Liberty Vol. I. No. 7.
Not the Daughter but the Mother of Order
The Philosophy of Right and Wrong.
Shines that high light whereby the world is saved;
And though thou slay us, we will trust in thee.”
— John Hay.
On Picket Duty.
Ireland’s disgrace: Cashel’s Grace.
Ireland’s lesson: Put not your trust in priests.
Ireland’s Benedict Arnold: the infamous, traitorous, cowardly Croke.
Ireland’s foremost man and real leader: Michael Davitt, the first of her sons at home to ask his countrymen to join with him in the abolition of that “immoral tax,” rent.
Ireland’s chief danger: the liability of her people — besotted with superstition; trampled on by tyranny; ground into the dust beneath the weight of two despotisms, one religious, the other political; victims, on the one hand, of as cruel a Church and, on the other, of as heartless a State as have ever blackened with ignorance or reddened with blood the records of civilized nations — to forget the wise advice of their cooler leaders, give full vent to the passions which their oppressors are aiming to foment, and rush headlong and blindly into riotous and ruinous revolution.
Ireland’s true government: tho wonderful Land League, the nearest approach, on a large scale, to perfect Anarchistic organization that the world has yet seen. An immense number of local groups, scattered over large sections of two continents separated by three thousand miles of ocean; each group autonomous, each free; each composed of varying numbers of individuals of all ages, sexes, races, equally autonomous and free; each inspired by a common, central purpose; each supported entirely by voluntary contributions; each obeying its own judgment; each guided in the formation of its judgment and the choice of its conduct by the advice of a central council of picked men, having no power to enforce its orders except that inherent in the convincing logic of the reasons on which the orders are based; all coordinated and federated, with a minimum of machinery and without sacrifice of spontaneity, into a vast working unit, whose unparalleled power makes tyrants tremble and armies of no avail.
Ireland’s shortest road to success: no payment of rent now or hereafter; no payment of compulsory taxes now or hereafter; utter disregard of the British parliament and its so-called laws; entire abstention from the polls henceforth; rigorous, but non-invasive “boycotting” of deserters, cowards, traitors, and oppressors; vigorous, intelligent, fearless prosecution of the land agitation by voice and pen; passive, but stubborn resistance to every offensive act of police or military: and, above all, universal readiness to go to prison, and promptness in filling the places made vacant by those who may be sent to prison. Open revolution, terrorism, and the policy above outlined, which is Liberty, are the three courses from which Ireland now must choose one. Open revolution on the battle-field leans sure defeat and another century of misery and oppression; terrorism, though preferable to revolution means years of demoralizing intrigue, bloody plot, base passion, and terrible revenues,— in short, all the horrors of a long-continued national vendetta, with a doubtful issue at the end; Liberty means certain, unhalting, and comparatively bloodless victory, the dawn of the sun of justice, and perpetual peace and prosperity in future for a hitherto blighted land.
The aim of true labor reform is not to abolish wages, but to universalize them. When all men become exclusively wage-workers, no man’s wages will be eaten up by profit-mongers.
We trust that the friendly critic referred to in our last issue, who feared lest Liberty, in its battle against usury, might favor its suppression by statute and thereby stultify itself, will be relieved of all anxiety on this point by the detailed editorial statement, in another column, of our exact attitude toward that giant wrong. He has our thanks for giving us occasion to develop this line of thought more specifically than before.
There is a gentleman in New York whom we reverently admire for his intellectuality, learning, and breadth of spirit, but whom we are prevented from admiring for his modesty by his use, at least by implication, of the words Pantarch, Stephen Pearl Andrews, and God Almighty as interconvertible terms. He has been much disturbed of late — else his recent writings mislead us — about the Anarchists and their “dread of order,” seeming to delight in comparing them to burnt children who dread the fire. For his benefit, and that of a great many others who share his misapprehension and concern, we print elsewhere an admirable article translated from “Le Révolté,” describing the only kind of “order” that Anarchists dread or have ever felt the consuming heat of. After reading it, he will see that a repetition of this tiresome criticism can come only from the impertinence of stupidity or the wilfulness of perversity. Consequently, being a philosopher who finds his inspiration in neither of these sources, but exclusively in the sincerity of science, he will never repeat it.
The basis on which harmony in the Liberal League has been restored is announced. The majority made overturn by passing a resolution declaring its previously-adopted position in favor of the total repeal of the Comstock laws not binding on the minority. The minority accepted the advances, and wheeled into line. We know that this matter is none of our business; but for once we shall meddle far enough to say that this arrangement does not meet our approval. Not that a minority ought to be bound to anything against its will; only this,— that a body which does not care what its members think about the freedom of the press, but is exceedingly particular to have them endorse such paltry measures as the expulsion of chaplains from prisons and such objectionable ones as the extension of compulsory taxation and the enforcement by law of whatever scheme of morality it chooses to pronounce “natural,” ceases, in a measure, to be interesting to consistent believers in Liberty. These words are written in no spirit of hostility to the League. It contains some of our best and bravest men and women. Not a few of them we number among our valued friends. From its ranks Liberty’s soldiers are to be largely recruited, and through its agency much good liberal work is being accomplished. For these very reasons we dislike to see it take the back track, and hence our summons, “Come up higher!”
“A free man is one who enjoys the use of his reason and his faculties; who is neither blinded by passion, not hindered or driven by oppression, not deceived by erroneous opinions.” — Proudhon.
The Hour of Test.
Ireland has reached the crisis. She needs to-day some Thomas Paine to rise up among her people, warning them that “these are the times that try men’s souls.” “Souls” in a more exclusive sense than in 1776. For Ireland’s warfare, to be successful, must be a moral one. The call for mere physical courage is less pressing within her shores that it was in these colonies one hundred years ago. What she needs is the moral courage and endurance to bear in silent protest injury, insult, indignity, following fast upon one another, until necessity shall drive, and the aroused moral sense of the civilized world shall shame, the authors of her outrages into lifting from her shoulders the iron hand of power.
Mr. Parnell’s arrest and the suppression of the Land League were not unexpected happenings, but the logical results of this moral warfare that Ireland, for three years, has steadfastly and bravely waged. These events are Ireland’s victory, if she knows how to make them such. The aim of the British government has been to drive the people into open revolution, and then, on the pretext that the people first resorted to force, shoot them down without mercy and mutilate them into submission.
But the policy has failed, Not only that,— it has retroacted, and possibly fatally, on its inventors. The government itself has been driven, in order to maintain its rule in Ireland, into a most shameless exhibition of force and tyranny, involving an entire abrogation of all the rights hitherto most sacred in the eyes of British subjects. It is not surprising. Only right knows law. Necessity, on which governments are based, knows none. But in reality, despite these despotic measures, the government is down. Ireland has the knee of moral pressure upon its chest, the grip of moral right upon its throat, and Gladstone and his gang are gasping spasmodically for breath. Will Ireland hold her advantage? Not unless she remembers principles, restrains her passions, acts upon conviction, obeys the advice of her true and tried leaders now in prison, and refuses to strike while refusing to submit.
The first duty to-day of every Irish tenant is to heed the manifesto of the League, and pay no rent whatever. Be that manifesto issued as a war measure, as some say, or, as other and profounder persons think it should be, in pursuance of deep-rooted conviction that “rent is an immoral tax upon industry,” it is equally binding on every true Irish heart. “Not one cent for tribute, but millions for” passive resistance!
Irishmen, remember the words of Parnell and his colleagues: “Against the passive resistance of the entire population military power has no weapon.” Disregard the cowardly priests! Their aim is to relieve you of one despotism only to fasten their own more permanently upon you. The heaviest blow yet struck you comes from their ranks in your hour of sorest trial,— from that one among them all in whom perhaps you placed your trust most confidently, His Dis-Grace of Cashel. Remember him hereafter. Remember now only your duty to yourselves, to your imprisoned martyrs, to your beloved land, to the world at large, and, above all, to the cause of justice, and stand firm!
Some one has favored us with a copy of a very handsome paper called “The Conservative.” The principal tiling that it desires to “conserve” appears to be “legitimate mining.” We are by no means experts in mining, but, in our view, legitimate mining consists simply in digging minerals out of the earth and stilling them to those who desire them for products embodying an amount of labor equal to that which the minerals have cost the miner. If any such business as this is going on in any part of the world, and “The Conservative” is trying to “conserve” it, it is engaged in a very commendable work, in which we join, heart and hand.
But what is generally known as “legitimate mining” consists, as far as we have observed, in staking off a large tract of land in some abandoned region which nobody by any chance ever visits, paying some alleged mining expert to examine its contents and lie about them in terms sufficiently technical to hide the lie from the unlearned, vesting the ownership of the land in a stock company, electing the original holders as the officers, selling shares at prices corresponding in enormity to the lies that induce people to buy them, using most of the money thus received to pay princely salaries to the aforesaid officials, spending the balance in digging a mine, causing some “accident” to befall it, telling more lies about the wonderful results that the “accident” has prevented, assessing the stockholders to repair damages and keep up the salaries, selling the little mineral that may be brought to the surface at the highest possible prices regardless of the labor-cost, repeating these operations until they are no longer endurable and all the fools have been fleeced, and, finally, going into bankruptcy, and, perhaps, “skipping out” with the remaining funds. There is a plenty of such business as this going on in many parts of the world; but, if “The Conservative” is trying to “conserve” it, it is engaged in a very damnable work, which we fight, tooth and nail. Liberty’s attitude toward these and all other swindles is not at all conservative, but very radical. She would destroy them, root and branch. And their roots are land monopoly and money monopoly.
The Philosophy of Right and Wrong.
The most serious calamity attendant upon false premises in the realm of thought is that the avowed and conscientious enemies of despotism are made to be the persistent advocates and defenders of the pivotal agencies upon which it hinges. We do not make this assertion in a spirit of self-sufficiency and conceit, and are aware that those who differ from us will, of course, turn it against ourselves. Naturally, we feel very positive that the philosophy which shapes the teachings of Liberty is correct and unanswerable; but we are fallible, and, if the history of human opinions teaches anything, it is that nothing in this world is a finality.
But upon one thing all schools of sociology will agree,— namely, that the very first step in all reasoning looking to human well-being is to fix upon a correct scientific basis of right and wrong. These terms are upon everybody’s lips, from the prattling stripling to the hoary theologian and moralist, and yet the average man has no fixed conception of what it is that constitutes an action as right or wrong. At every step we find people disputing and arguing over the right and wrong of a thing, but arrest them in any instance, and ask them what constitutes right and wrong in nature and practice, and they are totally unable to answer. And yet the whole argument in every case is useless and worthless until this point is settled.
The chief mischief attending this lamentable absence of a true scientific standard of right grows out of the universally accepted inference that, as soon as one is convinced that a practice is what he calls wrong, it is his next and imperative duty to set about to interdict that practice by force. For instance, there is a very large constituency among the thinkers of to-day who are convinced that usury is wrong. The “Irish World” is the most conspicuous reservoir in America of the protests growing out of that conviction. Yet the burden of the song of every protestant is that usury ought to lie crushed out of existence by force. It has no right to live, it should be forbidden and punished, because it is wrong.
Now, assuming that the vague standard of right and wrong adopted by these people is a sort of utilitarian one, based in this instance on the theory that lending on usury in every case works more harm than good (i. e., more injury than benefit), they stand on untenable ground, and are liable to be dropped into a trap at any moment; for it would not be difficult to produce individual instances where the practice of lending on usury, so far from being an injury to anybody, is a practical benefit, not only to the individuals contracting, but to the community at large. By their own standard, then, lending on usury, in such a case, would not be wrong. But, if it be answered that, although lending on usury may often prove a mutual benefit to individuals, its ultimate results upon society at large are disastrous, and that therefore society at large should prevent individuals from doing what they can mutually agree to, then Liberty must, of course, demand an unconditional halt! For that is the very essence of despotism against which we protest,— namely, the right of society at large to interdict individuals by force.
And to fall back, in order to justify such a course, upon the phrase, “moral right,” is both unscientific and pernicious. For moral right has no authoritative interpreter, and therefore should not be made, as it so easily can be, a weapon of tyranny. A thing must be right or wrong in accordance with some correct analysis of the natural domain of individual and associative action. To say “moral right,” in the sense above referred to, is to lumber up our conceptions with a mischievous term which has no scientific status.
We sometimes wish that the very terms themselves, right and wrong, were abolished; for, until they are made to have a true scientific meaning, they are a perpetual source of mischief and misdirection. But, until somebody shall give the world a correct scientific terminology, we must tolerate them as best we can, while endeavoring at every opportunity to so direct their application as to make them count for Liberty, instead of for despotism, as they generally do in society as at present governed.
Right and wrong are principles that must ever be defined, qualified, and circumscribed by the individual, in his associative capacity: defined, by a correct analysis of the natural domain of individual action; qualified, by the natural reflex action of other individuals; circumscribed, by the inflexible law that all action, individual and associative, shall be at the sole cost of the party or parties acting.
Under this law all individuals have a right to do anything and everything which they may choose voluntarily to do at their own cost. Make this law universal, and keep the hands of Church, State, and every other arbitrary, coercive despot away from it, and perfect Liberty will result as naturally as all other things find their level in nature. The practice of usury is a sacred and inviolable prerogative of individuals who choose to contract for its payment. If the cost, in practice, ultimately falls upon the innocent and toiling masses, it is because this prerogative is forbidden to these proscribed slaves by the machine known as the State. Proudhon demonstrates as clearly as any theorem in mathematics could be demonstrated that, if the power to take usury were extended to all men, usury would devour itself, in its very nature. But this is exactly one of the chief purposes of the State,— namely, to cut off a great part of the race from the practice of usury, and confine it to the few, so that they may live in luxury on the toil of their artificially-created slaves.
The same is true of all the other prerogatives which attach to property. Whether property in land be, in itself, right or wrong, it is, in practice, a wrong only, because the State is designed chiefly to see to it that property in land shall be vested in a minority instead of all. If the State could be made to declare to-morrow that hereafter property in land should be extended to all, and that all landlords must, in future, secure their holdings on their own merits instead of by force, property in land would cease to be an evil. But the State that could be made to declare such a thing would cease to be the State.
We ask the reader to scrutinize carefully the law which we have italicized above, and then bear in mind the following melancholy facts which result from ignoring it, or not knowing it:—
1. Usury is practically wrong because the State creates and defends a monopoly in the practice of it.
2. Property in land is practically wrong because the State was created to defend a minority in the sole enjoyment of it.
3. Rent and interest (forms of usury) are practically wrong because the State necessarily confines the taking of rent and interest to the classes endowed with monopoly.
Finally, the whole range of transactions among individuals results in wrongs because the State assumes the right to stand despotically between individuals and their own mutual interests. The State is the chief curse of humanity, the mother of human wrongs.
1. Is it worth while for fifty millions of people to prove themselves a nation of fools by hanging a fool for a homicide?
2. Could any one more effectually prove himself a fool than by committing a homicide in the expectation that the government would reward him for it by giving him an office?
3. How much mental capacity, how much power to judge of the moral character and probable results of an act, is it necessary that a man should have to save him from the charge of being a fool, and convict him of being a felon?
4. If a man who, having no malice to gratify and no prospect of gain, commits a homicide upon a peaceable citizen in open day and in the immediate presence of a hundred spectators has any other expectation than that his fate will be to end his days either on the gallows or in a lunatic asylum, can he be said to have sufficient power of judging of the nature and probable results of his act to save him from the charge of being a fool, and convict him of being a felon?
5. If a man who commits such a homicide under such circumstances is not to be considered a fool instead of a felon, what difference is there between him and a man who lays in wait for another, and kills him in cold blood for money?
6. If Guiteau should be hanged, will he be hanged because he is a fool? or because he is a political fool? or because, being a fool and a political fool, he committed a homicide?
7. If all the political fools in the country are to be hanged, or otherwise punished, for acts that are criminal when committed by men of sound minds,— such acts, for example, as advocating and voting for unjust and oppressive laws,— what percentage of the population are to go unpunished? And what is to become of our political parties, and of “our glorious republican institutions”?
8. If we have gained, in this country, no immunity for political fools, or if our government cannot survive the attacks of political fools of all possible grades, does not common sense decree that the sooner the fools put an end to it, the better?
9. Our government, like most other governments, is carried on mainly by two classes of men, knaves and dupes. It would scarcely be an exaggeration to call them felons and fools. If we must hang either of these classes, is it not cruel and indecent to begin with the fools?
10. We have two political parties in this country, and the two are of nearly equal numbers. They are tolerated, and even encouraged, because it is agreed, on both sides, that they are a necessity, in order that they may tell the truth of each other. And they do tell a great deal of truth, although by no means the whole truth of each other. And they are permitted to tell it in the presence of all the fools in the country. Is it to be expected that so much truth can be openly told without causing homicide? A few years ago we had a million of homicides, growing out of the wickedness of the government and the foolishness of the people; yet the government, unless in a single particular, was no worse then than it is now, and the people were perhaps no more foolish then than they are now. Do not these facts teach us that we should either change our government, or keep the truth out of the hands of the people? Can it be expected that a government as bad as ours, and a people as foolish as ours, can get on together without an occasional explosion?
Suppose such tory newspapers as the Boston “Advertiser” and “Journal” should apply their Irish philosophy near home. If England knows so much better than Ireland how the latter should be governed, perhaps she is as all-knowing in regard to other nationalities, and could give her old colonies here on the American shore a few points in coercion. Undoubtedly she would relish doing so, and the opportunity would not be wanting if American public sentiment was controlled — as haply it is not in the least — by such journalistic “coolness” as the above-mentioned Boston dailies exhibit.
Our readers perchance need to be enlightened in regard to this “coolness.” Tho patrons of the “Advertiser” for some time past have been treated to little batches of what it was pleased to call “cool reason.” In a word, it has paraded itself as capable of perfectly unprejudiced opinions on all topics affecting, in the remotest degree, human well-being. And it has offered specimens of its “cool” and, as Joseph Cook would say, “absolutely luminous” judgments to the admiring public. It took up tho tribulations of Russia, and found that the Czar had “law on his side,” and hence Nihilism should fill the “cool” heart of the world with horror. It cast its “cold,” penetrating glance upon Ireland, and saw Grandfather Gladstone descending upon its perturbed and rebellious people with “law” good enough for them in one hand, and his flaming, annihilating sword in the other. “Ah, happy people!” it cried (or words to that effect); “why don’t they wilt, and give him three cheers with a tiger? ‘Tis simply incredible that they don’t. Parnell is a fool and so are all the Irish! But Gladstone,— he is immortal!”
Here is “coolness” for you, leader. Do you care for more.
The “cool” “Advertiser” sent a correspondent to Newport, who wrote an extended report of the services at the Channing Memorial Church. Trained, doubtless, ere he went, in the editorial “coolness,” he informs the reader that, in Channing’s lifetime, there were those who thought his name would fade out and be placed in the same limbo with Tom Paine’s and Voltaire’s. What we have to call the serious attention of our readers to is the “coolness” of the epithet “Tom.” Is there not something admirable in the “cold reason” which can so differentiate? Just think how Bill Channing would have sounded, and bless your stars for this “cool” discrimination.
Radicalism in Rhyme.
A Good Word for the Devil: Bible Musings by an Infidel. By Simeon Palmer. Boston 1881, pp. 136. See advertisement elsewhere.
Many attempts have been made by persons utterly unfitted for the task to paraphrase in rhyme the absurdities of the Bible, and to poetically satirize the dogmas of theology. But for the most part — yes, universally so far as we know — all these attempts have resulted in witless, vulgar, inharmonious jangles unworthy of the slightest attention. But none of these adjectives can be truthfully applied to “A Good Word for the Devil,” which, upon the whole, is one of the wittiest, cleverest, most skilful satires that we have seen for many a day. This becomes tho more surprising when it is considered that the author is an aged man, entirely inexperienced in literature except as a student. The book is written in the difficult metre adopted by Byron in “Don Juan,” and contains here and there a stanza that would not discredit that master poet. The author has a keen sense of the ridiculous, an extraordinary faculty for happily turning a phrase, and a vast fund of information on all subjects connected with Biblical studies. More than this, he is a fearless thinker and outspoken writer. The work lacks method, and is marked at many points by crudities due to carelessness, both of author and printer. But it deals most effectively a rapid succession of keen thrusts and heavy blows at the Christian superstition, and deserves to be widely read. The treatment of the dogma of hell, introducing Joseph Cook I and his ingenious theory of Christ’s birth, fairly samples the faults and excellences of the work: therefore we append it.
I said that Hell had not then been invented.
We have the advantage over Bible times.
They burned or hacked the body, well contented
When death ensued; but when we’ve mocked the limbs
Or burned and buried those who have dissented,
Or won’t conform to our religious whims,
We have the satisfaction of discerning,
With eye of faith, their Hell forever burning.
It would be joy to Jacob could he look
And see his brother Esan writhe in Hell,
Or Elisha see the boys the bruins shook
As a dog shakes a rat, all roasting well;
Or David, paired with Mrs. U., who took
A bath one evening, seeing him who fell
In battle by his act, show her Uriah,
Who feels that God is a consuming fire.
In this we have the advantage. Jon’than E.,
Who wrote the famous treatise on the Will,
Can look from Heaven’s battlements and see
A delicate cinder that, on earth, was El,
Or Eliery Channing. who maintained that three
Were three times one, not one, and now, in Hell
Gets his deserts. And gentle Jon’than E.
Harps louder on his harp to the blest trinity.
And J. Iscariot Cook, who once applied
The microscope to Mary, and explained
The mystery of the birth of him who died
On Calvary; that she was not impregned
By power the highest; and Old Gabriel lied
Or was mistaken; and that Mary feigned,
Or was deceived, when she broke forth in song,
Exultant that her offspring was the long
Foretold Messiah, through whose marvellous birth
All nations and all peoples should be blest,
And she should be proclaimed throughout the earth,
Happy above all mothers. Cook exprest,
Without the slightest tendency to mirth
Among his hearers, who all seemed imprest
With its importance, his belief that Jes-
Jesus was born as drones among the bees.
‘Twas partheno-genesis and nothing more.
So said the latest science. Then he quoted
Jaw-breaking German gutturals; — a score
Of men to physiology devoted;
And said the person we’d been taught t’adore,
As the original Grecian word denoted,
Was a subsistence, not a person: three
Subsistences, not persons, were the trinity,
Which was a substance. Now, I cannot see
How a subsistence, which itself was nought
And could do nought, when multiplied by three,
Became the infinite God, transcending thought;
How three noughts added made infinity;
How this subsistence lived on earth and taught,
And walked about, and ate and drank and died;
Died like a man; nay, like a thief, was crucified.
Still he is confident, this Joseph C.,
That in some future state, some post-existence,
Translated into heaven, he will see,
While sitting, cheek by jowl, with th’second subsistence,
The Devil, aided by a score of assistants,
Heaping the coals around poor Theodore P.,
While P., like Lazarus’ friend, begs Joe for water,
And Joe will see him damned first, as he oughter.
Provided always Joe can find some screen
To hang between his past and God Almighty,
So that the damning record can’t be seen.
The black and hideous record sua vita,
He hinted at, when lecturing yestreen,
In the “Old South,” when Standing Bear and Bright-eye
And ghosts, as thick as leaves in Vallambrosa,
“Declared” he must have been damned fast, this Joe, sir.
Proviso 2, that Joseph is sustained
In his queer notions of the trinity,
By his Triune: for Joseph would be pained
Should it turn out that the Divinity
Is not a triplet; and that he impregned
Miss M., and, proud of his paternity,
Resents the insult that the heir to the throne
Is not one whit superior to a drone.
But Joseph’s dumb; that is, upon this theme.
He’s dropped the subject, never mentions it.
He knocked the key-stone out from the grand scheme;
The brethren were disgusted with it, quite.
The clergy thought him, upon this point, lame.
‘T would bring upon the sect a perfect blight.
Jesus no father? God no son? What next?
Then all religion was but a pretext.
The Britons were at Yorktown
Low humbled in the dust.
It was their hardest knock-down;
It knocked heir taxing lust.
Their power to roar oppression
On Columbia’s free soil
The fathers put a stop to,
Their little game did spoil.
“Cornwallis, bring thy sword in
To Washington, the true!
Salute the Rebel’s banner,
The red, white, and blue!”
The Britishers still flourish
And flaunt their “Union Jack,”
While we, their natural offspring,
No Saxon virtue lack;
So, like the dear old mother
We trashed in olden time,
While she is threshing Ireland,—
Oh! impudence sublime! —
We gather up our garments,
Swear force is no more “brute,”
And at consecrated Yorktown
Her sullied flag salute.
The “gracious Queen” doth send us
Condolence for our loss;
Our Arthur o’er the ocean
Love messages doth toss.
A widower our chieftain,
Victoria’s widowed long,—
Why not combine the household,
And make one people strong?
Oh! what a glorious Union!
Pure Saxon blood would flow,
And round the world together
A-conquering we’d go!
Order and Anarchy.
[Translated from “Le Révolté.”]
We are often reproached with having accepted as a motto the word anarchy, which so frightens many minds. “Tour ideas are excellent,” they tell us, “but confess that your party’s name is unfortunately chosen. Anarchy, in the current tongue, is a synonym of disorder, chaos; it awakens in the mind the idea of clashing interests, of individuals at war with each other and unable to establish harmony.”
Let us begin by observing that a party of action, a party representing a new tendency, is rarely allowed to choose its own name. The Gueux (beggars) of Brabant did not invent that name, which afterward became so popular. But, at first a nickname,— and a very felicitous one, too,— it was taken up by the party, generally accepted, and soon became its motto. It will be agreed, moreover, that the word contained a complete idea.
And the sans-culottes of 1793? It was the enemies of the popular revolution that flung that name; but did it not contain a complete idea, that of the revolt of the people, in tatters and tiled of misery, against all those royalists, soi-disant patriots, and jacobins, dressed well and with scrupulous neatness, who, in spite of their pompons speeches and the incense burned before their statues by the bourgeois historians, were the real enemies of the people, since they profoundly despised the people for their poverty, their love of liberty and equality, and their revolutionary spirit?
And so with the name Nihilists, which so puzzled journalists and was the occasion of so many plays upon words, good and bad, until it became understood that it denoted, not a sect of semi-religious cranks, but a real revolutionary power. Launched by Tourgueneff in his novel, “Fathers and Sons,” it was taken up by the “fathers,” who by this nickname revenged themselves for the disobedience of the “sons.” The “sons” accepted it, and when, later, they saw that it was the source of misunderstandings and tried to disembarrass themselves of it, it was impossible to do so. The press and public were unwilling to designate the Russian revolutionists by any other name than this. Moreover, the name is by no means badly chosen, for it contains an idea. It expresses the negation of the sum total of the facts of the existing civilization, based on the oppression of one class by another: the negation of the present economic regime, the negation of governmentalism and power, of bourgeois politics, of bourgeois morality, of routine science, of art placed at the service of exploiters, or the grotesque customs and usages, often detestable because of their hypocrisy, handed down from past centuries to existing soctety,— in short, the negation of all that the bourgeoiscivilization venerates to-day.
The same with the Anarchists. When there arose within the International a party denying authority in the bosom of the Association and revolting against authority in all its forms, that party first gave itself the name of Federalist, and later Anti-Stateist or Anti-Autoritaire. At that time it even avoided the name of Anarchists. The word an-archy (for so it was written then) seemed to connect the party too closely with the followers of Proudhon, to whose ideas of economic reform the International at that time was opposed. But for this very reason, in order to induce confusion, their enemies saw fit to use this name, saying, further, that the very name of the Anarchists proved that they desired only disorder and chaos, regardless of future results.
Then the Anarchistic party hastened to accept the name bestowed upon it. It insisted at first on the hyphen between an and archy, explaining that in this form the word an-archy, of Greek origin, signified no government, not “disorder;” but soon it accepted it just as it is, without giving useless trouble to proof-readers or a lesson in Greek to the people.
The word, then, has recovered its primitive, ordinary, common significance, expressed in 1816 in these words by an English philosopher, Bentham: “The philosopher who desires to reform a bad law does not preach insurrection against it.... The character of the Anarchist is very different. He denies the existence of the law, he rejects its validity, he excites men not to recognize it as law and to resist its execution.” To-day the meaning of the word has grown in breadth: the Anarchist denies not only existing laws, but all established power, all authority. Nevertheless, its essence remains the same: he revolts — and that is his starting-point — against power, authority, under whatever form it happens to exist.
But this word, they tell us, awakens in the mind the negation of order, and, consequently, the idea of disorder, chaos.
We will try, nevertheless, to understand each other. What order is in question? Is it the harmony that we Anarchists dream of? the harmony in human relations that will freely establish itself after humanity is no longer divided into two classes, one of which is sacrificed for the benefit of the other? the harmony that will spring spontaneously from the solidarity of interests, when all men shall form one and the same family, when each will labor for the good of all and all for the good of each? Clearly, no! Those who reproach anarchy with being the negation of order do not mean the harmony of the future; they mean order, as it is conceived to-day, in our present society. Let us see, then, what this order is that anarchy wishes to destroy.
Order, to-day,— what they mean by order,— is nine-tenths of humanity laboring to maintain a handful of idlers in luxury, enjoyment, and the satisfaction of the most execrable passions.
Order is the deprivation of these nine-tenths of every necessary condition of healthy life and rational intellectual development. To reduce nine-tenths of humanity to the condition of beasts of burden living from day to day, without ever daring to think of the enjoyment which man finds in the study of science and the pursuit of art,— that is order!
Order is misery and famine become the normal state of society. It is the Irish peasant dying of hunger; it is the peasant of one-third of Russia dying of diphtheria, of typhoid fever, of hunger in consequence of scarcity, amid carloads of wheat on their way to foreign countries; it is the people of Italy compelled to abandon their luxuriant fields to roam through Europe seeking some tunnel to dig, where they may run the risk of being massacred after having existed a few additional months. It is the land taken from the peasant for the rearing of cattle to feed the rich; it is the land allowed to lie fallow rather than be restored to him who asks no more than to cultivate it.
Order is woman selling herself to support her children, is the child compelled to be confined in a factory or die of inanition, is the workingman reduced to the state of a machine. It is the phantom of hunger ever present at the doors of the laborer, the phantom of the insurgent laborer at the doors of the rich, the phantom of the insurgent people at the doors of their governors.
Order is a minority of a few, versed in governmental affairs, imposing themselves for that reason on the majority and bringing up their children to fill the same offices later, in order to maintain the same privileges, by stratagem, corruption, force, and wholesale murder.
Order is the continual war of man upon man, of trade upon trade, of class upon class, of nation upon nation. It is the unceasing roar of the cannon in Europe, the devastation of the country, the sacrifice of entire generations on the battle-field, the destruction in one year of wealth accumulated by centuries of hard labor.
Order is servitude, thought in chains, the degradation of the human race, maintained by blood and the sword. It is hundreds of miners buried annually in the mines through the avarice of the owners, and mitrailleused, shot down, and bayoneted, if they dare to protest against these massacres.
Order, finally, is the Commune of Paris drowned in blood. It Is thirty thousand men, women, and children cut to pieces by shells, rained upon by the mitrailleuse, burled in quicklime beneath Parisian pavements. It is Young Russia within prison walls, buried in Siberian snows, its best, purest, most unselfish representatives strangling in the hangman’s noose.
That is order!
And disorder,— that which they call disorder?
It is the people in revolt against this ignoble order, breaking their chains, tearing down barriers, and marching toward a better future. It is all that is most glorious in the history or humanity.
It is the revolt of thought on the eve of revolutions; it if the overturning of hypotheses sanctioned by the inertia of centuries past; it is the birth of a whole flood of new ideas, of bold inventions, of audacious solutions of scientic problems.
Disorder is the abolition of ancient slavery, the insurrection of the communes, the abolition of feudal serfdom, the attempts at abolition of economic servitude.
Disorder is the peasants risen against the priests and lords, burning castles to make room for cottages, leaving their dens in search of tho sunlight. It is France abolishing royalty and dealing a mortal blow at serfdom throughout Western Europe.
Disorder is 1848 causing kings to tremble and proclaiming the right of labor. It is the people of Paris fighting for a new idea, and, though overpowered by massacre, bequeathing to humanity the idea of the free Commune and breaking the war for that revolution whose approach we now feel and which will be known as the Social Revolution.
Disorder — what they call disorder — is the epochs during which entire generations bear up in superhuman struggle and sacrifice themselves to prepare for humanity a better existence by relieving it of the chains of the past. It is the epochs during which the popular genius finds free scope, and in a few years takes those gigantic strides without which man would have remained in the state of ancient slavery, a servile being in abject misery.
Disorder is the flowering of the most beautiful passions and the grandest self-sacrifices; it is the epic history of the supreme love, the love of humanity.
The word anarchy, implying the negation of such an order and invoking the memory of the highest moments in humanity’s life,— is it not well chosen for a party which marches onward to the conquest of a better future?