Anarchism and Archism
(Views and Comments)
“Only let us make the draft of the people’s pious resolutions, then let who will make their laws.” The time has come to rehabilitate the pious resolution which—people being what they now are—is at present held in wholly unmerited contempt. Resolutions are arrogantly despised because, forsooth, they are all “talk.” As though “talk” could be despised by any save those who act in confident self-assurance: as the “people” never act in fact. People who cannot hit out straight off their own instincts, so to speak, fight their first rounds in talk, just as a person unable to use a sword might use a club. A club, though not a sword, has its uses and any whose only weapon it is might as well see to it that it is not worm-eaten. To return then to the combat by talk: the fight waged in a campaign of “resolutions.” Let it be granted that “resolutions” might have a value. Provided they are apposite to facts as they actually exist, they can crystallise for consideration an actual existing relationship: and by so doing neutralise the verbiage of orators who rely for their rhythm and sonorousness as well as their innocuous effects upon enlargements concerning any or all of the things which aren’t. Granted therefore, for instance, a campaign of talking: a preliminary skirmish with apposite “resolutions,” one might safely risk giving a guarantee that in a measurable distance of time, the fight would be progressing on more drastic terms.
The South African deportees have arrived, and by Sunday, we are told, the “talk” will be in full swing in Hyde Park and elsewhere. There will doubtless be the pious resolution, which unfortunately Mr. Arthur Henderson and Mr. Ramsay Macdonald have made no request to us to draft out. It is a pity: we could have drawn it up in an exceedingly pleasant tone: which is no small consideration considering the amount of scolding which is now going on. Everybody is scolding. The journalistic atmosphere indeed is that of the household where the mother of a densely-populated family is engaged in the weekly wash: and the perfectly apposite resolution anent the South African labour incidents would have cleared the atmosphere and toned the temper. Of course it may yet be forthcoming. Intelligence is Puck-like and appears from unexpected quarters: who is to say beforehand that the resolution will not run as it should: something like this: That this meeting of British helots drawn together to express their opinion on the unexpected turn which industrial affairs have taken in South Africa, desire to put on record
Their admiring and grateful appreciation of the character of the South African Administration in general and of General Smuts and General Botha in particular;
That in these men this meeting recognises not merely sturdy fighters but good sportsmen, who scorn to add cunning to force in suppressing a feeble enemy; that they not merely know what kind of weapons to use, but are sufficiently conscious of their skill in using them not to be afraid to exhibit them to the enemy and thereby challenge these latter to use them as ably;
That it can congratulate the South African people that in their case there is no need to add to their shame in being governed, the offensive shame of being governed by fools; that in General Smuts, who affirms frankly to an astonished world that the means which keeps men free is the necessary force to defend whatever state or condition it pleases any whatsoever to give the name of “freedom,” they are acquainted with a man of intelligence: and a man of courage and honest expression withal; and that the British working-classes though dispossessed of all property, and softened and weakened by being long fostered in the belief that though they have no might they still have “rights,” though softened and weakened, as aforesaid, have still managed to retain by aid of their weekly attendance at football matches sufficient of the sportsman spirit of Drake, Raleigh and Robert Blake to recognise it when they see it, even in the person of a Dutchman.
That these sentiments be recorded suitably and permanently in the form of Illuminated Addresses, the same to be forwarded to General Smuts and General Botha in due course.
“As for our exiled confrères—the deported nine,” we shall probably wake up on Monday morning to find the report of Mr. Arthur Henderson’s resolution running, “as for our exiled confrères, we offer them our sympathy in their discomfiture (temporary, let us hope) and in the rude and sudden separation from their families and country. All that can be done by British workmen to soften the harshness of their situation we feel should be done. In the meantime, this meeting offers its congratulations to them inasmuch as they have been treated by men of valour and comprehension as opponents worthy of drastic measures; it recognises that there must have been that in their previous history which has made it evident they are not to be cowed as a scolding housewife cows shivering scullery-maid: by vilification and shouting: which method is the one mainly in use among ourselves;
That, finally, we hope and would like to believe that these our confrères will not by foolish disclaimers as to preparedness for armed rebellion and the like continue to give into the possession of the enemy the tale of those “sins of omission” for which they as “leaders” must consider themselves responsible, but that by their self-respect and the swift making of such arrangements as are responsible for its protection they will prove to an interested world that the compliment which their superiors have paid them has not been wholly misdirected.” With something like the foregoing as text, printed and handed round on small bills, Mr. Macdonald, Mr. Henderson and the entire official Labour Party might be allowed to slobber for hours without any pernicious effects: indeed Hyde Park during the week-end might be the scene for a very Profitable and Pleasant Sunday Afternoon: the form of diversion which the stars of the Labour Party most dearly love. If they included in the proceedings the singing of Ebenezer Elliot’s fine and stirring hymn “When wilt Thou save the people?” and closed with the Deity’s reply “When they appreciate Mr. Smuts,” no more admirable gathering could be desired.
It is a wise editor who knows the name of his paper’s creed. It appears that we are to be counted among the not-so-wise. At all events, one who is perhaps the best-known living exponent of Anarchism and hitherto an unwearying friend of The Egoist has informed us that we are not Anarchist. We are rather “Egoist and Archist,” that “combination which has already figured largely in the world’s history.” The first thing to be said anent that is, that if it is so we must manage to put up with it. If to be an Archist is to be what we are, then we prefer Archism to Anarchism which presumably would necessitate our being something different. There is nothing in a name once one has grasped the nature of the thing it stands for. It is only when there is doubt as to the latter that it becomes possible for names to play conjuring tricks. It is therefore more because the mist of vagueness hangs over the connotation both of Archism and Anarchism than because we are greatly concerned as to which label we are known by that we find it worth while to discriminate in the matter.
The issue of course turns upon the point as to whether in Anarchism, which is a negative term, one’s attention fixes upon the absence of a State establishment, that is the absence of one particular view of order supported by armed force with acquiescence as to its continued supremacy held by allowing to it a favoured position as to defence, in the community among whom it is established; or the absence of every kind of order supported by armed force provided and maintained with the consent of the community; but the presence of that kind of order which obtains when each member of a community agrees to want only the kind of order which will not interfere with the kind of order likely to be wanted by individuals who compose the rest of the community. (We do our very utmost to state the second position as accurately as possible, but that it is difficult to do so, those who profess it know well from their apparently interminable debates on this very subject of definition among themselves.) The first is what we should call Anarchism and represents one half of that Egoistic-Anarchism which The Egoist maintains against all-comers. The second, which is that of our correspondent, as far as we can define it has in our opinion no claims at all that are not embedded in a hundred confusions to the label of Anarchism. We should call it rather a sort of Clerico-libertarian-archism, and this without any desire maliciously to “call names.” It represents a more subtle, more tyrannical power of repression than any the world as yet has known: its only distinction being that the Policeman, Judge, and Executioner are ever on the spot, a Trinity of Repression that is a Spy to boot, i.e. Conscience, the “Sense of Duty.” Conscience, more powerful than armies, “doth make cowards of us all.” Conscience takes the Ego in charge and but rarely fails to throttle the life out of him. Therefore as compared with the power of egoistic repression the Ego comes up against in an ordinary “State,” that which it meets in the shape of Conscience is infinitely more oppressive and searching. The Archism which is expressed in the Armies, Courts, Gowns and Wigs, Jailors, Hangsmen and what not, is but light and superficial as compared with that of our Clerico-libertarian friends.
If therefore to be Anarchistic is to hope for and strive after the abolition of “The State” as by the force of governors and submissiveness of governed together compounded, a term with (one may hope) only a temporary significance, then we are it. If on the other hand it is to stand for “liberty,” “respect for the liberty of others” and vague ideas of this nature, we incline to think the term would be most appropriately treated if it were abandoned to become the plaything of cranks and discussionists. For it will be found that such persons mean, as far as their elementary muddle-headedness permits them to mean anything, to substitute for the obvious repressive agency represented by Arms and the State, the subtler and far more perniciously repressive agency of Conscience with its windy words and ideas. The sum total of the matter amounts to this: We are all Archist: we believe in Rule. The question which divides us is: “Whose Rule shall say it is?” The reply is a matter of frankness or discretion. Whichever we select by name, in actual fact it remains our own rule: our own view of which “order” should prevail modified by a knowledge of our own fears and weaknesses. If we say “Let the State, i.e. the persons who are dominant at the present time, rule,” it is because alongside the State’s onslaughts by all its weapons of force, it provides some degree of safety under cover of which the timorous find shelter: and in their own little run, rule themselves. For which consideration they are prepared to “respect” the purely arbitrary conventions of statutory law, “crimes” and “criminals”—terms without meaning outside, the circle of the respectful ones timidities.
If in addition to fearing physical violence and consequently to accepting the State, men are submitted to the brow-beating of education, and are more than ordinarily timid, it is in response to a personal desire of their own souls that they put themselves mentally under the control of a system of words, the reaction of the weight of which system is felt in consciousness as Conscience. It is the pull of a set of “allowed” claims which are called duties, the disallowing of which claims are Sin. But the “Archism” is there all the same. The readiness to accept the weight of “Sin” and “Duty” is merely the outcome of an unreadiness—a dislike for self-responsibility. And the clerico-libertarians, let them call themselves by what name they will, possess in reality this kind of temper. They will not openly confess an approval of the will to satisfy the wants of the “selfish” self. They will allow the self to “rule” but it must first change itself. It must nominally be a regenerate, dedicated-to-a-system sort of self. Like Eucken’s man which is to be more than a man: the libertarian’s self must be a self with the universe tacked on: and the “claims” of the universe must be attended to first. Now when we say that we believe the satisfaction of individual wants is the only “authority” we “respect” we mean the wants of the ordinary person: of any unregenerate Tom, Dick, or Sue. Not what after much argument someone persuades them they want: which finally they will agree they do but will still look as though they don’t, but vulgar simple satisfaction according to taste—a tub for Diogenes: a continent for Napoleon: control of a Trust for a Rockefeller: all that I desire for me: if we can get them. Our wants are entirely matters of taste: and our tastes are bounded by our comprehension and awareness. We may be fools and gross beasts but nothing is gained by putting us to intellectual strain: making us attitudinising hypocrites. Our illness is that we are dull-witted and stupid without the power which feels things. Then give the penetrative power its chance to grow: wriggle and strain itself into comprehension: when it can, it will: and when it can is soon enough. The exact tale of the wriggling and straining when it has found a voice is what one means by being “true” and “honest.”
So “Egoist and Archist” let it be. There is—or we imagine it so—a sarcastic ring in our correspondent’s comment, “a combination which has already figured largely in the world’s history.” The sarcasm is unfortunately wasted. If the combination has figured largely, it is apparent at least that it is one which will “work”: and that is—according to the pragmatists—mainly what matters. The appeal which would have us’ turn a cold eye on the evidence as to what things succeed in this world wears thin at length. The time has arrived (it is we who say it) when worldly evidence as to what motives do actually work the springs of men’s actions should be impartially examined. The evidence in a “cultured” community would no doubt be distasteful, but it is almost sure to be useful. The evidence might be treated, should we say, distantly but honestly as an analyst might treat sewage. In the process one might arrive at the reason why the libertarian, humanitarian idealist cure-alls won’t go down: the reason why they won’t and knowledge of what will. It will become clear that by their present hopes those that have nothing are deceiving themselves: and that those who know how things are got are quite willing they should remain deceived.
Mankind are the asses who pull.
Byron knew so much more of the nature of “temper” than the author of “Das Kapital”! It is not on account of the machine-system, nor the “surplus-value” it supposedly creates, that things are as they are, but because some men are reluctant or unable to pull. They have in fact a hundred reasons for not pulling: it is illegal, or immoral, forbidden by conscience, God and the Church: it is theft and Heaven knows what else: therefore because they can’t or won’t, “Stop the pulling.” That is the socialist, communist and (in the main) the Anarchist solution of “Poverty.” The bundle must be respected: not grabbed at without warrant, because, say the theorists, by right it is the “property of All.” Whereupon the few “respectless” ones divide up the lot between themselves. The sooner the poor become “Archists” therefore the better.