Issue of Mother Earth from January 1912. Articles by "MB" are written by Max Baginski.
Blame the Fester
“Evil’s but the crumpled good of a Divine Intent.”
Seething are the elements of outraged righteousness,
Understanding shrivels ’neath the onslaughts of duress.
When their self-created pustules focus the alarm,
Where’s the Man among the lot who dare discourse on Harm?
Hear the railing of the mob which cries it’s been deceived.
Mercy flits into byways for fear she’ll be believed.
Shrieks and yells of blasting fury,—echoes of a fear,
Scream until all throats are parched for want of one, lone tear.
Cowards! Curse the fester of your making; shift the blame;
Hurl your blasphemy with might on Labor’s blinding pain;
Cry aloud, “We’ve been deceived,” and mitigate your dread;
Beg of Law to hear your plea, and save your puny head;
Wrap your griefs in bandages of Re-Submission oil;
Cicatrize your gaping wounds by tightening the coil;
Say the boils are not your fault; decline to claim the blood;
Plaster all the crevices with indignation’s flood;
Say you’re not responsible for cankers of the time;
Steep your palzied judgment in a counterfeit Divine;
Do these things; then harken to reverberation’s moan;
Mark the fear that, cringingly, denied the human groan;
Peer beneath the pigment of a vitiated crust;
Delve into the depth of Truth, the foe of Gangrene, Rust;
There, in silent reason, let the Light guide your belief,
And Justice will make known to you your thought has been a Thief!
By Rebekah E Raney
The New Year
The business Christians have just celebrated Christmas. To increase their profits and heighten the glory of God, they have exploited the Savior to good purpose. Splendid success of redemption! Christ gave his blood to enable the churches and department stores to do better business. If, on the right hand of the Heavenly Father, he does not swear and curse over this success to shock the very angels, his heart is a lamb’s indeed.
Fortunately, we are atheists, not Christians, and in no wise responsible for the bitter disappointment of the Savior.
However, the hopes of Mother Earth for the new year depend neither on religious nor political calculations. They rest on the awakened consciousness of the people, upon whom depends the great and glorious future,—a new social structure built on freedom and well-being for all.
For five years Mother Earth has continued on its path to arouse the sleepy, strengthen the weak, and to enthuse the courageous, that they may form the advance guard for the coming great struggle. Its task was by no means easy; the hardships were much greater than the success. We had hoped for the assistance of all comrades, since it is well-nigh impossible to maintain a fearless and non-compromising publication in an atmosphere of mental cupidity and speculation. But they have not rallied to the support of Mother Earth,—at least not to the extent one might have expected. Possibly our magazine does not meet with their entire approval; or, still more likely, the comrades fail to understand the difficult position of a paper like Mother Earth, with neither a party machine nor an advertising department to back it. At any rate, the main sustenance of the magazine has come from my lectures. But for that, Mother Earth would have long ago ceased to be. Needless to say, Anarchism would not die should the magazine discontinue. Yet Anarchism never needed an exponent so much as it does now. The Anarchist propaganda has passed the stage of ridicule and willful misunderstanding. People are beginning to realize its deep significance and wide import. Mother Earth, as the only Anarchist magazine in America, should utilize to the utmost the social change of attitude, in order to disseminate wider knowledge and information of Anarchist principles. That is its purpose; therein consists its mission.
With this in view, we again appeal to all comrades and friends to rally round the little fighter that has so bravely withstood the stress and storm of five years. We ask, first of all, that our friends renew their subscriptions. Surely that is the least they can do. A copy of The Soul of Man Under Socialism will be given with every renewal. Those who are willing to do more should aid us in getting new subscribers. Any friend securing for the magazine three new subscriptions will be presented with a free copy of Anarchism and Other Essays or Conquest of Bread. Comrades desirous to spread our ideas on a larger scale should send for our 5c. propaganda pamphlets, to be had at $3.00 per 100.
Comrades and friends, let us join hands for the new year in the great work before us. The time has never been more ripe. The present is fast nearing its doom. Out of the chaos the future emerges in harmony and beauty.
P. S.—At the end of this month we begin our yearly tramp through the enemy’s camp. We expect to open up with a new series of lectures in Pittsburgh, Pa. Comrades and groups wishing dates will please communicate with me at once. Address: 55 W. 28th street, New York.
Anarchy— Absence of government; disbelief in, and disregard of, invasion and authority based on coercion and force; a condition of society regulated by voluntary agreement instead of government.
Observations and Comments
Our inveterate optimism is responsible for the delay in the publication of Comrade Alexander Berkman’s book. We could not readily part with the hope that in this wide land there will be found one publisher bold enough to give to an intelligent minority a human document,—one which is undoubtedly the most signifcant and unique of its kind.
Alas, the search of Diogenes was vain among the great publishing houses. Fortunately, and thanks to some of you, we are enabled to constitute ourselves the publishers of our comrade’s life-work. But we ask our friends to forbear with us a little longer. The MS. is about to go to the printer, and the book will be mailed to the subscribers as soon as bound copies are available.
The advance price of $1.25 holds good only till February 1. Friends wishing to take advantage of the opportunity will kindly send in their orders at once.
Mother Earth Publishing Association.
Legal justice is a Janus head with two faces, the one smiling fawningly upon the rich and influential, the other turned with a cruel sneer toward the poor and friendless. This is the true character of justice, and the verdict rendered in the case of Harris & Blank, of the Triangle Shirtwaist Company. The two men were charged with having caused the death of 147 persons, among them 131 young girls and women, who helpelessly perished in the fire-trap of the Triangle factory. It was demonstrated during the trial that all safety requirements were entirely ignored by the bosses. The owners of the factory were concerned solely with the question of profits. They had no time to consider the safety of their employees. And the city authorities and factory inspectors drew their comfortable salaries and let the fire-traps remain undisturbed.
Had the laws and regulations of the safety department been taken seriously, the factory inspectors and heads of the city government would have been placed in the prisoners’ dock together with Harris and Blank, all equally responsible for the terrible holocaust that cost 147 human lives. But regulations for the safety of workers are not meant seriously. Worse yet, they are a positive menace for the trustful toilers, who believe that their lives are protected, while in reality industrial murder knows no limits, the alleged protection a miserable sham on paper.
The acquittal of Harris and Blank signifies the legalization, the justification of industrial murder as an established economic fact. Notwithstanding the locked factory exits and the strong suspicion that they had bribed the witnesses, the bosses were freed from all responsibility for the wholesale slaughter, because the judge and jury evidently believed in their own hearts that such happenings, such bloody catastrophes are inevitable, and are conditioned in the very system. Thus they thought. Yet they dared not utter the thought, for it would have disclosed the criminal character of the system,—aye, more, it would have torn the mask off the miserable comedy of their “justice.”
It has further developed during the trial that in the industrial field the workers are commonly considered as thieves, and treated accordingly. Like convicts, they are searched and locked in, that they may not steal a little piece of cloth or a spool of cotton. The only difference between these workers and the convict is that the latter is imprisoned for a crime already committed, while the “free” worker is kept under lock and key on suspicion that he might commit a crime. Suspicion alone suffices.
If the toilers are not content to continue to risk life and limb every day and every hour of their existence, they must themselves seek security in thorough organization and in solidaric activity. They will have to discard their naive faith in and reliance upon city or State providence, and seek to protect their lives by direct action on the spot, in shop and factory, introducing regulations and measures necessary to protect themselves against the consequences of capitalist greed.
The municipal government of New York prefers to swamp the city with filth and disease rather than concede the timid and just demands of the striking street-cleaners.
The attitude of the Mayor, his spirit mutilated by the letter of the law, indicates that this well-paid official considers it his chief business to set the iron heel upon the neck of the street workers. These hard-toiling men, incomparably more useful and indispensable to the community than the Mayor with all the stupid and corrupt officialdom at City Hall, have been treated like veritable slaves and convicts. The authorities strove the utmost to insult and humiliate the street employees and rejoiced in making them feel that they were considered no better than the filth in the streets. They had no right to cooperate for mutual benefit, no right to demand better conditions of existence.
In view of such official impudence one wondered at the apathy of the “organized labor” of New York, that supinely witnessed the violation of all the rights of labor. In truth, the “leaders” now and then still show faint signs of life, but their intelligence and courage have long since taken wing.
New York almost witnessed a strike of the gas men. Already we saw visions of its grand effects. How timely and fitting it would have been, for instance, if the lights had suddenly gone out in the midst of the fake peace banquet held by the contractors for war supplies, bomb manufacturers, diplomats, and other pillars of universal peace. Many other interesting developments would have been the result of a gas strike,—but we leave them to the imagination of the reader.
Yet it happened otherwise. The churches had made great preparations for brisk Christmas business, and thus it came to pass that a number of reverends decided to confer with the “leaders” of the dissatisfied workers to “postpone” the strike. A gentleman’s agreement, and—the business agents of the heavenly Father and other cadets succeeded in nipping the strike in the bud. The philanthropy of the Civic Federation gave the workers the final death blow.
The most prominent among the leaders of the gas-workers was a representative of the A. F. of L., a certain Wyatt. He is probably the same law-abiding citizen who recently expressed his cheerful willingness to play the hangman of the McNamaras. In recognition of his valuable services the reverends who helped to “settle” the strike should not fail to present the gentleman with a Bible (cheap edition) or at least a nice little catechism.
Since the American historians have proclaimed to the world the glad news that during the Cuban war Roosevelt had bravely shot a blind Spanish jackass from behind, our great national hero has come to look upon himself as an expert in all matters of violence and murder. Recently he felt called upon to voice the sentiment that Emma Goldman and her friends are imbued with the sole purpose of inciting to murder.
The utterance does full justice to a man who, as a second-rate politician, attracts much attention only becuase his political antagonists are third-raters. No one will expect Roosevelt to waste his time to inform himself of such insignificant matters as the philosophy of a world-liberating idea.
Four more labor men were arrested in California, charged with alleged complicity in an alleged dynamite conspiracy. What bitter irony upon those well-meaning, but superficious meddlers who had assured the country that the confession of the McNamaras would bring industrial peace and “harmonize” capital and labor.
Since the McNamara plea of guilty, the prosecutors and spies feel themselves masters of the situation. And that especially because the gentlemen of the national labor bodies have been behaving like little schoolboys, fearful of receiving a bad mark at school. Cravenly they ignore the insolent challenges that the enemies of labor continually cast into their face, though indeed they do not lack the means to repel the attacks with vigor and strength. “Murder is murder,” they are taunted. Aye,—the acts of the McNamaras are the merest child-play in comparison with the systematic murder of capitalism and government.
According to the reports of the boy scout movement, its membership has now grown to 300,000. A rich harvest of young blood. The patriots for profit may well calculate with a smile of satisfaction: If the army is declining as a drawing-card, or even if the soldiers should refuse to shoot and kill to order, we have these 300,000 boys that can be let loose upon the discontented “mob.” If it should happen now and then that some youth kill his father or brother, it will in no way detract from the glory of the country. Does not patriotism cover, indeed glorify, a multitude of crimes which under other conditions are regarded dishonorable and are punished with prison and the gallows?
It required seven month’s steady work by fifty seamstresses to prepare the train of the dress worn by the royal goose of England at the Durbar, where she was crowned Empress of India.
A dear goose, indeed! Proudly she trailed her robes across the soil of India, dripping with the blood of unnumbered Hindoo subjects slowly starved to death.
The lawyers, sky-pilots, and politicians of the Socialist Party are still after the scalp of William D. Haywood. Serves him right. What business has he, true revolutionary Socialist that he is, among men who use Socialism as a trap to catch votes, political offices, and sinecures.
Impelled by the pious love for the tramp and beggar of Nazareth, the good Mayor of New York issued orders, a few days before Christmas, to arrest every beggar the police could lay their hands on.
It is this same Mayor who never tires of proclaiming that the Bible is the greatest book of all times. He is a good Christian who evidently wished to gladden the hearts of his less fortunate brothers in Christ with a happy Christmas gift. He glorified his divine Redeemer by sending the friendless and the homeless to the workhouse and prison.
The investigation of the Capitol at Albany has brought to light the information that there is intimate connection between politics and prostitution. Apparently prostitution, however, had the worst of the partnership. The politicians and bureaucrats exploited it to the limit, and then blackmailed it to boot.
Moral indignation came to the rescue. A campaign of extermination began against the dives and gambling houses, and presently it wasannounced that Albany had been cleaned out and restored to its pristine purity. But the Capitol was not disturbed. This the hotbed of political prostitution and graft remains intact. The roots of the evil are untouched; soon it will bud its poisonous foliage and bear destructive fruit.
The campaign of “pacification” continues in Mexico. We quote from a recent communication:
A Mexican by the name of Tirso Toba, prominent in the late Liberal party insurrection of Lower California, was kidnapped about twenty miles north of the international boundary by the subprefect of Mexicali, aided by U.S. immigration officials. The prisoner was taken to Mexicali and cast into cuartel incommunicado. Later Calexico officers and Mexican secret service men searched the home of Jesus and Norberto Amador and looted the house, stealing valuable papers and a sum of money.
But all governmental brutality and repression is powerless to stifle the yearning for liberty of the Mexican people.
The contribution of autocratic Russia to civilization has consisted mostly of pogroms, extermination of revolutionists, and, lately, the murderous invasion of Persia.
But there is another Russia, the Russia of Gogol, Nekrassov, Turgeniev, Dostoyevski. Tolstoy,—the Russia of the heroic men and women, the Russia of the steppes and of the muzhiks, dreaming of brotherhoood and freedom.
It is this Russia which sends to us her greetings through the dramatic genius, Paul Orleneff, who, with a small company of players, is giving performances at the Garibaldi Theatre, 35 Fourth Street. Though, indeed, “performances” is but an inadequate expression for the rare artistic experience which awaits the audience.
Orleneff opened his repertory with Ibsen’s Brand. Notwithstanding the disagreeable external conditions surrounding his exceptional artistic efforts, one grows oblivious of the environment the moment this great artist steps upon the scene.
Brand represents the deepest and most mysterious phases of Henrik Ibsen’s nature. It has been said that only in the reading can its subtleness and beauty be fully grasped. But no one who has seen Orleneff in the character of Brand will doubt that his interpretation most strikingly visualizes the Brand of the dramatic poem. No longer does Brand appear a dim impossible figure, a mere visionary. He is real, he lives, and every word he utters must find an echo in all who, with Ibsen, have realized the sham that lisps love and thrives on hate and destruction.
Great as Ibsen’s art is, it grows greater through the genius of Paul Orleneff. The blending of the two is an aeshtetic treat no one who cares the least about art should miss.
We take pleasure in giving the repetory for the coming week for the information of our readers:
Wednesday, January 10, and Tuesday, January 16: Ibsen’s Ghosts,, with Orleneff as Oswald. Thursday, January 11, and Saturday, January 13: Crime and Punishment, by Feodor Dostoyevski, with Orleneff in his masterful interpretation of Raskolnikov. Friday, January 12: Petty Persecution (also known as The Trials of Misfortune). Sunday, Janaury 14, the Second Part of Brand.
The Death of Paul I., the powerful drama by Mereshkovsky (prohibited in Russia); Lorenzacio, by Du Musset, and Hamlet are to be given in the near future.
Tickets and a complete synopsis (in English) of every Russian play to be had at the box office, 11 A. M. to 9 P. M.
Later on we intend to bring a more detailed appreciation of Orleneff, his artistic aims and ideals, and of the able company supporting him.
Free Communism— Voluntary economic co-operation of all towards the needs of each. A social arrangement based on the principle: To each according to his needs; from each according to his ability.
A Review of the Year
The revolution in China, so fraught with significance, overshadows all other events of the year. This is an era of revolutions, a time of ferment, but with the tottering of thrones and the crushing of idols, the revolution in China was the most unexpected of all. If any of our “far-sighted” statesmen had been asked three months ago regarding the possibility of a republic in China, a dissertation on the processes of evolution with a disquisition on the superiority of the Occidental over the Oriental, would have been handed out in a manner most patronizing. Even the “advanced” politicians, the Socialists, would have scoffed at the idea and would have advanced economic determinism to prove its utter impossibility. China is not an industrial nation; therefore, it is unreasonable to expect anything from her. To do so is to challenge the theory of Marx. Jumping from Feudalism to Republicanism seems rather startling to those of us suffering from the weight of a dead past and should bring home to us: first, that perhaps the Oriental is after all not inferior to the Occidental in intelligence and, second, that mankind does not always advance along beaten paths or by prescribed methods. We fear, however, this lesson will not be accepted by a great many. The trouble with the Occidental seems to be most of them are frightened out of their wits when they think there is an immediate possibility of their theories being realized. When an important event happens, a revolt in Italy in 1898, in Spain in 1909, a general strike in England, or even a McNamara case in America, men tumble over each other in their anxiety to declare that such methods are unsuited to their time and place, or that the time is not ripe for revolution. The real reason is, they fear the thing they advocate. In many cases it is a genuine fear of the conservative mind, in others it is the philistine spirit that has crept into the revolutionary movement and seeks to make capital out of it. The Chinese are going through the first now; the second will come later when the revolution is a success. After suffering from Manchu rule for two hundred and sixty-four years and admitting they number four hundred million to five million Manchus, there are Chinamen who are afraid the time is not ripe for a Republic!
The war between Italy and Turkey brings home once more the fact that the era of peace has not set in. It reminds us again that of all the hypocrisies of the present time none is quite so gross and vulgar as the cant about national honor. As we wrote at the time of the seizure of Bosnia and Herzegovina by Austria, we hold no brief for Turkey. If, however, such things as national honor or international law actually did prevail, despoilment of one nation by another would be impossible. International brigandage is a strong word and an overworked one; none other seems to fit the acts of Italy in Tripoli at the present time. Poor Garibaldi, is this what you and your gallant one thousand suffered and struggled for? To see that same people debauched and degraded as they are, is pitiable. The war is being fought on African soil; so the pinch must come to the inhabitants there instead of in Italy. We sincerely hope the Italians will soon suffer the reverses they so justly deserve, and the uprising that took place after the Abyssinia war will break out and cause a cessation of hostilities and the people wreak their vengeance upon those really responsible for their poverty.
Spain is still fermenting and the Ferrer agitation will not down. The unity of interests of exploiters has again been shown by the articles in L’Humanité on the conspiracy between the King of Spain and ex-King of Portugal to bombard Lisbon. How hollow all this talk of kings and rulers loving their native land appears to the student of politics! Bombard Lisbon, smash the capital city of my country to keep me and my Gaby on the throne! Verily the last resort of a king and a scoundrel is patriotism. Fortunately, it did not take place, and the Republic still stands and with it the hope that Alphonse will soon keep Manuel company at the court of St. James.
Syndicalism and sabotage, the two terrors of the French exploiters, have grown so fast the government has made an investigation. The Senate report has been commented on in our papers and, of course, with the hope that the Syndicates will be exterminated. Fortunately the government isn’t strong enough to crush them and it does not seem to be as successful in bribing their backers as in some other countries. When sabotage is resorted to by the Standard Oil Co., as Henry D. Lloyd pointed out some years ago, it is a different matter.
The year was ushered in by the tragedy at Tokyo, where the gallant Kotoku and his comrades were done to death by the powers that be. It is another illustration of the growth of radical ideas in the Far East. The spirit of liberty still lives in Japan and will continue in spite of his divinity, the Emperor. Lafcadio Hearn, the brillient Oriental scholar, wrote ten years ago to Prof. Chamberlain that none of the educated classes in Japan believed in the divinity of the Emperor. The latest news from that country is that the Elder Statesmen have just informed the Mikado that the majority of the Chinese people favor a republic. It must have given his divinity quite a jolt to realize that his time may also be quite near. An exiled Mikado to some European court would be quite a novelty.
The great strike in England has been so much written about, there is little for us to say. That it has had far-reaching results can be seen by the strikes it has caused and inspired. At this very moment there is a strike of cotton operatives threatened that will engage between one hundred and sixty thousand to three hundred thousand people. The whole trouble, if the press is to be believed, has been caused by the discharge of two men. When an entire district, or even several districts, can be affected by the discharge of two men, solidarity of the workers seems to be growing.
The struggle in Mexico is being dealt with in another part of the magazine, therefore we pass it over with the briefest kind of comment. It was, and according to those best informed, is a great struggle. Overshadowed for the time being by other events, it will not down; and we sincerely hope the near future may show the world that, far from being dead, it is very much alive.
The McNamara case, from the revolutionary standpoint easily the most important event that has happened in America during 1911, has been so much written about and is so recent it need not be discussed at length. The one thing of paramount importance to us is the fact that a class war is now openly admitted on all sides. A few years ago these men would have been unanimously denounced as common murderers. Times have changed since 1886, and while there have been cowardly “labor leaders” to denounce them and pass resolutions in favor of hanging them, there have also been many in all walks of life to defend the brothers against these attacks. In 1887 men were hanged who were innocent of the charges made against them, and a howl of exultation went up all over the country. In 1911 men are sentenced to imprisonment who are, according to their own statement, guilty—and they find many defenders. This shows progress. THe one fact that stands out big and clear is that they were soldiers in a class war and fought the fight as best they knew. The pendulum will soon swing to the other extreme, and then these selfsame “labor leaders” will fall over themselves in their anxiety to laud the men they now decry. It was ever thus, and we hope the McNamaras have sufficient faith in themselves to be strong and true. They have played their part and that part has once and for all stripped the mask from the liars and hypocrites. There is a class war in America, and the whole world knows it. This the McNamaras have accomplished; the air has been cleared, and while the labor movement may have a temporary setback, it will sift the wheat from the chaff and—small though the number may be—we feel sure some conscious revolutionists will be made by this sacrifice.
Verily the world is in a ferment, and the next twelve months may bring changes as great or even greater than the ones now going on in the world. One thing is certain, the year 1911 will be remembered long by historians as one of storm and strife, a necessary preliminary to a better and more just society.
The Mexican Revolution
By Voltairine de Cleyre
“This law of unappropriated lands,” says Wm. Archer, “has covered the country with Naboth’s Vineyards.” I think it would require a Biblical prophet to describe the “abomination of desolation” it has made.
It was to become lords of this desolution that the men who play the game,—landlords who are at the same time governors and magistrates, enterprising capitalists seeking investments—connived at the iniquities of the Diaz régime; I will go further and say devised them.
The Madero family alone owns some 8,000 square miles of territory; more than the entire state of New Jersey. The Terrazas family, in the state of Chihuahua, owns 25,000 square miles; rather more than the entire state of West Virginia, nearly one-half the size of Illinois. What was the plantation owning of our southern states in chattel slavery days compared with this? And the peon’s share for his toil upon these great estates is hardly more than was the chattel slave’s—wretched housing, wretched food, and wretched clothing.
It is to slaves like these that Madero appeals to be “frugal.”
It is of men who have thus been disinherited that our complacent fellow citizens of Anglo-Saxon origin say: “Mexicans! What do you know about Mexicans? their whole idea of life is to lean up against a fence and smoke cigarettes.” And pray what idea of life should a people have whose means of life in their own way have been taken from them? Should they be so mighty anxious to convert their strength into wealth for some other man to loll in?
It reminds me very much of the answer given by a negro employee on the works at Fortress Monroe to a companion of mine who questioned him good-humoredly on his easy idleness when the foreman’s back was turned: “Ah ain’t goin’ to do no white man’s work, fo’ Ah don’ get no white man’s pay.”
But for the Yaquis, there was worse than this. Not only were their lands seized, but they were ordered, a few years since, to be deported to Yucatan. Now Sonora, as I said, is a northern state, and Yucatan one of the southernmost. Yucatan hemp is famous, and so is Yucatan fever, and Yucatan slavery on the hemp plantations. It was to that fever and that slavery that the Yaquis were deported, in droves of hundreds at a time, men, women and children—droves like cattle droves, driven and beaten like cattle. They died there, like flies, as it was meant they should. Sonora became desolated of her rebellious people, and the land became “pacific” in the hands of the new landowners. Too pacific in spots. They had not left people enough to reap the harvests.
Then the government suspended the deportation act, but with the provision that for every crime committed by a Yaqui, five hundred of his people be deported. This statement is made in Madero’s own book.
Now what in all conscience would any one with decent human feeling expect a Yaqui to do? Fight? As long as there was powder and bullet to be begged, borrowed, or stolen; as long as there is a garden to plunder, or a hole in the hills to hide in!
When the revolution burst out, the Yaquis and other Indian people said to the revolutionists: “Promise us our lands back, and we will fight with you.” And they are keeping their word magnificently. All during the summer they have kept up the warfare. Early in September, the Chihuahua papers reported a band of 1,000 Yaquis in Sonora about to attack El Anil; a week later 500 Yaquis had seized the former quarters of the federal troops at Pitahaya. This week it is reported that federal troops are dispatched to Ponoitlan, a town in Jalisco, to quell the Indians who have risen in revolt again because their delusion that the Maderist government was to restore their land has been dispelled. Like reports from Sinaloa. In the terrible state of Yucatan, the Mayas are in active rebellion; the reports say that “The authorities and leading citizens of various towns” have been seized by the malcontents and put in prison. What is more interesting is, that the peons have seized not only “the leading citizens,” but still more to the purpose have seized the plantations parceled them, and are already gathering the crops for themselves.
Of course, it is not the pure Indians alone who form the peon class of Mexico. Rather more than double the number of Indians are mixed breeds; that is, about 8,000,000, leaving less than 3,000,000 of pure white stock. The mestiza, or mixed breed population, have followed the communistic instincts and customs of their Indian forbears; while from the Latin side of their make-up, they have certain tendencies which work well together with their Indian hatred of authority.
The mestiza, as well as the Indians, are mostly ignorant in book knowledge, only about sixteen per cent. of the whole population of Mexico being able to read and write. It was not within the program of the “civilizing” regime to spend money in putting the weapon of learning in the people’s hands. But to conclude that people are necessarily unintelligent because they are illiterate, is in itself a rather unintelligent proceeding.
Moreover, a people habituated to the communal customs of an ancient agricultural life do not need books or papers to tell them that the soil is the source of wealth, and they must “get back to the land”!—even if their intelligence is limited.
Accordingly, they have got back to the land. In the state of Morelos, which is a small, south-central state, but a very important one,—being next to the Federal District, and by consequence to the City of Mexico,—there has been a remarkable land revolution. General Zapata, whose name has figured elusively in newspaper reports now as having made peace with Madero, then as breaking faith, next wounded and killed, and again resurrected and in hiding, then anew on the war path and proclaimed by the provisional government the arch-rebel who must surrender unconditionally and be tried by court martial; who has seized the strategic points on both the railroads running through Morelos, and who just a few days ago broke into the federal district, sacked a town, fought successfully at two or three points with the federals, blew out two railroad briadges and so frightened the deputies in Mexico City that they are all clamoring for all kinds of action; this Zapata, the fires of whose military camps are springing up now in Guerrero, Oaxaca and Pueblo as well, is an Indian with a long score to pay, and all an Indian’s satisfaction in paying it. He appears to be a fighter of the style of our revolutionary Marion and Sumter; the country in which he is operating is mountainous and guerrilla bands are exceedingly difficult of capture; even when they are defeated, they have usually succeeded in inflicting more damage than they have received, and they always get away.
Zapata has divided up the great estates of Morelos from end to end, telling the peasants to take possession. They have done so. They are in possession, and have already harvested their crops. (Morelos has a population of some 212,000.)
In Pueblo reports in September told us that eighty leading citizens had waited on the governor to protest against the taking possession of the land by the peasantry. The troops were deserting, taking horses and arms with them.
It is they, no doubt, who are now fighting with Zapata. In Chihuahua, one of the largest states, prisons have been thrown open and the prisoners recruited as rebels; a great hacienda was attacked and the horses run off, whereupon the peons rose and joined the attacking party.
In Sinaloa, a rich northern state,—famous in the southwestern United States some years ago as the field of a great co-operative experiment in which Mr. C.B. Hoffman, one of the former editors of the Chicago Daily Socialist, was a leading spirit,—this week’s paper reports that the former revolutionary general Juan Banderas is heading an insurrection second in importance only to that lead by Zapata.
In the southern border state of Chiapas, the taxes in many places could not be collected. Last week news items said that the present government had sent General Paz there, with federal troops, to remedy that state of affairs. In Tabasco, the peons refused to harvest the crops for their masters; let us hope they have imitated their brothers in Morelos and gathered them for themselves.
The Maderists have announced that a stiff repressive campaign will be inaugurated at once; if we are to believe the papers, we are to believe Madero guilty of the imbecility of saying, “Five days after my inauguration the rebellion will be crushed.” Just why the crushing has to wait till five days after the inauguration does not appear. I conceive there must have been some snickering among the reactionary deputies, if such an announcement was really made; and some astonished query among his followers.
What are we to conclude from all these reports? That the Mexican people are satisfied? That it’s all good and settled? What should we think if we read that the people, not of Lower but of Upper, California had turned out the ranch owners, had started to gather in the field products for themselves, and that the Secretary of War had sent U.S. troops to attack some thousands of armed men (Zapata has had 3,000 under arms the whole summer and that force is now greatly increased) who were defending that expropriation? If we read that in the state of Illinois that farmers had driven off the tax-collector? that the coast states were talking of secession and forming an independent combination? that in Pennsylvania a division of the federal army was to be dispatched to overpower a rebel force of fifteen hundred armed men doing guerrilla work from the mountains? that the prison doors of Maryland, within hailing distance of Washington City, were being thrown open by armed revolutionaries?
Should we call it a condition of peace? regard it as proof that the people were appeased? We should not: we would say the revolution was in full swing. And the reason you have thought it was all over in Mexico, from last May till now, is that the Chicago press, like the eastern, northern, and central press in general, has said nothing about this steady march of revolt. Even The Socialist has been silent. Now that the flame has shot up more spectacularly for the moment, they call it “a new revolution.”
That the papers pursue this course is partly due to the generally acting causes that produce our northern indifference, which I shall presently try to explain, and partly to the settled policy of capitalized interest in controlling its mouthpieces in such a manner as to give their present henchmen, the Maderists, a chance to pull their chestnuts out of the fire. They invested some $10,000,000 in this bunch, in the hope that they may be able to accomplish the double feat of keeping capitalist possessions intact and at the same time pacifying the people with specious promises. They want to lend them all the countenance they can, till the experiment is well tried; so they deliberately suppress revolutionary news.
Among the later items of interest reported by the Los Angeles Times are those which announce an influx of ex-officials and many-millioned landlords of Mexico, who are hereafter to be residents of Los Angeles. What is the meaning of it? Simply that life in Mexico is not such a safe and comfortable proposition as it was, and that for the present they prefer to get such income as their agents can collect without themselves running the risk of actual residence.
Of course, it is understood that some of this notable efflux (the supporters of Reyes, for example, who have their own little rebellions in Tabasco and San Luis Potosi this week), are political reactionists, scheming to get back the political loaves and fishes into their own hands. But most are simply those who know that their property right is safe enough to be respected by the Maderist government, but that the said government is not strong enough to put down the innumerable manifestations of popular hatred which are likely to terminate fatally to themselves if they remain there.
Nor is all this fighting revolutionary; not by any means. Some is reactionary, some probably the satisfaction of personal grudge, much no doubt the expression of general turbulency of a very unconscious nature. But granting all that may be thrown in the balance, the main thing, the mighty thing, the regenerative revolution is the reappropriation of the land by the peasants. Thousands upon thousands of them are doing it.
Ignorant peasants: peasants who know nothing about the jargon of land reformers or of Socialists. Yes: that’s just the glory of it! Just the fact that it is done by ignorant people; that is, people ignorant of book theories; but not ignorant, not so ignorant by half, of life on the land, as the theory-spinners of the cities. Their minds are simple and direct; they act accordingly. For them, there is one way to “get back to the land”; i.e., to ignore the machinery of paper land-holding (in many instances they have burned the records of the title-deeds) and proceed to plough the ground, to sow and plant and gather, and keep the product themselves.
Economists, of course, will say that these ignorant people, with their primitive institutions and methods, will not develop the agricultural resources of Mexico, and that they must give way before those who will so develop its resources; that such is the law of human development.
(To be Concluded)
Voltairine de Cleyre (1912)
The Right to Life
Modern man is plentifully equipped with political rights. He has the right of citizenship, provided he be virtuous and not an Anarchist; he may elect his own rulers and jailers; he even enjoys, as one of the majority, the privilege of witnessing the government act “in the name of the people.”
This privilege is a particularly bad hoax, because the activities of the government and courts have usually the sole purpose of intensifying the robbery and subjection of the people; in other words, the people—in their own sacred name—doom themselves to dependence and slavery.
The hollowness and sham of political rights becomes fully apparent when we consider that all of them combined do not include the right to live.
The right to live,—that is, the securing of the means of existence, the organization of society in a manner to insure to each the material basis of life and make it as self-evident as breathing,—this right present society cannot give to man.
The barbaric character of the dominant forms of existence is never so offensively demonstrated as when we subject the right to live to a critical test. This right is attacked and nullified daily in a thousand various ways by coercion, poverty, and dependence. It is cruel irony to justify the existence of the murderous machinery of government, with its brutal imbecile laws, on the ground that it is necessary for “the protection of life and property.”
Among the thousands of laws and statutes there is not a single paragraph that guarantees to each member of society the right to live. The tender care for property is of little avail; for it is the chief characteristic of a society based on the sanctity of property that the great majority do not possess sufficient property to justify the expensive machinery of police, courts, jailers and hangmen.
The right to live is primarily dependent upon possession and consequent power. But as only a small minority is in possession and control, the right to live remains a chimera so far as the majority is concerned.
Anarchism regards the right to live as the pivot of its philosophy. It considers it the indispensable foundation of a society that claims to be humane.
To-day the needy, the hungry and the homeless man finds no providence, no court where he may appeal the right to live. Were he to claim it, to test this right, he would soon find himself in the workhouse or prison. In the midst of fabulous wealth, he often lacks even the bare necessaries of existence. He stands isolated, forsaken. In a glance, at every turn, he beholds a plenitude of food, clothing and comforts, a thousandth part of which would save him from despair and destruction. But not even the minutest right to live gives him the power over the things, the lack of which turns him into a social pariah.
What avail the rights of citizenship, political “liberties,” or his one-day sovereignty as a voter, when he is deprived of the right to live and robbed of the use of the things he needs?
When everything, every essential of life is the monopoly of a certain class—secured by laws, armies, courts, and scaffolds—it is evidence that the possessing class will completely dominate life, with the consequent subjection of the rest of the people.
The Autobiography of Richard Wagner
The recent publication of Richard Wagner’s Autobiography once more proves the old commonplace that one can be a great artist and yet small as a man.
Through the almost 900 pages of the two volumes the “revolutionary in music” dwells upon a thousand trivialities which would fit well into the family chronicles of a German middle-class man desirous to leave the impression after his death that the constant endeavor of his life had been to follow faithfully the path of virtue. There is a goodly dose of profound self-righteousness in the book.
The opponents of Wagner’s music have eagerly seized the opportunity offered by the Autobiography to renew sharpened accusations against the character of Wagner. Especially have the references to his marriage and the alleged bad treatment of his wife Minna been multiplied by the critics of My Life.
This washing of family linen is of little importance. Much sadder it is that Wagner often looks upon the great and significant things of life from the perspective of the frog pond.
In the last analysis his first marriage was a typical average marriage. They quarrelled to the verge of vituperation, unpacked the shortcomings and faithlessness of each other, and “made up” again. Repeatedly it reaches the point of separation, but the philistine hope of “sweet home” draws them again together. To make the typical (childless) bourgeois marriage complete, the Wagners were not even without the parrot Papo and the pet dog Fips, which—according to Wagner’s own remark—considerably helped now and then to bring their relations into concord. God bless the two little beasts for serving so ethically and bravely to preserve the marriage relation.
Quite different it was with Cosima, the daughter of Liszt and former wife of the splendid musician and original character, Hans von Bülow. She, the amanuensis to whom Wagner dictated his recollections, finely understood how to dispense respect and incense,—and Wagner—Wotan, the god supreme, loved such signs of admiration only too well.
Cosima, faithfully following the once-for-all firmly established rites of the Wagner cult, has managed to exploit Beyruth in a rational, business-like manner, using the shingle on which Wagner has to figure as the saint and deceased business partner.
The wretched dependence of art upon money and power is disclosed in the Autobiography with brutal clarity. Little understanding and inner sympathy as Wagner had for the people who crossed the path of his life, he was heart and soul in his music and operas. Thus we constantly see him circling around influential high personages in whose hands it lies to dispense money and power. There is hardly a European princeling at whose doors he fails to knock, seeking entrance for his music-revolutionizing ideas. He approaches even Napoleon III., notwithstanding he hates him as the butcher of the Republic, the criminal of December 2d, the perpetrator of the coup d’êtat.
But all in vain. These kings, dukes, archdukes, and princesses are hedged about with tradition and convention, and surrounded by hosts of toadies and flatterers, who see in every innovation a danger to throne and altar. The utmost with which these “most high circles” favor Wagner are a few crumbs, often permeated with the disgusting odor of charity. To be sure, they do not wish to let the so persistently knocking artist starve, but they show not the least appreciation of the extraordinary character and the significance of his art. Moreover, Wagner had sided with the people in the revolution of 1848, though in a rather uncertain and timid manner, but sufficient to injure his reputation at the royal and princely courts. Only the proved devotion of the canaille is appreciated there.
Wagner, indeed, does not stoop so low; yet he often speaks with evident respect of the great dukes and archdukes. It seems almost as if he had greater admiration for these than for men like Heine, Herweg, Gottfried Keller, or Turgeniev, with whom he was acquainted and whom he considers worthy only of the most casual and inadequate mention.
With the exception of a few theatres of secondary importance, the stage had for decades refused to open its gates to Wagner. His genius proved of no avail there. Money and patronage on a large scale were lacking, and thus the doors remained closed to the musical creations which later were to produce such a tremendous universal impression. He had first to be “discovered” by the neurotic and hereditarily insane King of Bavaria, before he could attain the material opportunity to demonstrate what he could and what he wanted. How miserable and tragic that all this had to depend upon the whim of a demented king!
The suffocating dependence of artistic production upon wealth and patronage should cause the true artist—who is not content to produce mere market ware—to turn relentless rebel against the existing standards, to become a communist. But because the enjoyment of true art is to-day the monopoly of the rich—the common people getting but the shabbiest and shoddiest—therefore the artists bend the knee and serve the vulgar but solvent taste.
This rebellious idea for some time stirred in the mind of Wagner. The revolution of ’48 filled him with the hope of a radical change even if—as he himself admits,—he judged it from the standpoint of his art interests. But the Prometheus fire of social revolution as it blazed in the soul of Michael Bakunin dwelt not in the breast of Richard Wagner. To him Bakunin, whom he met in Dresden, is a phenomenon. He admires him; he speaks in glowing terms (a rare occasion) of this remarkable Russian who seeks to destroy everything; he feels toward him “unvoluntary horror” and irresistible attraction.
As manager at the Dresden court theatre, Wagner conducts the Ninth Symphony of Beethoven. After the performance the following incident takes place: “Michael Bakunin, unknown to the police, had been present at the rehearsal. At its close he walked unhesitatingly up to me in the orchestra, and said in a loud voice, that if all the music that had ever been written were lost in the expected world-wide conflagration, we must pledge ourselves to rescue this symphony even at the peril of our lives.”
In the ideas set forth in his “Art and Revolution,” Wagner shows the very probable influence of Bakunin and August Reckel. The latter was one of the participants in the revolution of ’48 who realized the inadequacy of a merely political revolution and saw the snare hidden in constitutional changes, and who therefore concentrated his thoughts and efforts upon the reconstruction of society. Together with Bakunin he was sentenced to death for the part he played in the revolution, then “pardoned” to life-long incarceration, and finally liberated, after many years passed in prison.
The part that Wagner played in the insurrection was limited mainly to sympathetic observation. However, he had to flee the country and to suffer for many years persistent and petty persecution by the authorities of Saxony.
One of the significant events of his life—relates Wagner—was his acquaintance with the philosophy of Schopenhauer. Georg Herweg had presented to him The World as Will and Representation. From this time on, Wagner tells us, dates a great change in his conceptions of life. In place of revolution, renunciation begins to develop. Parsival is in the making,—the work of which Friedrich Nietzsche wrote:
Is this our mode?
Think well! Ye still stay for ingression….
For what ye hear is Rome—
Rome’s faith without expression.
Nietzsche, in his psychological dissection of Wagner, says, maliciously, that after Wagner became acquainted with Schopenhauer, he translated his Niebelingen Ring from the optimism that had faith in the future into Schopenhauerism. Now “everything was wrong, everything goes to ruin, the new world is as bad as the old—Nothingness, the Indian Circe, makes a sign… Brunnhilde, who, according to the earlier design, had to take leave with a song in honor of free love, solacing the world in anticipation of a Socialistic Utopia in which ‘all will be well,’ has now something else to do. She has first to study Schopenhauer; she has to put into verse the fourth book of the World as Will and Representation. Wagner was saved…. The service for which Wagner is indebted to Schopenhauer is immense. It was only the philosopher of décadence who enabled the artist of décadence to discover himself.”
My Life contains references which justify this malice of Nietzsche. On page 731 Wagner relates that he met in Paris Malvida von Meysenburg, with whom he had previously had an unpleasant encounter in London.
“The occasion on which we had met in London had been at an evening party at the house of a family called Althaus, where I found her full of the desires and projects for the future perfection of the human race to which I had given expression in my book (Das Kunstwerk der Zukunft), but from which under the influence of Schopenhauer and a profound realization of the intense tragedy of life and the emptiness of its phenomena, I had turned away with almost a feeling of irritation. I found it very painful in discussing the question not to be understood by this enthusiastic friend and to have to appear to her in the light of a renegade from a noble cause.”
Alongside of Schopenhauer the King of Bavaria became Wagner’s patron saint. From the heights of the royal favor he never again descended to the people. But what does it matter? The people are not a mushroom growth. The dream that Wagner once dreamed in Art and Revolution will some day be realized by the people,—nor will they need the aid of philosopher or king.
Economy as Viewed by an Anarchist
The classic example of serfdom and its petrifying effect is Europe during the Middle Ages. Other countries, equally backward, either had worse and more primitive institutions—the ryot system of India, the bureaucratic tyranny of China, the military systems of the Mussulmans,—or else they were not so fortunately situated as to have outgrown the nomadic condition. Serfdom was the weight which stayed the advance of Europe during many centuries. The new masters were the most practically inventive race that ever existed. The compass, the clock, the clepsydra, gunpowder, paper, the pump, spectacles, glass windows, are but a few of the improvements between the downward turn of Rome and the general discontinuance of serfdom. Notwithstanding the success of a gloomy superstition well adapted to the melancholy time, men had good teachers. They could still read the Latin and, in Eastern countries, the Greek classics. There were still libraries which contained these standard works. The Jews and Saracens had already rejuvenated the science of the buried world with a very vigorous Asiatic graft. But not much could be expected while serfdom remained intact; and the successive waves of invasion from beyond the Volga, which continued until the fifteenth century, tended to strengthen in by strengthening the local (feudal) form of government, with which its affinities are strongest. The dreadfully disguised liberator was the Black Death (1348). In the year of this great pestilence wages were low, industry suspended, the whole framework of society broken down. In almost deserted cities the poor feasted on the spoils of the rich who had fled. In the country, landlords, who doubted if the world would see another season, allowed the serfs, for whose reduced number provisions were exuberant, to do about as they would. A very rare thing happened—the world really was living on its “accumulated wealth.” But next year, when hope and tranquility had returned, the immense demand for labor and its sudden scarcity sent wages quite out of serf possibilities. In a year or two more landlords, frightened at the independence of the tenants, attempted to reinforce their own obsolete prerogatives by the usual method of legislation. They were for a time more successful in England, the chief seat of contention, than I should have expected; seeing that the proletariate resisted attempts to put them on the old footing with a stubbornness they always show in stickling for permanency of an advantage gained. This was also the chief historic period of the Swiss revolution, the period of those the Jacquerie and of “Wat Tyler’s” rebellion, the beginning of those societies which, under the like names of Joss Fritz and Bundschuh, maintained the prospects of liberty along the Rhine. The result was that everywhere, excepting Switzerland, the nobles were victorious in battle; but everywhere they found that something more than battles would be required to reverse the effects of the Black Death. Relics of serfdom remained, perhaps even to our own time, as weapons to the extortioner, hardships to the producer, and annoyance to pestered legislators. But considered as a system of production and distribution, serfdom died by the great plague of 1348. The next hundred and seventy years witnessed progress as rapid as might have been expected. Gunpowder turned the balance of war from the mailed knights to the citizens who had knowledge to make and money to pay for this tremendous chance. The local tyrants were overthrown. The modern kingdoms were firmly established. There was a great advance in secular feeling and wisdom; a great decline in superstition. Printing gave its aid to the good work. Knowledge became popular, ignorance ridiculous. The power and influence of the Church, long since a strictly conservative institution, was greatly lessened. A Portuguese fleet doubled the Cape of Good Hope. A Spanish vessel returned in safety and triumph after crossing the Atlantic. A flood of current-metal, which since the decline of the Roman Empire had been inconveniently scarce, was poured in from America. Prices rose, exchange was facilitated, business of every sort revived. Science, already a young Titan, but hitherto entangled in the nets of the alchemist and astrologer, began to find practical uses for his powers. New inventions—the pendulum, the telescope, the tourniquet—show the new direction of intellectual power. Then the Reformation came. Throughout half Europe the yoke of a greedy, idle, and mischievously charitable theocracy was shattered. The new proprietors were connected by no ancestral sentiment with the cultivators. There was nothing to check their natural penchant for getting all they could out of their tenants except the tenants’ equally natural indisposition to let them have any more than could be helped. Thus began the bourgeois system of our time; which indicates itself in the inanity of making out that things present differ widely from what they are everywhere else, by reasoning that our’s alone is a free system, under which every one does as he pleases, save only that a few things which no one ever did without resistance and danger, but on which tyrants often ventured, are now equally punished, whoever does them, by impartial law. If, therefore, under this system people suffer, it must be by their own fault. Now, it is certain that, if the premises be correct, the conclusion is made out. He who can be a Socialist, praying the Blessed Government to make men happy and equal, just after proving out of his Ricardo that they are unequal and the majority unhappy by a natural law whose operation is contingent upon characteristic misconduct of this majority, must, at any rate, have much greater faith in the divine attributes of the B. G. than I have. But the premises evidently are not correct. The bourgeois system may be freer than the primitive communal, the despotic, the slave system, the feudal and serf systems, or, in short, any which preceded it. That would be quite harmonious with its being, as we all admit it is, the system under which the world has become the richest, the distribution of wealth the most equitable, the standard of comfort highest, the diffusion of knowledge most general, the march of improvement most rapid. And yet that is not really saying much, as will appear if we reflect how slow improvement is; what ridicule and persecution those who effect it still commonly have to go through; what depths of ignorance and superstition lie close to the very highest stratum over which knowledge has spread a filthy net; how destitute of aspiration are still the bulk of the common people; what scenes of misery may still be witnessed within pistol shot of palatial hotels and colleges; how poor we all still feel ourselves; how generally we are struggling to keep our heads above water so hard that if by chance we get fairly upon terra firma we find it impossible to discard old habits, and continue struggling with wave and tempest, wind and rock, for money which is no longer of any service to us! This unsatisfactory state of things we are in now way justified in laying upon the faults of individuals if it have, perchance, a sufficient explanation in the faults of institutions inherited from the barbarous past; and, in particular, it is odious mockery to hold up for specimens of these faults in individuals the leaving undone of what institutions have made impossible. Now, it is very certain (1) that we still have institutions (2) which are the relics of the barbarous past, (3) that some of these are inconsistent with personal liberty, (4) and with advance in knowledge, wealth, or social evolution beyond a certain point, (5) but that they are powerfully buttressed by vested interests, so that (6) they alone are sufficient to explain any existing backwardness in the world’s condition.
22. The bedrock which supports the entire fabric is the subjection of women. The orthodox economists themselves being witnesses, increase of population beyond the means of living, by the older methods, at the old standard, is the force which has constantly impelled nations to fight, conquerors to enslave, discoverers to invent. It is this which has divided, and still does divide, mankind into the classes of rich and poor. A salient point in the same doctrine, moreover, is that prudence about adding to population—care not to do so without making it sure previously that the new mouths will receive the old amount of meat—has been increased by experience, and is a chief cause of improvement. This prudence, however, is much more to be expected from the female sex than the male. The female sex is much the less amorous, as Darwin has shown by a comparison extending throughout the entire animal kingdom. It is on the female sex that fall by far the larger part of the pains, anxieties, difficulties, and responsibilities of propagation; while the pleasures belong chiefly to the male. This difference also increases with civilization. Man in quite advanced states puts little more restraint upon his passions than an animal; but woman, whose foremothers, even back to the ascidian, made the male submit in some measure to their selection, shows far more foresight here and now than exists even among barbarians representing pretty well her human ancestors. That slang about women’s desire to catch husbands, which not long since was common, in no way contradicts this. It was rich husbands only that they wanted, even according to their libelers.
(To be Concluded)
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.