hierarchies in our society are interlocking, there was most likely a phenomenon of while privilege that was similarly denied and protected. As a white person, I realized I had been taught about racism as something that puts others at a disadvantage, but had been taught not to see one of its corollary aspects, white privilege, which puts me at an advantage.
I think whites are carefully taught not to recognize white privilege, as males are taught not to recognize male privilege. So I have begun in an untutored way to ask what it is like to have white privilege. I have come to see white privilege as an invisible package of unearned assets that I can count on cashing in each day, but about which I was “meant” to remain oblivious. White privilege is like an invisible weightless knapsack of special provisions, maps, passports, codebooks, visas, clothes, tools , and blank checks.
Describing white privilege makes one newly accountable. As we in women’s studies work to reveal male privilege and ask men to give up some of their power, so one who writes about having white privilege must ask, “having described it, what will I do to lessen or end it?”
After I realized the extent to which men work from a base of unacknowledged privilege, I understood that much of their oppressiveness was unconscious. Then I remembered the frequent charges from women of color that white women whom they encounter are oppressive. I began to understand why we are just seen as oppressive, even when we don’t see ourselves that way. I began to count the ways in which I enjoy unearned skin privilege and have been conditioned into oblivion about its existence.
My schooling gave me no training in seeing myself as an oppressor, as an unfairly advantaged person, or as a participant in a damaged culture. I was taught to see myself as an individual whose moral state depended on her individual moral will. My schooling followed the pattern my colleague Elizabeth Minnich has pointed out: whites are taught to think of their lives as morally neutral, normative, and average, and also ideal, so that when we work to benefit others, this is seen as work that will allow “them” to be more like “us.”
I decided to try to work on myself at least by identifying some of the daily effects of white privilege in my life. I have chosen those conditions that I think in my case attach somewhat more to skin-color privilege than to class, religion, ethnic status, or geographic location, though of course all these other factors are intricately intertwined. As far as I can tell, my African American coworkers, friends, and acquaintances with whom I come into daily or frequent contact in this particular time, place and time of work cannot count on most of these conditions.
1. I can if I wish arrange to be in the company of people of my race most of the time.
2. I can avoid spending time with people whom I was trained to mistrust and who have learned to mistrust my kind or me.
3. If I should need to move, I can be pretty sure of renting or purchasing housing in an area which I can afford and in which I would want to live.
4. I can be pretty sure that my neighbors in such a location will be neutral or pleasant to me.
5. I can go shopping alone most of the time, pretty well assured that I will not be followed or harassed.
6. I can turn on the television or open to the front page of the paper and see people of my race widely represented.
7. When I am told about our national heritage or about “civilization,” I am shown that people of my color made it what it is.
8. I can be sure that my children will be given curricular materials that testify to the existence of their race.
9. If I want to, I can be pretty sure of finding a publisher for this piece on white privilege.
10. I can be pretty sure of having my voice heard in a group in which I am the only member of my race.
11. I can be casual about whether or not to listen to another person’s voice in a group in which s/he is the only member of his/her race.
12. I can go into a music shop and count on finding the music of my race represented, into a supermarket and find the staple foods which fit with my cultural traditions, into a hairdresser’s shop and find someone who can cut my hair.
13. Whether I use checks, credit cards or cash, I can count on my skin color not to work against the appearance of financial reliability.
14. I can arrange to protect my children most of the time from people who might not like them.
15. I do not have to educate my children to be aware of systemic racism for their own daily physical protection.
16. I can be pretty sure that my children’s teachers and employers will tolerate them if they fit school and workplace norms; my chief worries about them do not concern others’ attitudes toward their race.
17. I can talk with my mouth full and not have people put this down to my color.
18. I can swear, or dress in second hand clothes, or not answer letters, without having people attribute these choices to the bad morals, the poverty or the illiteracy of my race.
19. I can speak in public to a powerful male group without putting my race on trial.
20. I can do well in a challenging situation without being called a credit to my race.
21. I am never asked to speak for all the people of my racial group.
22. I can remain oblivious of the language and customs of persons of color who constitute the world’s majority without feeling in my culture any penalty for such oblivion.
23. I can criticize our government and talk about how much I fear its policies and behavior without being seen as a cultural outsider.
24. I can be pretty sure that if I ask to talk to the “person in charge”, I will be facing a person of my race.
25. If a traffic cop pulls me over or if the IRS audits my tax return, I can be sure I haven’t been singled out because of my race.
26. I can easily buy posters, post-cards, picture books, greeting cards, dolls, toys and children’s magazines featuring people of my race.
27. I can go home from most meetings of organizations I belong to feeling somewhat tied in, rather than isolated, out-of-place, outnumbered, unheard, held at a distance or feared.
28. I can be pretty sure that an argument with a colleague of another race is more likely to jeopardize her/his chances for advancement than to jeopardize mine.
29. I can be pretty sure that if I argue for the promotion of a person of another race, or a program centering on race, this is not likely to cost me heavily within my present setting, even if my colleagues disagree with me.
30. If I declare there is a racial issue at hand, or there isn’t a racial issue at hand, my race will lend me more credibility for either position than a person of color will have.
31. I can choose to ignore developments in minority writing and minority activist programs, or disparage them, or learn from them, but in any case, I can find ways to be more or less protected from negative consequences of any of these choices.
32. My culture gives me little fear about ignoring the perspectives and powers of people of other races.
33. I am not made acutely aware that my shape, bearing or body odor will be taken as a reflection on my race.
34. I can worry about racism without being seen as self-interested or self-seeking.
35. I can take a job with an affirmative action employer without having my co-workers on the job suspect that I got it because of my race.
36. If my day, week or year is going badly, I need not ask of each negative episode or situation whether it had racial overtones.
37. I can be pretty sure of finding people who would be willing to talk with me and advise me about my next steps, professionally.
38. I can think over many options, social, political, imaginative or professional, without asking whether a person of my race would be accepted or allowed to do what I want to do.
39. I can be late to a meeting without having the lateness reflect on my race.
40. I can choose public accommodation without fearing that people of my race cannot get in or will be mistreated in the places I have chosen.
41. I can be sure that if I need legal or medical help, my race will not work against me.
42. I can arrange my activities so that I will never have to experience feelings of rejection owing to my race.
43. If I have low credibility as a leader I can be sure that my race is not the problem.
44. I can easily find academic courses and institutions which give attention only to people of my race.
45. I can expect figurative language and imagery in all of the arts to testify to experiences of my race.
46. I can chose blemish cover or bandages in “flesh” color and have them more or less match my skin.
47. I can travel alone or with my spouse without expecting embarrassment or hostility in those who deal with us.
48. I have no difficulty finding neighborhoods where people approve of our household.
49. My children are given texts and classes which implicitly support our kind of family unit and do not turn them against my choice of domestic partnership.
50. I will feel welcomed and “normal” in the usual walks of public life, institutional and social.
Elusive and fugitive
I repeatedly forgot each of the realizations on this list until I wrote it down. For me white privilege has turned out to be an elusive and fugitive subject. The pressure to avoid it is great, for in facing it I must give up the myth of meritocracy. If these things are true, this is not such a free country; one’s life is not what one makes it; many doors open for certain people through no virtues of their own.
In unpacking this invisible knapsack of white privilege, I have listed conditions of daily experience that I once took for granted. Nor did I think of any of these perquisites as bad for the holder. I now think that we need a more finely differentiated taxonomy of privilege, for some of these varieties are only what one would want for everyone in a just society, and others give license to be ignorant, oblivious, arrogant, and destructive.
I see a pattern running through the matrix of white privilege, a patter of assumptions that were passed on to me as a white person. There was one main piece of cultural turf; it was my own turn, and I was among those who could control the turf. My skin color was an asset for any move I was educated to want to make. I could think of myself as belonging in major ways and of making social systems work for me. I could freely disparage, fear, neglect, or be oblivious to anything outside of the dominant cultural forms. Being of the main culture, I could also criticize it fairly freely.
In proportion as my racial group was being made confident, comfortable, and oblivious, other groups were likely being made unconfident, uncomfortable, and alienated. Whiteness protected me from many kinds of hostility, distress, and violence, which I was being subtly trained to visit, in turn, upon people of color.
For this reason, the word “privilege” now seems to me misleading. We usually think of privilege as being a favored state, whether earned or conferred by birth or luck. Yet some of the conditions I have described here work systematically to over empower certain groups. Such privilege simply confers dominance because of one’s race or sex.
By Max Nettlau.
via – Max Nettlau, Anarchism: Communist or Individualist?—Both
ANARCHISM is no longer young, and it may be time to ask ourselves why, with all the energy devoted to its propaganda, it does not spread more rapidly. For even where local activity is strongest, the results are limited, whilst immense spheres are as yet hardly touched by any propaganda at all. In discussing this question, I will not deal with the problem of Syndicalism, which, by absorbing so much of Anarchist activity and sympathies, cannot by that very fact be considered to advance the cause of Anarchism proper, whatever its other merits may be. I will also try not to repeat what I put forward in other articles in years gone by as possible means of increasing the activity of Anarchists. As my advice was not heeded, it cannot, in any case, be considered to have hampered the progress of our ideas.
I will consider the theories of Anarchism only; and here I have been struck for a long time by the contrast between the largeness of the aims of Anarchism—the greatest possible realization of freedom and well-being for all—and the narrowness, so to speak, of the economic program of Anarchism, be it Individualist or Communist. I am inclined to think that the feeling of the inadequacy of this economic basis—exclusive Communism or exclusive Individualism, according to the school—hinders people from acquiring practical confidence in Anarchism, the general aims of which appeal as a beautiful ideal to many. I feel myself that neither Communism nor Individualism, if it became the sole economic form, would realize freedom, which always demands a choice of ways, a plurality of possibilities. I know that Communists, when asked pointedly, will say that they should have no objection to Individualists who wished to live in their own way without creating new monopolies or authority, and vice versa. But this is seldom said in a really open and friendly way; both sections are far too much convinced that freedom is only possible if their particular scheme is carried out. I quite admit that there are Communists and Individualists to whom their respective doctrines, and these alone, give complete satisfaction and leave no problem unsolved (in their opinion); these would not be interfered with, in any case, in their lifelong constancy to one economic ideal. But they must not imagine that all people are constituted after their model and likely to come round to their views or remain “unreclaimed” adversaries on whom no sympathy is to be wasted. Let them but look on real life, which is bearable at all only by being varied and differentiated, in spite of all official uniformity. We all see the survivals of earlier Communism, the manifold workings of present-day solidarity, from which new forms of future Communism may develop—all this in the teeth of the cut-throat capitalist Individualism which predominates. But this miserable bourgeois Individualism, if it created a desire for solidarity, leading to Communism, certainly also created a desire for a genuine, free, unselfish Individualism, where freedom of action would no longer be misused to crush the weaker and to form monopolies, as to-day.
Neither Communism nor Individualism will ever disappear; and if by some mass action the foundations of some rough form of Communism were laid, Individualism would grow stronger than ever in opposition to this. Whenever a uniform system prevails, Anarchists, if they have their ideas at heart, will go ahead of it and never permit themselves to become fossilised upholders of a given system, be it that of the purest Communism.
Will they, then, be always dissatisfied, always struggling, never enjoying rest? They might feel at ease in a state of society where all economic possibilities had full scope, and then their energy might be applied to peaceful emulation and no longer to continuous struggle and demolition. This desirable state of things could be prepared from now, if it were once for all frankly understood among Anarchists that both Communism and Individualism are equally important, equally permanent; and that the exclusive predominance of either of them would be the greatest misfortune that could befall mankind. From isolation we take refuge in solidarity, from too much society we seek relief in isolation: both solidarity and isolation are, each at the right moment, freedom and help to us. All human life vibrates between these two poles in endless varieties of oscillations.
Let me imagine myself for a moment living in a free society. I should certainly have different occupations, manual and mental, requiring strength or skill. It would be very monotonous if the three or four groups with whom I would work (for I hope there will be no Syndicates then!) would be organized on exactly the same lines; I rather think that different degrees or forms of Communism will prevail in them. But might I not become tired of this, and wish for a spell of relative isolation, of Individualism? So I might turn to one of the many possible forms of “equal exchange” Individualism. Perhaps people will do one thing when they are young and another thing when they grow older. Those who are but indifferent workers may continue with their groups; those who are efficient will lose patience at always working with beginners and will go ahead by themselves, unless a very altruist disposition makes it a pleasure to them to act as teachers or advisers to younger people. I also think that at the beginning I should adopt Communism with friends and Individualism with strangers, and shape my future life according to experience. Thus, a free and easy change from one variety of Communism to another, thence to any variety of Individualism, and so on, would be the most obvious and elementary thing in a really free society; and if any group of people tried to check this, to make one system predominant, they would be as bitterly fought as revolutionists fight the present system.
Why, then, was Anarchism cut up into the two hostile sections of Communists and Individualists? I believe the ordinary factor of human shortcomings, from which nobody is exempt, accounts for this. It is quite natural that Communism should appeal more to some, Individualism to others. So each section would work out their economic hypothesis with full ardour and conviction, and by-and-by, strengthened in their belief by opposition, consider it the only solution, and remain faithful to it in the face of all. Hence the Individualist theories for about a century, the Collectivist and Communist theories for about fifty years, acquired a degree of settledness, certitude, apparent permanency, which they never ought to have assumed, for stagnation—this is the word—is the death of progress. Hardly any effort was made in favor of dropping the differences of schools; thus both had full freedom to grow, to become generalized, if they could. With what result?
Neither of them could vanquish the other. Wherever Communists are, Individualists will originate from their very midst; whilst no Individualist wave can overthrow the Communist strongholds. Whilst here aversion or enmity exists between people who are so near each other, we see Communist Anarchism almost effacing itself before Syndicalism, no longer scorning compromise by accepting more or less the Syndicalist solution as an inevitable stepping-stone. On the other hand, we see Individualists almost relapse into bourgeois fallacies —all this at a time when the misdeeds of authority, the growth of State encroachments, present a better occasion and a wider field than ever for real and outspoken Anarchist propaganda.
It has come to this, that at the French Communist Anarchist Congress held in Paris last year Individualism was regularly stigmatised and placed outside the pale of Anarchism by a formal resolution. If ever an international Anarchist Congress was held on these lines, endorsing a similar attitude, I should say good-bye to all hopes placed in this kind of sectarian Anarchism.
By this I intend neither to defend nor to combat Communism or Individualism. Personally, I see much good in Communism; but the idea of seeing it generalized makes me protest. I should not like to pledge my own future beforehand, much less that of anybody else. The Question remains entirely open for me; experience will show which of the extreme and of the many intermediate possibilities will be the best on each occasion, at each time. Anarchism is too dear to me that I should care to see it tied to an economic hypothesis, however plausible it may look to-day. Unique solutions will never do, and whilst everybody is free to believe in and to propagate his own cherished ideas, he ought not to feel it right to spread them except in the form of the merest hypothesis, and every one knows that the literature of Communist and Individualist Anarchism is far from keeping within these limits; we have all sinned in this respect.
In the above I have used the terms “Communist” and “Individualist” in a general way, wishing to show the useless and disastrous character of sectional exclusiveness among Anarchists. If any Individualists have said or done absurd things (are Communists impeccable?), to show these up would not mean to refute me. All I want is to see all those who revolt against authority work on lines of general solidarity instead of being divided into little chapels because each one is convinced he possesses a correct economic solution of the social problem. To fight authority in the capitalist system and in the coming system of State Socialism, or Syndicalism, or of both, or all the three combined, an immense wave of real Anarchist feeling is wanted, before ever the question of economic remedies comes in. Only recognize this, and a large sphere of solidarity will be created, which will make Communist Anarchism stand stronger and shine brighter before the world than it does now.
* * *
P. S.—Since writing the above I have found an early French Anarchist pamphlet, from which I translate the following:
“Thus, those who feel so inclined will unite for common life, duties, and work, whilst those to whom the slightest act of submission would give umbrage will remain individually independent. The real principle [of Anarchism] is this far from demanding integral Communism. But it is evident that for the benefit of certain kinds of work many producers will unite, enjoying the advantages of co-operation. But I say once more, Communism will never be a fundamental [meaning unique and obligatory] principle, on account of the diversity of our intellectual faculties, of our needs, and of our will.”
This quotation (the words in brackets are mine) is taken from p. 72 of what may be one of the scarcest Anarchist publications, on which my eye lit on a bookstall ten days after writing the above article: “Philosophie de l’lnsoumission ou Pardon a Cain,” par Felix P. (New York, 1854, iv. 74 pp., 12mo)—that is, “Philosophy of Non-Submission,” the author’s term for Anarchy. I do not know who Felix P. was; apparently one of the few French Socialists, like Dejacque, Bellegarrigue, Coeurderoy, and Claude Pelletier, whom the lessons of 1848 and other experiences caused to make a bold step forward and arrive at Anarchism by various ways and independent of Proudhon. In the passage quoted he put things into a nutshell, leaving an even balance between the claims of Communism and Individualism. This is exactly what I feel in 1914, sixty years after. The personal predilections of everybody would remain unchanged and unhurt, but exclusivism would be banished, the two vital principles of life allied instead of looking askance at each other.
1 – The Land Monopoly – The enforcement by government of land titles which do not rest upon occupancy and use. This monopoly is immoral for various reasons since it violates just ownership. Just ownership over a natural resource is validated when an individual mixes their labor with that resource and actively uses it. When you abandon that resource for a given amount of time, it ceases to be your property. Same goes with your body. Your body is yours since you mix your labor with it constantly and you actively use it. This legal justification of ownership can also be used to reject voluntary slavery contracts.
2 – The Money Monopoly – The enforcement by government of legal tender laws and the institution of central banking. This allows the powerful to manipulate the economy to their own interests and by extension destroy the actual productive economy. The Boom and Bust cycle is tied to central banking. The Money Monopoly serves as a legal cartel for banks and the money changers.
3 – The Tariff Monopoly – The enforcement by government of trade barriers and trade restrictions internationally. This creates and maintains the high profits, low wages, and high prices we see under the prevailing state capitalism of today. This monopoly makes any real competition with Big Business illegal.
4 – The Patent Monopoly – The enforcement by government of intellectual monopolization. This monopoly is a prevention of competitive enterprise in ideas and invention. For example, if the inventer of the wheel was the sole person that could legally produce the wheel with out charge that person would hold an unjust monopoly over all other people. Also, that would limit the improvement of the original invention since in order to improve an invention you need to use the “original” idea. This goes against the theory of just ownership as presented above.
A couple weeks ago in The Guardian, Ellie Mae O’Hagan very thoughtfully bewailed the mainstream media’s treatment of anarchists. “The problem with the contemporary media narrative on protest,” she said, “is that, in its refusal to understand the nuances of anarchism, it is using the term as a euphemism for ‘dangerous’, ‘violent’ or ‘bad’.”
O’Hagan couldn’t be more right, and while she has no trouble recognizing that anarchism is a “broad-based political philosophy,” she points out that the media at large is intent on using it as a proxy for vandalism and destruction. The smearing of anarchism, she argues, is approaching the level of McCarthyism, with spurious, “Orwellian charges” becoming more and more frequent in the United Kingdom and elsewhere.
The anti-anarchist, police state phenomena highlighted by O’Hagan cry out for anarchists to instruct society in our creed, not to explain it away in a way that compromises its radical message, but to convey what it really is. And that, as O’Hagan correctly notes, is a tradition of thought that “accommodates people of significantly contrasting viewpoints.” Arbitrary violence and destruction of property are about as much (or rather as little) a part of anarchism as they are of any other political persuasion.
Governments enjoy playing up “propaganda of the deed” as necessarily a feature of anarchism; it allows them to turn around and use the phrase “known anarchist” in the headlines when they throw people in a cage on trumped up charges. Random, warrantless police raids are far more palatable to a public that has been suckled on the lie that anarchists are thoughtless agents of chaos.
Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, the first to explicitly style himself an anarchist, did not choose the word out of a desire to promote chaos or disorder. Indeed, Proudhon identified himself as “a firm friend of order” and saw anarchy as expressing the “highest limit of liberty and order to which humanity can attain.” Through the history of anarchist thought, its proponents have taken great care to emphasize the differences between the kind of order offered by the state and that by free and voluntary society.
The former, they argued, was no order at all, but a war executed by a small elite against its own subjects, an abrogation of the natural, social order that would obtain in the state’s absence. Quite contrary to championing disorder or some kind of lawless mayhem, Proudhon imagined the coercive apparatuses of the state “dissolved” within a true market, with “political functions … reduced to industrial functions.”
In a very real way, it is the state that substitutes the chaotic and the violent for what is otherwise innate in the value-for-value trades between sovereign people. Government intrusions against, for example, a farm in the French village of Tarnac and a peaceful community action group in London demonstrate all too clearly that simply concerns about public safety is not the whole story.
In fact, it has been increasingly obvious that public safety is a mere subterfuge used to mask the state’s blatant attempts to discredit anything that might expose it for the band of criminals that it is. Since anarchism opposes hierarchy, authority and an economic system grounded in coercive privilege, it is eminently understandable that the state would want to bring its advocates into disrepute.
Against the rubric of senseless violence, however, anarchist couldn’t hope to approach the carnage rendered by the state. So when anarchists or other political dissidents are taken in for things like “suspicion of conspiracy to cause a public nuisance,” a healthy dose of skepticism is in order.
If anarchists succeeded in replacing the state with voluntary, consensual institutions, it wouldn’t mean a perfect, crimeless utopia. What would surface, though, would be a society that could avail itself of all the latent potential now stamped out by the rigid, decaying force of statism; it would be a society without sanctioned coercion, without the ancient idea, absurd on its face, that society’s worst, most powerful criminals are to be revered and respected.
That the state is a moral abomination is easy enough to show and to understand. What is more difficult is communicating that message in a world rigged so that people can’t understand, so that disinformation becomes truth. That’s the state’s game, but, as they say, truth will out.
One morning, when I was in eighth grade, I got dressed for school and went outside to wait for my father to drive me. I was wearing a long knit skirt, sweater, and some boots. My outfit would have met the requirements for an orthodox family temple outing. But when my father walked out the door and saw me, he told me I looked like a slut. I was devastated. More than that, I was baffled.
You have to understand that, when I was a kid, my father and I were as close as two people could be. There was nobody on earth that I would rather have spent time with. My father wasn’t some uber-conservative, misogynist douchebag. He was the guy who always made me feel like my opinion was important. He was the one who made me believe that there was nothing I could not do.
There was nothing slutty about what I was wearing (if you believe in that sort of thing). It wasn’t about that. And at some level I knew that. But I still didn’t quite get what the hell was going on. All I knew was that my father’s attitude toward me changed. In fact, all men’s and women’s attitudes toward me changed. One day I was playing with barbies and the next day grown men on the street were trying to fuck me. The really mindboggling part was that somehow their desire was my fault. Somehow that made me dirty and wrong. There was some kind of code that I was missing.
One of my friends at the time had the misfortune of having huge boobs. She would spend hours in a store trying to find exactly the right t-shirt. If it was too big, she would look fat. If it was too tight or the neck was too low, then she would look like a slut. In the hours that she spent trying to find a shirt that fell just perfectly on the spectrum between fat slob and dirty whore, she could have written a novel.
It really didn’t matter if my friend found that perfectly chaste t-shirt. Because if something had happened to her, it would still have been her fault. If she was wearing a t-shirt, someone would say she should have been wearing a turtleneck. If she was wearing a turtleneck, someone would say that she should have been wearing a hijab. If she was wearing a hijab, someone would say the attack was due to some errant hair.
The idea that girls and women are in some way responsible for other people’s action, for the sometimes truly awful things that people want to do to them, is pervasive. It is so pervasive that, when an eleven year old girl was gang raped, the first reaction was to examine her actions. Really? Is there something that an eleven year old can do to bring something like that on herself? What kind of society even lets that thought pass through their heads?
My teen-aged reaction to this bullshit (and a whole lot of other bullshit) was a big, punk rock Fuck You. I was not reading Betty Friedan. I did not have deep thoughts about how all of my personal mini-tragedies fit into a larger context. I knew that it hurt. I knew that trying to conform to social expectations would make me lose my fucking mind. I knew that, if I wanted to survive my teen years, I was going to have to give everyone the finger.
So I did. It didn’t always work out. Sometimes I did some really self destructive shit. I spent way to much time acting in opposition to things and to people. I did not understand that, when you are acting in opposition to people, you are still letting them define you. But it was the road I needed to take.
I’m boring you with this tween years confessional because a couple of people have inquired about my participation in the upcoming DC Slutwalk. For those of you who have been on Mars for the last few weeks, there was an incident in Toronto that set off a firestorm.
“You know, I think we’re beating around the bush here,” the officer said, according to Hoffman. “I’ve been told I’m not supposed to say this, however, women should avoid dressing like sluts in order not to be victimized.”
Women in Toronto got pissed. They decided to give that cop, and all the others like him, a big punk rock Fuck You. So the slutwalk was born. And women all over the world have been marching – sometimes scantily clad, sometimes not. Tiara marched with a sign that said,
This is what I wore when I was raped. I still did not ask for it
I think Katherine Feeney and Suzanne Moore were a bit like me as kids. They get the riot grrl attitude behind the slutwalks. But lots of other people don’t like the slutwalks at all. Some people just don’t get the in your face fuckyouedness. Some people think that victim blaming really isn’t a problem anymore. Some think the word “slut” can’t be reclaimed. Some say the slutwalkers are just ruining things for real feminists. There are those who say it is too feminist and those who say it is not feminist enough. Some people think that it isn’t very sophisticated, only showing one side of the madonna/whore dichotomy. Still others say it is racist.
Every day that I open my blog reader there are more articles on the slutwalks. And I was going to respond to the criticisms. I was going to write about how some people just don’t get the attitude. I was going to write about how things don’t always have to be so fucking intellectual. I was going to write about how I thought some of the criticisms were valid. But then I thought….Meh.
The truth is that I am going to participate in the slutwalk because my inner fifteen year old thinks it is …like….totally….fucking… awesome. That’s it. I’m not going to intellectualize it or make excuses for its shortcomings. I’m not going to pretend that it is inclusive or that it is going to solve anything. I don’t believe that suddenly everyone is going to understand how debilitating it can be to be on the receiving end of that hate.
One thing that is certain is that we are talking about this issue in a huge way. I think that is a good thing. I wish that there had been a big public discussion like this when I was a teen. Maybe it would have helped me. Maybe I would have put two and two together a little sooner. Maybe I would have seen how scared shitless and emotionally ill-equipped my father was. Maybe he and I would have found a way to heal our relationship before he died, because we would have understood that what was going on between us was much bigger than just us.
Or maybe not. All I know is that me and my inner fifteen year old are going to put on a completely inappropriate outfit and give a big, cathartic Fuck You to a lot of clueless people. And it is going to feel good.
Let’s be honest: you’ll never win the lottery.
On the other hand, the chances are pretty good that you’ll slave away at some miserable job the rest of your life. That’s because you were in all likelihood born into the wrong social class. Let’s face it — you’re a member of the working caste. Sorry!
As a result, you don’t have the education, upbringing, connections, manners, appearance, and good taste to ever become one of us. In fact, you’d probably need a book the size of the yellow pages to list all the unfair advantages we have over you. That’s why we’re so relieved to know that you still continue to believe all those silly fairy tales about “justice” and “equal opportunity” in America.
Of course, in a hierarchical social system like ours, there’s never been much room at the top to begin with. Besides, it’s already occupied by us — and we like it up here so much that we intend to keep it that way. But at least there’s usually someone lower in the social hierarchy you can feel superior to and kick in the teeth once in a while. Even a lowly dishwasher can easily find some poor slob further down in the pecking order to sneer and spit at. So be thankful for migrant workers, prostitutes, and homeless street people.
Always remember that if everyone like you were economically secure and socially privileged like us, there would be no one left to fill all those boring, dangerous, low-paid jobs in our economy. And no one to fight our wars for us, or blindly follow orders in our totalitarian corporate institutions. And certainly no one to meekly go to their grave without having lived a full and creative life. So please, keep up the good work!
You also probably don’t have the same greedy, compulsive drive to possess wealth, power, and prestige that we have. And even though you may sincerely want to change the way you live, you’re also afraid of the very change you desire, thus keeping you and others like you in a nervous state of limbo. So you go through life mechanically playing your assigned social role, terrified what others would think should you ever dare to “break out of the mould.”
Naturally, we try to play you off against each other whenever it suits our purposes: high-waged workers against low-waged, unionized against non-unionized, Black against White, male against female, American workers against Japanese against Mexican against…. We continually push your wages down by invoking “foreign competition,” “the law of supply and demand,” “national security,” or “the bloated federal deficit.” We throw you on the unemployed scrap heap if you step out of line or jeopardize our profits. And to give you an occasional break from the monotony of our daily economic blackmail, we allow you to participate in our stage-managed electoral shell games, better known to you ordinary folks as “elections.” Happily, you haven’t a clue as to what’s really happening — instead, you blame “Aliens,” “Tree-hugging Environmentalists,” “Niggers,” “Jews,” Welfare Queens,” and countless others for your troubled situation.
We’re also very pleased that many of you still embrace the “work ethic,” even though most jobs in our economy degrade the environment, undermine your physical and emotional health, and basically suck your one and only life right out of you. We obviously don’t know much about work, but we’re sure glad you do!
Of course, life could be different. Society could be intelligently organized to meet the real needs of the general population. You and others like you could collectively fight to free yourselves from our domination. But you don’t know that. In fact, you can’t even imagine that another way of life is possible. And that’s probably the greatest, most significant achievement of our system — robbing you of your imagination, your creativity, your ability to think and act for yourself.
So we’d truly like to thank you from the bottom of our heartless hearts. Your loyal sacrifice makes possible our corrupt luxury; your work makes our system work. Thanks so much for “knowing your place” — without even knowing it!
Via the ACLU:
Congress may soon vote on a new declaration of worldwide war without end, and without clear enemies. A “sleeper provision” deep inside defense bills pending before Congress could become the single biggest hand-over of unchecked war authority from Congress to the executive branch in modern American history.
President Obama has not sought new war authority. In fact, his administration has made clear that it believes it already has all of the authority that it needs to fight terrorism.
But Congress is considering monumental new legislation that would grant the president – and all presidents after him – sweeping new power to make war almost anywhere and everywhere. Unlike previous grants of authority for the Afghanistan and Iraq wars, the proposed legislation would allow a president to use military force wherever terrorism suspects are present in the world, regardless of whether there has been any harm to U.S. citizens, or any attack on the United States, or any imminent threat of an attack. The legislation is broad enough to permit a president to use military force within the United States and against American citizens. The legislation contains no expiration date, and no criteria to determine when a president’s authority to use military force would end.
Of all of the powers that the Constitution assigns to Congress, no power is more fundamental or important than the power “to declare War.” That is why, in 2002, when Congress was considering whether to authorize war in Iraq, it held fifteen hearings, and passed legislation that cited specific harms, set limits, and defined a clear objective. Now, Congress is poised to give unchecked authority to the executive branch to use military force worldwide, with profoundly negative consequences for our fundamental democratic system of checks and balances. Once Congress expands the president’s war power, it will be nearly impossible to rein it back in. The ACLU strongly opposes a wholesale turnover of war power from Congress to the president – and all of his successors.
UPDATE: For more information and specifics please see: National Defense Authorization Bill H.R 1540? Gives President the Right to Continue Wars Without Approval? Also to Declare War Within America Itself
The bill Can be viewed on Open Congress: H.R.1540 – Military Construction Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2012
By: Emma Goldman
Ever reviled, accursed, ne’er understood,
Thou art the grisly terror of our age.
“Wreck of all order,” cry the multitude,
“Art thou, and war and murder’s endless rage.”
O, let them cry. To them that ne’er have striven
The truth that lies behind a word to find,
To them the word’s right meaning was not given.
They shall continue blind among the blind.
But thou, O word, so clear, so strong, so pure,
Thou sayest all which I for goal have taken.
I give thee to the future! Thine secure
When each at least unto himself shall waken.
Comes it in sunshine? In the tempest’s thrill?
I cannot tell–but it the earth shall see!
I am an Anarchist! Wherefore I will
Not rule, and also ruled I will not be!
- John Henry Mackay
The history of human growth and development is at the same time the history of the terrible struggle of every new idea heralding the approach of a brighter dawn. In its tenacious hold on tradition, the Old has never hesitated to make use of the foulest and cruelest means to stay the advent of the New, in whatever form or period the latter may have asserted itself. Nor need we retrace our steps into the distant past to realize the enormity of opposition, difficulties, and hardships placed in the path of every progressive idea. The rack, the thumbscrew, and the knout are still with us; so are the convict’s garb and the social wrath, all conspiring against the spirit that is serenely marching on.
Anarchism could not hope to escape the fate of all other ideas of innovation. Indeed, as the most revolutionary and uncompromising innovator, Anarchism must needs meet with the combined ignorance and venom of the world it aims to reconstruct.
To deal even remotely with all that is being said and done against Anarchism would necessitate the writing of a whole volume. I shall therefore meet only two of the principal objections. In so doing, I shall attempt to elucidate what Anarchism really stands for. The strange phenomenon of the opposition to Anarchism is that it brings to light the relation between so-called intelligence and ignorance. And yet this is not so very strange when we consider the relativity of all things. The ignorant mass has in its favor that it makes no pretense of knowledge or tolerance. Acting, as it always does, by mere impulse, its reasons are like those of a child. “Why?” “Because.” Yet the opposition of the uneducated to Anarchism deserves the same consideration as that of the intelligent man. What, then, are the objections? First, Anarchism is impractical, though a beautiful ideal. Second, Anarchism stands for violence and destruction, hence it must be repudiated as vile and dangerous. Both the intelligent man and the ignorant mass judge not from a thorough knowledge of the subject, but either from hearsay or false interpretation.
A practical scheme, says Oscar Wilde, is either one already in existence, or a scheme that could be carried out under the existing conditions; but it is exactly the existing conditions that one objects to, and any scheme that could accept these conditions is wrong and foolish. The true criterion of the practical, therefore, is not whether the latter can keep intact the wrong or foolish; rather is it whether the scheme has vitality enough to leave the stagnant waters of the old, and build, as well as sustain, new life. In the light of this conception, Anarchism is indeed practical. More than any other idea, it is helping to do away with the wrong and foolish; more than any other idea, it is building and sustaining new life.
The emotions of the ignorant man are continuously kept at a pitch by the most blood-curdling stories about Anarchism. Not a thing too outrageous to be employed against this philosophy and its exponents. Therefore Anarchism represents to the unthinking what the proverbial bad man does to the child,–a black monster bent on swallowing everything; in short, destruction and violence.
Destruction and violence! How is the ordinary man to know that the most violent element in society is ignorance; that its power of destruction is the very thing Anarchism is combating? Nor is he aware that Anarchism, whose roots, as it were, are part of nature’s forces, destroys, not healthful tissue, but parasitic growths that feed on the life’s essence of society. It is merely clearing the soil from weeds and sagebrush, that it may eventually bear healthy fruit.
Someone has said that it requires less mental effort to condemn than to think. The widespread mental indolence, so prevalent in society, proves this to be only too true. Rather than to go to the bottom of any given idea, to examine into its origin and meaning, most people will either condemn it altogether, or rely on some superficial or prejudicial definition of non-essentials.
Anarchism urges man to think, to investigate, to analyze every proposition; but that the brain capacity of the average reader be not taxed too much, I also shall begin with a definition, and then elaborate on the latter.
ANARCHISM:–The philosophy of a new social order based on liberty unrestricted by man-made law; the theory that all forms of government rest on violence, and are therefore wrong and harmful, as well as unnecessary.
The new social order rests, of course, on the materialistic basis of life; but while all Anarchists agree that the main evil today is an economic one, they maintain that the solution of that evil can be brought about only through the consideration of EVERY PHASE of life,–individual, as well as the collective; the internal, as well as the external phases.
A thorough perusal of the history of human development will disclose two elements in bitter conflict with each other; elements that are only now beginning to be understood, not as foreign to each other, but as closely related and truly harmonious, if only placed in proper environment: the individual and social instincts. The individual and society have waged a relentless and bloody battle for ages, each striving for supremacy, because each was blind to the value and importance of the other. The individual and social instincts,–the one a most potent factor for individual endeavor, for growth, aspiration, self-realization; the other an equally potent factor for mutual helpfulness and social well-being.
The explanation of the storm raging within the individual, and between him and his surroundings, is not far to seek. The primitive man, unable to understand his being, much less the unity of all life, felt himself absolutely dependent on blind, hidden forces ever ready to mock and taunt him. Out of that attitude grew the religious concepts of man as a mere speck of dust dependent on superior powers on high, who can only be appeased by complete surrender. All the early sagas rest on that idea, which continues to be the LEIT-MOTIF of the biblical tales dealing with the relation of man to God, to the State, to society. Again and again the same motif, MAN IS NOTHING, THE POWERS ARE EVERYTHING. Thus Jehovah would only endure man on condition of complete surrender. Man can have all the glories of the earth, but he must not become conscious of himself. The State, society, and moral laws all sing the same refrain: Man can have all the glories of the earth, but he must not become conscious of himself.
Anarchism is the only philosophy which brings to man the consciousness of himself; which maintains that God, the State, and society are non-existent, that their promises are null and void, since they can be fulfilled only through man’s subordination. Anarchism is therefore the teacher of the unity of life; not merely in nature, but in man. There is no conflict between the individual and the social instincts, any more than there is between the heart and the lungs: the one the receptacle of a precious life essence, the other the repository of the element that keeps the essence pure and strong. The individual is the heart of society, conserving the essence of social life; society is the lungs which are distributing the element to keep the life essence–that is, the individual–pure and strong.
“The one thing of value in the world,” says Emerson, “is the active soul; this every man contains within him. The soul active sees absolute truth and utters truth and creates.” In other words, the individual instinct is the thing of value in the world. It is the true soul that sees and creates the truth alive, out of which is to come a still greater truth, the re-born social soul. Anarchism is the great liberator of man from the phantoms that have held him captive; it is the arbiter and pacifier of the two forces for individual and social harmony. To accomplish that unity, Anarchism has declared war on the pernicious influences which have so far prevented the harmonious blending of individual and social instincts, the individual and society.
Religion, the dominion of the human mind; Property, the dominion of human needs; and Government, the dominion of human conduct, represent the stronghold of man’s enslavement and all the horrors it entails. Religion! How it dominates man’s mind, how it humiliates and degrades his soul. God is everything, man is nothing, says religion. But out of that nothing God has created a kingdom so despotic, so tyrannical, so cruel, so terribly exacting that naught but gloom and tears and blood have ruled the world since gods began. Anarchism rouses man to rebellion against this black monster. Break your mental fetters, says Anarchism to man, for not until you think and judge for yourself will you get rid of the dominion of darkness, the greatest obstacle to all progress.
Property, the dominion of man’s needs, the denial of the right to satisfy his needs. Time was when property claimed a divine right, when it came to man with the same refrain, even as religion, “Sacrifice! Abnegate! Submit!” The spirit of Anarchism has lifted man from his prostrate position. He now stands erect, with his face toward the light. He has learned to see the insatiable, devouring, devastating nature of property, and he is preparing to strike the monster dead.
“Property is robbery,” said the great French Anarchist, Proudhon. Yes, but without risk and danger to the robber. Monopolizing the accumulated efforts of man, property has robbed him of his birthright, and has turned him loose a pauper and an outcast. Property has not even the time-worn excuse that man does not create enough to satisfy all needs. The A B C student of economics knows that the productivity of labor within the last few decades far exceeds normal demand a hundredfold. But what are normal demands to an abnormal institution? The only demand that property recognizes is its own gluttonous appetite for greater wealth, because wealth means power; the power to subdue, to crush, to exploit, the power to enslave, to outrage, to degrade. America is particularly boastful of her great power, her enormous national wealth. Poor America, of what avail is all her wealth, if the individuals comprising the nation are wretchedly poor? If they live in squalor, in filth, in crime, with hope and joy gone, a homeless, soilless army of human prey.
It is generally conceded that unless the returns of any business venture exceed the cost, bankruptcy is inevitable. But those engaged in the business of producing wealth have not yet learned even this simple lesson. Every year the cost of production in human life is growing larger (50,000 killed, 100,000 wounded in America last year); the returns to the masses, who help to create wealth, are ever getting smaller. Yet America continues to be blind to the inevitable bankruptcy of our business of production. Nor is this the only crime of the latter. Still more fatal is the crime of turning the producer into a mere particle of a machine, with less will and decision than his master of steel and iron. Man is being robbed not merely of the products of his labor, but of the power of free initiative, of originality, and the interest in, or desire for, the things he is making.
Real wealth consists in things of utility and beauty, in things that help to create strong, beautiful bodies and surroundings inspiring to live in. But if man is doomed to wind cotton around a spool, or dig coal, or build roads for thirty years of his life, there can be no talk of wealth. What he gives to the world is only gray and hideous things, reflecting a dull and hideous existence,–too weak to live, too cowardly to die. Strange to say, there are people who extol this deadening method of centralized production as the proudest achievement of our age. They fail utterly to realize that if we are to continue in machine subserviency, our slavery is more complete than was our bondage to the King. They do not want to know that centralization is not only the death-knell of liberty, but also of health and beauty, of art and science, all these being impossible in a clock-like, mechanical atmosphere.
Anarchism cannot but repudiate such a method of production: its goal is the freest possible expression of all the latent powers of the individual. Oscar Wilde defines a perfect personality as “one who develops under perfect conditions, who is not wounded, maimed, or in danger.” A perfect personality, then, is only possible in a state of society where man is free to choose the mode of work, the conditions of work, and the freedom to work. One to whom the making of a table, the building of a house, or the tilling of the soil, is what the painting is to the artist and the discovery to the scientist,–the result of inspiration, of intense longing, and deep interest in work as a creative force. That being the ideal of Anarchism, its economic arrangements must consist of voluntary productive and distributive associations, gradually developing into free communism, as the best means of producing with the least waste of human energy. Anarchism, however, also recognizes the right of the individual, or numbers of individuals, to arrange at all times for other forms of work, in harmony with their tastes and desires.
Such free display of human energy being possible only under complete individual and social freedom, Anarchism directs its forces against the third and greatest foe of all social equality; namely, the State, organized authority, or statutory law,–the dominion of human conduct.
Just as religion has fettered the human mind, and as property, or the monopoly of things, has subdued and stifled man’s needs, so has the State enslaved his spirit, dictating every phase of conduct. “All government in essence,” says Emerson, “is tyranny.” It matters not whether it is government by divine right or majority rule. In every instance its aim is the absolute subordination of the individual. Referring to the American government, the greatest American Anarchist, David Thoreau, said: “Government, what is it but a tradition, though a recent one, endeavoring to transmit itself unimpaired to posterity, but each instance losing its integrity; it has not the vitality and force of a single living man. Law never made man a whit more just; and by means of their respect for it, even the well disposed are daily made agents of injustice.” Indeed, the keynote of government is injustice. With the arrogance and self-sufficiency of the King who could do no wrong, governments ordain, judge, condemn, and punish the most insignificant offenses, while maintaining themselves by the greatest of all offenses, the annihilation of individual liberty. Thus Ouida is right when she maintains that “the State only aims at instilling those qualities in its public by which its demands are obeyed, and its exchequer is filled. Its highest attainment is the reduction of mankind to clockwork. In its atmosphere all those finer and more delicate liberties, which require treatment and spacious expansion, inevitably dry up and perish. The State requires a taxpaying machine in which there is no hitch, an exchequer in which there is never a deficit, and a public, monotonous, obedient, colorless, spiritless, moving humbly like a flock of sheep along a straight high road between two walls.”
Yet even a flock of sheep would resist the chicanery of the State, if it were not for the corruptive, tyrannical, and oppressive methods it employs to serve its purposes. Therefore Bakunin repudiates the State as synonymous with the surrender of the liberty of the individual or small minorities,–the destruction of social relationship, the curtailment, or complete denial even, of life itself, for its own aggrandizement. The State is the altar of political freedom and, like the religious altar, it is maintained for the purpose of human sacrifice.
In fact, there is hardly a modern thinker who does not agree that government, organized authority, or the State, is necessary ONLY to maintain or protect property and monopoly. It has proven efficient in that function only.
Even George Bernard Shaw, who hopes for the miraculous from the State under Fabianism, nevertheless admits that “it is at present a huge machine for robbing and slave-driving of the poor by brute force.” This being the case, it is hard to see why the clever prefacer wishes to uphold the State after poverty shall have ceased to exist. Unfortunately there are still a number of people who continue in the fatal belief that government rests on natural laws, that it maintains social order and harmony, that it diminishes crime, and that it prevents the lazy man from fleecing his fellows. I shall therefore examine these contentions. A natural law is that factor in man which asserts itself freely and spontaneously without any external force, in harmony with the requirements of nature. For instance, the demand for nutrition, for sex gratification, for light, air, and exercise, is a natural law. But its expression needs not the machinery of government, needs not the club, the gun, the handcuff, or the prison. To obey such laws, if we may call it obedience, requires only spontaneity and free opportunity. That governments do not maintain themselves through such harmonious factors is proven by the terrible array of violence, force, and coercion all governments use in order to live. Thus Blackstone is right when he says, “Human laws are invalid, because they are contrary to the laws of nature.”
Unless it be the order of Warsaw after the slaughter of thousands of people, it is difficult to ascribe to governments any capacity for order or social harmony. Order derived through submission and maintained by terror is not much of a safe guaranty; yet that is the only “order” that governments have ever maintained. True social harmony grows naturally out of solidarity of interests. In a society where those who always work never have anything, while those who never work enjoy everything, solidarity of interests is non-existent; hence social harmony is but a myth. The only way organized authority meets this grave situation is by extending still greater privileges to those who have already monopolized the earth, and by still further enslaving the disinherited masses. Thus the entire arsenal of government–laws, police, soldiers, the courts, legislatures, prisons,–is strenuously engaged in “harmonizing” the most antagonistic elements in society.
The most absurd apology for authority and law is that they serve to diminish crime. Aside from the fact that the State is itself the greatest criminal, breaking every written and natural law, stealing in the form of taxes, killing in the form of war and capital punishment, it has come to an absolute standstill in coping with crime. It has failed utterly to destroy or even minimize the horrible scourge of its own creation.
Crime is naught but misdirected energy. So long as every institution of today, economic, political, social, and moral, conspires to misdirect human energy into wrong channels; so long as most people are out of place doing the things they hate to do, living a life they loathe to live, crime will be inevitable, and all the laws on the statutes can only increase, but never do away with, crime. What does society, as it exists today, know of the process of despair, the poverty, the horrors, the fearful struggle the human soul must pass on its way to crime and degradation. Who that knows this terrible process can fail to see the truth in these words of Peter Kropotkin: “Those who will hold the balance between the benefits thus attributed to law and punishment and the degrading effect of the latter on humanity; those who will estimate the torrent of depravity poured abroad in human society by the informer, favored by the Judge even, and paid for in clinking cash by governments, under the pretext of aiding to unmask crime; those who will go within prison walls and there see what human beings become when deprived of liberty, when subjected to the care of brutal keepers, to coarse, cruel words, to a thousand stinging, piercing humiliations, will agree with us that the entire apparatus of prison and punishment is an abomination which ought to be brought to an end.”
The deterrent influence of law on the lazy man is too absurd to merit consideration. If society were only relieved of the waste and expense of keeping a lazy class, and the equally great expense of the paraphernalia of protection this lazy class requires, the social tables would contain an abundance for all, including even the occasional lazy individual. Besides, it is well to consider that laziness results either from special privileges, or physical and mental abnormalities. Our present insane system of production fosters both, and the most astounding phenomenon is that people should want to work at all now. Anarchism aims to strip labor of its deadening, dulling aspect, of its gloom and compulsion. It aims to make work an instrument of joy, of strength, of color, of real harmony, so that the poorest sort of a man should find in work both recreation and hope.
To achieve such an arrangement of life, government, with its unjust, arbitrary, repressive measures, must be done away with. At best it has but imposed one single mode of life upon all, without regard to individual and social variations and needs. In destroying government and statutory laws, Anarchism proposes to rescue the self-respect and independence of the individual from all restraint and invasion by authority. Only in freedom can man grow to his full stature. Only in freedom will he learn to think and move, and give the very best in him. Only in freedom will he realize the true force of the social bonds which knit men together, and which are the true foundation of a normal social life.
But what about human nature? Can it be changed? And if not, will it endure under Anarchism?
Poor human nature, what horrible crimes have been committed in thy name! Every fool, from king to policeman, from the flatheaded parson to the visionless dabbler in science, presumes to speak authoritatively of human nature. The greater the mental charlatan, the more definite his insistence on the wickedness and weaknesses of human nature. Yet, how can any one speak of it today, with every soul in a prison, with every heart fettered, wounded, and maimed? John Burroughs has stated that experimental study of animals in captivity is absolutely useless. Their character, their habits, their appetites undergo a complete transformation when torn from their soil in field and forest. With human nature caged in a narrow space, whipped daily into submission, how can we speak of its potentialities?
Freedom, expansion, opportunity, and, above all, peace and repose, alone can teach us the real dominant factors of human nature and all its wonderful possibilities.
Anarchism, then, really stands for the liberation of the human mind from the dominion of religion; the liberation of the human body from the dominion of property; liberation from the shackles and restraint of government. Anarchism stands for a social order based on the free grouping of individuals for the purpose of producing real social wealth; an order that will guarantee to every human being free access to the earth and full enjoyment of the necessities of life, according to individual desires, tastes, and inclinations.
This is not a wild fancy or an aberration of the mind. It is the conclusion arrived at by hosts of intellectual men and women the world over; a conclusion resulting from the close and studious observation of the tendencies of modern society: individual liberty and economic equality, the twin forces for the birth of what is fine and true in man.
As to methods. Anarchism is not, as some may suppose, a theory of the future to be realized through divine inspiration. It is a living force in the affairs of our life, constantly creating new conditions. The methods of Anarchism therefore do not comprise an iron-clad program to be carried out under all circumstances. Methods must grow out of the economic needs of each place and clime, and of the intellectual and temperamental requirements of the individual. The serene, calm character of a Tolstoy will wish different methods for social reconstruction than the intense, overflowing personality of a Michael Bakunin or a Peter Kropotkin. Equally so it must be apparent that the economic and political needs of Russia will dictate more drastic measures than would England or America. Anarchism does not stand for military drill and uniformity; it does, however, stand for the spirit of revolt, in whatever form, against everything that hinders human growth. All Anarchists agree in that, as they also agree in their opposition to the political machinery as a means of bringing about the great social change.
“All voting,” says Thoreau, “is a sort of gaming, like checkers, or backgammon, a playing with right and wrong; its obligation never exceeds that of expediency. Even voting for the right thing is doing nothing for it. A wise man will not leave the right to the mercy of chance, nor wish it to prevail through the power of the majority.” A close examination of the machinery of politics and its achievements will bear out the logic of Thoreau.
What does the history of parliamentarism show? Nothing but failure and defeat, not even a single reform to ameliorate the economic and social stress of the people. Laws have been passed and enactments made for the improvement and protection of labor. Thus it was proven only last year that Illinois, with the most rigid laws for mine protection, had the greatest mine disasters. In States where child labor laws prevail, child exploitation is at its highest, and though with us the workers enjoy full political opportunities, capitalism has reached the most brazen zenith.
Even were the workers able to have their own representatives, for which our good Socialist politicians are clamoring, what chances are there for their honesty and good faith? One has but to bear in mind the process of politics to realize that its path of good intentions is full of pitfalls: wire-pulling, intriguing, flattering, lying, cheating; in fact, chicanery of every description, whereby the political aspirant can achieve success. Added to that is a complete demoralization of character and conviction, until nothing is left that would make one hope for anything from such a human derelict. Time and time again the people were foolish enough to trust, believe, and support with their last farthing aspiring politicians, only to find themselves betrayed and cheated.
It may be claimed that men of integrity would not become corrupt in the political grinding mill. Perhaps not; but such men would be absolutely helpless to exert the slightest influence in behalf of labor, as indeed has been shown in numerous instances. The State is the economic master of its servants. Good men, if such there be, would either remain true to their political faith and lose their economic support, or they would cling to their economic master and be utterly unable to do the slightest good. The political arena leaves one no alternative, one must either be a dunce or a rogue.
The political superstition is still holding sway over the hearts and minds of the masses, but the true lovers of liberty will have no more to do with it. Instead, they believe with Stirner that man has as much liberty as he is willing to take. Anarchism therefore stands for direct action, the open defiance of, and resistance to, all laws and restrictions, economic, social, and moral. But defiance and resistance are illegal. Therein lies the salvation of man.
Everything illegal necessitates integrity, self-reliance, and courage. In short, it calls for free, independent spirits, for “men who are men, and who have a bone in their backs which you cannot pass your hand through.”
Universal suffrage itself owes its existence to direct action. If not for the spirit of rebellion, of the defiance on the part of the American revolutionary fathers, their posterity would still wear the King’s coat. If not for the direct action of a John Brown and his comrades, America would still trade in the flesh of the black man. True, the trade in white flesh is still going on; but that, too, will have to be abolished by direct action. Trade-unionism, the economic arena of the modern gladiator, owes its existence to direct action. It is but recently that law and government have attempted to crush the trade-union movement, and condemned the exponents of man’s right to organize to prison as conspirators. Had they sought to assert their cause through begging, pleading, and compromise, trade-unionism would today be a negligible quantity. In France, in Spain, in Italy, in Russia, nay even in England (witness the growing rebellion of English labor unions) direct, revolutionary, economic action has become so strong a force in the battle for industrial liberty as to make the world realize the tremendous importance of labor’s power. The General Strike, the supreme expression of the economic consciousness of the workers, was ridiculed in America but a short time ago. Today every great strike, in order to win, must realize the importance of the solidaric general protest.
Direct action, having proven effective along economic lines, is equally potent in the environment of the individual. There a hundred forces encroach upon his being, and only persistent resistance to them will finally set him free. Direct action against the authority in the shop, direct action against the authority of the law, direct action against the invasive, meddlesome authority of our moral code, is the logical, consistent method of Anarchism.
Will it not lead to a revolution? Indeed, it will. No real social change has ever come about without a revolution. People are either not familiar with their history, or they have not yet learned that revolution is but thought carried into action.
Anarchism, the great leaven of thought, is today permeating every phase of human endeavor. Science, art, literature, the drama, the effort for economic betterment, in fact every individual and social opposition to the existing disorder of things, is illumined by the spiritual light of Anarchism. It is the philosophy of the sovereignty of the individual. It is the theory of social harmony. It is the great, surging, living truth that is reconstructing the world, and that will usher in the Dawn.
No. As discussed in section A.1.3, the word “libertarian” has been used by anarchist socialists for far longer than the pro-free market right have been using it. This in itself does not, of course, prove that the term is free of contradiction. However, as we will show below, the claim that the term is self-contractory rests on the assumption that socialism requires the state in order to exist and that socialism is incompatible with liberty. This assumption, as is often true of objections to socialism, is based on a misconception of what socialism is, a misconception that many authoritarian socialists and the state capitalism of Soviet Russia have helped to foster. In reality it is the term “state socialism” which is an oxymoron.
The right (and many on the left) consider that, by definition, “socialism” is state ownership and control of the means of production, along with centrally planned determination of the national economy (and so social life). This definition has become common because many Social Democrats, Leninists, and other statists call themselves socialists. However, the fact that certain people call themselves socialists does not imply that the system they advocate is really socialism. We need to analyse and understand the systems in question, by applying critical, scientific thought, in order to determine whether their claims to the socialist label are justified. As we’ll see, to accept the above definition one has to ignore the overall history of the socialist movement and consider only certain trends within it as representing the movement as a whole.
Even a quick glance at the history of the socialist movement indicates that the identification of socialism with state ownership and control is not common. For example, Anarchists, many Guild Socialists, council communists, and other libertarian Marxists, as well as followers of Robert Owen, all rejected state ownership. Indeed, anarchists recognised that the means of production did not change their form as capital when the state took over their ownership, and hence that state ownership of capital was a tendency within, not opposed to, capitalism (see section H.2.2 for more on this).
So what does socialism mean? And is it compatible with libertarian ideals? Webster’s New International Dictionary defines a libertarian as “One who holds to the doctrine of free will; also, one who upholds the principles of liberty, esp. individual liberty of thought and action.” As we discussed earlier, capitalism denies liberty of thought and action within the workplace (unless one is the boss, of course). Therefore, real libertarian ideas mean that workers control the work they do, determining where and how they do it and what happens to the fruit of their labour, which in turn means the elimination of wage labour. It implies a classless and anti-authoritarian (i.e. libertarian) society in which people manage their own affairs, either as individuals or as part of a group (depending on the situation). In other words, it implies self-management in all aspects of life.
According to the American Heritage Dictionary “socialism” is “a social system in which the producers possess both political power and the means of producing and distributing goods.” This definition fits neatly with the implications of the word “libertarian” indicated above. In fact, it shows that socialism is necessarily libertarian, not statist. For if the state possesses the workplace, then the producers do not, and so they will not be at liberty to manage their own work but will instead be subject to the state as the boss. Moreover, replacing the capitalist owning class by state officials in no way eliminates wage labour; in fact it makes it worse in many cases. Therefore “socialists” who argue for nationalisation of the means of production are not socialists (which means that the soviet union and the other “socialist” countries and parties are not socialist).
Since it’s an essential principle of socialism that inequalities of power between people must be abolished in order to ensure liberty, it makes no sense for a genuine socialist to support any institution based on inequalities of power. And as we discussed in section B, the state and the authoritarian workplace are just such institutions. However, the meaning of “equality” has been so corrupted by capitalist ideologues, with their “ethics of mathematics,” that “equality” has come to mean “identical.” Given the uniqueness of individuals, any attempt to create a society of people who are “equal” in the sense of identical would, of course, not only be doomed to failure but would also create a slave society in the process.
So, libertarian socialism rejects the idea of state ownership and control of the economy, along with the state as such. Through workers’ self-management it proposes to bring an end to authority, exploitation, and hierachy in production. This in itself will increase, not reduce, liberty. Those who argue otherwise rarely claim that political democracy results in less freedom than political dictatorship (although a few “libertarian” capitalist supporters of the “natural law” dogma effectively do so — see section F.7).
The communal ownership advocated by collectivist and communist anarchists is not the same as state ownership. This is because it is based on horizontal relationships between the actual workers and the “owners” of social capital (i.e. the federated communities as a whole), not vertical ones as in nationalisation. In addition, all the members of a participatory anarchist community fall into one of three categories: (1) producers (i.e. members of a collective or self-employed artisans), (2) those unable to work (i.e. the old, sick and so on, who were producers), or (3) the young (i.e. those who will be producers). Therefore, workers’ self-management within a framework of communal ownership is entirely compatible with libertarian and socialist ideas concering the possession of the means of producing and distributing goods by the producers themselves. Hence, far from there being any contradiction between libertarianism and sociaism, libertarian ideals imply socialist ones, and vice versa. As Bakunin argued in 1867, “We are convinced that freedom without Socialism is privilege and injustice, and that Socialism without freedom is slavery and brutality” [Bakunin on Anarchism]. History has proven him correct.
By: Mikhail Bakunin
We have repelled energetically every alliance with bourgeois politics, even of the most radical nature. It has been pretended, foolishly and slanderously, that we repudiated all such Political connivance because we were indifferent to the great question of Liberty, and considered only the economic or material side of the problem. It has been declared that, consequently, we placed ourselves in the ranks of the reaction. A German delegate at the Congress of Basle gave classic expression to this view, when he dared to state that, who ever did not recognize, with the German Socialists Democracy, “that the conquest of political rights (power) was the preliminary condition of social emancipation,” was, consciously or unconsciously an ally, of the Ceasars!
These critics greatly deceive themselves and, “consciously or unconsciously,” endeavor to deceive the public concerning us. We love liberty much more than they do. We love it to the point of wishing it complete and entire. We wish the reality and not the fiction. Hence we repel every bourgeois alliance, since we are convinced that all liberty conquered by the aid of the bourgeoisie, their political means and weapons, or by an alliance with their political dupes, will prove profitable for Messrs. the bourgeois, but never anything more than a fiction for the workers.
Messrs. the bourgeois of all parties, including the most advanced, however cosmopolitan they are, when it is a question of gaining money by a more and more extensive exploitation of the labor of the people, are all equally fervent and fanatical in their patriotic attachment to the state. Patriotism is in reality, nothing but the passion for and cult of the national State, as M. Theirs, the very illustrious assassin of the Parisian proletariat, and the present savior of France, has said recently. But whoever says “State” says domination; and whoever says “domination” says exploitation. Which proves that the popular or “folk’s” State, now become aud unhappily remaining today the catchword of the German Socialist Democracy, is a ridiculous contradiction, a fiction, a falsehood, unconscious on the part of those who extol it, doubtlessly, but, for the proletariat, a very dangerous trap.
The State, however popular may be the form it assumes, will always be an institution of domination and exploitation, and consequently a permanent source of poverty and enslavement for the populace. There is no other way, then, of emancipating the people economically and politically, of giving them liberty and well-being at one and the same time than by abolishing the State, all States, and, by so doing, killing, once and for all time, what, up to now, has been called “Politics,” i e., precisely nothing else than the functioning or manifestation both internal and external of State action, that is to say, the practice, or art and science of dominating and exploiting the masses in favor of the privileged classes.
It is not true then to say that we treat politics abstractly. We make no abstraction of it, since we wish positively to kill it. And here is the essential point upon which we separate ourselves absolutely from politicians and radical bourgeois Socialists (now functioning as social or radical democracy which is only a facade for capitalistic democracy,). Their policy consists in the transformation of State politics, their use and reform. Our policy, the only policy we admit, consists in the total abolition of the State, and of politics, which is its necessary manifestation.
It is only because we wish frankly to this abolition of the State that we believe that we have the right to call ourselves Internationalists and Revolutionary Socialists; for whoever wishes to deal with politics otherwise than how we do; whoever does not, like us, wish the total abolition of politics, must necessarily participate in the politics of a patriotic and bourgeois State. In other words, he renounces, by that very fact, in the name of his great or little national State, the human solidarity of all peoples, as well as the economic and social emancipation of the masses at home.
by: Rudolf Rocker
Anarchism is a definite intellectual current of social thought, whose adherents advocate the abolition of economic monopolies and of all political and social coercive institutions within society. In place of the capitalist economic order, Anarchists would have a free association of all productive forces based upon cooperative labour, which would have for its sole purpose the satisfying of the necessary requirements of every member of society. In place of the present national states with their lifeless machinery of political and bureaucratic institutions, Anarchists desire a federation of free communities which shall be bound to one another by their common economic and social interests and arrange their affairs by mutual agreement and free contract.
Anyone who studies profoundly the economic and political development of the present social system will recognise that these objectives do not spring from the utopian ideas of a few imaginative innovators, but that they are the logical outcome of a thorough examination of existing social maladjustments, which, with every new phase of the present social conditions, manifest themselves more plainly and more unwholesomely. Modern monopoly capitalism and the totalitarian state are merely the last stages in a development which could culminate in no other end.
The portentous development of our present economic system, leading to a mighty accumulation of social wealth in the hands of privileged minorities and to a constant repression of the great masses of the people, prepared the way for the present political and social reaction and befriended it in every way. It sacrificed the general interests of human society to the private interests of individuals, and thus systematically undermined a true relationship between men. People forgot that industry is not an end in itself, but should be only a means to insure to man his material subsistence and to make accessible to him the blessings of a higher intellectual culture. Where industry is everything, where labour loses its ethical importance and man is nothing, there begins the realm of ruthless economic despotism, whose workings are no less disastrous than those of any political despotism. The two mutually augment one another; they are fed from the same source.
Our modern social system has internally split the social organism of every country into hostile classes, and externally it has broken up the common cultural circle into hostile nations; both classes and nations confront one another with open antagonism, and by their ceaseless warfare keep the communal social life in continual convulsions. Two world wars within half a century and their terrible after-effects, and the constant danger of new wars, which today dominates all peoples, are only the logical consequences of this unendurable condition which can only lead to further universal catastrophes. The mere fact that most states are obliged today to spend the better part of their annual income for so-called national defence and the liquidation of old war debts is proof of the untenability of the present status; it should make clear to everybody that the alleged protection which the state affords the individual is certainly purchased too dearly.
The ever-growing power of a soulless political bureaucracy which supervises and safeguards the life of man from the cradle to the grave is putting ever-greater obstacles in the way of co-operation among human beings. A system which in every act of its life sacrifices the welfare of large sections of the people, of whole nations. to the selfish lust for power and the economic interests of small minorities must necessarily dissolve the social ties and lead to a constant war of each against all. This system has merely been the pacemaker for t he great intellectual and social reaction which finds its expression today in modern Fascism and the idea of the totalitarian state. far surpassing the obsession for power of the absolute monarchy of past centuries and seeking to bring every sphere of human activity under the control of the state. “All for the state; all through the state; nothing without the stale!” became the leitmotiv of a new political theology which has its various systems of ecclesiastical theology God is everything and man nothing, so for this modern political creed the state is everything and the citizen nothing. And just as the words the “will of God” were used to justify the will of privileged castes, so today there hides behind the will of the state only the selfish interests of those who feel called upon to interpret this will in their own sense and to force it upon the people.
In modern Anarchism we have the confluence of the two great currents which before and since the French Revolution have found such characteristic expression in the intellectual life of Europe: Socialism and Liberalism. Modern Socialism developed when profound observers of social life came to see more and more dearly that political constitutions and changes in the form of government could never get to the root of the great problem that we call the social question. Its supporters recognised that an equalising of social and economic conditions for the benefit of all, despite the loveliest of theoretical assumptions. is not possible as long as people are separated into classes on the basis of their owning or not owning property, classes whose mere existence excludes in advance any thought of a genuine community. And so there developed the conviction that only by the elimination of economic monopolies and by common ownership of the means of production does a condition of social justice become feasible, a condition in which society shall become a real community, and human labour shall no longer serve the ends of exploitation but assure the wellbeing of everyone. But as soon as Socialism began to assemble its forces and become a movement, there at once came to light certain differences of opinion due to the influence of the social environment in different countries. It is a fact that every political concept from theocracy to Caesarism and dictatorship have affected certain factions of the socialist movement.
Meanwhile, two other great currents in political thought, had a decisive significance on the development of socialist ideas: Liberalism, which had powerfully stimulated advanced minds in the Anglo-Saxon countries, Holland and Spain in particular, and Democracy in the sense. to which Rousseau gave expression in his Social Contract, and which found its most influential representatives in the leaders of French Jacobinism. While Liberalism in its social theories started off from the individual and wished to limit the state’s activities to a minimum, Democracy took its stand on an abstract collective concept, Rousseau’s general will, which it sought to fix in the national state. Liberalism and Democracy were pre-eminently political concepts, and since most of the original adherents of both did scarcely consider the economic conditions of society, the further development of these conditions could not be practically reconciled with the original principles of Democracy, and still less with those of Liberalism. Democracy with its motto of equality of all citizens before the law, and Liberalism with its right of man over his own person, both were wrecked on the realities of capitalist economy. As long as millions of human beings in every country have to sell their labour to a small minority of owners, and sink into the most wretched misery if they can find no buyers, the so-called equality before the law remains merely a pious fraud, since the laws are made by those who find themselves in possession of the social wealth. But in the same way there can be no talk of a right over one’s own person, for that right ends when one is compelled to submit to the economic dictation of another if one does not want to starve.
In common with Liberalism, Anarchism represents the idea that the happiness and prosperity of the individual must be the standard in all social matters. And, in common with the great representatives of liberal thought, it has also the idea of limiting the functions of government to a minimum. Its adherents have followed this thought to its ultimate consequences, and wish to eliminate every institution of political power from the life of society. When Jefferson clothes the basic concept of Liberalism in the words: “That government is best which governs least,” then Anarchists say with Thoreau: “That government is best which governs not at all.”
In common with the founders of Socialism, Anarchists demand the abolition of economic monopoly in every form and shape and uphold common ownership of the soil and all other means of production, the use of which must be available to all without distinction; for personal and social freedom is conceivable only on the basis of equal economic conditions for everybody. Within the socialist movement itself the Anarchists represent the viewpoint that the struggle against capitalism must be at the same time a struggle against all coercive institutions of political power, for in history economic exploitation has always gone hand in hand with political and social oppression. The exploitation of man by man and the domination of man over man are inseparable, and each is the condition of the other.
As long as a possessing and a non-possessing group of human beings face one another in enmity within society, the state will be indispensable to the possessing minority for the protection of its privileges. When this condition of social injustice vanishes to give place to a higher order of things, which shall recognise no special rights and shall have as its basic assumption the community of social interests, government over men must yield the field to the administration of economic and social affairs, or, to speak with Saint Simon: “The time will come when the art of governing men will disappear. A new art will take its place, the art of administering things.” In this respect Anarchism has to be regarded as a kind of voluntary Socialism.
This disposes also of the theory maintained by Marx and his followers that the state, in the form of a proletarian dictatorship, is a necessary transitional stage to a classless society, in which the state, after the elimination of all class conflicts and then the classes themselves, will dissolve itself and vanish from the canvas. For this concept, which completely mistakes the real nature of the state and the significance in history of the factor of political power, is only the logical outcome of so-called economic materialism, which sees in all the phenomena of history merely the inevitable effects of the methods of production of the time. Under the influence of this theory people came to regard the different forms of the state and all other social institutions as a “juridical and political superstructure on the economic edifice” of society, and thought that they had found in it the key to every historic process. In reality every section of history affords us thousands of examples of the way in which the economic development of countries was set back for centuries by the state and its power policy.
Before the rise of the ecclesiastical monarchy, Spain, industrially, was the most advanced country in Europe and held the first place in economic production in almost every field. But a century after the triumph of the Christian monarchy most of its industries had disappeared; what was left of them survived only in the most wretched condition. In most industries they had reverted to the most primitive methods of production. Agriculture collapsed, canals and waterways fell into ruin, and vast stretches of the country were transformed into deserts. Princely absolutism in Europe, with its silly “economic ordinances” and “Industrial Legislation”, which severely punished any deviation from the prescribed methods of production and permitted no new inventions, blocked industrial progress in European countries for centuries, and prevented its natural development. And even now after the horrible experiences of two world wars, the power policy of the larger national states proves to be the greatest obstacle to the reconstruction of European economy,
In Russia, however, where the so-called dictatorship of the proletariat has ripened into reality, the aspirations of a particular party for political power have prevented any truly socialistic reorganisation of economic life and have forced the country into the slavery of a grinding state-capitalism. The proletarian dictatorship, which naive souls believe is an inevitable transition stage to real Socialism, has to-day grown into a frightful despotism and a new imperialism, which lags behind the tyranny of Fascist states in nothing. The assertion that the state must continue to exist until society is no longer divided into hostile classes almost sounds in the light of all historical experience, like a bad joke.
Every type of political power presupposes some particular form of human slavery, for the maintenance of which it is called into being. Just as outwardly, that is, in relation to other states the state has to create certain artificial antagonisms in order to justify its existence, so also internally the cleavage of society into castes, ranks and classes is an essential condition of its continuance. The development of the Bolshevist bureaucracy in Russia under the alleged dictatorship of the proletariatÑwhich has never been anything but the dictatorship of a small clique over the proletariat and the whole Russian peopleÑis merely a new instance of an old historical experience which has repeated itself countless times. This new ruling class, which to-day is rapidly growing into a new aristocracy, is set apart from the great masses of the Russian peasants and workers just as clearly as are the privileged castes and classes in other countries from the mass of the people. And this situation becomes still more unbearable when a despotic state denies to the lower classes the right to complain of existing conditions, so that any protest is made at the risk of their lives.
But even a far greater degree of economic equality than that which exists in Russia would be no guarantee against political and social oppression. Economic equality alone is not social liberation. It is precisely this which all the schools of authoritarian Socialism have never understood. In the prison, in the cloister, or in the barracks one finds a fairly high degree of economic equality, as all the inmates are provided with the same dwelling, the same food, the same uniform, and the same tasks. The ancient Inca state in Peru and the Jesuit state in Paraguay had brought equal economic provision for every inhabitant to a fixed system, but in spite of this the vilest despotism prevailed there, and the human being was merely the automaton of a higher will on whose decisions he had not the slightest influence. It was not without reason that Proudhon saw in a “Socialism” without freedom the worst form of slavery. The urge for social justice can only develop properly and be effective when it grows out of man’s sense of freedom and responsibility, and is based upon it. In other words, Socialism will be free or it will not be at all. In its recognition of this fact lies the genuine and profound justification of Anarchism.
Institutions serve the same purpose in the life of society as physical organs do in plants and animals; they are the organs of the social body. Organs do not develop arbitrarily, but owe their origin to definite necessities of the physical and social environment. Changed conditions of life produce changed organs. But an organ always performs the function it was evolved to perform, or a related one. And it gradually disappears or becomes rudimentary as soon as its function is no longer necessary to the organism.
The same is true of social institutions. They, too, do not arise arbitrarily, but are called into being by special social needs to serve definite purposes. In this way the modern state was evolved, after economic privileges and class divisions associated with them had begun to make themselves more and more conspicuous in the framework of the old social order. The newly arisen possessing classes had need of a political instrument of power to maintain their economic and social privileges over the masses of their own people, and to impose them from without on other groups of human beings. Thus arose the appropriate social conditions for the evolution of the modern state as the organ of political power for the forcible subjugation and oppression of the non-possessing classes. This task is the essential reason for its existence. Its external forms have altered in the course of its historical development, but its functions have always remained the same. They have even constantly broadened in just the measure in which its supporters have succeeded in making further fields of social activities subservient to their ends. And, just as the functions of a physical organ cannot be arbitrarily altered so that, for example, one cannot, at will, hear with one’s eyes or see with one’s ears, so also one cannot, at pleasure, transform an organ of social oppression into an instrument for the liberation of the oppressed.
Anarchism is no patent solution for all human problems, no Utopia of a perfect social order (as it has so often been called), since, on principle, it rejects all absolute schemes and concepts. It does not believe in any absolute truth, or in any definite final goals for human development, but in an unlimited perfectibility of social patterns and human living conditions which are always straining after higher forms of expression, and to which, for this reason, one cannot assign any definite terminus nor set any fixed goal. The greatest evil of any form of power is just that it always tries to force the rich diversity of social life into definite forms and adjust it to particular norms. The stronger its supporters feel themselves, the more completely they succeed in bringing every field of social life into their service, the more crippling is their influence on the operation of all creative cultural forces, the more unwholesomely does it affect the intellectual and social development of power and a dire omen for our times, for it shows with frightful clarity to what a monstrosity Hobbes’ Leviathan can be developed. It is the perfect triumph of the political machine over mind and body, the rationalisation of human thought, feeling and behaviour according to the established rules of the officials and, consequently, the end of all true intellectual culture.
Anarchism recognises only the relative significance of ideas, institutions, and social conditions. It is, therefore not a fixed, self enclosed social system, but rather a definite trend in the historical development of mankind, which, in contrast with the intellectual guardianship of all clerical and governmental institutions, strives for the free unhindered unfolding of all the individual and social forces in life. Even freedom is only a relative, not an absolute concept, since it tends constantly to broaden its scope and to affect wider circles in manifold ways. For the Anarchist, freedom is not an abstract philosophical concept, but the vital concrete possibility for every human being to bring to full development all capacities and talents with which nature has endowed him, and turn them to social account. The less this natural development of man is interfered with by ecclesiastical or political guardianship, the more efficient and harmonious will human personality become, the more will it become the measure of the intellectual culture of the society in which it has grown. This is the reason why all great culture periods in history have been periods of political weakness, for political systems are always set upon the mechanising and not the organic development of social forces. State and Culture are irreconcilable opposites. Nietzsche, who was not an anarchist, recognised this very clearly when he wrote: ” No one can finally spend more than he has. That holds good for individuals; it holds good for peoples. If one spends oneself for power, for higher politics, for husbandry, for commerce, parliamentarism, military interestsÑ if one gives away that amount of reason, earnestness, will, self-mastery which constitutes one’s real self for one thing, he will not have it for the other. Culture and the stateÑlet no one be deceived about thisÑare antagonists: the Culture State is merely a modern idea. The one lives on the other, the one prospers at the expense of the other. All great periods of culture are periods of political decline. Whatever is great in a cultured sense is non-political, is even anti-political.”
Where the influence of political power on the creative forces in society is reduced to a minimum, there culture thrives the best, for political rulership always strives for uniformity and tends to subject every aspect of social life to its guardianship. And, in this, it finds itself in unescapable contradiction to the creative aspirations of cultural development, which is always on the quest for new forms and fields of social activity, and for which freedom of expression, the many-sidedness and the continual changing of things, are just as vitally necessary as rigid forms, dead rules, and the forcible suppression of ideas are for the conservation of political power. Every successful piece of work stirs the desire for greater perfection and deeper inspiration; each new form becomes the herald of new possibilities of development. But power always tries to keep things as they are, safely anchored to stereotypes. That has been the reason for all revolutions in history. Power operates only destructively, bent always on forcing every manifestation of social life into the straitjacket of its rules. Its intellectual expression is dead dogma, its physical form brute force. And this unintelligence of its objectives sets its stamp on its representatives also, and renders them often stupid and brutal, even when they were originally endowed with the best talents. One who is constantly striving to force everything into a mechanical order at last becomes a machine himself and loses all human feelings.
It was from this understanding that modern Anarchism was born and draws its moral force. Only freedom can inspire men to great things and bring about intellectual and social transformations. The art of ruling men has never been the art of educating and inspiring them to a new shaping of their lives. Dreary compulsion has at its command only lifeless drill, which smothers any vital initiative at its birth and brings forth only subjects, not free men. Freedom is the very essence of life, the impelling force in all intellectual and social development, the creator of every new outlook for the future of mankind. The liberation of man from economic exploitation and from intellectual, social and political oppression, which finds its highest expression in the philosophy of Anarchism, is the first prerequisite for the evolution of a higher social culture and a new humanity.
“Give me your name and address or I’ll rape you” – the words of a Garda Sgt as he discussed with at least two other Gardai how they were going to interrogate one of two female Shell to Sea campaigners they had arrested and who were being brought to Belmullet Garda station. Just second earlier while they were discussing how to interrogate the women one Garda suggested they threaten her with deportation. The Sgt responds with the addition of the rape threat which he repeats before another so far unidentified Garda chimes in with “hold it there, give me your name and address there, I’ll rape you” prompting the Sgt to repeat it one last time as “or I’ll definitely rape you.” [Listen to the 2 minute audio]
The Garda press office have tried to spin this horrific revelation by press releasing that a “Garda Superintendent from outside the Mayo area was appointed this afternoon to carry out an examination of the alleged derogatory remarks.” Shamefully but unsurprizingly RTE initially simply reprinted and broadcast on the Nine o’Clock News this press release without question, despite the fact that audio, video and a transcript were all sent to the station 10 hours beforehand, around 11pm on Monday.
This morning despite having access to the audio for 20 hours Morning Ireland has not yet chosen not to play it and worse still to spin the alleged remarks as simply being “of sexual and disturbing nature”. Both the original Garda remarks, the attempt by the press office to spin it and the compliance of the state broadcaster with this strategy demonstrate how completely Shell have managed to bend all sections of the state to its will. If you have not yet listened to the audio you should do so now to understand what was actually said – with the audio in circulation online we expect RTE will be forced to broadcast it. [Listen to the 2 minute audio]
Dublin Shell to Sea spokesperson Caoimhe Kerrins has said of the recording that “This is shocking and extremely serious. It is very frightening for those of us involved in the campaign. Gardai are the people that women are supposed to trust when they need to report a rape. Gardai are supposed to be responsible for bringing rapists to justice.”
Two of the Garda on the tape have been in the area since the start of the struggle against Shell’s experimental gas pipeline and so are “known to campaigners” for their roles in numerous other incidents. They have have identified by the Rossport Solidarity Camp which so far has chosen not to make their identities public. We are also aware of who they are but will reluctantly follow the lead of those directly involved in not publishing them.
It is telling that despite the fact that at least one other Garda joins in the interrogation discussion the Garda press release only refers to an investigation of two officers, presumably the ones named in the transcripts that Shell to Sea had provided to the media. Are we to believe that the Garda are incapable of working out who that third unnamed officer is? And what are we to take of a media that supplied the transcripts to the Garda and then not only failed to run with the actual story of Garda discussion using the threat of rape as an interrogation technique against a women in their custody but in the knowledge of what that story was ran instead with the spin!
Rossport Solidarity Camp have published a transcript of key sections of the recording on Indymedia.ie as below
TRANSCRIPTS OF KEY SEGMENTS:
[ These transcripts, as well as the recording, were provided to the mainstream media by the Rossport Solidarity Camp. The Gardaí in question were named in the original transcripts. The Irish Times changed the name of the Sergeant to “Garda A” and changed the name of the other Garda to “Garda B”. Rossport Solidarity Camp also decided to remove the names of the Gardaí before publishing here, but changed the Sergeant’s name to “Sergeant” and the other named Garda to “Garda A”, and incorporated this into the video file on Vimeo. Hence there seems to be an inconsistency between the Irish Times transcripts and the Indymedia transcripts, but there is not. “Garda B” in the Irish Times is “Garda A” on Indymedia and Vimeo. ]
Sergeant: “Who is them two lassies, do you know the two of them?
Garda A: “I don’t know the second one, the first one is with blonde hair.”
Unidentified Garda: “She was up on the tractor earlier on.”
Sergeant: “It’d do no harm to get the second one’s name again?
Garda A: “She’s some Yank. I don’t know who the fuck she is.”
Unidentified Garda: “ Is she a Yank?
Garda A: “It sounds like it, it sounds like it, the accent anyway
Unidentified Garda: “Sounds like a Yank or Canadian.”
Garda A: “Well whoever, we’ll get Immigration fucking on her.”
Sergeant: “She refused to give her name and address and told she would be arrested.”
Garda A: “…….and deported”
Sergeant: “And raped.”
Garda A: “I wouldn’t go that far yet….. She was living down at that crusty camp, fuck sake, you never know what you might get.”
Sergeant: “Give me your name and address or I’ll rape you.”
Unidentified Garda: “Hold it there, give me your name and address there, I’ll rape you.”
Sergeant: “Or I’ll definitely rape you.”
Unidentified Garda: “Will you be me friend on Facebook?”
[Conversation continues about Facebook in Garda station]
Excerpt from video camera recording in which Gardaí discuss safety and techniques for arrest at protests.
Sergeant: [on phone to a colleague]: “I know we don’t want to be arresting them but by the same token, we were left with no option. We have an issue there as well with the lads in the protest removal team there, of actual climbing the tractors. So what we’re going to do is we’re going to get safety ropes and ladders and we’re going to leave them in the van in case we have to go up on the cab of the tractor again. So we’re looking after that now at the moment.”
Sergeant: ends call.
Garda A: “You see at least you’re a sergeant, like.”
Sergeant: “ like some of auld timers who were here in the area in the first and second campaign. I’ll tell you one thing, the decisions that were made policing at that time.”
Garda A: I’ll still go back to what says there . . . If someone gets hurt we’re going to be on our own in the blocks.”
Sergeant: “. . . I don’t think we’re going to be on our own. If we have exercised due diligence and we have used common sense and used whatever was available to us to remove them. At the end of the day, we have a certain duty of care to them. We ask them to get down, if they don’t get down, we tell them we are taking them down forcefully. We take them down forcefully.
“We use whatever means at our disposal, which includes ladders and ropes or whatever to get them down safely. If one of them slips, so fuckin. What can we do?”
Garda A: “Ladders and ropes. All I’m saying is, the point is
‘Garda, are you a member of the protest removal team?’
’Have you received training with working at heights?’
’Yes, I have.’
. . .’How did you train to bring someone down?’
’In a harness with ropes.’”
“We didn’t have any of them options today there . . . That’s all I’m saying. And is dead right; if we’re in the box:
’Have you received training on how to take a protester down from heights?’
“And if we did it with ropes and harnesses . . . then why did you let my client fall? Did you not go get your ropes and harness to take her down. That’s all.”
Sergeant: “. . .To get them down safely we’d have to erect a scaffold tower beside them and abseil them down. And and, the, the, taking the common-sense approach, and a common-sense view, it would be impractical to erect a scaffolding tower to get them down off it. And we use whatever safe means at our disposal, as we considered safe protest removal team to take them down, ie, ropes and ladders.”
Unidentified Garda: “What was the obstruction?”
Garda A: “There was no obstruction . . .”
Sergeant: “They were obstructing the road.”
Garda A: “There was no obstruction . . . The tractors all other vehicles were able to get past.”
Sergeant: “They were obstructing the road. Excuse me. If a car stops there, in the middle of that fucking road, and it’s stopped there, it’s obstructing the road. It doesn’t have to be blocking it. If it’s parked there it’s obstructing it.”
Unidentified Garda: “Well if nothing else they were obstructing the vehicle.”
Garda A: “That’s the only vehicle obstructed.”
Unidentified Garda: “. . . free passage.”
Sergeant: “The vehicle was obstructing the road. Just because other vehicles could pass didn’t mean the road wasn’t being obstructed.”
Sergeant seems to get out of the car . . .
Garda A: “We all said this, it was a safety issue.”
Unidentified Garda: “It was the best option . It was the best option at that time, there’s no doubt about it.”
Garda A: “We all said it because of a safety issue. There was three up, there was a wind blowing. And like did you fucking feel safe, 100 per cent safe going up there taking down two people.”
Unidentified Garda: “No”.
Garda A: “…I don’t know what you thought?”
Unidentified garda: “All I know is that if something happens, who’s going to stand fucking behind me.”
Garda A: “And do you honestly think that is going to turn around and say “oh look it”. We got trained a certain way.
’Garda did you fucking, take a protester down the way you were trained’.
’No I didn’t.’
’Well then Guard.’
“And the job will say were you fucking trained a certain way. The job will fucking ditch you.”
Dublin Shell to Sea described how the Garda came to record themselves and hand over this recording to the campaign as follows
Last Thursday, 31st March 2011, several Gardai, including a Sergeant, accidentally recorded their own conversation while travelling in a squad car in north Mayo. They had just arrested two female protesters at a Shell compound at Aughoose, had seized their camera and had let the camera continue recording in the car. The women were travelling in two other Garda cars in the same convoy.
After the women were released without charge, and the camera returned to them, the women discovered the recording of the Garda conversation. This included the Gardaí talking about threatening to rape one of the women in their custody. They also talk about whether they should bother adhering to safety procedures for removing protesters from heights: the Sergeant advocates ignoring the rules learned in Garda training. “
One of the two women described how on playing back the tape “It was terrifying to hear Gardaí talk in this way about rape. How can women living in the area feel safe when such a culture of brutal intimidation and violence exists here?”
The communities around the pipeline route have been under siege for years by an occupying force of Gardai and private security that at times of tension has reached 500 or more personnel. Garda have made threats to rape women involved in the campaign in the past during this occupation. Residents have complained of private security from IRMS filming their children on the beach or apparently filming them inside their houses. Several residents and many campaigners have suffered injuries, some of them serious, as the result of Garda violence. The Garda have arrested people at the moment Shell needed them arrested and the courts have tried people on the days Shell needed them out of the way. The vast majority of the Irish media have remained shamefully silent as this has happened or worse still have taken part in smear campaigns against the campaigners.
The short tape contains many of the other stories the media has refused to report, casually discussed by the Garda in the car. The time below is for the edited Audio that has been made available, long silences in the original have been removed reducing the recording time to 25 minutes from the original 40. The sound quality has also been enhanced. [Listen to the edited Audio ]
At 4.35 the Sgt. rings his superior to say he has arrested two people even though he is not really meant to. This is the infamous ‘no arrest’ policy under which Gardai used violence against campaigners rather than arresting them because the jailing of the Rossport five had led to such public outrage.
At 4.50 and at other intervals they discuss how their methods of moving protesters creates dangers to the protesters and themselves, at 18.30 they have a disagreement over whether if this leads to injuries they will be protected by ‘the job’ or not.
At 9.05 they reveal that the calling of a National Day of action the following day has lead to the cancellation of all work and the they had demanded that a full unit of the riot squad be sent to the area.
At 11.20 we hear them filling in the overtime forms, the huge Garda presence at Corrib has resulted in million of euro in overtime costs alone as the people of Ireland pay to protect Shell’s plundering of our Oil & Gas.
At 23.50 you can just make out them discussing the protests during the June bank holiday in 2008 when a scrum of Garda almost pushed several protesters over a 6m cliff onto the rock below.
This is not a case of a couple of rotton apples, rather this tape is further evidence of the way all sections of the state have been mobilised in aiding Energy corporations plunder the 540 billion worth of Oil & Gas Resources that Ireland has. With such extreme profits to be made is it any surprize that such extreme lengths are being gone to to break the resistance to the Great Oil & Gas Giveaway.
Read more on the Struggle against Shell’s experimental Gas Pipeline
Short 2 minute audio
The long edited audio (25 mins)
Video of the entire unedited recording on Vimeo, with explanatory text at the start and subtitles on some segments: 40 minutes
‘Give me your name and address or I’ll rape you’: the reality of Corrib policing from Mayo Policing on Vimeo.
From rabble.ca:Mounting a military operation against a dictator like Muamar Gaddafi does not mean suspending critical analysis of what it means for western “allies” to attack Libyan targets from the air. Putting together an analysis of the attack entails looking beyond the wartime public relations campaigns of the French, British, American, and Canadian governments designed to get public opinion onside, and lull critical minds to sleep.
- Obscure one’s economic interests;
- Appear humanitarian in work and motivations;
- Obscure history;
- Demonize the enemy; and
- Monopolize the flow of information.
Libya is a rich oil producer. Unseating Gaddafi would open up new opportunities for western oil interests. Now is a good time to evaluate who has been making money with Gaddafi, and who stands to benefit if he is overthrown. The empirestrikesblack reveals the insurgent leadership maintain close links to western economic interests.
The main motivation given for the bombing of Libya by western forces is the need to protect the civilian population from bombing attacks ordered by Gaddafi on insurgents in eastern Libya, and stop an expected massacre in Benghazi by advancing armored divisions. When asked at a press briefing March 1 if there was evidence of bombing attacks on civilians, American Secretary of Defense Robert Gates replied “We’ve seen the press reports, but we have no confirmation of that.” U.S. Admiral Mullen added: “That’s correct. We’ve seen no confirmation whatsoever. Their statements confirmed what Russian military intelligence sources had previously reported: the attacks had never happened.
The history of Libya is largely unknown in the west. The insurgents themselves are flying the flag of the former Kingdom of Libya created by the British, and overthrown by Gaddafi in 1969. The colonial occupation of Libya by the Italian fascists was based on doctrines of racial superiority. What superiority is being claimed by the western bombers?
The leading British independent observer of Middle Eastern politics, Robert Fisk, is unwilling to defend Gaddafi, who is widely understood to be a dangerous maniac. For good reason, no one has come forward to defend the Libyan regime. Neither has it been widely reported that the economic and social disparities, and gross depravations existing in Egypt are much less evident in Libya, which has more wealth per person and a more balanced distribution of income than elsewhere in Africa. Though it is not well advertised, in Libya housing is available, and the unemployed receive an income.
As this war progresses, it may turn out that Gaddafi cannot hold on to power. The respected Middle Eastern correspondent Patrick Cockburn has written as much. The war is not supposed to be about regime change, but that must be the desired outcome from the perspective of France, Britain, the U.S. and Canada.
As the war progresses, and if it drags out, another set of issues will arise in the west. The Conservative perpetrators, Sarkozy, Cameron, and Harper all had good reasons to draw momentary attention away from their own domestic failings. Along with U.S. President Obama, none have built a domestic alliance for the pursuit of a prolonged engagement.
The important role of the media is to let us know about potential hazardous fire traps; reports about the latest fires not offering comparable value. The popular uprisings in the Middle East came as a surprise only because the situation in Egypt, Tunisia, and the Gulf States had been not been adequately reported, analyzed, and discussed from the perspective of democratic practice and social justice.
War reporting is a hazardous undertaking. It cannot be replaced by unverified information from government sources. Reporting the news accurately, and fully, cannot replace follow-up: democratic debate about what is being done in our names.
Do you believe in patriotism? What an odd question to ask revolutionists! Might it not be better put, “American Socialists, have you the courage of your principles? Shall it be ‘America First’ or ‘Workers of the World, Unite!’”
Count m for Labor First. This country is not “our” country. Then why should the toilers love it or fight for it? Why sanction the title deeds of our masters in the blood of our fellow-slaves? Let those who own the country, who are howling for and profiting by preparedness, fight to defend their property.
I despise the rule of Rockefeller and Morgan as much as that of King or Kaiser, and am as outraged by Ludlow and Calumet as by Belgium. Joe Hill was as cruelly martyred as Edith Cavell, and I cannot work myself into a frenzy of patriotism wherever a contraband ship is sunk and we lose a few prominent citizens.
I save my concern for Quinlan, Lawson, Ford and Suhr, and the innumerable victims of the class war.
The majority of our workers are foreigners, one or two generations removed, and with their European home-ties and American environment, internationalism becomes the logical patriotism of a heterogeneous population.
America–not as a melting-pot, that produces a jingoistic, mercenary, one-mold type, but as a giant loom weaving into a mighty whole the sons, the poetry, the traditions, and the customs of all races, until a beautiful human fabric, with each thread intact, comes forth–would stretch forth a myriad hands of brotherhood to the four quarters of the globe.
The train on which I write rushes by factories where murder instruments are made for gold. I would be ashamed to be patriotic of such a country. In the black smoke belched from their chimneys, I see the ghostly faces of dead workers–our poor, deluded slain brothers. I re-affirm my faith, “It is better to be a traitor to your country than a traitor to your class!”
I stumbled on the recent Abe Greenwald article The Return of Anarchism earlier this week. I had begun to write a post in response when I discovered the many articles showing Anarchists in a negative light that was coming out of the mainstream press in the last week. I did however see that Thomas L. Knapp had responded specifically to the Abe Greenwald article and I wanted to present this response. Here it is:
“[A]n ideological philosophy and political movement that had been thought of as a dusty oddity, a relic of the late 19th century, has returned to the fore,” writes Abe Greenwald in Commentary. Worse yet, opines Greenwald, this return is fraught with “enough consequence that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton recently denounced terrorism ‘whether it comes from the right, the left, from al-Qaeda, from anarchists, whoever it is.’”
Like those rumors of Mark Twain’s death, recurring claims of anarchism’s demise and resurrection are greatly exaggerated. Greenwald misinterprets his own observations. It is not resurrection he sees, it’s resurgence: A cyclical phenomenon driven primarily by the reliably recurring failure of the modern state to deliver on its most basic promises of peace, prosperity and respect for human rights.
At its least introspective, anarchism seems a merely visceral response to those failures. When confronted by some particularly repugnant manifestation of X, it’s only natural to reflexively posit Not-X as the solution. The growth of the state — its increasing size, its ever more insistent insertion of itself into new areas of human interaction, and its thoroughness in regularizing and co-opting, rather than remedying, social ills — makes it more and more the usual suspect for the role of X. Thus the more and more frequent renascences of anarchism as populist street theater.
Beyond that visceral expresion, anarchism — fundamental, principled opposition to the existence of the state — survives as numerous unbroken (though often evolving) intellectual traditions, awaiting, nay begging, adoption by those street actors as both explanatory tool and plan for more considered action.
As the Hobbesian experiment we call “the state” polarizes along the lines of its own contradictions of “left” and “right” authoritarianism (Hobbes, meet Hegel!), anarchism emerges not as antithesis, but as synthesis. When the state runs short of convincing fictions (“constitutionalism,” “dictatorship of the proletariat,” “fuhrerprinzip”) to disguise those contradictions and stands weakened, near collapse over the pit of its own digging, it is anarchism we invariably see approaching, shovel in hand, ready to bury the failed experiment and turn, with humanity, to new ones.
For two centuries, give or take, the anarchists have — sometimes in breathless anticipation, sometimes in a stoic spirit of resigned obduration — looked for inspiration to Cato the Elder’s admonition that Carthage must be destroyed. The state, we say, must be destroyed, the sooner the better. Can someone please pass the salt?
Note: This essay is from the forthcoming book Anti-Capitalism: A Field Guide to the Global Justice Movement, edited by Rachel Neumann and Andy Hsiao (New York: New Press).
For many, a “new anarchism” seemed to have been birthed amid the cold rain and toxic fog that greeted the November 1999 World Trade Organization protest. Yet rather than the bastard child of an emergent social movement, this radical politics of resistance and reconstruction had been transforming itself for decades. Seattle’s direct action only succeeded in making it visible again. Anarchism, for its part, supplied a compelling praxis for this historical moment. And in so doing, it not only helped shape the present anti-capitalist movement; it also illuminated principles of freedom that could potentially displace the hegemony of representative democracy and capitalism.
From its nineteenth-century beginnings on, anarchism has always held out a set of ethical notions that it contends best approximates a free society. In the parlance of his period, Italian anarchist Errico Malatesta (1853-1932) long ago described anarchism as “a form of social life in which men live as brothers, where nobody is in a position to oppress or exploit anyone else, and in which all the means to achieve maximum moral and material development are available to everyone.” This pithy definition still captures anarchism’s overarching aims. Nevertheless, this libertarian form of socialism may well have been ahead of its day in advocating a world of transnational and multidimensional identities, in struggling for a qualitative humanism based on cooperation and differentiation. It is only in the context of globalization that anarchism may finally be able to speak to the times and thus peoples’ hopes. Whether it can fulfill its own aspirations remains to be seen.
The Vision Made Invisible
While the forms of organization and values advanced by anarchists can be found in embryo around the world in many different eras, anarchism’s debut as a distinct philosophy was in mid-nineteenth-century Europe. The English “philosopher of freedom” William Godwin was the first Enlightenment thinker to scribe a sustained theory of a society without states in his 1793 An Inquiry concerning Political Justice, but it wasn’t until Pierre-Joseph Proudhon wrote “society seeks order in anarchy” in his 1840 What Is Property? that the term “anarchism” slowly began to congeal over the next several decades around a recognizable core of principles. Godwin’s political theory didn’t live up to the liberatory character of his cultural sentiments; and Proudhon should be roundly condemned on many fronts, from his failure to contend with capitalism’s inherent logic to his patriarchal and anti-Semitic beliefs. It would in fact take others, from the Russian aristocrat Peter Kropotkin (1842-1921) to the German Jewish intellectual Gustav Landauer (1870-1919) and many prominent as well as lesser-known radicals, to fill out a more pleasing portrait of classical anarchism: a utopian political philosophy decrying all forms of imposed authority or coercion.
As socialists, anarchists were particularly concerned with capitalism, which during the Industrial Revolution was causing suffering on a hitherto-unimaginable scale. Anarchists primarily pinned their hopes for transforming social relations on workers, utilizing economic categories ranging from class struggle to an end to private property. All those on the revolutionary Left agreed that capitalism couldn’t be reformed; it must instead be abolished. But unlike other socialists, anarchists felt that the state was just as complicit in enslaving humanity, and so one couldn’t employ statecraft–even in a transitional manner–to move from capitalism to socialism. A classless yet still statist society, anarchists argued, would still constitute a world marked for most by domination. As anarcho-syndicalist Rudolf Rocker proclaimed in 1938, “Socialism will be free, or it will not be at all.” For this reason and others, anarchism evolved out of socialism to indicate an opposition not just to capitalism but also states and other compulsory, interlinked institutions, such as organized religion, mandatory schooling, militarism, and marriage. Thus it is said of anarchism in the most general sense that “all anarchists are socialists, but not all socialists are anarchists.”
This statement could also be seen as relating to questions of strategy. Many socialists, at least the radical ones, were not adverse to the “withering away of the state,” it was just a matter of when and how. For anarchists, a “dictatorship of the proletariat” steering the state until it withered couldn’t be counted on to actually push that process along. Instead of top-down social organization, anarchists championed various types of horizontal models that could prefigure the good society in the present. That is, anarchists maintained that people could attempt to build the new world in the shell of the old through self-organization rather than passively waiting until some post-revolutionary period. Hence anarchism’s emphasis on praxis. Anarchist alternatives were grounded in such key concepts as voluntary association, personal and social freedom, confederated yet decentralized communities, equality of conditions, human solidarity, and spontaneity. As the European invention known as anarchism traveled via intellectual and agitator circuits to everywhere from the United States and China to Latin America and Africa, anarchists experimented with everything from communal living, federations, and free schools to workers’ councils, local currencies, and mutual aid societies.
Anarchism was part of a fairly large internationalist Left from the 1880s through the Red Scare of the 1920s and Spanish Revolution of the 1930s. Then, discredited, disenchanted, or killed, anarchists seemed to disappear, and with them, the philosophy itself. After World War II and the defeat of Nazism, it appeared the two political choices were “democracy” (free market capitalism) or “communism” (state capitalism). Lost in this equation, among other things, was the questioning of authority and concurrent assertion of utopia posed by anarchism.
Reemergence as Convergence
The distant nineteenth-century is, of course, formative for anarchism’s reinvention. But the dilemmas and openings of that time–for instance, the rise of liberalism, colonialism, and industrial production–are far removed from those of the twenty-first century. Beyond this, classical anarchism leaves a lot to be desired: its naivete concerning human nature as basically good, say, or its aversion to any political replacement for statist governments. When anarchism began to be rediscovered in the 1950s by leftists searching for an alternative to orthodox marxism, it therefore tried hard to remake itself. Anarchist thinkers grappled with new concerns from conspicuous consumption to urbanization; new possibilities such as feminism and cultural liberation; and old ghosts of its own from a workerist orientation to authoritarian, even terroristic tactics. The renewed anarchism that finally emerged was, in fact, a convergence of various postwar anti-authoritarian impulses. Though the libertarian sensibility of the 1960s and New Left is foundational, five phenomena are especially crucial to the praxis made (in)famous in Seattle.
First, there is the Situationist International (1962-1972), a small group of intellectuals and avant-garde artists who attempted to describe a changing capitalism. According to the Situationists, the alienation basic to capitalist production that Marx had observed now filled every crevice; people were alienated not only from the goods they produced but their own lives, their own desires. The commodity form had colonized the previously separate sphere of daily life. As SI Guy Debord quipped, modern capitalism forged “a society of the spectacle” or consumer society that promised satisfaction yet never delivered, with us as passive spectators. The Situationists advocated playful disruptions of the everyday, from media to cityscapes, in order to shatter the spectacle via imagination and replace drudgery with pleasure. During the May 1968 near-revolution in Paris, SI slogans as graffiti such as “Live without dead time! Enjoy without restraint” were ubiquitous. Ironically, even though the Situationists were critical of anarchists, anarchists lifted from the Situationists’ critique, especially the preoccupation with cultural alterations.
From the 1970s on, the interdisciplinary works of theorist Murray Bookchin also helped transform anarchism into a modern political philosophy. Bridging the Old and New Left, Bookchin did more than anyone to widen anarchism’s anti-capitalism/anti-statism to a critique of hierarchy per se. He also brought ecology as a concern to anarchism by connecting it to domination. As he put it, “The ecological crisis is a social crisis.” Bookchin emphasized the possibility nascent in the present of an ecological and post-scarcity society, in which the rational use of technology could free humanity to fulfill its potentiality in harmony with the natural world. Most significantly, he drew out the institutional replacement for the state hinted at in nineteenth-century anarchism: directly democratic self-government, or in his own language, libertarian municipalism. Bookchin’s writings pointed to the city or neighborhood as the site of struggle, radicalization, dual power, and finally revolution, with confederations of free citizens’ assemblies replacing state and capital. They also inspired a radical ecology movement, experiments in anarchist federations such as the Youth Greens, and a new generation of anarchist intellectuals.
Bookchin’s unearthing of the affinity group model in his research on the Spanish anarchists, sketched in his Post-Scarcity Anarchism (1971), was influential to the anti-nuclear movement of the 1970s and 1980s in the United States. Emerging from the rural counterculture in New England and then on the West Coast–a counterculture that included radical pacifists of both anarchist and religious persuasions–the anti-nuke movement used civil disobedience, but infused it with an anarchist and feminist sensibility: a rejection of all hierarchy, a preference for directly democratic process, a stress on spontaneity and creativity. Varying levels of nonviolent confrontation at nuclear power plants, from blockades to occupations, along with the use of pageantry, puppets, and jail solidarity were determined on in affinity groups and spokescouncils. Quaker activists, not anarchists, added consensus to the blend with mixed results (false unity, for instance). Notwithstanding the difficulty of moving beyond a single issue and what became an insular community, the tactics and organizational form of the U.S. as well as international anti-nuclear movement were soon picked up by the peace, women’s, gay and lesbian, radical ecology, and anti-intervention movements.
Beginning in the 1980s, the West German Autonomen made a mark on anarchism as well. Viewing European New Leftists as discredited, though affected by their critique of authoritarianism on the Left (Soviet-style “communism”) and Right (“democratic” capitalism), the Autonomen rejected everything from the existing system to ideological labels, including that of anarchism. As a spontaneous, decentralized network of anti-authoritarian revolutionaries, they were autonomous from political parties and trade unions; they also attempted to be autonomous from structures and attitudes imposed from “outside.” This entailed a twofold strategy. First, to create liberated, communal free spaces such as squats in which to make their own lives. And second, to utilize militant confrontation both to defend their counterculture and take the offensive against what they saw as repressive, even fascistic elements. The deployment of a masked black bloc–for one, at a 1988 demonstration in Berlin during an International Monetary Fund/World Bank meeting–autonomous neighborhoods and “info-stores,” and street battles with police and neo-Nazis became emblematic of the Autonomen. Anarchists felt an affinity and imported the trappings of autonomous politics into their own, thereby linking and modifying the two in the process.
Last but not least, the dramatic 1 January 1994 appearance of the Zapatistas on the world stage to contest the North American Free Trade Agreement keyed anarchists into the importance of globalization as a contemporary concern of often life-and-death proportions. A decade in the making through the grassroots efforts of some thirty indigenous communities in southern Mexico, and intentionally tied to struggles elsewhere, the uprising illustrated the power of solidarity. The Zapatistas’ bold takeover of villages in Chiapas also re-ignited the notion that resistance was possible, in poor and rich regions alike. “If you ask what we want, we will unashamedly answer: ‘To open a crack in history,’” Subcomandante Insurgente Marcos declared. “We’ll build another world. . . . Democracy! Freedom! Justice!” For anarchists, the Zapatistas’ inventive blend of high-tech such as the Internet and low-tech such as jungle encuentros, principled communiquÅ½s and practical gains, and the attempt to reclaim popular power through autonomous municipalities was especially electrifying–the concurrent appeals to the Mexican state less so. Still, anarchists flocked to Chiapas to support this rebellion, carrying home lessons to apply to a global anti-capitalist movement that a refashioned anarchism would shortly help initiate.
More Than the Sum of Its Parts
Such strands of resistance, themselves pulling from earlier moments, interwove into the fabric of contemporary anarchism. From the Situationists, anarchism embraced the critique of alienation and consumer society, and faith in imagination; from Bookchin, the connection between anti-capitalism, direct democracy, ecology, and post-scarcity; from the anti-nuke movement, the stress on with affinity groups and spokescouncils as well as nonviolent direct action; from the Autonomen, militant confrontation, the black bloc strategy, and an expansive do-it-yourself emphasis; and from the Zapatistas, the power of the Internet, cross-cultural solidarity, and “globalization” for transnational resistance. But the anarchism that received notoriety in November 1999 is more than the sum of these parts. It is the only political philosophy today aspiring to balance a variety of social change agents and strategies–or ultimately, a “diversity of tactics,” visions, and people–with universalistic notions of participatory freedom outside all imposed institutions and behaviors.
For months before Seattle, anarchists worked diligently behind the scenes to set the tenor of the direct action that would stun the world. As the key initiators and organizers, even if not recognized as such, anarchists had been able to structure the demonstration along libertarian principles. Like numerous other direct actions shaped largely by anarchists, such as the 1970s’ anti-nuke protests and 1989 Wall Street action, Seattle’s too would have gone unremarked if not for its success in shutting down the WTO in tandem with a vicious police response. Anarchists and anarchism were suddenly thrust into the limelight. What had always been a minoritarian voice of conscience within the Left suddenly got a majoritarian public hearing. In turn, anarchism’s philosophy became both cutting edge and normative for a powerful new global social movement.
This is not to say that anarchism or anarchists alone are responsible for the movement(s) contesting globalization’s brutal side, that such a movement(s) started in Seattle, or even that the goal is to turn everyone into anarchists. Like the Zapatistas, anarchists humbly understand themselves (at least in theory) as acting in concert with the multiple struggles for freedom waged over time by a variety of anti-authoritarians. Nonetheless, perhaps because they did it on the dominant superpower’s own turf, anarchists were able to firmly establish a form of resistance that actually prefigures a joyful politics of, by, and for all the people of a globalizing humanity. And as such, to lay down the flexible contours of an empowering movement while unexpectedly elevating anarchism to its avant-garde.
This means that anarchism’s principles along with its culture and forms of organization are, for the first time, at the forefront rather than margins of a transnational social movement. In the broadest sense, anarchism has brought a unique, inseparable bundle of qualities to this movement: an openly revolutionary stance, colored by an eminently ethical orientation, made out-of-the-ordinary by a playful though directly democratic utopianism.
The Anarchist Moment
But still, why anarchism?
Because anarchism has set the terms of the debate. Its emphasis on social revolution coupled with transparency has meant that anarchists haven’t been afraid to name the concrete concern masked by the term “globalization”: that is, capitalist society. Once Seattle’s type of direct action became a benchmark, though, anarchists received a tacit green light from most other activists to design similar protests, and so “carnivals against capitalism” became commonplace. For example, when people “converged” together at mass actions, they now did so under an anti-capitalist banner–one held up by anarchists, who compellingly carried it to the symbolic heart of each contestation. Since this made tangible what was most disturbing to many about globalization, numerous people were radicalized by or at least became sympathetic to a focus on the market economy. While still considered subversive, it has thus become more acceptable to speak of capitalism and even explicitly identify as an anti-capitalist. “Anti-capitalism,” however, now frequently implies an anti-authoritarian perspective. And vice versa, an anarchistic outlook now permeates anti-capitalist work.
But still, why now?
Because globalization makes anarchism’s aspirations increasingly apropos. Far from being anti-globalization per se, anarchists have long dreamed of the world without borders made potentially feasible by the transformations now underway. Indeed, the means utilized by globalization are quite amenable to anarchist values, such as decentralization and integration, elastic identities and the shattering of binaries, creative borrowings and cooperation, mobility, hybridity, and openness. Most strikingly, globalization is structurally undermining of the centrality of states.
In his day, Karl Marx foresaw the rising hegemony of capitalism and its cancerous ability to (re)structure all social relations in its own contorted image. Yet for Marx, this also hailed a certain promise. Freedom and domination were both bound up in the developmental logic that was and unfortunately still is capitalism. It was up to the right social actors, given the right conditions, to “make history,” that is, to make revolution and achieve communism in its best, most general sense. Much of what Marx unmasked holds true to the present; much more has become evident, sadly so, to the point where there is almost no outside anymore to the capitalism that manufactures society as well as self. The heroic project of Marx and multiple socialistic others to abolish capitalism remains more poignant than ever, as does the need for a revolutionary movement to do so. Hence, the power of “anti-capitalism.”
Anarchism has traditionally foreseen another potentially hegemonic development that Marx ignored: statecraft. But unlike capitalism, it took statism many more decades to gain the same naturalistic status as the market economy, and so anarchism’s critique, while correct, held less of an imperative for most radicals. In an ironic twist for statists and anarchists alike, just as U.S.-style representative democracy has finally achieved hegemony as the singular “legitimate” form of governance, globalization has begun its work of lessening the power of states. Thinking outside the statist box now both makes sense and is fast becoming a reality, offering anarchism the relevance it has long desired. The relatively widespread embracement in and outside anti-authoritarian Left circles of anarchist experiments in directly democratic organization, confederation, and mutual aid evidences how fitting such forms are to today’s decreasingly statist, increasingly interdependent world. They tentatively prefigure, in fact, the self-governance institutions that anarchism envisions under a humane version of the present social transformation.
In this globalizing world, though, “nonstatist” can mean everything from supranational institutions governed by business elites and international NGOs to world courts and regional trade zones to networks of free-floating individuals willing to employ terror tactics. On the one hand, then, as state-based geopolitics loses ground to a more diffuse though cruel nonstatist one, anarchism’s critique could quickly become irrelevant. On the other hand, just as marxism had to be rethought in the mid-twentieth century in light of state socialism’s failure to achieve human emancipation–resulting, for one, in the Frankfurt school’s uncovering of new forms of domination–anarchism must be retheorized in response to the turn toward nonstatism that bodes both scary reconfigurations of political monopolies as well as possible openings for an ethical alternative. The practice of today’s anarchism has, in essence, skipped ahead of its philosophy and social critique. Both need to catch up if an anti-authoritarian politics is to become more than a historical footnote about a missed moment.
Still, as the only political tradition that has consistently grappled with the tension between the individual and society, contemporary anarchism has valiantly tried to meld the universalistic aims of the Left and its expansive understanding of freedom with the particularistic goals of the new social movements in areas such as gender, sexuality, ethnicity, and ableism. The extraordinary human mix that appeared on the streets of Seattle could find “unity in diversity” precisely because anarchists attempted to put this theoretical merger into practice. The affinity group/spokescouncil model, for instance, allowed hundreds of disparate concerns to also find an intimate connectivity. Globalization has facilitated this by making the world smaller every day, bringing the macro and micro into closer contact. Under capitalism, homogeneity and heterogenity will always be linked at the expensive of both the community and self. The substantive inclusiveness tenuously achieved by anarchistic organizing suggests a structural framework that could serve first as a revolutionary dual power, then later as the basis for “a world where many worlds fit,” as the Zapatistas demand. Hence, the power of “anarchism” for anti-capitalist resistance.
We may not win this time around; everything from the rise of a politicized fundamentalism and the post-September 11 “war on terrorism” to seemingly insolvable tragedies like the Middle East indicate the gravity and near impossibility of our task. Everyone from global policing agencies to the authoritarian Left will try to thwart our efforts. But the project of the present anti-capitalist movement, and anarchism’s strong suit in general, is to provide a guiding light, even if we aren’t the ones to finally bask in it.
In 1919, anarchists held power in Munich for one week during the course of the German Revolution and hurriedly initiated all sorts of imaginative projects to empower society at large. Yet Gustav Landauer knew that the best they could do was to construct a model for future generations: “Though it is possible that our lives may be short, I have the desire, and this you share with me, that we leave behind lasting effects . . . so that we may hope, when authoritarianism returns, perspicuous circles will say that we did not make a bad beginning, and that it would not have been a bad thing if we had been permitted to continue our work.” Landauer was trampled to death in a wave of right-wing reaction soon after, and fourteen years later the Nazis came to power. Still, the grand experiments of the past aimed at a free and self-governing society have not been extinguished–they have reemerged in the anarchistic strains charted here and, most promisingly, the current contest against capitalism fought along anti-authoritarian lines.
Not a bad beginning to the twenty-first century.
Excerpted from Chapter 9 ABC of Anarchism By Alexander Berkman
“Prepare for revolution!” exclaims your friend; “is that possible?
Yes. Not only is it possible but absolutely necessary.
“Do you refer to secret preparations, armed bands, and men to lead the fight?” you ask.
No, my friend, not that at all.
If the social revolution meant only street battles and barricades, then the preparations you have in mind would be the thing. But revolution does not signify that; at least the fighting phase of it is the smallest and least important part.
The truth is, in modern times revolution does not mean barricades any more. These belong to the past. The social revolution is a far different and more essential matter. It involves the reorganization of the entire life of society. You will agree that this is certainly not to be accomplished by mere fighting.
Of course, the obstacles in the path of the social reconstruction have to be removed. That is to say the means of that reconstruction must be secured by the masses. Those means are at present in the hands of government and capitalism, and these will resist every effort to deprive them of their power and possessions. That resistance will involve a fight. But remember that the fight is not the main thing, is not the object, not the revolution. It is only the preface, the preliminary to it.
It is very necessary that you get this straight. Most people have very confused notions about revolution. To them it means just fighting, smashing things, destroying. It is the same as if rolling up your sleeves for work should be considered as the work itself that you have to do. The fighting part of revolution is merely the rolling up of your sleeves. The real, actual task is ahead.
What is that task?
“The destruction of the existing conditions,” you reply.
True. But conditions are not destroyed by breaking and smashing things. You can’t destroy wage slavery by wrecking the machinery in mills and factories, can you? You won’t destroy government by setting fire to the White House.
To think of revolution in terms of violence and destruction is to misinterpret and falsify the whole idea of it. In practical application such a conception is bound to lead to disastrous results.
When a great thinker, like the famous Anarchist Bakunin, speaks of revolution as destruction, he has in mind the ideas of authority and obedience which are to be destroyed. It is for this reason that he said that destruction means construction, for to destroy a false belief is indeed most constructive work.
But the average man, and too often even the revolutionist, thoughtlessly talks of revolution as being exclusively destructive in the physical sense of the word. That is a wrong and dangerous view. The sooner we get rid of it the better.
Revolution, and particularly the social revolution, is not destruction but construction. This cannot be sufficiently emphasized, and unless we clearly realize it, revolution will remain only destructive and thereby always a failure. Naturally revolution is accompanied by violence, but you might as well say that building a new house in place of an old one is destructive because you have first to tear down the old one. Revolution is the culminating point of a certain evolutionary process: it begins with a violent upheaval. It is the rolling up of your sleeves preparatory to starting the actual work.
Indeed, consider what the social revolution is to do, what it is to accomplish, and you will perceive that it comes not to destroy but to build.
What, really, is there to destroy?
The wealth of the rich? Nay, that is something we want the whole of society to enjoy.
The land, the fields, the coal mines, the railroads, factories, mills, and shops? These we want not to destroy but to make useful to the entire people.
The telegraphs, telephones, the means of communication and distribution-do we want to destroy them? No, we want them to serve the needs of all.
What, then, is the social revolution to destroy? It is to take over things for the general benefit, not to destroy them. It is to reorganize conditions for the public welfare.
Not to destroy is the aim of the revolution, but to reconstruct and rebuild.
It is for this that preparation is needed, because the social revolution is not the Biblical his mission by simple edict or Messiah who is to accomplish order. Revolution works with the hands and brains of men. And these have to understand the objects of the revolution so as to be able to carry them out. They will have to know what they want and how to achieve it. The way to achieve it will be pointed by the objects to be attained. For the end determines the means, just as you have to sow a particular seed to grow the thing you need.
What, then, must the preparation for the social revolution be?
If your object is to secure liberty, you must learn to do without authority and compulsion. If you intend to live in peace and harmony with your fellow-men, you and they should cultivate brotherhood and respect for each other. If you want to work together with them for your mutual benefit, you must practice co-operation. The social revolution means much more than the reorganization of conditions only: it means the establishment of new human values and social relationships, a changed attitude of man to man, as of one free and independent to his equal; it means a different spirit in individual and collective life, and that spirit cannot be born overnight. It is a spirit to be cultivated, to be nurtured and reared, as the most delicate flower is, for indeed it is the flower of a new and beautiful existence.
Do not dupe yourself with the silly notion that “things will arrange themselves.” Nothing ever arranges itself, least of all in human relations. It is men who do the arranging, and they do it according to their attitude and understanding of things.
New situations and changed conditions make us feel, think, and act in a different manner. But the new conditions themselves come about only as a result of new feelings and ideas. The social revolution is such a new condition. We must learn to think differently before the revolution can come. That alone can bring the revolution.
We must learn to think differently about government and authority, for as long as we think and act as we do to-day, there will be intolerance, persecution, and oppression, even when organized government is abolished. We must learn to respect the humanity of our fellow-man, not to invade him or coerce him, to consider his liberty as sacred as our own; to respect his freedom and his personality, to forswear compulsion in any form: to understand that the cure for the evils of liberty is more liberty, that liberty is the mother of order.
And furthermore we must learn that equality means equal opportunity, that monopoly is the denial of it, and that only brotherhood secures equality. We can learn this only by freeing ourselves from the false ideas of capitalism and of property, of mine and shine, of the narrow conception of ownership.
By learning this we shall grow into the spirit of true liberty and solidarity, and know that free association is the soul of every achievement. We shall then realize that the social revolution is the work of co-operation, of solidaric purpose, of mutual effort.
Maybe you think this too slow a process, a work that will take too long. Yes, I must admit that it is a difficult task. But ask yourself if it is better to build your new house quickly and badly and have it break down over your head, rather than to do it efficiently, even if it requires longer and harder work.
Remember that the social revolution represents the liberty and welfare of the whole of mankind, that the complete and final emancipation of labour depends upon it. Consider also that if the work is badly done, all the effort and suffering involved in it will be for nothing and perhaps even worse than for nothing, because making a botch job of revolution means putting a new tyranny in place of the old, and new tyrannies, because they are new, have a new lease on life. It means forging new chains which are stronger than the old.
Consider also that the social revolution we have in mind is to accomplish the work that many generations of men have been labouring to achieve, for the whole history of man has been a struggle of liberty against servitude, of social well-being against poverty and wretchedness, of justice against iniquity. What we call progress has been a painful but continuous march in the direction of limiting authority and the power of government and increasing the rights and liberties of the individual, of the masses. It has been a struggle that has taken thousands of years. The reason that it took such a long time-and is not ended yet-is because people did not know what the real trouble was: they fought against this and for that, they changed kings and formed new governments, they put out one ruler only to set up another, they drove away a “foreign” oppressor only to suffer the yoke of a native one, they abolished one form of tyranny, such as the Tsars, and submitted to that of a party dictatorship, and always and ever they shed their blood and heroically sacrificed their lives in the hope of securing liberty and welfare.
But they secured only new masters, because however desperately and nobly they fought, they never touched the real source of trouble, the principle of authority and government. They did not know that that was the fountainhead of enslavement and oppression, and therefore they never succeeded in gaining liberty.
But now we understand that true liberty is not a matter of changing kings or rulers. We know that the whole system of master and slave must go, that the entire social scheme is wrong, that government and compulsion must be abolished, that the very foundations of authority and monopoly must be uprooted. Do you still think any kind of preparation for such a great task can be too difficult?
Let us, then, fully realize how important it is to prepare for the social revolution, and to prepare for it in the right way.
“But what is the right way?” you demand. “And who is to prepare?”
Who is to prepare? First of all, you and I-those who are interested in the success of the revolution, those who want to help bring it about. And you and I means every man and woman; at least every decent man and woman, every one who hates oppression and loves liberty, every one who cannot endure the misery and injustice which fill the world to-day.
And above all it is those who suffer most from existing conditions, from wage slavery, subjection, and indignity.
“The workers, of course,” you say.
Yes, the workers. As the worst victims of present institutions, it is to their own interest to abolish them. It has been truly said that “the emancipation of the workers must be accomplished by the workers themselves,” for no other social class will do it for them. Yet labour’s emancipation means at the same time the redemption of the whole of society, and that is why some people speak of labour’s “historic mission” to bring about the better day.
But “mission” is the wrong word. It suggests a duty or task imposed on one from the outside, by some external power. It is a false and misleading conception, essentially a religious, metaphysical sentiment. Indeed, if the emancipation of labour is a “historic mission,” then history will see to it that it is carried out no matter what we may think, feel, or do about it. This attitude makes human effort unnecessary, superfluous; because “what must be will be.” Such a fatalistic notion is destructive to all initiative and the exercise of one’s mind and will.
It is a dangerous and harmful idea. There is no power outside of man which can free him, none which can charge him with any “mission.” Neither heaven nor history can do it. History is the story of what has happened. It can teach a lesson but not impose a task. It is not the “mission” but the interest of the proletariat to emancipate itself from bondage. If labour does not consciously and actively strive for it, it will never “happen.” It is necessary to free ourselves from the stupid and false notion of “historic missions.” It is only by growing to a true realization of their present position, by visualizing their possibilities and powers, by learning unity and co-operation, and practicing them, that the masses can attain freedom. In achieving that they will also have liberated the rest of mankind.
Because of this the proletarian struggle is the concern of every one, and all sincere men and women should therefore be at the service of labour in its great task. Indeed, though only the toilers can accomplish the work of emancipation they need the aid of other social groups. For you must remember that the revolution faces the difficult problem of reorganizing the world and building a new civilization-a work that will require the greatest revolutionary integrity and the intelligent co-operation of all well-meaning and liberty-loving elements. We already know that the social revolution is not a matter of abolishing capitalism only. We might turn out capitalism, as feudalism was got rid of, and still remain slaves as before. Instead of being, as now, the bondmen of private monopoly we might become the servants of State capitalism, as has happened to the people in Russia, for instance, and as conditions are developing in Italy and other lands.
The social revolution, it must never be forgotten, is not to alter one form of subjection for another, but is to do away with everything that can enslave and oppress you.
NIGHT in a prison cell! A chair, a bed, a small washstand, four blank walls, ghastly in the dim light from the corridor without, a narrow window, barred and sunken in the stone, a grated door! Beyond its hideous iron latticework, within the ghastly walls, -a man! An old man, gray-haired and wrinkled, lame and suffering. There he sits, in his great loneliness, shut in front all the earth. There he walks, to and fro, within his measured space, apart from all he loves! ‘There, for every night in five long years to come, he will walk alone, while the white age-flakes drop upon his head, while the last years of the winter of life gather and pass, and his body draws near the ashes. Every night, for five long years to come, he will sit alone, this chattel slave, whose hard toll is taken by the State, -and without recompense save that the Southern planter gave his Negroes, -every night he will sit there so within those four white walls. Every night, for five long years to come, a suffering woman will he upon her bed, longing, longing for the end of those three thousand days; longing for the kind face, the patient hand, that in so many years had never failed her. Every night, for five long years to come, the proud spirit must rebel, the loving heart must bleed, the broken home must he desecrated. As I am speaking now, as you are listening, there within the cell of that accursed penitentiary whose stones have soaked tip the sufferings of so many victims, murdered, as truly as any outside their walls, by that slow rot which eats away existence. inch-meal, -as I am speaking now, as you are listening, there sits Moses Harman!
Why? Why, when murder now is stalking in your streets, when dens of infamy are so thick within your city that competition has forced down the price of prostitution to the level of the wages Of Your starving shirt makers; when robbers sit in State and national Senate and House, when the boasted “bulwark of our liberties,” the elective franchise, has become a U. S. dice-box, wherewith great gamblers play away your liberties; when debauchees of the worst type hold all your public offices and dine off the food of fools who support them, why, then, sits Moses Harman there within his prison cell? If he is so great a criminal, why is he not with the rest of the spawn of crime, dining at Delmonico’s or enjoying a trip to Europe? If he is so bad a man, why in the name of wonder did he ever get in the penitentiary?
Ah, no; it is not because he has done any evil thing; but because he, a pure enthusiast, searching, searching always for the cause of misery of the kind which he loved with that broad love of which only the pure soul is capable, searched for the data of evil. And searching so he found the vestibule of life to be a prison cell; the hohest and purest part of the temple of the body, if indeed one part can be hoher or purer than another, the altar where the most devotional love in truth should be laid, he found this altar ravished, despoiled, trampled upon. He found little babies, helpless, voiceless little things, generated in lust, cursed with impure moral natures, cursed, prenatally, with the germs of disease, forced into the world to struggle and to suffer, to hate themselves, to hate their mothers for bearing them, to hate society and to be hated by it in return, -a bane upon self and race, draining the lees of crime. And he said, this felon with the stripes upon his body, “Let the mothers of the race go free! Let the little children be pure love children, born of the mutual desire for parentage. Let the manacles be broken from the shackled slave, that no more slaves be born, no more tyrants conceived.”
He looked, this obscenist looked with clear eyes into this ill-got thing you call morality, sealed with the seal of marriage, and saw in it the consummation of immorality, impurity, and injustice. He beheld every married woman what she is, a bonded slave, who takes her master’s name, her master’s bread, her master’s commands, and serves her master’s passion; who passes through the ordeal of pregnancy and the throes of travail at his dictation, not at her desire; who can control no property, not even her own body, without his consent, and from whose straining arms the children she bears may be torn at his pleasure, or willed away while they are yet unborn. It is said the English language has a sweeter word than any other, -home. But Moses Harman looked beneath the word and saw the fact, -a prison more horrible than that where he is sitting now, whose corridors radiate over all the earth, and with so many cells, that none may count them.
Yes, our masters! The earth is a prison, the marriage-bed is a cell, women are the prisoners, and you are the keepers!
He saw, this corruptionist, how in those cells are perpetrated such outrages as are enough to make the cold sweat stand upon the forehead, and the nails clench, and the teeth set, and the lips grow white in agony and hatred. And he saw too how from those cells might none come forth to break her fetters, how no slave dare cry out, how all these murders are done quietly, beneath the shelter-shadow of home, and sanctified by the angelic benediction of a piece of paper, within the silence-shade of a marriage certificate, Adultery and Rape stalk freely and at case.
Yes, for that is adultery where woman submits herself sexually to man, without desire on her part, for the sake of “keeping him virtuous,” “keeping him at home,” the women say. (Well, if a man did not love me and respect himself enough to be “virtuous” without prostituting me, – he might go, and welcome. He has no virtue to keep.) And that is rape, where a man forces himself sexually upon a woman whether he is licensed by the marriage law to do it or not. And that is the vilest of all tyranny where a man compels the woman he says he loves, to endure the agony of bearing children that she does not want, and for whom, as is the rule rather than the exception, they cannot properly provide. It is worse than any other human oppression; it is fairly God-like! To the sexual tyrant there is no parallel upon earth; one must go to the skies to find a fiend who thrusts life upon his children only to starve and curse and outcast and damn them! And only through the marriage law is such tyranny possible. The man who deceives a woman outside of marriage (and mind you, such a man will deceive in marriage too) may deny his own child, if he is mean enough. He cannot tear it from her arms -he cannot touch it! The girl he wronged, thanks to your very pure and tender morality standard, may die in the street for want of food. He cannot force his hated presence upon her again. But his wife, gentlemen, his wife, the woman he respects so much that he consents to let her merge her individuality into his, lose her identity and become his chattel, his wife he may not only force unwelcome children upon, outrage at his own good pleasure, and keep as a general cheap and convenient piece of furniture, but if she does not get a divorce (and she cannot for such cause) he can follow her wherever she goes, come into her house, eat her food, force her into the cell, kill her by virtue of his sexual authority! And she has no redress unless he is indiscreet enough to abuse her in some less brutal but unlicensed manner. I know a case in your city where a woman was followed so for ten years by her husband. I beheve he finally developed grace enough to die: please applaud him for the only decent thing he ever did.
Oh, is it not rare, all this talk about the preservation of morality by marriage law! 0 splendid carefulness to preserve that which you have not got! 0 height and depth of purity, which fears so much that the children will not know who their fathers are, because, forsooth, they must rely upon their mother’s word instead of the hired certification of some priest of the Church, or the Law! I wonder if the children would be improved to know what their fathers have done. I would rather, much rather, not know who my father was than know he had been a tyrant to my mother. I would rather, much rather, be illegitimate according to the statutes of men, than illegitimate according to the unchanging law of Nature. For what is it to be legitimate, born “according to law”? It is to be, nine cases out of ten, the child of a man who acknowledges his fatherhood simply because he is forced to do so, and whose conception of virtue is realized by the statement that 11 a woman’s duty is to keep her husband at home;” to be the child of a woman who cares more for, the benediction of Mrs. Grundy than the simple honor of her lover’s word, and conceives prostitution to be purity and duty when exacted of her by her husband. It is to have Tyranny as your progenitor, and slavery as your prenatal cradle. It is to run the risk of unwelcome birth, “legal” constitutional weakness, morals corrupted before birth, possibly a murder instinct, the inheritance of excessive sexuality or no sexuality, either of which is disease. it is to have the value of a piece of paper, a rag from the tattered garments of the “Social Contract,” set above health, beauty, talent 01′ goodness; for I never yet had difficulty in obtaining the admission that illegitimate children are nearly always prettier and brighter than others, even from conservative women. And how supremely disgusting it is to see them look from their own puny, sickly, lust-born children, Upon whom he the chain-traces of their own terrible servitude, look from these to some healthy, beautiful “natural” child, and say, “What a pity its mother wasn’t virtuous!” Never a word about their children’s fathers’ virtue, they know too much! Virtue! Disease, stupidity, criminality! What an obscene thing “virtue” is!
What is it to be illegitimate? To be despised, or pitied, by those whose spite or whose pity isn’t worth the breath it takes to return it. To be, possibly, the child of some man contemptible enough to deceive a woman; the child of some woman whose chief crime was behef in the man she loved. To be free from the prenatal curse of a stave mother, to come into the world without the permission of any law-making set of tyrants who assume to corner the earth, and say what terms the unborn must make for the privilege of coming into existence. This is legitimacy and illegitimacy! Choose.
The man who walks to and fro in his cell in Lansing penitentiary tonight, this vicious man, said: “The mothers of the race are lifting their dumb eyes to me, their scaled lips to me, their agonizing hearts to me. They are seeking, seeking for a voice! The unborn in their helplessness, are pleading from their prisons, pleading for a voice! The criminals, with the unseen ban upon their souls, that has pushed them, Pushed them to the vortex, out of their whirling hells, are looking, waiting for a voice! I will be their voice. I will unmask the outrages of the marriage-bed. I will make known how criminals are born. I will make one outcry that shall be heard, and let what will be, be!” He cried out through the letter of Dr. Markland, that a young mother lacerated by unskillful surgery in the birth of her babe, but recovering from a subsequent successful operation, had been stabbed, remorselessly, cruelly, brutally stabbed, not with a knife, but with the procreative organ of her husband, stabbed to the doors of death, and yet there was no redress!
And because he called a spade a spade, because he named that organ by its own name, so given in Webster’s dictionary and in every medical journal in the country, because of this Moses Harman walks to and fro in his cell tonight. He gave a concrete example of the effect of sex slavery, and for it he is imprisoned. It remains for us now to carry on the battle, and lift the standard where they struck him down, to scatter broadcast the knowledge of this crime of society against a man and the reason for it; to inquire into this vast system of licensed crime, its cause and its effect, broadly upon the race. ‘The cause! Let Woman ask herself, “Why am I the slave of Man? Why is my brain said not to be the equal of his brain? Why is my work not paid equally with his? Why must my body be controlled by my husband? Why may he take my labor in the household, giving me in exchange what he deems fit? Why may he take my children from me? Will them away while yet unborn?” Let every woman ask.
There are two reasons why, and these ultimately reducible to a single principle: the authoritarian, supreme power, God-idea, and its two instruments, the Church -that is, the priests, -and the State -that is, the legislators).
From the birth of the Church, out of the womb of Fear and the fatherhood of Ignorance, it has taught the inferiority of woman. In one form or another through the various mythical legends of the various mythical creeds, runs the undercurrent of the behef in the fall of man through the persuasion of woman, her subjective condition as punishment, her natural vileness, total depravity, etc.; and from the days of Adam until now the Christian Church, with which we live specially to deal, has made Woman the excuse, the scapegoat for the evil deeds of man. So thoroughly has this idea permeated Society that number”, of those who have utterly repudiated the Church, are nevertheless soaked in this stupefying narcotic to true morality. So pickled is the male creation with the vinegar of Authoritarianism, that even those who have gone further and repudiated tire State still cling to the god, Society as it is, still hug the old theological idea that they are to be “heads of the family” –to that wonderful formula “of simple proportion” that “Man is the ]lead of the Woman even as Christ is the head of the Church.” No longer than a week since, an Anarchist (?) said to me, “I will be boss in my own house” -a “Communist-Anarchist,” if you please, who doesn’t beheve in “my house.” About a year ago a noted libertarian speaker said, in my presence, that his sister, who possessed a fine voice and had joined a concert troupe, should “stay at home with her children; that is her place.” The old Church idea! This man was a Socialist, and since an Anarchist; yet his highest idea for woman was serfhood to husband and children, in the present mockery called “home.” Stay at Ironic, ye malcontents! Be patient, obedient, submissive! Darn our socks, mend our shirts, wash our dishes, get our meals, wait on us and mind the children! Your fine voices are not to delight the public nor yourselves; your inventive genius is not to work, your fine art taste is not to be Cultivated, your business facilities are not to be developed; you made the great mistake of being born with them, suffer for your folly! You are women, therefore housekeepers, servants, waiters, and child’s nurses!
At Macon, in the sixth century, says August Bebel, the fathers of the Church met and proposed the decision of the question, “has Woman a soul?” Having ascertained that the permission to own a nonentity wasn’t going to injure any of their parsnips, a small majority vote decided the momentous question in our favor. Now, holy fathers, it was a tolerably good scheme on your part to offer the reward of your pitiable “salvation or damnation” (odds in favor of the latter) as a bait for the hook of earthly submission; it wasn’t a bad sop in those days of faith and ignorance. But fortunately fourteen hundred years have made it stale. You, tyrant radicals (?), have no heaven to offer, -you have no delightful chimeras in the form of “imerit cards;” you have (save the mark) the respect, the good offices, the smiles –of a slave-holder! ‘This in return for our chains! Thanks!
The question of souls is old -we demand our bodies, now. We are tired of promises, God is deaf, and his church is our worst enemy. Against it we bring the charge of being the moral (or immoral) force which hes behind the tyranny of the State. And the State has divided the loaves and fishes with the Church, the magistrates, like the priests take marriage fees; the two fetters of Authority have gone into partnership in the business of granting patentrights to parents for the privilege of reproducing themselves, and the State cries as the Church cried of old, and cries now: “See how we protect women!” The State has done more. It has often been said to me, by women with decent masters, who had no idea of the outrages practiced on their less fortunate sisters, “Why don’t the wives leave?”
Why don’t you run, when your feet are chained together? Why don’t you cry out when a gag is on your lips? Why don’t you raise your hands above your head when they are pinned fast to your sides? Why don’t you spend thousands of dollars when you haven’t a cent in your pocket? Why don’t you go to the seashore or the mountains, you fools scorching with city heat? If there is one thing more than another in this whole accursed tissue of false society, which makes me angry, it is the asinine stupidity which with the true phlegm of impenetrable dullness says, “Why don’t the women leave!” Will you tell me where they will go and what they shall do? When the State, the legislators, has given to itself, the politicians, the utter and absolute control of the opportunity to live; when, through this precious monopoly, already the market of labor is so overstocked that workmen and workwomen are cutting each others’ throats for the dear privilege of serving their lords; when girls are shipped from Boston to the south and north, shipped in carloads, like cattle, to fill the dives of New Orleans or the lumber-camp hells of my own state (Michigan), when seeing and hearing these things reported every day, the proper prudes exclaim, “Why don’t the women leave?,” they simply beggar the language of contempt.
When America passed the fugitive slave law compelling men to catch their fellows more brutally than runaway dogs, Canada, aristocratic, unrepublican Canada, still stretched her arms to those who might reach tier. But there is no refuge upon earth for the enslaved sex. Right where we are, there we must dig our trenches, and win or die.
This, then, is the tyranny of the State; it denies, to both woman and man, the right to earn a living, and rants it as a privilege to a favored few who for that favor must pay ninety per cent toll to the granters of it. These two things, the mind domination of the Church, and the body domination of the State are the causes of sex slavery.
First of all, it has introduced into the world the constructed crime of obscenity: it has set up such a peculiar standard of morals that to speak the names of the sexual organs is to commit the most brutal outrage. It reminds me that in your city you have a street called “Callowhill.” Once it was called Gallows’ Hill, for the elevation to which it leads, now known as “Cherry Hill,” has been the last touching place on earth for the feet of many a victim murdered by the Law. But the sound of the word became too harsh; so they softened it, though the murders are still done, and the black shadow of the Gallows still hangs on the City of Brotherly Love. Obscenity has done the same; it has placed virtue in the shell of an idea, and labeled all “good” which dwells within the sanction of Law and respectable (?) custom; and all bad which contravenes the usage of the shell. It has lowered the dignity of the human body, below the level of all other animals. Who thinks a dog is impure or obscene because its body is not covered with suffocating and annoying clothes? What would you think of the meanness of a man who would put a skirt upon his, horse and compel it to walk or run with such a thing impeding its limbs? Why, the “Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals” would arrest him, take the beast from him, and he would be sent to a lunatic asylum for treatment on the score of an impure mind. And yet, gentlemen, you expect your wives, the creatures you say you respect and love, to wear the longest skirts and the highest necked clothing, in order to conceal the obscene human body. There is no society for the prevention of cruelty to women. And you, yourselves, though a little better, look at the heat you wear in this roasting weather! How you curse your poor body with the wool you steal from the sheep! How you punish yourselves to sit in a crowded house with coats and vests on, because dead Mme. Grundy is shocked at the “vulgarity” of shirt sleeves, or the naked arm!
Look how the ideal of beauty has been marred by this obscenity notion. Divest yourselves of prejudice for once. Look at some fashionslaved woman her waist surrounded by a high-board fence called a corset, her shoulders and hips angular from the pressure above and below, her feet narrowest where they should be widest, the body fettered by her everlasting prison skirt, her hair fastened tight enough to make her head ache and surmounted by a thing of neither sense nor beauty, called a hat, ten to one a hump upon her back like a dromedary, -look at her, and then imagine such a thing as that carved in marble! Fancy a statue in Fairmount Park with a corset and bustle on. Picture to yourselves the image of the equestrienne. We are permitted to ride, providing we sit in a position ruinous to the horse; providing we wear a riding-habit long enough to hide the obscene human foot, weighed down by ten pounds of gravel to cheat the wind in its free blowing, so running the risk of disabling ourselves completely should accident throw us from the saddle. Think how we swim! We must even wear clothing in the water, and run the gauntlet of derision, if we dare battle in the surf minus stockings! Imagine a fish trying to make headway with a water-soaked flannel garment upon it. Nor are you yet content. The vile standard of obscenity even kills the little babies with clothes. The human race is murdered, horribly, “in the name of” Dress.
And in the name Of Purity what lies are told! What queer morality it has engendered. For fear of it you dare not tell your own children the truth about their birth; the most sacred of all functions, the creation of a human being, is a subject for the most miserable falsehood. When they come to you with a simple, straightforward question, which they have a right to ask, you say, “Don’t ask such questions,” or tell some silly hollowlog story; or you explain the incomprehensibility by another – God! You say “God made you.” You know you are lying when you say it. You know, or you ought to know, that the source of inquiry will not be dammed up so. You know that what you Could explain purely, reverently, rightly (if you have any purity in you), will be learned through many blind gropings, and that around it will be cast the shadowthought of wrong, embryo’d by your denial and nurtured by this social opinion everywhere prevalent. If you do not know this, then you are blind to facts and deaf to Experience.
Think of the double social standard the enslavement of our sex has evolved. Women considering themselves very pure and very moral, will sneer at the street-walker, yet admit to their homes the very men who victimized the street-walker. Men, at their best, will pity the prostitute, while they themselves are the worst kind of prostitutes. Pity yourselves, gentlemen -you need it!
How many times do you see where a man or woman has shot another through jealousy! The standard of purity has decided that it is right, “it shows spirit,” “it is justifiable” to -murder a human being for doing exactly what you did yourself, -love the same woman or same man! Morality! Honor! Virtue! Passing from the moral to the physical phase, take the statistics of any insane asylum, and you will find that, out of the different classes, unmarried women furnish the largest one. To preserve your Cruel, Vicious, indecent standard of purity (?) you drive your daughters insane, while your wives are killed with excess. Such is marriage. Don’t take my word for it; go through the report of any asylum or the annals of any graveyard.
Look how your children grow up. Taught from their earliest infancy to curb their love natures –restrained at every turn! Your blasting lies would even blacken a child’s kiss. Little girls must not be tomboyish, must not go barefoot, must not climb trees, must not learn to swim, must not do anything they desire to do which Madame Grundy has decreed “improper.” Little boys are laughed at as effeminate, silly girl-boys if they want to make patchwork or play with a doll. Then when they grow up, “Oh! Men dont care for home or children as women do!” Why should they, when the deliberate effort of your life has been to crush that nature out of them. “Women can’t rough it like men.” Train any animal, or any plant, as you train your girls, and it wont be able to rough it either. Now will somebody tell me why either sex should hold a corner on athletic sports? Why any child should not have free use of its limbs?
These are the effects of your purity standard, your marriage law. This is your work -look at it! Half your children dying under five years of age, your girls insane, your married women walking corpses, your men so bad that they themselves often admit that Prostitution holds against PURITY a bond of indebtedness. This is the beautiful effect of your god, Marriage, before which Natural Desire must abase and belie itself. Be proud of it!
Now for the remedy. It is in one word, the only word that ever brought equity anywhere –LIBERTY! Centuries upon centuries of liberty is the only thing that will cause the disintegration and decay of these pestiferous ideas. Liberty was all that calmed the bloodwaves of religious persecution! You cannot cure serfhood by any other substitution. Not for you to say “in this way shall the race love.” Let the race alone.
Will there not be atrocious crimes? Certainly. He is a fool who says there will not be. But you can’t stop them by committing the arch-crime and setting a block between the spokes of Progress-wheels. You will never get right until you start right.
As for the final outcome, it matters not one iota. I have my ideal, and it is very pure, and very sacred to me. But yours, equally sacred, may be different and we may both be wrong. But certain am I that with free contract, that form of sexual association will survive which is best adapted to time and place, thus producing the highest evolution of the type. Whether that shall be monogamy, variety, or promiscuity matters naught to us; it is the business of the future, to which we dare not dictate.
For freedom spoke Moses Harman, and for this he received the felon’s brand. For this he sits in his cell to-night. Whether it is possible that his sentence be shortened, we do not know. We can only try. Those who would help us try, let me ask to put your signatures to this simple request for pardon addressed to Benjamin Harrison. To those who desire more fully to inform themselves before signing, I say: Your conscientiousness is praiseworthy -come to me at the close of the meeting and I will quote the exact language of the Markland letter. To those extreme Anarchists who cannot bend their dignity to ask pardon for an offense not committed, and of an authority they cannot recognize, let me say: Moses Harman’s back is bent, low bent, by the brute force of the Law, and though I would never ask anyone to bow for himself, I can ask it, and easily ask it, for him who fights the slave’s battle. Your dignity is criminal; every hour behind the bars is a seal to your partnership with Comstock. No one can hate petitions worse than I, and no one has less faith in them than I. But for my champion I am willing to try any means that invades no other’s right, even though I have little hope in it.
If, beyond these, there are those here to-night who have ever forced sexual servitude from a wife, those who have prostituted themselves in the name of Virtue, those who have brought diseased, immoral or unwelcome children to the light, without the means of provision for them, and yet will go from this ball and say, “Moses Harman is an unclean man -a man rewarded by just punishment,” then to you I say, and may the words ring deep within your ears UNTIL YOU DIE: Go on! Drive your sheep to the shambles! Crush that old, sick, crippled man beneath your juggernaut! In the name of Virtue, Purity and Morality, do it! In the names of God, Home, and Heaven, do it! In the name of the Nazarene who preached the golden rule, do it! In the names of Justice, Principle, and Honor, do it! In the names of Bravery and Magnanimity put yourself on the side of the robber in the government halls, the murderer in the political convention, the libertine in public places, the whole brute force of the police, the constabulary, the court, and the penitentiary, to persecute one poor old man who stood alone against your licensed crime! Do it. And if Moses Harman dies within your “Kansas Hell,” be satisfied when you have murdered him! Kill him! And you hasten the day when the future shall bury you ten thousand fathoms deep beneath its curses. Kill him! And the stripes upon his prison clothes shall lash you like the knout! Kill him! And the insane shall glitter hate at you with their wild eyes, the unborn babes shall cry their blood upon you, and the graves that you have filled in the name of Marriage, shall yield food for a race that will pillory you, until the memory of your atrocity has become a nameless ghost, flitting with the shades of Torquemada, Calvin and Jehovah over the horizon of the World!
Would you smile to see him dead? Would you say, “We are rid of this obscenist?” Fools! The corpse would laugh at you from its cold eyelids! The motionless lips would mock, and the solemn hands, the pulseless, folded hands, in their quietness would write the last indictment, which neither time nor you can efface. Kill him! And you write his glory and your shame! Moses Harman in his felon stripes stands far above you now, and Moses Harman dead will live on, immortal in the race he died to free! Kill him!