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Some twenty-one years ago I heard the first great Anarchist speaker—the inimitable John Most. It seemed to me
then, and for many years after, that the spoken word hurled forth among the masses with such wonderful
eloquence, such enthusiasm and fire, could never be erased from the human mind and soul. How could any one of
all the multitudes who flocked to Most's meetings escape his prophetic voice! Surely they had but to hear him to
throw off their old beliefs, and see the truth and beauty of Anarchism!
My one great longing then was to be able to speak with the tongue of John Most,—that I, too, might thus reach
the masses. Oh, for the naivety of Youth's enthusiasm! It is the time when the hardest thing seems but child's play.
It is the only period in life worth while. Alas! This period is but of short duration. Like Spring, the STURM UND
DRANG period of the propagandist brings forth growth, frail and delicate, to be matured or killed according to its
powers of resistance against a thousand vicissitudes.
My great faith in the wonder worker, the spoken word, is no more. I have realized its inadequacy to awaken
thought, or even emotion. Gradually, and with no small struggle against this realization, I came to see that oral
propaganda is at best but a means of shaking people from their lethargy: it leaves no lasting impression. The very
fact that most people attend meetings only if aroused by newspaper sensations, or because they expect to be
amused, is proof that they really have no inner urge to learn.
It is altogether different with the written mode of human expression. No one, unless intensely interested in
progressive ideas, will bother with serious books. That leads me to another discovery made after many years of
public activity. It is this: All claims of education notwithstanding, the pupil will accept only that which his mind
craves. Already this truth is recognized by most modern educators in relation to the immature mind. I think it is
equally true regarding the adult. Anarchists or revolutionists can no more be made than musicians. All that can be
done is to plant the seeds of thought. Whether something vital will develop depends largely on the fertility of the
human soil, though the quality of the intellectual seed must not be overlooked.
In meetings the audience is distracted by a thousand non-essentials. The speaker, though ever so eloquent, cannot
escape the restlessness of the crowd, with the inevitable result that he will fail to strike root. In all probability he
will not even do justice to himself.
The relation between the writer and the reader is more intimate. True, books are only what we want them to be;
rather, what we read into them. That we can do so demonstrates the importance of written as against oral
expression. It is this certainty which has induced me to gather in one volume my ideas on various topics of
individual and social importance. They represent the mental and soul struggles of twenty-one years,—the
conclusions derived after many changes and inner revisions.
I am not sanguine enough to hope that my readers will be as numerous as those who have heard me. But I prefer
to reach the few who really want to learn, rather than the many who come to be amused.
As to the book, it must speak for itself. Explanatory remarks do but detract from the ideas set forth. However, I
wish to forestall two objections which will undoubtedly be raised. One is in reference to the essay on
ANARCHISM; the other, on MINORITIES VERSUS MAJORITIES.
"Why do you not say how things will be operated under Anarchism?" is a question I have had to meet thousands
of times. Because I believe that Anarchism can not consistently impose an iron-clad program or method on the
future. The things every new generation has to fight, and which it can least overcome, are the burdens of the past,
which holds us all as in a net. Anarchism, at least as I understand it, leaves posterity free to develop its own
particular systems, in harmony with its needs. Our most vivid imagination can not foresee the potentialities of a
race set free from external restraints. How, then, can any one assume to map out a line of conduct for those to
come? We, who pay dearly for every breath of pure, fresh air, must guard against the tendency to fetter the future.
If we succeed in clearing the soil from the rubbish of the past and present, we will leave to posterity the greatest
and safest heritage of all ages.
The most disheartening tendency common among readers is to tear out one sentence from a work, as a criterion of
the writer's ideas or personality. Friedrich Nietzsche, for instance, is decried as a hater of the weak because he
believed in the UEBERMENSCH. It does not occur to the shallow interpreters of that giant mind that this vision
of the UEBERMENSCH also called for a state of society which will not give birth to a race of weaklings and
It is the same narrow attitude which sees in Max Stirner naught but the apostle of the theory "each for himself, the
devil take the hind one." That Stirner's individualism contains the greatest social possibilities is utterly ignored.
Yet, it is nevertheless true that if society is ever to become free, it will be so through liberated individuals, whose
free efforts make society.
These examples bring me to the objection that will be raised to MINORITIES VERSUS MAJORITIES. No
doubt, I shall be excommunicated as an enemy of the people, because I repudiate the mass as a creative factor. I
shall prefer that rather than be guilty of the demagogic platitudes so commonly in vogue as a bait for the people. I
realize the malady of the oppressed and disinherited masses only too well, but I refuse to prescribe the usual
ridiculous palliatives which allow the patient neither to die nor to recover. One cannot be too extreme in dealing
with social ills; besides, the extreme thing is generally the true thing. My lack of faith in the majority is dictated by
my faith in the potentialities of the individual. Only when the latter becomes free to choose his associates for a
common purpose, can we hope for order and harmony out of this world of chaos and inequality.
For the rest, my book must speak for itself.
ANARCHISM: WHAT IT REALLY STANDS FOR
Ever reviled, accursed, ne'er understood,
Thou art the grisly terror of our age.
"Wreck of all order," cry the multitude,
"Art thou, and war and murder's endless rage."
O, let them cry. To them that ne'er have striven
The truth that lies behind a word to find,
To them the word's right meaning was not given.
They shall continue blind among the blind.
But thou, O word, so clear, so strong, so pure,
Thou sayest all which I for goal have taken.
I give thee to the future! Thine secure
When each at least unto himself shall waken.
Comes it in sunshine? In the tempest's thrill?
I cannot tell—but it the earth shall see!
I am an Anarchist! Wherefore I will
Not rule, and also ruled I will not be!
JOHN HENRY MACKAY.
The history of human growth and development is at the same time the history of the terrible struggle of every new
idea heralding the approach of a brighter dawn. In its tenacious hold on tradition, the Old has never hesitated to
make use of the foulest and cruelest means to stay the advent of the New, in whatever form or period the latter
may have asserted itself. Nor need we retrace our steps into the distant past to realize the enormity of opposition,
difficulties, and hardships placed in the path of every progressive idea. The rack, the thumbscrew, and the knout
are still with us; so are the convict's garb and the social wrath, all conspiring against the spirit that is serenely
Anarchism could not hope to escape the fate of all other ideas of innovation. Indeed, as the most revolutionary and
uncompromising innovator, Anarchism must needs meet with the combined ignorance and venom of the world it
aims to reconstruct.
To deal even remotely with all that is being said and done against Anarchism would necessitate the writing of a
whole volume. I shall therefore meet only two of the principal objections. In so doing, I shall attempt to elucidate
what Anarchism really stands for.
The strange phenomenon of the opposition to Anarchism is that it brings to light the relation between so-called
intelligence and ignorance. And yet this is not so very strange when we consider the relativity of all things. The
ignorant mass has in its favor that it makes no pretense of knowledge or tolerance. Acting, as it always does, by
mere impulse, its reasons are like those of a child. "Why?" "Because." Yet the opposition of the uneducated to
Anarchism deserves the same consideration as that of the intelligent man.
What, then, are the objections? First, Anarchism is impractical, though a beautiful ideal. Second, Anarchism stands
for violence and destruction, hence it must be repudiated as vile and dangerous. Both the intelligent man and the
ignorant mass judge not from a thorough knowledge of the subject, but either from hearsay or false interpretation.
A practical scheme, says Oscar Wilde, is either one already in existence, or a scheme that could be carried out
under the existing conditions; but it is exactly the existing conditions that one objects to, and any scheme that could
accept these conditions is wrong and foolish. The true criterion of the practical, therefore, is not whether the latter
can keep intact the wrong or foolish; rather is it whether the scheme has vitality enough to leave the stagnant
waters of the old, and build, as well as sustain, new life. In the light of this conception, Anarchism is indeed
practical. More than any other idea, it is helping to do away with the wrong and foolish; more than any other idea,
it is building and sustaining new life.
The emotions of the ignorant man are continuously kept at a pitch by the most blood-curdling stories about
Anarchism. Not a thing too outrageous to be employed against this philosophy and its exponents. Therefore
Anarchism represents to the unthinking what the proverbial bad man does to the child,—a black monster bent on
swallowing everything; in short, destruction and violence.
Destruction and violence! How is the ordinary man to know that the most violent element in society is ignorance;
that its power of destruction is the very thing Anarchism is combating? Nor is he aware that Anarchism, whose
roots, as it were, are part of nature's forces, destroys, not healthful tissue, but parasitic growths that feed on the
life's essence of society. It is merely clearing the soil from weeds and sagebrush, that it may eventually bear
Someone has said that it requires less mental effort to condemn than to think. The widespread mental indolence, so
prevalent in society, proves this to be only too true. Rather than to go to the bottom of any given idea, to examine
into its origin and meaning, most people will either condemn it altogether, or rely on some superficial or prejudicial
definition of non-essentials.
Anarchism urges man to think, to investigate, to analyze every proposition; but that the brain capacity of the
average reader be not taxed too much, I also shall begin with a definition, and then elaborate on the latter.
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.
The new social order rests, of course, on the materialistic basis of life; but while all Anarchists agree that the main
evil today is an economic one, they maintain that the solution of that evil can be brought about only through the
consideration of EVERY PHASE of life,—individual, as well as the collective; the internal, as well as the external
A thorough perusal of the history of human development will disclose two elements in bitter conflict with each
other; elements that are only now beginning to be understood, not as foreign to each other, but as closely related
and truly harmonious, if only placed in proper environment: the individual and social instincts. The individual and
society have waged a relentless and bloody battle for ages, each striving for supremacy, because each was blind to
the value and importance of the other. The individual and social instincts,—the one a most potent factor for
individual endeavor, for growth, aspiration, self-realization; the other an equally potent factor for mutual
helpfulness and social well-being.
The explanation of the storm raging within the individual, and between him and his surroundings, is not far to
seek. The primitive man, unable to understand his being, much less the unity of all life, felt himself absolutely
dependent on blind, hidden forces ever ready to mock and taunt him. Out of that attitude grew the religious
concepts of man as a mere speck of dust dependent on superior powers on high, who can only be appeased by
complete surrender. All the early sagas rest on that idea, which continues to be the LEIT-MOTIF of the biblical
tales dealing with the relation of man to God, to the State, to society. Again and again the same motif, MAN IS
NOTHING, THE POWERS ARE EVERYTHING. Thus Jehovah would only endure man on condition of
complete surrender. Man can have all the glories of the earth, but he must not become conscious of himself. The
State, society, and moral laws all sing the same refrain: Man can have all the glories of the earth, but he must not
become conscious of himself.
Anarchism is the only philosophy which brings to man the consciousness of himself; which maintains that God,
the State, and society are non-existent, that their promises are null and void, since they can be fulfilled only
through man's subordination. Anarchism is therefore the teacher of the unity of life; not merely in nature, but in
man. There is no conflict between the individual and the social instincts, any more than there is between the heart
and the lungs: the one the receptacle of a precious life essence, the other the repository of the element that keeps
the essence pure and strong. The individual is the heart of society, conserving the essence of social life; society is
the lungs which are distributing the element to keep the life essence—that is, the individual—pure and strong.
"The one thing of value in the world," says Emerson, "is the active soul; this every man contains within him. The
soul active sees absolute truth and utters truth and creates." In other words, the individual instinct is the thing of
value in the world. It is the true soul that sees and creates the truth alive, out of which is to come a still greater
truth, the re-born social soul.
Anarchism is the great liberator of man from the phantoms that have held him captive; it is the arbiter and pacifier
of the two forces for individual and social harmony. To accomplish that unity, Anarchism has declared war on the
pernicious influences which have so far prevented the harmonious blending of individual and social instincts, the
individual and society.
Religion, the dominion of the human mind; Property, the dominion of human needs; and Government, the
dominion of human conduct, represent the stronghold of man's enslavement and all the horrors it entails. Religion!
How it dominates man's mind, how it humiliates and degrades his soul. God is everything, man is nothing, says
religion. But out of that nothing God has created a kingdom so despotic, so tyrannical, so cruel, so terribly
exacting that naught but gloom and tears and blood have ruled the world since gods began. Anarchism rouses man
to rebellion against this black monster. Break your mental fetters, says Anarchism to man, for not until you think
and judge for yourself will you get rid of the dominion of darkness, the greatest obstacle to all progress.
Property, the dominion of man's needs, the denial of the right to satisfy his needs. Time was when property
claimed a divine right, when it came to man with the same refrain, even as religion, "Sacrifice! Abnegate! Submit!"
The spirit of Anarchism has lifted man from his prostrate position. He now stands erect, with his face toward the
light. He has learned to see the insatiable, devouring, devastating nature of property, and he is preparing to strike
the monster dead.
"Property is robbery," said the great French Anarchist, Proudhon. Yes, but without risk and danger to the robber.
Monopolizing the accumulated efforts of man, property has robbed him of his birthright, and has turned him loose
a pauper and an outcast. Property has not even the time-worn excuse that man does not create enough to satisfy all
needs. The A B C student of economics knows that the productivity of labor within the last few decades far
exceeds normal demand a hundredfold. But what are normal demands to an abnormal institution? The only
demand that property recognizes is its own gluttonous appetite for greater wealth, because wealth means power;
the power to subdue, to crush, to exploit, the power to enslave, to outrage, to degrade. America is particularly
boastful of her great power, her enormous national wealth. Poor America, of what avail is all her wealth, if the
individuals comprising the nation are wretchedly poor? If they live in squalor, in filth, in crime, with hope and joy
gone, a homeless, soilless army of human prey.
It is generally conceded that unless the returns of any business venture exceed the cost, bankruptcy is inevitable.
But those engaged in the business of producing wealth have not yet learned even this simple lesson. Every year
the cost of production in human life is growing larger (50,000 killed, 100,000 wounded in America last year); the
returns to the masses, who help to create wealth, are ever getting smaller. Yet America continues to be blind to the
inevitable bankruptcy of our business of production. Nor is this the only crime of the latter. Still more fatal is the
crime of turning the producer into a mere particle of a machine, with less will and decision than his master of steel
and iron. Man is being robbed not merely of the products of his labor, but of the power of free initiative, of
originality, and the interest in, or desire for, the things he is making.
Real wealth consists in things of utility and beauty, in things that help to create strong, beautiful bodies and
surroundings inspiring to live in. But if man is doomed to wind cotton around a spool, or dig coal, or build roads
for thirty years of his life, there can be no talk of wealth. What he gives to the world is only gray and hideous
things, reflecting a dull and hideous existence,—too weak to live, too cowardly to die. Strange to say, there are
people who extol this deadening method of centralized production as the proudest achievement of our age. They
fail utterly to realize that if we are to continue in machine subserviency, our slavery is more complete than was our
bondage to the King. They do not want to know that centralization is not only the death-knell of liberty, but also of
health and beauty, of art and science, all these being impossible in a clock-like, mechanical atmosphere.
Anarchism cannot but repudiate such a method of production: its goal is the freest possible expression of all the
latent powers of the individual. Oscar Wilde defines a perfect personality as "one who develops under perfect
conditions, who is not wounded, maimed, or in danger." A perfect personality, then, is only possible in a state of
society where man is free to choose the mode of work, the conditions of work, and the freedom to work. One to
whom the making of a table, the building of a house, or the tilling of the soil, is what the painting is to the artist
and the discovery to the scientist,—the result of inspiration, of intense longing, and deep interest in work as a
creative force. That being the ideal of Anarchism, its economic arrangements must consist of voluntary productive
and distributive associations, gradually developing into free communism, as the best means of producing with the
least waste of human energy. Anarchism, however, also recognizes the right of the individual, or numbers of
individuals, to arrange at all times for other forms of work, in harmony with their tastes and desires.
Such free display of human energy being possible only under complete individual and social freedom, Anarchism
directs its forces against the third and greatest foe of all social equality; namely, the State, organized authority, or
statutory law,—the dominion of human conduct.
Just as religion has fettered the human mind, and as property, or the monopoly of things, has subdued and stifled
man's needs, so has the State enslaved his spirit, dictating every phase of conduct. "All government in essence,"
says Emerson, "is tyranny." It matters not whether it is government by divine right or majority rule. In every
instance its aim is the absolute subordination of the individual.
Referring to the American government, the greatest American Anarchist, David Thoreau, said: "Government, what
is it but a tradition, though a recent one, endeavoring to transmit itself unimpaired to posterity, but each instance
losing its integrity; it has not the vitality and force of a single living man. Law never made man a whit more just;
and by means of their respect for it, even the well disposed are daily made agents of injustice."
Indeed, the keynote of government is injustice. With the arrogance and self-sufficiency of the King who could do
no wrong, governments ordain, judge, condemn, and punish the most insignificant offenses, while maintaining
themselves by the greatest of all offenses, the annihilation of individual liberty. Thus Ouida is right when she
maintains that "the State only aims at instilling those qualities in its public by which its demands are obeyed, and
its exchequer is filled. Its highest attainment is the reduction of mankind to clockwork. In its atmosphere all those
finer and more delicate liberties, which require treatment and spacious expansion, inevitably dry up and perish.
The State requires a taxpaying machine in which there is no hitch, an exchequer in which there is never a deficit,
and a public, monotonous, obedient, colorless, spiritless, moving humbly like a flock of sheep along a straight
high road between two walls."
Yet even a flock of sheep would resist the chicanery of the State, if it were not for the corruptive, tyrannical, and
oppressive methods it employs to serve its purposes. Therefore Bakunin repudiates the State as synonymous with
the surrender of the liberty of the individual or small minorities,—the destruction of social relationship, the
curtailment, or complete denial even, of life itself, for its own aggrandizement. The State is the altar of political
freedom and, like the religious altar, it is maintained for the purpose of human sacrifice.
In fact, there is hardly a modern thinker who does not agree that government, organized authority, or the State, is
necessary ONLY to maintain or protect property and monopoly. It has proven efficient in that function only.
Even George Bernard Shaw, who hopes for the miraculous from the State under Fabianism, nevertheless admits
that "it is at present a huge machine for robbing and slave-driving of the poor by brute force." This being the case,
it is hard to see why the clever prefacer wishes to uphold the State after poverty shall have ceased to exist.
Unfortunately there are still a number of people who continue in the fatal belief that government rests on natural
laws, that it maintains social order and harmony, that it diminishes crime, and that it prevents the lazy man from
fleecing his fellows. I shall therefore examine these contentions.
A natural law is that factor in man which asserts itself freely and spontaneously without any external force, in
harmony with the requirements of nature. For instance, the demand for nutrition, for sex gratification, for light, air,
and exercise, is a natural law. But its expression needs not the machinery of government, needs not the club, the
gun, the handcuff, or the prison. To obey such laws, if we may call it obedience, requires only spontaneity and
free opportunity. That governments do not maintain themselves through such harmonious factors is proven by the
terrible array of violence, force, and coercion all governments use in order to live. Thus Blackstone is right when
he says, "Human laws are invalid, because they are contrary to the laws of nature."
Unless it be the order of Warsaw after the slaughter of thousands of people, it is difficult to ascribe to
governments any capacity for order or social harmony. Order derived through submission and maintained by
terror is not much of a safe guaranty; yet that is the only "order" that governments have ever maintained. True
social harmony grows naturally out of solidarity of interests. In a society where those who always work never
have anything, while those who never work enjoy everything, solidarity of interests is non-existent; hence social
harmony is but a myth. The only way organized authority meets this grave situation is by extending still greater
privileges to those who have already monopolized the earth, and by still further enslaving the disinherited masses.
Thus the entire arsenal of government—laws, police, soldiers, the courts, legislatures, prisons,—is strenuously
engaged in "harmonizing" the most antagonistic elements in society.
The most absurd apology for authority and law is that they serve to diminish crime. Aside from the fact that the
State is itself the greatest criminal, breaking every written and natural law, stealing in the form of taxes, killing in
the form of war and capital punishment, it has come to an absolute standstill in coping with crime. It has failed
utterly to destroy or even minimize the horrible scourge of its own creation.
Crime is naught but misdirected energy. So long as every institution of today, economic, political, social, and
moral, conspires to misdirect human energy into wrong channels; so long as most people are out of place doing
the things they hate to do, living a life they loathe to live, crime will be inevitable, and all the laws on the statutes
can only increase, but never do away with, crime. What does society, as it exists today, know of the process of
despair, the poverty, the horrors, the fearful struggle the human soul must pass on its way to crime and
degradation. Who that knows this terrible process can fail to see the truth in these words of Peter Kropotkin:
"Those who will hold the balance between the benefits thus attributed to law and punishment and the degrading
effect of the latter on humanity; those who will estimate the torrent of depravity poured abroad in human society
by the informer, favored by the Judge even, and paid for in clinking cash by governments, under the pretext of
aiding to unmask crime; those who will go within prison walls and there see what human beings become when
deprived of liberty, when subjected to the care of brutal keepers, to coarse, cruel words, to a thousand stinging,
piercing humiliations, will agree with us that the entire apparatus of prison and punishment is an abomination
which ought to be brought to an end."
The deterrent influence of law on the lazy man is too absurd to merit consideration. If society were only relieved of
the waste and expense of keeping a lazy class, and the equally great expense of the paraphernalia of protection this
lazy class requires, the social tables would contain an abundance for all, including even the occasional lazy
individual. Besides, it is well to consider that laziness results either from special privileges, or physical and mental
abnormalities. Our present insane system of production fosters both, and the most astounding phenomenon is that
people should want to work at all now. Anarchism aims to strip labor of its deadening, dulling aspect, of its gloom
and compulsion. It aims to make work an instrument of joy, of strength, of color, of real harmony, so that the
poorest sort of a man should find in work both recreation and hope.
To achieve such an arrangement of life, government, with its unjust, arbitrary, repressive measures, must be done
away with. At best it has but imposed one single mode of life upon all, without regard to individual and social
variations and needs. In destroying government and statutory laws, Anarchism proposes to rescue the self-respect
and independence of the individual from all restraint and invasion by authority. Only in freedom can man grow to
his full stature. Only in freedom will he learn to think and move, and give the very best in him. Only in freedom
will he realize the true force of the social bonds which knit men together, and which are the true foundation of a
normal social life.
But what about human nature? Can it be changed? And if not, will it endure under Anarchism?
Poor human nature, what horrible crimes have been committed in thy name! Every fool, from king to policeman,
from the flatheaded parson to the visionless dabbler in science, presumes to speak authoritatively of human nature.
The greater the mental charlatan, the more definite his insistence on the wickedness and weaknesses of human
nature. Yet, how can any one speak of it today, with every soul in a prison, with every heart fettered, wounded,
John Burroughs has stated that experimental study of animals in captivity is absolutely useless. Their character,
their habits, their appetites undergo a complete transformation when torn from their soil in field and forest. With
human nature caged in a narrow space, whipped daily into submission, how can we speak of its potentialities?
Freedom, expansion, opportunity, and, above all, peace and repose, alone can teach us the real dominant factors of
human nature and all its wonderful possibilities.
Anarchism, then, really stands for the liberation of the human mind from the dominion of religion; the liberation of
the human body from the dominion of property; liberation from the shackles and restraint of government.
Anarchism stands for a social order based on the free grouping of individuals for the purpose of producing real
social wealth; an order that will guarantee to every human being free access to the earth and full enjoyment of the
necessities of life, according to individual desires, tastes, and inclinations.
This is not a wild fancy or an aberration of the mind. It is the conclusion arrived at by hosts of intellectual men and
women the world over; a conclusion resulting from the close and studious observation of the tendencies of
modern society: individual liberty and economic equality, the twin forces for the birth of what is fine and true in
As to methods. Anarchism is not, as some may suppose, a theory of the future to be realized through divine
inspiration. It is a living force in the affairs of our life, constantly creating new conditions. The methods of
Anarchism therefore do not comprise an iron-clad program to be carried out under all circumstances. Methods
must grow out of the economic needs of each place and clime, and of the intellectual and temperamental
requirements of the individual. The serene, calm character of a Tolstoy will wish different methods for social
reconstruction than the intense, overflowing personality of a Michael Bakunin or a Peter Kropotkin. Equally so it
must be apparent that the economic and political needs of Russia will dictate more drastic measures than would
England or America. Anarchism does not stand for military drill and uniformity; it does, however, stand for the
spirit of revolt, in whatever form, against everything that hinders human growth. All Anarchists agree in that, as
they also agree in their opposition to the political machinery as a means of bringing about the great social change.
"All voting," says Thoreau, "is a sort of gaming, like checkers, or backgammon, a playing with right and wrong;
its obligation never exceeds that of expediency. Even voting for the right thing is doing nothing for it. A wise man
will not leave the right to the mercy of chance, nor wish it to prevail through the power of the majority." A close
examination of the machinery of politics and its achievements will bear out the logic of Thoreau.
What does the history of parliamentarism show? Nothing but failure and defeat, not even a single reform to
ameliorate the economic and social stress of the people. Laws have been passed and enactments made for the
improvement and protection of labor. Thus it was proven only last year that Illinois, with the most rigid laws for
mine protection, had the greatest mine disasters. In States where child labor laws prevail, child exploitation is at its
highest, and though with us the workers enjoy full political opportunities, capitalism has reached the most brazen
Even were the workers able to have their own representatives, for which our good Socialist politicians are
clamoring, what chances are there for their honesty and good faith? One has but to bear in mind the process of
politics to realize that its path of good intentions is full of pitfalls: wire-pulling, intriguing, flattering, lying,
cheating; in fact, chicanery of every description, whereby the political aspirant can achieve success. Added to that
is a complete demoralization of character and conviction, until nothing is left that would make one hope for
anything from such a human derelict. Time and time again the people were foolish enough to trust, believe, and
support with their last farthing aspiring politicians, only to find themselves betrayed and cheated.
It may be claimed that men of integrity would not become corrupt in the political grinding mill. Perhaps not; but
such men would be absolutely helpless to exert the slightest influence in behalf of labor, as indeed has been shown
in numerous instances. The State is the economic master of its servants. Good men, if such there be, would either
remain true to their political faith and lose their economic support, or they would cling to their economic master
and be utterly unable to do the slightest good. The political arena leaves one no alternative, one must either be a
dunce or a rogue.
The political superstition is still holding sway over the hearts and minds of the masses, but the true lovers of
liberty will have no more to do with it. Instead, they believe with Stirner that man has as much liberty as he is
willing to take. Anarchism therefore stands for direct action, the open defiance of, and resistance to, all laws and
restrictions, economic, social, and moral. But defiance and resistance are illegal. Therein lies the salvation of man.
Everything illegal necessitates integrity, self-reliance, and courage. In short, it calls for free, independent spirits,
for "men who are men, and who have a bone in their backs which you cannot pass your hand through."
Universal suffrage itself owes its existence to direct action. If not for the spirit of rebellion, of the defiance on the
part of the American revolutionary fathers, their posterity would still wear the King's coat. If not for the direct
action of a John Brown and his comrades, America would still trade in the flesh of the black man. True, the trade
in white flesh is still going on; but that, too, will have to be abolished by direct action. Trade-unionism, the
economic arena of the modern gladiator, owes its existence to direct action. It is but recently that law and
government have attempted to crush the trade-union movement, and condemned the exponents of man's right to
organize to prison as conspirators. Had they sought to assert their cause through begging, pleading, and
compromise, trade-unionism would today be a negligible quantity. In France, in Spain, in Italy, in Russia, nay
even in England (witness the growing rebellion of English labor unions) direct, revolutionary, economic action has
become so strong a force in the battle for industrial liberty as to make the world realize the tremendous importance
of labor's power. The General Strike, the supreme expression of the economic consciousness of the workers, was
ridiculed in America but a short time ago. Today every great strike, in order to win, must realize the importance of
the solidaric general protest.
Direct action, having proven effective along economic lines, is equally potent in the environment of the individual.
There a hundred forces encroach upon his being, and only persistent resistance to them will finally set him free.
Direct action against the authority in the shop, direct action against the authority of the law, direct action against the
invasive, meddlesome authority of our moral code, is the logical, consistent method of Anarchism.
Will it not lead to a revolution? Indeed, it will. No real social change has ever come about without a revolution.
People are either not familiar with their history, or they have not yet learned that revolution is but thought carried
Anarchism, the great leaven of thought, is today permeating every phase of human endeavor. Science, art,
literature, the drama, the effort for economic betterment, in fact every individual and social opposition to the
existing disorder of things, is illumined by the spiritual light of Anarchism. It is the philosophy of the sovereignty
of the individual. It is the theory of social harmony. It is the great, surging, living truth that is reconstructing the
world, and that will usher in the Dawn.
MINORITIES VERSUS MAJORITIES
If I were to give a summary of the tendency of our times, I would say, Quantity. The multitude, the mass spirit,
dominates everywhere, destroying quality. Our entire life—production, politics, and education—rests on quantity,
on numbers. The worker who once took pride in the thoroughness and quality of his work, has been replaced by
brainless, incompetent automatons, who turn out enormous quantities of things, valueless to themselves, and
generally injurious to the rest of mankind. Thus quantity, instead of adding to life's comforts and peace, has merely
increased man's burden.
In politics, naught but quantity counts. In proportion to its increase, however, principles, ideals, justice, and
uprightness are completely swamped by the array of numbers. In the struggle for supremacy the various political
parties outdo each other in trickery, deceit, cunning, and shady machinations, confident that the one who succeeds
is sure to be hailed by the majority as the victor. That is the only god,—Success. As to what expense, what terrible
cost to character, is of no moment. We have not far to go in search of proof to verify this sad fact.
Never before did the corruption, the complete rottenness of our government stand so thoroughly exposed; never
before were the American people brought face to face with the Judas nature of that political body, which has
claimed for years to be absolutely beyond reproach, as the mainstay of our institutions, the true protector of the
rights and liberties of the people.
Yet when the crimes of that party became so brazen that even the blind could see them, it needed but to muster up
its minions, and its supremacy was assured. Thus the very victims, duped, betrayed, outraged a hundred times,
decided, not against, but in favor of the victor. Bewildered, the few asked how could the majority betray the
traditions of American liberty? Where was its judgment, its reasoning capacity? That is just it, the majority cannot
reason; it has no judgment. Lacking utterly in originality and moral courage, the majority has always placed its
destiny in the hands of others. Incapable of standing responsibilities, it has followed its leaders even unto
destruction. Dr. Stockman was right: "The most dangerous enemies of truth and justice in our midst are the
compact majorities, the damned compact majority." Without ambition or initiative, the compact mass hates nothing
so much as innovation. It has always opposed, condemned, and hounded the innovator, the pioneer of a new truth.
The oft repeated slogan of our time is, among all politicians, the Socialists included, that ours is an era of
individualism, of the minority. Only those who do not probe beneath the surface might be led to entertain this
view. Have not the few accumulated the wealth of the world? Are they not the masters, the absolute kings of the
situation? Their success, however, is due not to individualism, but to the inertia, the cravenness, the utter
submission of the mass. The latter wants but to be dominated, to be led, to be coerced. As to individualism, at no
time in human history did it have less chance of expression, less opportunity to assert itself in a normal, healthy
The individual educator imbued with honesty of purpose, the artist or writer of original ideas, the independent
scientist or explorer, the non-compromising pioneers of social changes are daily pushed to the wall by men whose
learning and creative ability have become decrepit with age.
Educators of Ferrer's type are nowhere tolerated, while the dietitians of predigested food, a la Professors Eliot and
Butler, are the successful perpetuators of an age of nonentities, of automatons. In the literary and dramatic world,
the Humphrey Wards and Clyde Fitches are the idols of the mass, while but few know or appreciate the beauty
and genius of an Emerson, Thoreau, Whitman; an Ibsen, a Hauptmann, a Butler Yeats, or a Stephen Phillips. They
are like solitary stars, far beyond the horizon of the multitude.
Publishers, theatrical managers, and critics ask not for the quality inherent in creative art, but will it meet with a
good sale, will it suit the palate of the people? Alas, this palate is like a dumping ground; it relishes anything that
needs no mental mastication. As a result, the mediocre, the ordinary, the commonplace represents the chief literary
Need I say that in art we are confronted with the same sad facts? One has but to inspect our parks and
thoroughfares to realize the hideousness and vulgarity of the art manufacture. Certainly, none but a majority taste
would tolerate such an outrage on art. False in conception and barbarous in execution, the statuary that infests
American cities has as much relation to true art, as a totem to a Michael Angelo. Yet that is the only art that
succeeds. The true artistic genius, who will not cater to accepted notions, who exercises originality, and strives to
be true to life, leads an obscure and wretched existence. His work may some day become the fad of the mob, but
not until his heart's blood had been exhausted; not until the pathfinder has ceased to be, and a throng of an
idealless and visionless mob has done to death the heritage of the master.
It is said that the artist of today cannot create because Prometheus-like he is bound to the rock of economic
necessity. This, however, is true of art in all ages. Michael Angelo was dependent on his patron saint, no less than
the sculptor or painter of today, except that the art connoisseurs of those days were far away from the madding
crowd. They felt honored to be permitted to worship at the shrine of the master.
The art protector of our time knows but one criterion, one value,—the dollar. He is not concerned about the quality
of any great work, but in the quantity of dollars his purchase implies. Thus the financier in Mirbeau's LES
AFFAIRES SONT LES AFFAIRES points to some blurred arrangement in colors, saying "See how great it is; it
cost 50,000 francs." Just like our own parvenues. The fabulous figures paid for their great art discoveries must
make up for the poverty of their taste.
The most unpardonable sin in society is independence of thought. That this should be so terribly apparent in a
country whose symbol is democracy, is very significant of the tremendous power of the majority.
Wendell Phillips said fifty years ago: "In our country of absolute democratic equality, public opinion is not only
omnipotent, it is omnipresent. There is no refuge from its tyranny, there is no hiding from its reach, and the result
is that if you take the old Greek lantern and go about to seek among a hundred, you will not find a single
American who has not, or who does not fancy at least he has, something to gain or lose in his ambition, his social
life, or business, from the good opinion and the votes of those around him. And the consequence is that instead of
being a mass of individuals, each one fearlessly blurting out his own conviction, as a nation compared to other
nations we are a mass of cowards. More than any other people we are afraid of each other." Evidently we have not
advanced very far from the condition that confronted Wendell Phillips.
Today, as then, public opinion is the omnipresent tyrant; today, as then, the majority represents a mass of cowards,
willing to accept him who mirrors its own soul and mind poverty. That accounts for the unprecedented rise of a
man like Roosevelt. He embodies the very worst element of mob psychology. A politician, he knows that the
majority cares little for ideals or integrity. What it craves is display. It matters not whether that be a dog show, a
prize fight, the lynching of a "nigger," the rounding up of some petty offender, the marriage exposition of an
heiress, or the acrobatic stunts of an ex-president. The more hideous the mental contortions, the greater the delight
and bravos of the mass. Thus, poor in ideals and vulgar of soul, Roosevelt continues to be the man of the hour.
On the other hand, men towering high above such political pygmies, men of refinement, of culture, of ability, are
jeered into silence as mollycoddles. It is absurd to claim that ours is the era of individualism. Ours is merely a
more poignant repetition of the phenomenon of all history: every effort for progress, for enlightenment, for
science, for religious, political, and economic liberty, emanates from the minority, and not from the mass. Today,