Anarchism And Other Essays Online

Well, I am glad we have brought it to that point. You think then that convenience is the highest law in life. You think it convenient that one part of men–if larger in number–should own the souls and bodies of the rest of men. You think it convenient that there should be slave-owning, and that there should be no attempt to say where this slave-owning begins and where it ends. You think it convenient that all the old rights, freedom to think, to speak, to act, to possess, to labor, or to rest, shall be enjoyed at the discretion of those who today or tomorrow may climb to power. If those who have so climbed look with favor upon these rights, well and good; let the people enjoy them. If they look on them with disfavor, as inconvenient to the social whole, let them be abandoned as fashions that have ceased to be. We have plainly gone wrong in ever thinking that in the rights themselves there was anything sacred. Everything that men have striven for and suffered for, generation after generation, everything that the noblest men have placed before life itself, is to count for nothing in our more enlightened age, if the majority of the day or the morrow think that we can do better without it. There is nothing sacred except the convenience of the larger crowd dictating to the smaller crowd. Whatever is sacred in the world is to be found clinging to the skirts of the majority, is born with the majority, and dies with the majority. Please not to think that I am exaggerating in saying this. There cannot possibly be two supreme laws. Either the will of the majority or the rights of the individual are the highest law of our existence; one, whichever one it is to be, must yield in presence of the other. Now the question is, which is to be supreme? Which is to give way? Do not suppose that by any skillful arrangement you can ever reconcile the two as equal powers, or succeed in paying allegiance to both. You might as hopefully try to merge the two opposite poles into one; to be a believer in infallibility, and a soldier of free thought at the same time. Men once dreamed that the state could be a temporal and not a spiritual power. They can now see that they were only deceiving themselves by words. They can now see that wherever you exercise power over a man, whether it be in the matter of his education, or his labor, or any occupation of his life, you are as much constraining, molding, and forming him, you are as much his owner and possessor, as if you taught him a catechism and required him to accept a Thirty-nine Articles. The nature of man is indivisible; you cannot cut him across, and give one share of him to the state and leave the other for himself.

Emma Goldman Anarchism And Other Essays Online

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In all the annals of reasoning—and they are many and strange—was there ever such a perverse method followed of reaching a conclusion? And to what is it due? It is all due to the fact that the socialist is under the unhappy destiny of having to plead for an impossible creed—a creed founded on Old World reactionary and superstitious ideas, that are only waiting half-alive to be decently buried forever by the race that has suffered so much and so long for them. The socialist, as an individual, is often infinitely better than his creed of power worship. You can't read the papers of Mr. Hobson or of some other socialistic writers without feeling that generous impulses and desires, and in a certain sense large ideas, run through them; but unfortunately all these generous impulses and large ideas turn, like fairy gold, to dust and ashes, because they are wedded to compulsion, which degrades all that it touches. What can be pettier, narrower, more reactionary, more superstitious and irrational, than the worship by the socialist of majority rule—the crowning of every three men, because they are three, and the moral and material effacement of every two men, because they are two; or the building up of a gigantic fabric of unlimited power, with the arbitrary suspension and limitation of the faculties of the individual in every direction? What moral or intellectual redemption can possibly be found for such a system? It would be as narrow and stifling as a prison cell; as full of trick and intrigue as the inner council chamber of the College of the Jesuits; as timorous and despairing as the creed of the ascetics, who pronounced the world to be evil and the cloister to be the only safe place in it; as brutal as the politics of a Napoleon or a Bismarck. Is there any reason, then, to wonder that men, with the literary tact and ability of Mr. Hobson, seek, almost unconsciously to themselves, to cover up the dead bones of their system with metaphor and abstract conception, and to ask us to admire the something of their literary manufacture, which has as little to do with the real thing, as hothouse flowers have to do with the poor decomposing remains that lie inside the coffin on which the flowers are flung. The highest art in the world cannot gild socialism. It is impossible to make beautiful the denial of liberty. To slightly alter a famous saying—socialism is the negation of all personal rights, erected into a system; and literature, even in the hands of a master, is powerless to make us look with anything but scorn on that negation. The bones and the bare skull grin through all the false decorations that you hang about them, making them only more the ghastly, the more skill you expend in trying to adorn them. I would suggest to Mr. Hobson whether it would not have been truer art to have left on one side the plaster and stucco work of literature, and to have simply said: “Our creed is a brutal and stupid one—all compulsion is brutal and stupid—but the world is an evil one, and its evils must be pounded with cudgel and club, just in such fashion as we can most easily get at them.”

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There is another striking example of this tendency to put phrases in the place of realities in Mr. Hobson's paper. We all of us depend, says Mr. Hobson, upon services rendered by and to each other; we are all of us influenced by the thoughts and actions of each other; therefore—so the argument seems to run—we can have no individuality of our own, we can have no private possession of our own faculties (still less, of course, of the property won by faculties); no rights over ourselves; being parts of the social whole, and not in reality separate individuals, we cannot own ourselves, we can only be possessed in common; we can only share in owning all our fellow-men, while at the same time we ourselves are owned by our fellow-men. Humanity, in the socialist view, cannot be divided up into such valueless and insignificant fractions, as individuals; it must be treated in a more dignified manner—wholesale, in the lump.

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A collection of essays by Emma Goldman

And now to conclude. With the exception of certain short notes attached to the legislative proposals, I have on purpose almost entirely confined myself in this paper to speaking of the fundamental moral wrong that is committed, where some men coerce other men, where some men forcibly and by means of the state power construct systems for the rest of men to live under. As regards the many practical evils that result from thus making other men accept our views of religion, or of education, or of the relation of labor and capital (remember that the wrong we commit in these cases is twofold, caused both by our prescribing the systems under which others shall live, and by our taking compulsorily from them, in the shape of taxes, the means by which such systems are supported) I must leave this branch of the great discussion for another occasion. I can merely point out here that all uniform state systems, excluding difference, excluding competition, mean a perpetual arrest at the existing level of progress. So long as great government departments (over which, be it observed, from the very exigencies of administration, the mass of the people can never have any real control) supply our wants, so long shall we remain in our present condition, the difficulties of life unconquered, and ourselves unfitted to conquer them. No amount of state education will make a really intelligent nation; no amount of Poor Laws will place a nation above want; no amount of Factory Acts will make us better parents. These great wants which we are now vainly trying to deal with by acts of Parliament, by prohibitions and penalties, are in truth the great occasions of progress, if only we surmount them by developing in ourselves more active desires, by putting forth greater efforts, by calling new moral forces into existence, and by perfecting our natural ability for acting together in voluntary associations. To have our wants supplied from without by a huge state machinery, to be regulated and inspected by great armies of officials, who are themselves slaves of the system which they administer, will in the long run teach us nothing, will profit us nothing. The true education of children, the true provision for old age, the true conquering of our vices, the true satisfying of our wants, can only be won, as we learn to form a society of free men, in which individually and in our own self-chosen groups we seek the truest way of solving these great problems. Before any real progress can be made, the great truth must sink deep into our hearts, that we cannot in any of these matters be saved by machinery, we can only be saved by moral energy in ourselves and in those around us. Progress, can have nothing to do with passing acts of Parliament; except so far as we pass them to break old fetters that still bind us. If civilization could be given by any government, as a royal present to a nation, the world had long since been civilized. One short session would be enough to decree all the new systems of education, and all the new dwelling houses, and all the new grants of land, and all the new penalties against vices, that are wanted. But at the end of it all the nation would be like a man who had dressed himself in a new suit of clothes. The man himself under all the new outward appearances would remain the same; only perhaps more hindered than before by the misleading belief that in some real way his clothes had transformed him. Civilization has never yet and never will be simply made by the fiat of those who have power. It must be slowly won by new desires arising in us individually and taking effect in new efforts. The common sense gained in daily life is quite sufficient to teach us that any number of brand-new splendid institutions cannot and do not alter men. To believe that they do we must go back to the fairy tales of our childhood. Nor does it require unusual intelligence to perceive that the real force of England has lain in the energy, the enterprise, the independence, the power of acting and thinking alone, that have belonged to the English character, and that it has not been her governing machinery, but these forces of character that have won for her the great peaceful victories of industry at home and of colonization abroad. These qualities form the true stores of her greatness and success, but they are qualities that are only produced by freedom in our life and constant responsibility for our actions. They cannot coexist–it would be contrary to the very nature of things–with great state systems and great governing departments, under whose direction men from day to day are controlled and cared for; I doubt if they can even long survive in presence of two powerful and highly organized political parties, whose members, giving up the attempt to see for themselves what is right and true, are content to act in a crowd and to follow their leaders in blind struggles to gain ascendancy over each other. These are the things which, as our political Marthas will presently learn, are not needful to a nation. We need not have great state departments, or great state systems, however splendid in their external appearance, we need not each of us be enlisted in a great army called Conservative or Liberal. But what is needful is that man should have a free soul in a free body; that he should hate the creeds of force and of regulation, that he should ever be striving to make his mind independent of the opinions of others, that he should ever be training it to form its own judgments and to respect its own sense of right. For a nation whose units are determined to keep their bodies and minds free, all progress is possible. For a nation whose units are willing to place their bodies and their minds in the keeping of others, there are no hopes of growth and movement. It is only reserved to them to fall from one depth to another depth of state slavery, while they live in the mocking dream that they are moving onward and upward.

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It is to Mr. Herbert Spencer's clear and comprehensive sight that we owe so much in this matter of liberty. Mr. Mill was an earnest and eloquent advocate of individual liberty. He was penetrated with the leading truth that all the great human qualities depend upon a man's mental independence, and upon his steady refusal to let a church, or a party, or the society in which he lives think for him. His book on liberty remains as a monument of a clearer sight, a higher faith, and nobler aspirations than those which exist at the present time, when both political parties compete with each other to tread their own principles underfoot, and to serve the expediency of the moment. But Mr. Spencer has approached the subject from a more comprehensive point of view than Mr. Mill, and has laid foundations on which, as men will presently acknowledge, the whole structure of society must be laid, if they are to live at peace with one another, and if all the great possibilities of progress are to be steadily and happily evolved. We owe to Mr. Spencer the clear perception that all ideas of justice and morality are bound up in the parent idea of liberty–that is, in the right of man to direct his own faculties and energies–and that where this idea is not acknowledged and obeyed, justice and morality cannot be said to exist. They can only be more shadows and imitations of the realities. I should advise all persons to read Mr. Spencer's and I ought perhaps to add here that I have reason to believe that Mr. Spencer disagrees with the conclusions regarding taxation, which I have drawn from his principles. I have discussed this question of taxation shortly in the last chapter of a little book called published by Messrs. Chapman & Hall, and would beg to refer any persons who may be interested in the subject to what I have said there. I hope soon to have ready a special paper dealing with this matter.

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Mutualism, as a variety of anarchism, goes back to P.J

Third, even if you believed that you could make men wise and good by depriving them of liberty of action, you have no right to do so. Who has given you a commission to decide what your brother man shall or shall not do? Who has given you charge of his life and his faculties and his happiness as well as of your own? Perhaps you think yourself wiser and better fitted to judge than he is; but so did all those of old days–kings, emperors, and heads of dominant churches–who possessed power, and never scrupled to compress and shape their fellow-men as they themselves thought best, by means of that power. You can see as you read the story of the past, and even as you look on the world at present, what a mess the holders of power made of it, whenever they undertook to judge for others, whenever they undertook to guide and control the lives and faculties of others; and why should you think that you are going to succeed where they failed? On what reasonable ground should you think so? Why should you suppose that you have suddenly in this our generation grown much better and wiser and more unselfish than they were? We have probably all of us the same or nearly the same share of human nature as they had. These rulers, whether of the past or present time, under whose mistakes the world has so terribly suffered, in many cases were not bad men; they were simply “clouded by their own conceit,” blinded by the unquestioned belief that some men may exercise power over other men. They did not see that the individual freedom of each man is the highest law of his existence, and they thought, often honestly enough, that it was in their power to give the mass of men happiness if they could only have the restraining, and molding, and fashioning of them after their own ideas and beliefs. And the worst of it is that still in these democratic days we are all thinking the same thing. We are fast getting rid of emperors and kings and dominant churches, as far as the mere outward form is concerned, but the soul of these men and these institutions is still living and breathing within us. We still want to exercise power, we still want to drive men our own way, and to possess the mind and body of our brothers as well as of our own selves. The only difference is that we do it in the name of a majority instead of in the name of divine right. Radicals and republicans, as we call ourselves, we too often remain Catholics, infallibilists and absolutists in temper.