Title: A Free Socialist
Date: 1895
Source: Retrieved on 29th May 2023 from www.libertarian-labyrinth.org
Notes: Published in Liberty 11 no. 17 (December 28, 1895): 7–8.

My statement that henceforth I was no Anarchist, but a Free Socialist, was intended to refer to my public profession. Having stated that my view of Anarchism was that it was the doctrine “that the invasion of one human being by another was in the highest degree wrong, foolish, dangerous, and inexpedient—that this was Anarchism and this only,” and having, in conclusion, stated that my renunciation of the name Anarchist did “not mean any change of views,” it, of course, follows that, although I reject the name Anarchist, I, in my heart, still regard myself as one.

I do not deny my own individuality or recognize Mr. Tucker’s superior right of definition, but I do recognize his superior opportunity of impressing the world with the view that what he says is Anarchism is the pure article.

In spite of Mr. Tucker’s very modest disclaimer, it is a fact, which no one knows better than himself, that he is “the accredited head ” of “plumb-line” Anarchism. With his paper, his superior mental power, and his devotion to this one cause, it could hardly be otherwise.

Anarchism has now differentiated itself into three fairly well-developed schools,—Communist Anarchism, “plumb-line “Anarchism, and “straight” Anarchism. I agree with none of them. With me Anarchism means no government, no invasion of one human being by another, and this only. Everything else is non-essential to it. But these three schools all, in my view, affirm government. The Anarchist Communists make “no private property” their rallying-cry, and that means inevitably, to me, the government of the man who would himself retain and dispose of the fruits of his labor. I cannot conceive of individual liberty without private property. The “plumb-line” or “philosophical” Anarchism of which Mr. Tucker is the recognized head (pardon me, comrade, I must say it) affirms contract as the essential thing, and might as right, and therefore is logically committed to the doctrine that all outside of the limit are legitimate objects of government; that “slavery in Anarchy, instead of an absurdity, is a necessity”; and that children and fools are property. “Straight” Anarchism affirms absolute liberty without limitation, “the right to do as you please” unqualifiedly, and of course involves the logical contradiction that government is both right and wrong at the same time if two individuals will the one government and the other liberty at the same time.

It would almost appear that the old definition of Anarchism as “confusion ” was not so bad, after all.

At any rate, while still believing in my private self, and willing to confess it to a friend, that I am an Anarchist, and almost perhaps the only sane one left, seeing that all recognized forms of Anarchy contradict the name and affirm government, I have no hope of being understood, if I use the name, and therefore drop it.

Perhaps Mr. Tucker is right that I shall be no better understood as “Free Socialist,” but I would like to try.

And the fact that I shall be “confounded” with Mr. Tucker still, if true, does not bother me at all. I am quite willing to be identified with him in all good words and works, and rejoice we can still agree on nine practical points out of every ten. I love and admire the man, in spite of his abominable faults, and feel the deepest gratitude to him beside. My taking a new tag will distinguish me from him as far as I care to be, and for the rest I am glad to go with him.

He may have taken the name Free Socialist once (and I hope he was one then), but the public has forgotten it. It will not be remembered against me.

Again the name Free Socialist suits me better than Anarchist. Anarchist is purely a negative term,-a non-invaded, non-invasive individual is an Anarchist,—and all that it implies is contained in the word free, but Socialist is a term under which constructive theories may properly marshal; for the essential idea of a Socialist is one who holds that society should be reconstructed. I am not merely content with downing government; I also like to plan and dream of a new social order on lines of liberty and coöperation.

Mr. Tucker cannot understand why his position should, at this late day, turn my stomach. But it is not so hard to understand. I did, indeed, long ago perceive where the doctrine that might was right and contract basic must lead. But Mr. Tucker did not, himself, make odious applications, and did not even seem to see what he now sees. So late as “Instead of a Book,” as Comrade Gilmour showed him, he seemed not to perceive the logic of his position. Loving the man as I did, I hoped he never would make such applications, and kept pushing forward Natural Rights in the hope of destroying his main delusion before the evil thing happened him. Alas, it mote not be! The applications were made, the corollaries accepted, and there was nothing for me to do but what I have done.

The lachrymose vein he indulges at the close of his remarks on my “Departure” amuse me. His pose as the hero of a moral solitude arouses my poetic enthusiasm. It is admirable. I didn’t think he had it in him.

But really I didn’t mean to predict anything so dreadful. There is no danger of his being left alone. A strong man always has followers, and Mr. Tucker, with his personal magnetism and dominating personality, will not lack. Of course plenty of his readers will endorse him. So they would, had he advocated dynamite and arson. And what I predict is that, in proportion as his disciples endorse his views, will the civilized world finally reject them both. Of course I mean on this matter of human property. Not perhaps for my reasons, but for reasons sufficiently effective.

The doctrine of property in human beings may pass with theorists, but it will never be admitted to practice in anything bearing the name of free society.