A 1940 pamphlet published by Man!, an anarchist newspaper out of New York.
Anarchism: a solution to world problems
A Presentation of Ten Essays
One of the most interesting questions in relation to anarchy is of the manner in which it may be expected to terminate ... And it does not seem impossible that it should lead to the best form of human society, that the most penetrating philosopher is able to conceive. Nay, it has something in it that suggests the likeness, a tremendous likeness, of true liberty.
-William Godwin (1756–1836)
Originally published by Man! in 1940
Originally posted: September 28, 2014 by The Anarchist Library
PDF scanned for libcom.org by the New York/New Jersey Workers Solidarity Alliance archives
1. War and capitalism
The general exhaustion of the capitalist system of production and distribution-after the brief period of reconstruction which followed the previous war-had paralyzed every national economy in the world. Every country had millions of unemployed, still machinery, idle capital and markets in liquidation. The population could not have been left to starve; relief for the unemployed was inadequate for the satisfaction of the most elementary needs. Governments were making debts and mortgaging the future, but unsatisfied needs caused discontentment which, in turn, suggested and inspired theories and movements which, spurred by the ills of the bleak present, called for a future of abundance and well-being for all. Preparations for war and the ruins of war themselves constituted the only road which governments could take-the only one which the ruling classes would permit to be taken in the attempt to get out of the stagnant situation created by an insufficient consumption of products. War preparations and war itself bring work to the workers and bread and butter to their families. And what is more important for the privileged classes, war brings markets for capital, dividends for investors, profits for industry and business and huge cuts for financiers.
In the bankruptcy in which capitalist economy finds itself, war is the only industry really profitable because it is capable of putting labor and capital in motion and of securing a safe market for the unlimited efficiency of modern production. War, therefore, is a matter of life and death also for the capitalist system of economy. People are not going to submit forever to an existence of want and idleness when they can see within their reach an abundance of machinery and raw material more than enough to satisfy their needs. They will realize that it depends only on their will and daring to change their miserable status to one of comfort and abundance. In this respect, war can be considered a substitute for the open and violent repression of social revolution on the part of capitalism and the state.
2. The Russo-German union
The reaction of the liberal and socialist world toward the alliance between the Government of Russia and Germany reveals some interesting phases that need clarification.
“The Daily Worker” does well to remind all of us that the Bolshevik Government has been having a pact with Fascist Italy for many years. And it is a good point to bear in mind. For, under the shield of that pact, the Bolshevik Government supplied Italy with the oil that it needed in order to carry through its war of invasion upon Abyssinia and upon Spain. However, in the case of Spain a double sort of bookkeeping was required: supplying the loyalist regime with war materials—for cash and political consideration.
By a far from strange coincidence, the accusations made by Gen. Krivitzky and Araquistain that Stalin intentionally prolonged the Spanish struggle by withholding sufficient supplies to the loyalists in order to carry out his imperialistic policy in the Far East receives its strongest corroboration in the pact recently made.
The Russian invasion of eastern Poland and. Finland was remarkably similar, in brutality, to the German invasion of Poland and Czechoslovakia. Stalin’s ruthlessness received the approval of the Nazi and fascist press. This affirms beyond any doubt that ideologically Fascism, Nazism and Bolshevism belong in each other’s company.
The unmasking and disrobing of the ugliness and deceit of these parties in holy wedlock may have brought bitter disillusionment to the naive, sincere or self-sacrificing followers of these political gods.
This new and now open alliance will serve as a sure weapon whereby capitalist democracy will strive to destroy every vestige of sincere revolutionary spirit not undermined or annihilated by Bolshevism. The apologists for Capitalism will make it appear that their vain “democracy” is a blessing as compared with the sinister newly formed trinity. Diabolical as this eventuality appears, it must be scored as another accomplishment of Hitler, Stalin and Mussolini, the three offsprings of Karl Marx—the father of authoritarian socialism.
3. The economic system of today
Men (not the privileged) will forever face a hitter -struggle for existence just so long as the system of distribution will be based on individual profiteering, which is the nucleus of our prevailing social order. All the wizardly juggling of figures by expert financiers in the ledger sheets and all the scheming acrobatics introduced in budget balancing, tax revision, wage and labor adjustment, tariff barriers, etc., will not help to alleviate the ills of the suffering masses who are the chief victims in the periodic crises. At most, these clever manipulations can only serve to transpose the surplus profits from one individual or group of profiteers to another.
Let us make a brief analysis of the workings of our economic system so we may have a perfect idea how the pendulum swings from prosperity to depression and then back again, in exact harmony with the “ticker” that swings back and forth in the Stock Exchange market. We know, for instance, that in times of prosperity, when industry runs full blast, the people spend their earnings freely and so accumulate enough goods to last them for an indefinite period of time; a decline, therefore, in purchasing power follows. This also creates a decline in industrial output. Working hours are then reduced, wages begin to drop-and the panic is on. While the depression continues for a year or so (the last one held out for five years), prices of commodities begin to drop, first gradually and then at a faster pace, until they come down to the lowest level; the result is that people who have some savings hoarded away open up their purses and begin buying, for profit or use, on the low market. This brings on a revival of purchasing power and naturally-or artificially--brings back recovery in industry. Unemployment is then decreasing, wages are increasing, trade and commerce is flourishing-and so we have prosperity in full bloom again. Yes, prosperity is then on the up grade until the law of supply and demand swings the pendulum back again... and the hitherto starving masses again must face hunger and starvation.
The very same criterion is applicable, not only to the economic struggle of the great masses in general, but also to the aims of organized labor in particular. In prosperous times, when the wheels of industry turn full speed ahead, wages begin to climb (through the strike or otherwise); with this comes also a proportionate increase in prices of the products consumed. The net result is that even in prosperity, with all the high wages he gets for his labor, the worker is to serve capitalism with his hard toil for the living wage he receives in return.
Having thus brought our short analysis of the economic cycle, we can now offer our own solution to the problem. We feel that no system in economic reform, however cleverly planned, will bring any material aid to the well-being of the masses. The only way people can hope to solve their economic ills is by departing from the capitalist system-or even the “stately” system, if you please-whereby commodities are distributed for profit. People must adopt a method by which they can share the products of their labor cooperatively. Without availing themselves of the full benefits of their earned products, they cannot and should not hope for any kind of economic independence save, perhaps, the “charity dole” or some other sort of beggarly compensation a benevolent government is inclined to offer as a medicinal cure for hunger.
When we attempt to embrace the whole situation sanely, we can say there really are no natural causes for human suffering (economically speaking, of course). After all, so long as the human race exists, the earth will produce crops, the trees will yield fruit, gardens will grow vegetation, cows will feed us milk and human skill and ingenuity will always provide comfort and luxury for all. Why, then, must the life and happiness of a whole race depend on the financial sheet prepared somewhere in a Wall Street office? Why should we dwell in misery and leave the politicians and stockholders to decide our fate with “percentages” and other hokus-pokus market fluctuations? There are plenty of resources in our land to be shared by all people alike. And if they ever come to realize that no individual or caste has a moral or legal right to declare a monopoly of the land and her products, they will then visualize a just and humane social order.
4. Government and franchise
With increasing boldness, the politicians of every hue are trying to further emphasize the belief in the blessing of general franchise-a belief which they have fostered and impressed upon the minds of people. The right to vote, say they, implies that the citizenry is “master” of its destiny.
The anarchist, on the other hand, contends that the right to vote is, in reality, a delusion and a snare through which the present system-based on the shameful exploitation of other people’s toil-is protected and perpetuated.
Which of the two claims is correct?
Let us review a few political events of our own times and see what conclusion they will warrant.
Theodore Roosevelt was considered, in his time, a “trust buster” in the interests of the people. Yet, the facts reveal that under his administration the trusts that he was supposed to put out of business fleeced the people as much as ever before.
Woodrow Wilson, likewise, was considered another president fighting in the interests of the people. No other president knew better and more intrinsically the manner in which the industrialists of our land had established, built and managed to maintain their reign of plunder. In fact, he even wrote an exposé of this plunder in his book “The New Freedom Yet, as president of the United States, he did not even make an attempt to put the plundering industrialists out of business. On the contrary, when the richest band of plunderers-the House of Morgan-gave him the signal, Mr. Wilson dragged this country into the last world war. Supposedly, we were to “make the world safe for democracy.” In reality, as Mr. Wilson admitted afterwards, we fought to safeguard the interests of the House of Morgan.
When Franklin D. Roosevelt ascended to the presidency, he solemnly promised to “drive the money changers from the temples” and promote a “new deal for the forgotten man.”
Today, with Roosevelt’s second term near completion, we find that the money changers are managing to hoard more wealth than ever before. The new deal for the forgotten man still remains a promise while about 13 million men and women are hunting and begging for a chance to sell their labor to the money changers who control the industries of the land.
These, then, have been the results of three governmental administrations which professed to serve the interests of the people. These results damn the franchise of voting as an absolute fraud.
As each national election approaches, new candidates are put forward who repeat the promises made by the ones who “served” the people by not keeping their promises.
The truth of the matter is that no political candidate dares to speak about the causes of all the resulting evils which the people suffer from-capital and government. Capitalism could not exist without the forceful protection of government, and-the latter has been founded and is nurtured for the purpose of protecting and perpetuating the reign of the former.
No government official who takes the oath of office can do so without committing himself to the “sacred right of private property”.
Who possesses any property worth upholding or protecting at the point of a gun or a bayonet? Certainly not the great multitudes who are exploited and robbed of what they produce. The only class that needs such protection is the small class of plunderers representing capitalism.
Those who have open minds and are willing to reason can then realize that the very idea of government with its franchise is, in reality, one of the most sinister swindles ever conceived by the first band of pirates in man’s history. For any one who realizes this truth, to participate in the electioneering swindle is tantamount to willingly continue aiding and abetting in one’s own subjugation to the present capitalist system of plunder and injustice.
The anarchist holds that the misled masses can best serve their interests by not only refusing to continue participating in the governmental swindle, but even more effectively by refusing to pay homage to it through submission to taxation and obedience to fraudulent laws.
Against the institution of capitalism and its government, the anarchist advocates voluntary cooperation among men for the economic and social freedom of all. No law can substitute for this conception.
Anarchism has been called non-state Socialism. Despite the popular idea of anarchists as violent men, Anarchism is the ONE non-violent social philosophy. It is the very antithesis of Communism and Fascism which place the State as supreme. Anarchists will do away with the State entirely. The function of the Anarchist is twofold. By daily courage in non-cooperation with the tyrannical forces of the State and the Church, he helps to tear down present society; the anarchist by daily acts of cooperation with his fellows in overcoming evil with goodwill and solidarity, he builds toward the anarchistic cooperative commonwealth which is formed by voluntary action with the right of secession.
The basis of Anarchism is liberty with individual responsibility; its methods arc decentralization of activity and federation of local communes for national and international functions.
Simplicity is emphasized. Courage and freedom are its watch words. Anarchism, having faith in the innate goodness within everyone, seeks to establish the Golden Rule by working from within the consciousness of the individual while all other systems of society, working from without, depend upon manmade laws and the violence of the State to compel men to act justly. Anarchists seek to slowly change the forms of society but do not rely upon that change alone to make people better.
And now a definition from the Encyclopedia Britannica
ANARCHISM: the name given to a principle or theory of life and conduct under which society is conceived without government-harmony in such a society being obtained, not by submission to law, or by obedience to any authority, but by free agreements concluded between the various groups, territorial or professional, freely constituted for the sake of production and consumption, and also for the satisfaction of the infinite variety of needs and aspirations of a civilized being. In a society developed on these lines, the voluntary associations which already now begin to cover all the field of human activity would take a still greater extension so as to substitute themselves for the state in all the functions.
AMMON A. HENNACY
6. The state and anarchism
What, after all, is this State idea, this idea of the organized community to which the individual has to be immolated? Theoretically, it is the subordination of the individual to the good of all which is demanded; practically, it is his subordination to a collective, egoism—political, military economic—which seeks to satisfy certain collective aims and ambitions shaped and imposed on the great mass of the individuals by a smaller or larger number of ruling persons who are supposed in some way to represent the community. It is immaterial whether these belong to a governing clan or emerge as in modern States from the mass partly by force of character, but much more by force of circumstances; they are imposed more by hypnotism of verbal persuasion than by overt and actual force. In either case there is no guarantee that this ruling class or ruling body represents the best minds of a nation or its noblest or its highest instincts.
Nothing of the kind can be asserted about the modern politician in any part of the world; he does not represent the soul of the people or its aspirations. What he does usually represent is all the average pettiness, selfishness, egotism and self-deception that is about him, and these he represents well enough, as well as a great deal of mental incompetence and moral conventionality, timidity and pretense. Great issues often come to him for decision, but he does not deal with them greatly; high words and noble ideas are on his lips, but they are only the clap-trap of a party. The disease and falsehood of modern political life is patent in every country of the world, and only the hypnotized acquiescence even of the intellectual classes in the great organized sham, the acquiescence that men yield to everything that is habitual and makes the present atmosphere of their lives, cloaks and prolongs the malady. Yet, it is by such minds that the good of all has to be decided, to such hands that has to be entrusted; to such an agency calling itself the State that the individual is being more and more called upon to give up his entire activity.
Even if the governing instruments were better constituted and of a higher moral character, still the State would not be what the State idea pretends to be. Theoretically, it is the collective wisdom and force of the community made available and organized for the general good; practically, it is as much of the intellect and power available in the community as the particular machinery of State organization will allow to come to the surface, which uses that machinery but also caught in it and hampered by it, and hampered also by the large amount of folly and selfish weakness that comes up in the same wave. Things would be much worse if there were not a field left for a less trammeled individual effort doing what the State cannot do, employing and using the sincerity, energy, idealism of the best individuals to attempt that which the State has not the wisdom or courage to attempt, getting that done which a collective conservatism and imbecility leave undone or actively oppose and suppress. It is this which is the really effective agent of collective progress. But we are now tending towards such an increase of organized State power and such a huge irresistible and complex State activity as will either eliminate free individual effort altogether or leave it dwarfed and cowed into helplessness.
The State is neither the best mind of the nation nor is it even the sum of the commercial energies. It leaves out voluntary action, suppresses the working force and thinking mind of important minorities, often of those which represent that which is best in the present state of society.
* * *
The regeneration of Society, or better still, the formation of a new society, is possible alone through Anarchism, i.e., through the re-establishment of the natural relations of men to one another. This can be accomplished by Anarchist Communism, guaranteeing to each individual full liberty. Each member of such a Society stands free and equal among his fellow beings, and any attempt to establish other standards will constitute an act of violence against the principle of a free society.
There is no natural right for the possession of private property, nor for authoritarian leadership: once permitted, they inevitably destroy the peace arid general welfare. The whole history of mankind proves this statement.
Let us consider Anarchism as the scientific teaching of the natural relationship of men. Realizing that our knowledge of the world reaches no further than our senses can reach, the Anarchist rejects all fruitless speculations of transcendental philosophy; he has scant respect for visionary dreams. All that takes place in the universe is the result of activity inherent in matter. Upon this view is based our moral doctrine, which may be summarized as follows:
Every living being strives unceasingly for enjoyment of life; this endeavor is the basis of all his actions. Each human being seeks to learn by what ways and means he can attain the highest purpose of life.
Through experience and observation one arrives at the conclusion that the individual separated from the society of his fellowmen produces the mere necessities of life by the utmost wearisome labor, but that through the common labor of many, these necessities are easily and readily obtained, allowing leisure for the pursuit of the arts and sciences, by which life is made pleasanter and richer; this knowledge imposes upon one the duty of working for the common weal, since each individual welfare is assured only through universal well being.
The fact that the gifts, powers and dispositions of men are very different leads one to the conclusion that the participation in the various labor of a group or community must be entirely voluntary, free from outward pressure, as free as the right to use and enjoy in unlimited measure the goods produced by common labor.
By experience and clear knowledge of the qualities of man, we arrive at the firm conviction that a lasting welfare of society can be established only through the communistic anarchist society.
7. Socialism and anarchism
In order to measure or give weight to the success and influence of a social theory, a comparison with other movements and theories of the same character is required. But the anarchist theory is a class by itself and holds a distinct self-commanding sphere among social-revolutionary concepts. Unlike all other political movements, Anarchism cannot adopt the character and form of mass movements. Anarchism, according to its teaching, expresses itself in concrete and specific terms which, however, do not greatly attract the public’s attention and are not, therefore, very easily comprehended.
Nevertheless, let us treat the teaching of anarchism in the light of recent world happenings. In this way, we can- more properly judge how far the theory of an anti-state doctrine proves to be correct and even applicable to social life. We all know that the past two decades have ruined the socialist ideas which have been preached to the world. Many of the socialist dogmas and beliefs have been shattered. In the course of world happenings, they proved to be nothing more than false and obsolete although still accepted as truths.
But how did Anarchism stand up under the fire? We should be willing to admit that many of the anarchist dogmas and concepts proved to be wrong and unpractical. Yet, the basic idea of anarchism came out more than unscathed; rather, world events gave convincing evidence that anarchism is constructive, fundamentally strong and the breath of life.
What is the basic principle of Anarchism? Simply this: the negation of government. Anarchists contend that the root of all social evils can be traced to our present order which is ruled by force-a force that leads to poverty, exploitation, oppression, class distinction, privileged minorities and wars.
Bertrand Russell, one of the greatest thinkers of our time, also comes to the conclusion that force, in its various forms, is the root of all our misery. He even proposes a “new” remedy: to tame, to limit and at the same time also democratize that force (“taming the power”). But we know that this remedy has already been tried. There is only one sound cure, one real escape: to eliminate, to destroy that force.
While all socialist theories aim to change the capitalist order and stress the importance of overthrowing or setting back the economic power and curtail the claim to private ownership, at the same time they look upon the State as a road to freedom and even invest it with a mission to aid in the realization of socialism. It is not so with Anarchism. The anarchist theory is the ONLY social doctrine which maintains that political force must be destroyed together with the economic. The anarchists believe that socialism can be realized only when the State and all its institutions are abolished, for the state is one of the chief causes of our social evils, a misfortune and a peril to suffering humanity.
This absolute truth has been proclaimed many years ago by our anarchist thinker Mikhail Bakunin, when he said: “Each state must, for fear of its own destruction, strive to become more powerful. It must devour so as not to be devoured. It must appropriate so as not to be appropriated”. And Bakunin proved to us with prophetic foresight that the state, every state, must eventually become an arena for swindle, robbery, deceit and wars.
Behold, now, what is happening around us. We have before us a world of Fascism, Nazism and Stalinism. These orders are the most vivid expression of a highly developed powerful state. They are known as “totalitarian” states. This means they are governed in an absolute and unbridled manner and usurp, not only the political, but also the economic power. They assume control over the whole social life, just as modern capitalism shows a marked tendency towards monopolizing the whole economic power (international trusts, chamber of commerces, etc.) So does the political apparatus strive to lay its hand on every available power for introducing the strictest centralization, dictatorship and totalitarian rule.
These totalitarian states march in different directions, but in the end they reach the same objective. The Fascist and Nazi states evolved from capitalist “democracy”. The Marxist-Stalinist state began with socialism. But, as agencies of centralized power and monopoly, they all come to one destination-to totalitarianism, to an absolute political and economic rule. The same process, by the way, is also assumed by all democratic states. Their innermost “nature” urges them on the same road.
That American, English or French democratic capitalism has not as yet developed into fascism is not a result of its being anti-fascist. It simply is a result of the fact that democratic capitalism in the aforementioned countries feels strong enough and is not yet in urgent need of fascism. If and when there is noted a marked change or transformation in democratic capitalism, such a change does not lean towards freedom. On the contrary, it is in the direction of fascist capitalism.
No one can deny that the main tendency of all democratic countries is to introduce -under the guise of democracy-a vaster government control over industry, more regulations, more meddling in the economic and social life of the inhabitants. And so, if we should relieve ourselves of the bewitching allurement of rhetorical phraseology and delve deeply into the economic-political process, which displays itself before our very eyes in all capitalist countries, we could then clearly see that private capitalism heads in the direction of monopoly and imperialism. The internal contradictions in capitalism, leading to industrial panics, unemployment, overproduction, class struggle and competitive disputes among capitalist factions themselves-all this leads inevitably towards fascism.
Reaction and a new world war are now pervading our universe. For this the “democratic” states arc as much to blame as the totalitarian states. Hitler-ism, Fascism and Stalinism--they are all a direct product, a legitimate offspring, not only of capitalist monopoly, but also of state power, of centralized state monopoly. The latest world occurrences substantiate the fundamental thought of Anarchism.
But one thing should be clear and certain to all students of social problems who have studied world events for the past 25 years: Marxian political and economic centralized socialism is openly exposed as completely bankrupt. Humanity will either drift into eternal slavery, disappear from the earth or it will search and perhaps find a new road through which it will find and attain real libertarian socialism.
M. B. RESIN
8. A moneyless society
The case of an economic system without money is equally simple to present, equally easy to grasp. A world without money, and without any kind of substitute for a monetary exchange, would not be a world of chaos, as some might suppose. It would not be a world where progress is at a standstill and true ambition has died of inertia, as the alarmists would have us believe. It would not be a world of idlers, each doing his best to live on the product of another’s labor, without compulsion to labor for themselves, as still others claim. It is a sad enough commentary on our present system that so many of us think of initiative only in terms of money and conceive that economic stress is the only spur which will goad men into working. Such convictions only underline the basic fallacy of a life than can give rise to them.
But what would a world without money be like? I think it would be a world without poverty and hunger and unemployment; without child labor and overwork and economic misery; without fear for the future and driving misery in the present; without the ignorance that comes from lack of education and the cruelties that come from greed and insecurity. I think it would be a world where man could choose his particular work and might work at the thing for which he is best fitted. I think it would be a world where everyone might be well and comfortable, fed and housed, clothed and shod. I think it would be a world where everyone had an equal right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, and everyone had an equal share of the wealth of his country as produced by the labor of all for the use of all.
It is easy enough to envision. The foundation of any economic system, after all, is no more than the old law of supply and demand. Under our present economy of scarcity, the supply is limited by the demand. And the demand is limited by the ability to pay for the supply. And this in turn is limited by the supply itself, the production of which furnishes us our buying power. The profit motive, which is the mainspring of our monetary system, is responsible for the lag between production and consumption since the producer-the laborer or farmer-is paid less for what he produces than he must pay to buy it back for his own use. So demand lags behind supply until, at length, the supply must be stopped until the surplus is consumed, reducing buying power to its final minimum.
Under a system which does away with money and the consequent profits therefrom, the demand will mount, and the supply will mount with it, until at length each country will be producing to its utmost capacity to satisfy the demands of its citizens. There is demand enough even now to keep farms and factories going full blast; all that is lacking is the money. Where men may have for the asking all they need of the world’s goods the demand will not fall.
Will the supply be sufficient to balance that tremendous demand that lack of money alone keeps in check today? Well, I am no economist. I have no statistics to quote. I only know that produce rots on the trees and in the fields; that factories stand idle or run at half capacity; that whole great areas of the earth lie untapped and unreclaimed; that elements lie unmined in the ground; that there is an unimaginable world about us for science to explore and make use of.
Here in the United States alone are sufficient resources, if utilized to the full, to give each family of all our millions the equivalent of 5000 dollars a year income. That much, at least, is a statistical fact. Knowing that, I venture to predict that with all the vast resources of earth at our disposal and all its vast man power at work, the supply will not fail.
Under our present system it does not pay to utilize these resources, discovered or undiscovered.
In a system of free exchange of the products of labor, these things will take their rightful place. There will be no surplus until all have obtained the necessities for a decent existence, and then the surplus will be converted into luxuries for the many rather than for the privileged few. Invention will come into its own when each simplification, each labor saving device will mean a benefit to all, rather than the loss of a living. Machines will be utilized to provide leisure rather than unemployment.
This is democracy carried to its highest point, extended to its logical extreme.
It is self-evident that under such a system the evils stemming from greed will be non-existent. Vice and crime, violence and corruption, even war itself, must of necessity disappear once the economic basis for them has been abolished. So a moneyless society of free exchange of labor for the produce of labor will mean more than the abolition of mere economic ills. It will mean a whole new world, a better world, the world we hopelessly dream of today, for our children and our children’s children to inherit.
Utopian? Perhaps. It will be no quick and easy task, at any rate, to spread such a gospel around the world until it takes effect. It is a task of years, perhaps of centuries.
The introduction of such a system will cause no chaos in the precise and ponderous machine of civilization. It does not even involve such a dictum as that usually quoted to excuse imperfections in other Utopian schemes: that the few must suffer for the good of the many.
No one will suffer. No one will lose by it. Even the richest man can consume only a limited share of the world’s goods for himself and his family’s use. That share he may have for the taking, he and everyone else. That he cannot have these without conceding the equal right of others to them is the point on which the success of such a system rests. It is the basic principle of the, Golden Rule of every great philosophy and religion; put into practice in such a way that in order to benefit by it, a man must comply with it.
There may be those who can find objections even to this universal principle of good. They may brand this as merely another crackpot scheme, as this or that dangerous “ism”, even as an outright attempt to tear down government into anarchy.
To such reactionaries I can do no more than point out that progress has always been achieved by revolt against the old bad order of things. I can do no more than remind them of the speech of a certain famous young rebel made less than two hundred years ago, a speech which has become a part of our American tradition. Let me borrow from that speech to answer them:
“If this be treason, gentlemen, make the most of it!”.
9. Is anarchy possible?
Of all the social ideas offered to mankind during the last two centuries as a solution to its problems, Anarchism alone has always been the most uncompromising of all. For this very reason, it should not surprise anyone to learn that Anarchism as a social idea has failed to progress, as compared with the social ideas of Karl Marx, but has, to all appearances, even regressed. This superficial appearance of regress cannot be construed as the end of Anarchism as a social idea of liberation. We find in the realm of science that the teacher often meets with momentary defeats and disappointments. In the end, however, truth does not fail to hold its own ground and win the battle.
Therefore, it is in the field of experimentation that the ideas embodied in the anarchist philosophy will meet the test. This will come when mankind realizes the need for making a change from an ORDAINED LIFE to a FREE LIFE.
* * *
How can mankind ever reach the state of mind whereby it should desire sufficiently strong enough to experiment with and put to a test the ideas of Anarchism? Is there any possibility that this stage will ever be reached, in view of the constantly increasing power assumed by the State in human relations everywhere?
In monarchical countries and republics, fascism-through the State-reigns supreme. In democratic countries, it is again the State which is in command. In the land of Marxian socialism-Russia the State is even more powerful than elsewhere.
In view of these realities, can the anarchist still hope and contend that the reign of the State is foredoomed? The answer to this is to be found in a closer examination of the origin, function and growth of the State throughout the world.
Has the State been conceived and brought into life in order to aid mankind to live in contentment and abundance? Has it developed and grown in a natural and healthy way? History gives us an unequivocal answer: It has not. It was born out of brigandage and has so remained. In capitalist countries; it is the legal protector of the wealth it has taken from the producing masses. Even in Russia, under a marxian socialist State, the liberty and life of the individual have been sacrificed for the sake of a promised but not given loaf of bread.
Every war which the State has engineered at the behest of Capitalism was imposed upon the people under fraudulent claims-as are the imposed systems of economic exploitation during times of peace. Even the imposed experimentation carried on in the name of the “proletariat”, with its army, must be classed as a fraud thrust upon the people.
Man can and will reach the stage of true contentment and freedom only when he realizes the imperative need for discarding every form of exploitation and rulership of man over man. Man will ultimately learn to rely upon his own initiative and upon cooperation and experimentation carried on between himself and his fellowman. For the best that lies dormant within man-love for Justice, Equality and Cooperation-can only be awakened with the dawn of a free society: Anarchy.
But how is man to reach the stage of the dawn of a free society?
He will grow tired of the State’s all powerful grip over life and happiness. He will grow tired of being slaughtered in economic wars on the battlefields, in the factories and on the land. He will grow tired, too, of politics and politicians, of saviours who have always proved deceiving, of trade union officials who aid in maintaining the status quo. He will grow tired of all sorts of compromising palliatives.
When this happens, the world will witness a series of social rebellions which will break every chain that has fettered mankind for ages. Governments will crumble to dust upon the very sandy foundations on which they were erected. All institutions which are part of the present system of society which functions by virtue of its exploitation will also fall. A freed mankind will no longer have any use for the policeman and judge, jail and jailer, soldier and gun, thieves and stocks. The monetary system, too, will disappear. Property will be worth no more than the exchange value which neighbor and neighbor will, by voluntary understanding, attach to it.
CENTRALIZATION, the chief prop of Capitalism and marxian socialism, will be replaced by DECENTRALIZATION. Centralization calls for exercise of power. Power denotes rulership. Where rulership prevails someone must be ruled. Thus, where centralization prevails freedom cannot thrive. Decentralization opens up every avenue for the expression and assertion of initiative, self-rule and equal responsibility. It is in the decentralized voluntary cooperation of man and fellowman that the anarchist foresees the future. It is a future with no coercion, no exploitation, no ridership. It is a future guided by and based on the voluntary associations and agreements made between FREE MEN.
The transformation from a society of rulership to an anarchist society cannot be accomplished overnight. It has taken man centuries to change his barbaric conditions to what we can offhand call semi-civilized conditions. The change from the present state to that of a truly emancipated one will undoubtedly take time. The freed man will learn by the test of experimentation what is best suited for his a well- being and happiness. The freed man will learn and at the same time bring about a science of social freedom.
What ground does the anarchist hold for entertaining so optimistic a view and hope?
Against the triumphant march of the State with its coercion in every phase of life, the anarchist points to the expression of freedom as achieved by science in its various physical branches. More than that, he looks toward art, in all its branches, as the effervescent fountain from which he has been drinking of imagination, knowledge and understanding.
By what standards do the critical minds of the world measure the work of the dramatist, novelist, poet, painter, sculptor and musician? The work of these artists is measured by its degree of truthfulness, imagination. beauty, by the imaginary dreams of a better and more beautiful life, by pointing at freedom as the sole guide and hope for the accomplishments of a civilization wherein justice and happiness for every human being will be possible.
Therefore, it is natural that in the realm of art and all its branches the anarchist finds the strongest substantiation for his ideal. In art he finds the embodiment of his dream and hopes: Freedom and justice, Beauty and Happiness for all mankind.
10. The creating force
I am the secret of perpetual youth, the everlasting creator of life; where I am not, death rages. I am the comfort, the hope, the dream of the oppressed. I destroy what exists; but from the rock whereon I light new life begins to flow. I come to you to break all chains which bear you down; to free you from the embrace of death, and instill a new life into your veins. All that exists must perish; that is the eternal condition of life, and I, the all destroying, fulfill that law to create a fresh new existence. I will renovate to the very foundations the order of things in which you live, for such is the offspring of sin, whose blossom is misery and whose fruit is crime. The grain is ripe, and I am the reaper. I will dissipate every delusion which has mastery over the human race. I will destroy the authority of the one over the many; of the lifeless over the living; of the material over the spiritual. I will break in pieces the authority of the great; OF’ THE LAW OF PROPERTY. Let the will of each be master of mankind, one’s own desires fashion laws, one’s own strength be one’s own property, for the freeman is the sacred man, and there is nothing sublimer than he. Let the delusion be trampled under foot which gives one individual power over millions; which reduces millions to the subjection of one; which would teach that one possesses the power to make others happy.
Let the delusion be destroyed which provides for the mastery of death over life, of the past over the future. The law of the dead, that is their own law; it shares their lot and dies with them-it must not prevail over life. Life is in itself a law. And since law is for the living and not for the dead, and since you are the living, there exists no one who dare master you; thus you alone are the law, your own free will the single sublime law, and therefore I will destroy the mastery of the dead over the living. Destroyed be the delusion which makes mankind the slave of his own work, of his own property. The noblest gift of mankind is his productive power; therein lies the source of all prosperity, and not in what is produced; in production itself is the employment of your power, therein lies your true and highest enjoyment. Man’s work is his true life, the living must not be beholden
to the lifeless, must not be made subject to it. Therefore, DESTROYED BE THE DELUSION WHICH HAMPERS ENJOYMENT AND LIMITS FREE WILL, which elevates property over man, and degrades him to become the slave of his own work. Look around you, misguided one, on these abundant meadows through which you wander, slaves, strangers. You shall walk them free, free from the yoke of the living, free from the chains of the dead. What nature has made, mankind cultivates and transforms into fruitful gardens; it belongs to mankind, to the needy, and no one dare come and say: “To me belongs this forever, and all you are only guests, whom I suffer as long as it pleases me, from whom I get rent and whom I drive away when it pleases me. What nature has given, and man has produced, and what the living stand in need of, is mine?’ Destroyed be this lie. To him who is in need belongs alone what satisfies, and of such super-abundance is offered you by nature, by your own resources. Behold the houses within the towns and everything that satisfies and pleases mankind. All of you must wander past as if strangers; the mind and the arm of men have created it, and therefore it belongs to man, the living. And no single person dare come and say: “To me belongs everything that man has produced in his diligence. I alone have a right to it, and others may only enjoy as it pleases me when they pay me rent.’ Destroyed be this lie along with the other; for what man has produced belongs to man for his boundless enjoyment, as do all other things on the earth.
I will destroy the existing order of things which divides the one humanity into hostile peoples, into strong and weak, into privileged and outlawed, into rich and poor, for that makes unfortunate creatures of one and all. I will destroy the order of things which makes millions the slaves of the few, and those few the slaves of their own power, of their own wealth. I will destroy the order of things which severs enjoyment from labor, which turns labor into a burden and enjoyment into a vice, which makes one man miserable through want and another miserable through super-abundance. I will destroy this order of things which consumes the vigor of manhood in the service
of the dead, of inert matter, which sustains one part of mankind in idleness or useless activity, which forces thousands to devote their sturdy youth to the indolent pursuit of soldiery, officialism. speculation and usury, and the maintenance of such like despicable conditions, while the other half, by excessive exertion and sacrifice of all enjoyment of life, bears the burden of the whole infamous structure. I will destroy even the very memory and trace of this delirious order of things which, pieced together out of force, falsehood, trouble, tears, sorrow, suffering, need, deceit, hypocrisy and crime, is shut up in its own reeking atmosphere, and never receives a breath of pure air, to which no ray of pure joy ever penetrates.
Let everything be destroyed which oppresses you and makes you suffer, and from the ruins of the old let there arise a new undreamed of happiness. Let no hatred, envy, jealousy, animosity remain among you. You must recognize as brothers and sisters all who live; and free to will, free to act, free to enjoy, you shall know the worth of existence. Arise then, ye people of the earth, arise, ye sorrow stricken and oppressed. Ye, also, who vainly struggle to clothe the inner desolation of your hearts, with the transient glory of riches, arise! Come and follow in my track with the joyful crowd, for I know not how to make distinction between those who follow me. There are but two peoples from henceforth on earth-the one which follows me, and the one which resists me. The one I will lead to happiness, but the other I will crush in my progress. For I am the REVOLUTION, I am the new creating force. I am the divinity which discerns all life, which embraces, revives and rewards.
RICHARD WAGNER (1813–1883)
(It is not always remembered that Richard Wagner was an active propagandist of revolutionary thought and wrote on every pertinent subject of his days: communist essays, subversive views of the State, the importance of revolutionary activity-all claimed his attention. During the Saxon revolution of 1848 and 1849, he fought behind the barricades in street battles, and had to flee from Saxony for his life. He was deeply in sympathy with this period of European hope and disappointment — HIPPOLYTE HAVEL, in the “Revolutionary Almanac”.)