The Forerunners of Anarchism - Emile Armand

The Forerunners of Anarchism - Emile Armand

A translation of the French Individual Anarchist Emile Armand's Les précurseurs de l’anarchisme, a philosophical history of Anarchist thought from Antiquity to the Industrial Revolution.

The
Forerunners of Anarchism

by
Emile Armand

Introduction,

Emile Armand (26th
of March 1872- 19
th
of February 1962) was
the
son of a former Communard, that is a participant in the revolution of
1871 that established the Commune of Paris, and was
for
a time a well-known French Anarchist
who
moved through many associations and publications, developing his own
thoughts and beliefs. In his early days he was sympathetic to a form
of Christian Humanism before becoming interested in France’s
diverse Anarchist movement. He eventually settled on and was closely
associated
with what’s called Individual Anarchism. An Anarchistic philosophy
that centres free individuals as the foundations of the new society,
and as the source of the solutions to the evils of our current
society, war, domination, exploitation, capitalism, patriarchy etc. 

 

If
we were animals, herded together in a stockade, then the eating part
would be the only real thing that would interest us, and it would not
be so important as to whether the trough is coloured Bolshevik-red or
Fascist-black (taking it for granted that there is at all a trough),
whether the food-distributor carries upon his cap a soviet-star or a
fascist insignia or a swastika, the main thing would be the eating
part.

But
when one doesn’t consider oneself as a stockade-animal, when one
doesn’t place the eating above one’s determined,
self-acknowledged, ever-developing personality and its traits, then
the entire program changes.”

[Emile
Armand, Individual and Dictatorship, 1935]

 

Individual
Anarchism or Individualism as its commonly known had strong
followings in France and the United States during the late 19th
and early 20th centuries. It arose partly as a response
and critique of the more orthodox Socialist
and Anarchist doctrines. There were many different types of
Individualist theory but in general its thrust was to encourage
Anarchists to live as closely to their ideals as possible in the
present. Essentially act as living propaganda by showing it was
possible -enjoyable even!- to live in a society based on mutual
respect and liberty.

 

While
convincing others of the correctness of an Anarchistic ideal was
important to him he did not limit himself to writing, though he
certainly did a lot of that. He was a very active speaker attending
many meetings and conferences. He was also no stranger to the law,
being sent to prison several times in his life, the first time in
1907 for counterfeiting money, then again in 1917 for his support of
desertion, Armand was not only an opponent of the First World War but
also a founding member of the Anti-Militarist League (established in
1911), then again in January 1940 for three months, and shortly after
release was interred in several camps for 16 months, being released
in 1941. He also wasn’t afraid to tackle social taboos and was an
early advocate for sexual liberation, one of his more infamous
stances was his defence of nudism and belief that it holds
revolutionary potential. 

 

It
seems to us to be something else entirely than a hygienic fitness
exercise or a “naturist” renewal. For us, nudism is a
revolutionary demand. Revolutionary in a triple sense: affirmation,
protest, liberation.”

[Revolutionary
Nudism 1934]

 

In
short, he’s a very interesting character. But he seems to have
fallen into obscurity in English speaking circles. I discovered the
following pamphlet while browsing the webstore of an Esperanto
workers association, and picked it up on a whim. I was surprised I
was able to read most of it and that many of my difficulties were to
do with the subjects and not the language used. The pamphlet was
written in 1933, the Esperanto translation in 1989, and it concerns
the philosophical origins of Anarchism throughout history. 

 

Its
an interesting topic and I learnt quite a bit reading it and in
checking to make sure my translation was as accurate as could be. I
started translating it as an exercise to improve my skills with
Esperanto, but at the time of writing haven’t found this pamphlet
in English, apart from a translation of a later passage on the
website Libertarian Labyrinth which was translated from the French
language version but was useful to me in proof reading. Though there
were a few issues with the text for a modern and general audience.

 

I
don’t know if this is the case but I strongly suspect that “
Les
précurseurs de l’anarchisme

was written purely for the French Anarchist movement, it doesn’t
bother to explain what Anarchism is directly and relies on inference
from the people and works it cites, so I’ve added a definition that
Armand used in another work. It also assumed that the reader would be
as familiar with philosophy as Armand was and so he’s a bit light
on biographical context in some areas, so I’ve used footnotes to
fill in some of the gaps, though I recommend in the event of
confusion turning to the web can be instructive, most of the named
persons and works have something in English that can be found, though
worryingly I could find very little on some of them. In addition to
footnotes the text in [] are comments by me to further help fill in
the gaps.

 

English
translations of Emile Armand’s other texts can be found online at
the Anarchist Library
(
https://theanarchistlibrary.org/category/author/emile-armand)
and the Libertarian Labyrinth
(
https://www.libertarian-labyrinth.org/e-armand/e-armand-1872-1962/)

Reddebrek

    1. The
      Forerunners of Anarchism

by
Emile Armand

To
be an anarchist is to deny authority and reject its economic
corollary: exploitation — and that in all the domains where human
activity is exerted. The anarchist wishes to live without gods or
masters; without patrons or directors; a-legal, without laws as
without prejudices; amoral, without obligations as without collective
morals. He wants to live freely, to live his own idea of life.“

 

[This
definition of Anarchism is taken from Emile Armand’s Mini-manual of
Individualist Anarchism, written in 1911]

Antiquity

 

We
do not know exactly - and what documents could tell us? - when
government or state authority began. Some attribute many reasons to
the establishment of authority. As the people formed more and more
numerous groups, did it prove necessary to entrust the administration
of matters and the solution of the disputes to the most intelligent
or the most feared: wizards and priests? Since primitive groups have
generally been hostile to each other, has there been a need to
centralize environmental defence in the hands of several or one
chosen from among the bravest or bravest warriors? Either way, it
seems that authority existed before individual ownership. Authority
obviously ruled while the lands, objects and in some cases even the
children and women were property of the social organisation. The
regime of individual property - the possibility for a member of the
collective: 1: to seize more land than is necessary to support his
family: 2: to exploit the surplus by means of another - only refined,
complicated and made more tyrannical the authority whether theocratic
or essentially military.

 

Did
the primitives’ rebel against even this rudimentary authority that
existed amongst primitive groups? Were there objectors, disobedient
in those times when the climatic phenomena were attributed to
superior powers, here good, now unfavourable, when they related the
creation of man to a supernatural entity? These myths show that
humanity was not always pleased to be playthings in the hand of the
deity and a slave of their representatives, for example the myths of
Satan and Prometheus, rebel Angels and Titans. Even later, when the
administration and ecclesiastical authority was firmly founded,
demonstrations broke out, which while maintaining a peaceful
character, nevertheless testified to rebellion. One can classify
under this type the satirical scenes and comedies, Roman Saturnalia
and Christian carnivals etc. Many fables circulated amongst the
people who listened joyously, sometimes from childhood, which all
shared the same theme, the victory of the weak over their subjugators
and the poor triumphing over the tyranny of the rich.

Greek
Antiquity, with Gorgias
1
denying all dogmas; with Aristippus founder of the school of
Hedonism, for which there is no other good than pleasure, the present
actual pleasure, whatever its origin; with the Cynics (Diogenes and
Crates of Thebes) with the Stoics (Zeno, Chyrsippus and their
servants). Greek antiquity birthed people who criticised and then
rejected the received values.

 

Since
the denial of the values of Hellenic culture the Cynics have reached
the denial of its institutions: marriage, homeland, family, property,
state. Behind the barrel and lantern of Diogenes lay something other
than mockery and witticism. Diogenes pierced with his sharp sarcasms
the most powerful and feared among those who had torn from each other
the remnants of the dying Athens. Undoubtedly Plato, scandalised by
his ultra-popular sermons called him "delirious Socrates";
by looking at manual labour as equal to intellectual labour,
declaring themselves citizens of the world, looking upon Generals as
"Donkey drivers" making ridiculous superstitions, including
the Demon of Socrates, reducing the object of life to the exercise
and development of the moral person, the Cynics could claim as its
master, doctors of the soul, heroes of freedom and truth. From the
social viewpoint the Cynics were communalists, and this principle of
theirs applied not just to objects but to people, a concept dear to
many different philosophies.

 

The
cynics, and especially Diogenes in particular, were rebuked for being
proud of their isolation, posing as role models, and exaggerating in
their way of life, which was a sort of denial of any organized
society. Diogenes had replied before: "I am the same as the
choirmasters who force the tone to be picked up by the students."

 

The
first teaching of Zeno, that of the "Stoic" greatly
resembled the teaching of the Cynics. Zenon in his "Treatise on
the Republic" pushed against the customs, the laws, science and
arts, and at the same time promoted the community of farmers like
Plato had done. The foundation of the Stoic system is that the good
of man is freedom, and that freedom is conquered only by freedom. A
Sage is synonymous with a free man: he owes his good to himself and
depends only on himself. Shielded by the blows of fate, in
everything insensitive, self-controlled, needing only himself, he
finds in himself boundless serenity, freedom, happiness. He is no
longer a man. He is a god and more than a god, because the happiness
of the sage is the privilege of his nature, while the Sage is happy,
he is the conqueror of his freedom! Zeno logically denied the
omnipotence and trusteeship of the state: man is a law unto himself
and individual harmony is born from the harmony of a collective.
Hedonism, Cynicism, Stoicism set up the "natural right" for
the individual to dispose, against the "artificial right"
which turns him into a tool of the state. Zeno used this theory to
hit back just as the Cynics had already done the excessive
nationalism of the Greeks, and to promote a social instinct, a
natural instinct that would allow man to reach out to associate with
other peoples. We could consider the Cynics and the Stoics the first
internationalists.

Middle
Ages

These
ideas about "natural right", "natural law",
"natural religion" has been adopted by many philosophers.
Certainly, the triumph of Christianity was not as complete as was
claimed by the incense burners. Many heretics appeared, some of them,
out of caution, cloaked themselves with religious masks and disguised
their ideas under a religious shell.

 

Take
for example the Gnostic Carpocrates of Alexandria, founder of the
sect of the Carpocratians, whose son Epiphanes codified the whole
doctrine in his work
On
Righteousness.
According
to him, divine justice exists in the community through equality. As
the sun is set by no one, so be it with all things, all pleasures. If
God has given us a desire, it is so we can satisfy it, not restrict
it; likewise, the other living beings on the earth do not curb their
appetites.

The
Carpocratians were among the first to recognise everyone's right to
all things, to the extreme consequence, and tried to practice it.
They were seemingly exterminated. Although surviving writing
indicates that Carpocratian tendencies still existed in Cyrene North
Africa until the 6th Century.

 

Exterminated
or not, the Carpocratians had followers. We do not know if the
initiates of the similar sects accepted their concepts or adopted
similar ideas: discarding all authority, whether or not they were
"organised" in the contemporary style. But it is certain
that the ruling political regime regarded them as irreconcilable
enemies. There was a network of connected secret societies in
existence on an international scale, whose travelling members were
accepted as brothers by the other associations. They were taught in
secret, and the many legal penalties against those who were
discovered and victimized by their propaganda amply demonstrate this.
Very sadly, their true opinions are unknown to us. We only talk about
their crimes (?) Or their deviations (?).

At
the Synod of Orleans (1022) 11 Carpocratians (Albigensians
2)
were burned to death, accused of practising free love. In 1030, in
Montfort near Turin, heretics are accused of declaring themselves
against religious ceremonies and rites, against marriage, the killing
of animals and were supporters of a commune to work the land. In 1052
in Goslar, a small number of heretics were burned, because they had
declared their opposition to the killing of all living things, I.e.,
against war, murder and the slaughtering of animals. In 1213
Waldensians
3
were burned in Strasbourg because they promoted free love and
communal living on the land. They were not "scholars" but
simple craftsmen, weavers, shoemakers, carpenters, masons, etc....

Relying
on a passage from St Paul's Epistle to the Galatians "If ye be
led by the Spirit, ye ar no longer under the law," many sects
placed man above the law. Men and women took a viewpoint similar
enough to the Carpocratians, and finalised, in practice, a type of
libertarian communism, which they experienced as much as they could,
in more or less occult colonies under the threat of ruthless
oppression. Amalric of Bena, near Chartes taught his ideas in
Sorbonne in the 13th century. He had disciples more energetic than
himself, amongst them was Ortlieb of Strasbourg who made his doctrine
of Pantheistic-anarchism known within the German states, where they
found enthusiastic and convinced supporters who organised under the
name "Bruder und Schwestern des Freien Geistes" (Brothers
and sisters of the Free Spirit). Which Max Beer in his "History
of Socialism" considers them to be a form of
Anarchist-individualists, who kept themselves outside of society, its
laws, morals and customs, and organised a separate society that was
ruthlessly opposed by the authorities.

 

I
imagine! For Amalric of Bene and his followers, God was found in
Jesus as well as in the pagan thinkers and poets he spoke through the
mouth of Ovid, as well as through that of St. Augustine. Such people
were not worth living!

 

In
the heresies it is necessary to distinguish between the Pantheistic
Anarchism of Amalric, whose followers considered themselves elements
of the holy spirit, discarding all asceticism, all moral truths,
situated so to speak beyond good and evil, and the heirs of the
Manichean agnosticism of the Albigensians, ascetics who aspired to
victory over matter. But it is not always easy to see the exact line
between them. The Catholic historian Döllinger who has studied the
history of all of these sects, did not hesitate to declare that if
they had been victorious (mainly concerning the Waldensians and
Albigensians) the result would be a general reversal and complete
return of pagan barbarity and indiscipline.

 

To
the first pantheistic-anarchist group we link the Antwerp heresy of
"Tanchelm", that of the "Kloeffers" of Flanders,
of the Picards or Adams (radiating to Bohemia), of the "
Loïsten"
also from Antwerp; Everywhere there are people or associations who
want to react against the predominant system, represented especially
by Catholicism, whose dignitaries behaved scandalously, keeping
prostitution at bay, ruled brothels and gambling houses, were armed
and fought like professional soldiers.

 

I
agree completely with Max Nettlau that at the close of the Middle
Ages, Southern France, the provinces of the Albigenses, part of
Germany reaching out to Bohemia, lands washed by the lower Rhine as
far as Holland and Flanders, certain portions of England and Italy,
and finally Catalunya were overrun with sects that attacked the
institutions of Marriage, Family and Property.

 

This
anti-authoritarian movement did not just spread in Europe. In the
History of Armenia by Tschamschiang (Venice 1795), we read about a
Persian heretic by the name of Mdusik, who rejected "all law and
all authority"... In the Literary Supplement of the Temps
Neuveux (Paris Vol II, pg 556-7) contains an article titled "One
Forerunner of Anarchism", in which the Turkish writer Dr
Abdullah Djevdet introduces a Syrian poet from the 15th century
Ebr-Ala-el-Muarri.

The
Renaissance

 

We
are approaching the Renaissance; it cannot be denied that the
Catholics with the aid of the secular state annihilated and reduced
to impotence the pantheistic-anarchist heretics. The Protestants did
not show mercy to the Anabaptists, a kind of authoritarian communists
founded on an interpretation of the Old Testament. The dictatorship
of John of Leiden in Münster disappeared lightning fast. The old
world had to bow its head under the omnipotence of a state that was
stronger and more centralised than in the Middle Ages. The discovery
of America, however, ignited the spirit of the thinkers and
originals, whose state of mind was not crushed under the laminate of
the political organization.

 

 

They
talked of a happy island, about El Dorado's, Arcadias. In his
"Cosmography" (1544) Sebastian Munster described the
inhabitants of the "New Islands", "Where one lives
free from all authority, where one knows neither justice nor
injustice, where no one punishes misdemeanours, where parents do not
rule over their children, no kind of law, freedom in sexual
relations. No trace of any God, nor of any baptism, nor of any
worship". To these aspirations for liberty, it is possible to
add the Free Masons and the different orders of Illumination. One of
the most brilliant genius of the Renaissance, François Rabelais with
his Abbey of Theleme (Gargantua I. 52/57)
4
can be equally regarded as amongst the forerunners of Anarchism.
Élisée Reclus proclaimed him "our great ancestor".
Certainly, in that bookish environment it’s true that he tended to
neglect the economic side, and that he owed more to his century than
he imagined. Certainly, he painted his refined estate with the same
spirit as Thomas More, in his "Utopia," his idealized
England, and as Companella, in his "City of the Sun," his
Italian and theocratic republic, or as the author. of "Kingdom
of Antangil" (the first French utopia, 1516) his Protestant
constitutional monarchy. That doesn't stop Rabelais, in Theleme
Abbey, from painting an unauthorized life. It is recalled that
Gargantua did not want to build "walls around it". "Even,
and not without reason, approved by the monk, where a wall is in
front and behind, there is a lot of murmur, envy and dumb
conspiracy"… The two sexes did not stand still and speechless…
they were dressed in a similar ornament…”

 

All
their lives were occupied with laws, statutes, regulations. But
according to their good will or free will; they rose when they
pleased, drank, ate, worked, slept when they felt like it. No one
woke them up, no one forcibly forced them to drink, eat, or do
anything. Thus settled the Gargantua affair. And their rule was just
that clause: "do what thou wilt," for free men, well-born,
well-educated, conversing with shameful companions, naturally have an
instinct and a sting which pushes them to virtuous deeds, and draws
them away from the wickedness they called honour. There are those
who, due to trivial domination and coercion, allow themselves to be
diverted from their noble inclinations to tend virtues, meanwhile we
have discarded that servile yoke; for always undertake forbidden
things, and covet that which is denied us. With that freedom, they
immersed themselves in competition to do whatever pleased them. If
someone said "Let's drink" everyone drank, if someone said
"let's play" everyone played. If they said "let’s go
to the field" everyone went there.

 

Rabelais
was more Utopian. Another predecessor of Anarchy -and a famous one-
is undoubtedly La Boétie (Étienne or Estienne de La Boétie) in his
"Against One" or "Discourses on Voluntary Servitude"
(1577) whose main idea is the refusal to serve tyrants, whose power
springs from the voluntary servitude of the people. "Everyone
knows that the fire from a small spark will increase and blaze ever
higher as long as it finds wood to burn; yet without being quenched
by water, but merely by finding no more fuel to feed on, it consumes
itself, dies down, and is no longer a flame. The same goes for the
tyrants: the more they are given and served, the more they gain new
forces to annihilate and destroy everything. On the contrary, if
nothing is given to them, if they are not obeyed, without blow,
without battle, they remain naked and defeated, and are annihilated;
like a root that without juice, without food, dries up and dies.”
"Firmly decide that you will no longer serve, and you are
already free".

 

La
Boétie did not propose a well-defined social organisation. Yet he
speaks about nature which has seemingly made all men in the same form
and mould ... "If in distributing her gifts nature has favoured
some more than others with respect to body or spirit, she has
nevertheless not planned to place us within this world as if it were
a field of battle, and has not endowed the stronger or the cleverer
in order that they may act like armed brigands in a forest and attack
the weaker. One should rather conclude that in distributing larger
shares to some and smaller shares to others, nature has intended to
give occasion for brotherly love to become manifest, some of us
having the strength to give help to others who are in need of it.
Hence, since this kind mother has given us the whole world as a
dwelling place, has lodged us in the same house, has fashioned us
according to the same model so that in beholding one another we might
almost recognize ourselves; since she has bestowed upon us all the
great gift of voice and speech for fraternal relationship, thus
achieving by the common and mutual statement of our thoughts a
communion of our wills; and since she has tried in every way to
narrow and tighten the bond of our union and kinship; since she has
revealed in every possible manner her intention, not so much to
associate us as to make us one organic whole, there can be no further
doubt that we are all naturally free, inasmuch as we are all
comrades. Accordingly, it should not enter the mind of anyone that
nature has placed some of us in slavery, since she has actually
created us all in one likeness." From this we can deduce a total
social system.

[Quotations
are from Discourses on Voluntary Servitude]

Modern
Times

Monarchy
became more and more absolute. Louis XIV reduced half of the
"intelligentsia" to a state of servitude and forced the
other half to turn to the Dutch press. In the "Longing of
enslaved France, which aspires to freedom" (1689-1690) and
similar works appeared in Amsterdam, amongst which can be found a few
expressions of Anarchism. They had to wait a little for Diderot
5,
to hear that phrase which sufficiently expresses the whole of
Anarchism. "I neither want to give nor receive laws". In
his conversation between a father and his sons (complete works Vol.5
page 301) he gave precedence to the man of nature over the man of
law, and to human reason over that of the legislator. Everyone
remembers the phrase of Maréchale: "Evil is that which does
more harm than advantages, good is the opposite, it has more
advantages than harm". And the parting words of the old man in
the "Supplement to the Voyage of Bougainville" You two are
children of nature, what rights do you have over him, which he does
not have over you?" Stirner who came later, would not say it
better.

 

In
the "Revue Socialist" of September 1888, Benoit Malon [the
founder and editor] dedicated 10 pages to Don Deschamps a Benedictine
monk from the 18th century, a predecessor to Hegelianism,
transformism and Anarchist Communism.

 

And
finally, Sylvain Marechal, poet, author, librarian (1750-1803) who
was the first to joyously proclaim anarchist ideas, although tainted
with Arcadianism. Sylvain Marechal was a political author, who
tackled all kinds of subjects. "Shepherds Poems" in
(
Bergeries)1770,
and "Anacreontic Songs" (
Chansons
anacréontiques
)
in 1770, and in 1779 he successfully released pieces on "Moral
Poem about God" (
Fragments
d'un poème moral sur Dieu
)
"The Modern Pibrac" (
Le
Pibrac Moderne
)
in 1781, and in 1782 "The Golden Time" (
L'Âge
d'Or
 )
and "Shepard's Fables"; in 1784 "Book esacped from the
deluge" (
Livre
échappé du déluge
)
or "Newly Discovered Psalms". In 1788 as a sublibrarian at
the Mazarin Library, he published "Almanac of Honest Men"
(
Almanach
des Honnêtes Gens
)
in which he replaced the names of Saints with those of famous men and
women. He places Jesus Christ between Epicurus and Ninon de l'Enclos.
For this, the Almanac was condemned to be burned by
the
hand of the executioner and the author sent to St. Lazare
(A
prison in France) where he remained for four months. In 1788 his
"Modern Apologies for the Crown Prince"(
Apologues
modernes, à l'usage d'un dauphin
)
appeared. In them is the story of a King who, following a cataclysm,
returns home each of his subjects, ordering that, from now on, the
head of every family be king in his home. In that work there is the
formula of a "general strike" as a method for establishing
a society in which the earth is the common possession of all its
inhabitants, where "Liberty, Equality, Peace and Innocence"
rule. In "The Triumphant Tyranny" he imagines a people that
surrender their cities to armed bands of soldiers and seek refuge in
the mountains, where divided into families, they will live with no
other master than nature, with no other king beyond the family heads,
forever renouncing their time in the cities with its costly
buildings, each stone of which came from the shedding of tears and
stained with blood. The soldiers sent to bring the men back to
their strongholds are converted to freedom, and remain with those
they had to enslave again, returning their uniforms to the tyrant,
who dies of fury and hunger, devouring himself. This is indisputably
a reminder of "Voluntary Serfdom."

 

In
1790, he published the "Almanac of Honest Women" decorated
with a satirical engraving of the Duchess of Polignac
6.
By exaggerating the "Almanac of the Honest Men" he replaced
every saint with a famous woman. These famous women were separated
into 12 classes or "genres" as he put it (1 class for 1
month): January Lesbians; February, sex workers, etc (...) this very
rare pamphlet is found only in the hell of the National Library.

 

Sylvain
Marechal greeted the revolution of 1789 with reservations. The first
anarchist newspaper in France "The
Humanitarian"
L'Humanitaire(1841)
asserted that he declared that so long as there were masters and
servants, rich and poor, there would never be liberty nor equality.

 

Sylvain
Marechal continued to promote his works, in 1791 he published "Mother
Nature at the Helm of the National Assembly" (
Dame
Nature à la barre de l'Assemblée nationale
)
in year II (Revolutionary calendar) or 1793 he published "The
Last Judgement of the Kings" (
Jugement
dernier des rois
)
in 1794 "The Festival of Reason" (
La
Fete de la Raison
).
He worked on the journals "Revolutions of Paris" "The
Friend of the Revolution" and "Bulletin of the Friends of
Truth". The Herbertist Chaumatte was a victim of the Terror, but
Marechal escaped Robespierre. He would have escaped the persecution
of the Thermidorean reaction and the Directory too, had he not gotten
involved with the "Manifesto of Equals" or so it is
claimed.

 

At
the end of the storm, Marechal again took up the pen. In 1798 his
work "Worship and Laws of a Society without God" (
Culte
et lois d'une société d'hommes sans Dieu
).
In 1799, "The Voyages of Pythagore" (
Les
Voyages de Pythagore
)
in six volumes. In 1800 he wrote his great work "Dictionary of
Ancient and Modern Atheists" (
Dictionnaire
des Athées anciens et modernes
)
whose supplement was written by the astronomer Jerome Lalande.
Finally in 1807 "On Virtue" (
De
le Vertu
)
published posthumously, which may have been printed, but did not
appear, and which Lalande used for his second supplement to the
"Dictionary of Atheists". Moreover, Napoleon forbade the
famous astronomer from writing anything more on Atheism.

*
**

In
England, we consider Gerard Winstanley and the Levellers as the
precursors to Anarchism. John Lilburne, another Leveller denounced
authority "under all its forms and aspects"; his fines and
terms of imprisonment cannot be counted. He was exiled to the
Netherlands, three times the court acquitted him, the last time in
1613 (while he had broken court orders), Cromwell kept him in
captivity for "the good of the country" in 1656 he was
released and became a Quaker, which did not prevent him from dying
soon after in 1657 at the age of 39
7.

Around
1650 Roger Williams makes himself known, as the governor of the early
settlements that would eventually establish the state of Rhode
Island, in the United States. And especially one of his partisans
William Harris, who spoke out against the immorality of all earthly
powers, and the crime of all punishments. Were they mystical
visionaries or isolated Anarchists? The first Quakers were also
firmly anti-State.

The
Dutch Peter Cornelius Hockboy (1658), the English John Bellers (1695)
and Scottish Robert Wallace (1761) promoted voluntary and
co-operative socialism. In his "Prospects" (
Various
Prospects of Mankind, Nature, and Providence
)
Robert Wallace conceived of a humanity consisting of many autonomous
districts. The protest against governmental and authoritarian
excesses appears in all kinds of pamphlets and satires, sharp and
outspoken, which today we no longer have examples. It is enough to
cite the names Thomas Hobbes, John Toland, John Wilkes, Swift, De
Foe.

We
must now talk about the Irishman Edmund Burke and his work
"Vindication of Natural Society" (1756) - a justification
of the natural society- whose fundamental idea is the following:
Whatever the form of government, none is better than any other.
"The
various kinds of governments compete with each other for the
absurdity of their constitutions and the repression they inflict on
their subjects… Even the free governments have experienced more
confusion and blamed more unquestionably tyrannical actions than the
most despotic governments in history."[translation of text]

"The
several Species of Government vie with each other in the Absurdity of
their Constitutions, and the Oppression which they make their
Subjects endure. Take them under what Form you please, they are in
effect but a Despotism, and they fall, both in Effect and Appearance
too, after a very short Period, into that cruel and detestable
Species of Tyranny; which I rather call it, because we have been
educated under another Form, than that this is of worse Consequences
to Mankind." [Actual text from English version of Vindication of
Natural Society]

Edmund
Burke changed his words. In his "Reflections" (
Reflections
on the Revolution in France
)
He placed himself in opposition to the French Revolution. The
American Paine, a deputy at the Convention replied to him with "The
Rights of Man" (1791-2). Because of his opposition to the
execution of Louis XVI he was expelled from the Convention and
imprisoned. He barely managed to escape the Guillotine. He made use
of his time in prison to write "The Age of Reason" (1795).
"At all stages society is good, but even at its best, government
is only a necessary evil; under its worst aspect it is an intolerable
evil… The craft of government has always been monopolized by the
most ignorant and most rogue of the individuals of mankind.” In
1796 in Oxford a pamphlet appeared with the title "The Inherent
Evils of All State Government demonstrated", attributed to A.C.
Cudden a strong Individualist-Anarchist, which Benjamin R Tucker
republished in 1885 in Boston.

Under
the influence of the French Revolution a group in London sprang up
called the "Pantisocracy" founded by the impulsive young
poet Southey, who would later follow the example of Burke and
renounce his young dreams. According to Sylvain Marechal -and partly
confirmed by Lord Byron- this Epicurean group wished to realise the
Abbey of Theleme and share all things between its members including
sexual pleasures. According to Marechal, the greatest artists, the
greatest scientists, the most famous people in England were members
of that group, which was finally broken up by one Bill of Parliament
("Dictionary of Atheists", at the word: Theleme).

In
his "Figures of England" Manuel Devaldes presents the
"Pantisocracy" as "a colony project to be established
in the United States among the Illinoisans, a colony based on
economic equality. Two hours of daily work should suffice for the
settlement and subsistence of the settlers". Apparently, as a
result of Southey's departure and the death of two of the main
promoters, the "Pantisocracy" reportedly died before it was
born.

 

In
Germany Schiller wrote "The Robbers" whose main character
Karl Moor, stands against conventions, against the law, which had
never created a superior man whilst freedom generated Collossi and
precious people. Fichte says that, if humanity is to be morally
perfect it would not need a state; Wilhelm Humboldt in 1792 defended
the thesis of reducing the state to its minimal functions. Alfieri in
Italy wrote "Of Tyranny".

 

On
every side, under one form or another, authority was ceaselessly
attacked. Spinoza, Comenius, Voltaire, Lessing, Herder, Condorcet,
where libertarians in some way, in some form of literary activity.
Fighting against tortures inflicted on heretics, against the severe
punishment of crime, against slavery, -for the liberation of women-
for a better education of children, against the superstition of
religion, and for Materialism. Spee, Thomasius, Beccaria,
Sonnenfelds, John Clarkson, Mary Wollstonecraft, Rousseau,
Restalozzi, La Mettrie, d'Holbach, undermined the support for
authority. One volume would be needed to recall the names of all
those who, in one manner or another, contributed to the shaking off
of faith in the state and church.

 

This
is why we will end on William Godwin, who because of his "
Enquiry
Concerning Political Justice, and its Influence on General Virtue and
Happiness
"
(1793) we regard him as the first to be worthy of the name of
doctrinaire of Anarchism. It is true that Godwin was a
Communist-Anarchist, but his denial of law and state suits the
nuances of all Anarchism.

____________________________________________________________________________________

1
Gorgias (483-375 BCE), an early Sophist, who was called Gorgias the
Nihilist for his views on existence and sceptical arguments.

2
A French religious movement, mainly organised in the south of France
particularly around the city of Albi where the name Albigensian
comes from. Today they're more commonly known as Cathars. In 1209
Pope Innocent III sanctioned a crusade to eradicate the movement, it
lasted 20 years and was so bloody and destructive against the
civilian populations where Cathars practised that it is considered
an act of genocide by some historians.

3
Waldensians early Protestant movement, faced severe persecution from
the 1200s-1800s, still exist in small congregations around the
world.

4
Gargantua and Pantagruel is a series of stories about the giant
Gargantua and his son Pantagruel, written by François Rabelais, the
Abbey of Theleme is also a feature in the stories. The stories are
often comic and fantastical, but some sections became important
humanist documents.

5
Denis Diderot 1713-84, French philosopher, novelist and art critic,
chief editor of the Encyclopaedia project. And is considered an
inspiration to the early thought of the French Revolution.

6
A favourite companion of Marie Antoinette and rumoured to be her
lover, this subject was a popular topic among the more lurid
pamphlets of the late 1700s.

7
This is an accurate translation of the original text, however the
biographical information about John Lilburne is nearly completely
incorrect. John Lilburne was not acquitted for the last time in
1613, partly because he was famously acquitted in 1653, but mainly
because he was born in 1613 at the earliest with some with some
historians believing Lilburne’s date of birth to be in 1614 or
1615

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Posted By

Reddebrek
Sep 26 2021 18:47

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  • Authority obviously ruled while the lands, objects and in some cases even the children and women were property of the social organisation.

    Emile Armand

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Reddebrek
Sep 26 2021 18:51

Hmm, don't know why the formatting is a bit wonky here, it lines up everywhere else its been uploaded. I'll try and fix that, but the attached pdf can be read in the meantime. There also a version for e-readers.