HE WAS AN AMERICAN.
THE WAR AGAINST THE STATE.
LITERATURE OF ANARCHISM.
ITS POET AND PHILOSOPHER
What is anarchy, viewed as a political system, and who are its masters? Here is Vaillant's answer when he was put upon trial for hurling the bomb in the French Chamber of Deputies last winter. Said the examining judge : " Who taught you your doctrines?" Vaillant replied, " Darwin, Spencer, and Buchner."
M. Jean Grave made a different answer when asked the same question. Jean Grave, it should be said, is a young journeyman shoemaker in Paris, who has had the misfortune to be a thinker. In odd moments he wrote out his thoughts. The result was a book, "Moribund Society." It appeared about a year before Vaillant threw his bomb, and save for the sharp sight of the pickets of the literary outposts it would have attracted little attention.
Nevertheless, after Vaillant and Henry, the French police bethought themselves to be industrious. Jean Grave was put upon trial for inciting the deeds of these two men with his book. Both swore they had never read it. But that did not matter. The trial went on. In summing up, Jean Grave's attorney, a celebrated Parisian advocate, made a sensational speech.
In support of Grave's theory of the immorality and viciousness of the State, he quoted from the works of Victor Hugo, the greatest poet of modern France, and Heinrich Heine, the greatest poet of modern Germany ;
from Flaubert, the father of French realistic fiction, and from De Goncourt, his disciple ; from Lemmenais, from Rousseau, from Diderot, from Voltaire, from half the classic names of modern France. He quoted from these to show that Jean Grave was not nearly so extreme as they. The jury recommended Grave to mercy. He is now serving his two years' sentence to the penitentiary for writing his book. Jean Grave, in spare moments, was editor of an anarchist organ in Paris, LA REVOLTE. It happened that his temporary successor is an American, a Bostonian, Benjamin R. Tucker, well known as a translator and publisher of French and Russian masterpieces and as the editor of Liberty, the organ of anarchy in America. Singularly enough the first anarchist was an American, Josiah Warren. In his veins flowed the purest blood of 'the Revolutionary Puritans. He descended straight from a patriot of Bunker Hill. Josiah Warren wrote a book, "The True Civilisation." It appeared several years before Proudhon's epoch-making work, "What is Property?" Warren did not invent the word anarchy. That was a phrase of Proudhon's, who caught up an old word and gave it a new meaning, very much as Mr. Howells has caught up the word 'altruria.' But it is certain that Warren anticipated the great French apostle of anarchy by several years.
Warren's main theory, and perhaps this will give as good an insight into what may be termed philosophical anarchism as may be had, was that man has no right to govern man ; that the individual is sovereign and has natural rights which cannot be taken from him ; that he cannot be governed except with his own consent, or in other words, that all association with his fellows must be purely voluntary ; that all the governments of the present day, whether that of Russia or the United States, rest upon force, either the power of arms or the power of majority. All of these governments, he declared, are vicious and immoral and the parent of about all the ills to which human society is heir to. He proposed to abolish all government and make man free.
These are pretty much the ideas of the anarchists of the present day. Their principles are embodied in the declaration which appeared in the first number of Liberty, and which has since been adopted as the platform of anarchy.
LIBERTY'S war cry is "Down with Authority," and its chief battle with the State—the State that debases man ; the State, that prostitutes woman ; the State, that corrupts children ; the State, that trammels love ; the State, that stifles thought ; the State that monopolises land; the State, that limits credit ; the State, that that restricts exchange ; the State, that gives idle capital the power of increase, and, through interest, rent, profit and taxes, robs industrious labor of its products.
This is a bit oratorical. In plain words, the anarchists believe that from the State —that is to say, from government—spring, directly or indirectly, all the wrongs and abuses which obtain in present day society. They claim that from government are obtained all those privileges which, build up monopolies and create all the inequalities which now exist, and that all these monopolies and inequalities would disappear with the abolition of governmental interference in society, because if all association were purely voluntary, no man could rob or wrong another except with, that other's own consent.
It will be noted at once how diametrically opposed are anarchism and State socialism. The latter proposes that the State shall do everything, and be everything, and own everything. The anarchist proposes that the State shall do nothing, and own nothing, and be nothing. There is no longer any need for government, they declare. No one would think for a moment of making rules and regulations for conduct in a drawing room. But there is just as much order, and, in fact, far more, and the laws of polite society are far more severe, than as though there were police present to enforce them. Such conditions as obtain in the society of the intelligent and cultured are, the anarchists declare, the practical ideals of civilisation. The rights of all are secure because every one recognises the rights of every other. And this, the anarchists hold, is just what should be in all human society. Mankind has long ago outgrown the need of government. To develop the highest civilisation the State should be abolished, and mankind should be free.
The word " anarchy," by the way, does not mean, the absence of order, as a good many suppose, nor, for that matter, the absence of law. It means simply the absence of rulers or power. So it comes about that Proudhon's insistence upon his idea of the "Union of Order and Anarchy" is hardly the paradox it seems.
The author of this phrase (Pierre Jean Proudhon) was one of the most picturesque and rugged figures which France ever saw. He really belonged to the age of the Revolution. He was born in the little town of Besancon, which was also the birthplace of the communist Fourier, whose ideas Horace Greeley did so much to propagate in America. Proudhon came of very humble parentage, his father was a brewer's cooper, and he had to educate himself. It is related of him that he came home from the academy one day loaded down with all the prizes which the institution had to offer, and found no dinner.
He became a compositor, and at his trade became a master of Hebrew, Latin and German, as well as of his own native tongue. He drifted to Paris and began to write books. He was still young when he wrote his famous analysis of property, in which he uttered his celebrated axiom, "Property is theft." He was not in favor of the revolution of '48, because it found the social reformers unprepared, but once the revolution was on, he flung himself into it with characteristic energy and kept up the battle long after the revolution was over. For this he was imprisoned, but was released after the advent of Louis Napoleon.
Proudhon got along with the third empire very fairly until he wrote a book about it, and. then he was compelled to flee to Brussels. His health broke down under his persecutions, and he was allowed to return to Paris to die. This was in 1865. He was only 54 at the time. Every one agrees that Proudhon lived a very upright, ascetic, and commendable life. He married his wife while he was in prison, and in all his social relations was beyond criticism. As
for his works, he himself said that they were little more than efforts to pick things to pieces and get hold of the tangled skein of truth. He was a powerful writer, suggestive and stimulative. In his own time he made few converts, but since his death his fame has grown steadily, much, after the fashion of that of the philosopher Schopenhauer, and all the anarchists of the present day are merely his disciples. It is safe to say that even Herbert Spencer has been deeply influenced by his work.
After Proudhon the most celebrated of the original anarchists was Michael Bakounine, the founder of Russian nihilism. Bakounine was an impressionable young Russian when he went to Germany, and became in fused with the revolutionary spirit of 1848. He took part in the Dresden riots of that year, and then ensued his remarkable experience of being condemned to death by three different governments. For his part in the riots he was sentenced to be shot, but this was afterward commuted to banishment. But the Austrians had a rod in pickle for the fiery revolutionists and the Germans turned him over to their tender mercies. There, too, he was put under sentence of death, had his sentence commuted and was then turned over to Russia. Powerful influences in his native land saved him from the rope and he went to Siberia instead. There, as often happens, he became a sort of an official, and improving his opportunities, escaped to France.
Bakounine's book, "God and the State," was so radical that it secured his expulsion from the "International." He promptly founded an International of his own, which adopted the black flag as its emblem. This is still the order of the
violent revolution, and the man who talks about "the red flag of anarchy " with the idea that it means violence is maligning a very peaceful set of people.
Bakounine's chief work was in the propagation of nihilism in Russia. But he made his appearance every once in a while in different parts of Europe, stirring up revolution wherever he could. He was undoubtedly a very brave man, for the fear of death never deterred him in his warfare upon despotism, and it often seems as though he courted the scaffold. Nevertheless, he died a very natural death in 1876, and his name is revered in Russia very much as John the Baptist of Russian freedom.
Of living anarchists, the two most notable, striking, and picturesque figures are Prince Krapotkine and Elisee Reclus. Both of them are renowned scientists; both of them are the most uncompromising enemies of all existing governments, and both of them have been in prison for their opinions.
Elisee Reclus became known to the people of the United States as a defender of liberty long before he was ever heard of as an anarchist. He took part in the uprising of 1848, and owing to his extreme democratic opinions was compelled to quit France after the coup d'etat of 1851. That forced him to America, and when, a few years later, he was permitted to return to his native land, it was he who, through his vigorous defence of the cause of the north, held back the hand of Emperor Napoleon from writing a formal recognition of a confederacy. His articles were published in the REVUE DES DEUX-MONDES, which revolutionised public sentiment in France. The United States Minister, grateful for this service, spontaneously rendered, offered the young champion a considerable sum of money. He was starving in a garret at the time, but, wrapping himself in his proud poverty, he refused the offer. He did not write for liberty, he said, for money.
Elisee Reclus is without doubt the greatest geographer who ever lived. No other man ever knew so much about the earth as he does who ever knew how to tell it so well. But this has not prevented him from joining the Inter national and becoming a propagandist. It was a matter of course that he took part in the communist outbreak of 1870, but when the Thiers government got hold of him he was sentenced to deportation for life. He was saved by a notable intervention. All the great scientists of Europe, including Darwin and Wallace, joined in a protest, and he was merely banished.
Reclus took part in the Lyons riots in '82, but escaped to Switzerland. Of late years he has been living very quietly in Paris, completing his great work, "A Universal Geography of the Earth." He has written much about his ideas, and if you like to know what so renowned a scientist thinks of present day society, you may get a little pamphlet entitled "An Anarchist on Anarchy," which he has written in English.
Prince Krapotkine, Reclus's friend and fellow conspirator, is the present representative of anarchism in England. He first became prominent in the Lyons riots of 1882, and for his part therein he was sentenced to five years' imprisonment and 10 years of police supervision. His trial brought out his remarkable career. He is by birth a Russian nobleman and a prince. His father was a large owner of serfs and the young prince early became imbued with his notions of the injustice of society. He has not dared to return to Russia for years on account of his nihilistic and revolutionary efforts, and since his imprisonment in France has spent the larger part of his time in England. He is a frequent contributor to the English reviews and to NATURE and other scientific publications. He is a very able and lucid expositor of the theories and discoveries of modern science, and there are many people whose ideas of scientific progress have been derived from Prince Krapotkine's writings who have little idea of what a violent social heretic he is. He is a good deal of a believer in "propaganda by deed." In other words he does not look upon the acts of such men as Ravachol and Vaillant as in any way wrong, but simply, as the thing has turned out, inopportune.
Another very notable Englishman whose ideas of extreme individualism are not to be separated from philosophical anarchism is Auberon Herbert, who is the younger son of a noble English family. He gave promise of becoming one of England's foremost politicians, was a member of Parliament, and rapidly becoming a liberal leader of the radical type, following in the footsteps of John Morley, when he suddenly gave up politics entirely and became a propagandist for the abolition of all government. Just as Herbert Spencer is a more logical expounder of the ideas of John Stuart Mill than was Mill himself, so Auberon Herbert has carried the ideas of Spencer to their logical conclusions. Spencer wrote in "Social Statics" of "the right to ignore the State." Auberon Herbert would make it a duty. He is a rich man, and is spending his time now editing an anarchist organ, FREE LIFE, and distributing pamphlets free. One of his notable essays is the "Ethics of Dynamite," and another is "A Politician in Sight of Haven." If he gets hold of your name and address, he will give you no end of startling reading.
Although anarchism has obtained so little hold in Germany, owing to the popularity of the socialistic doctrines of Karl Marx, yet it is in Germany that anarchy has found its poet. John Henry Mackay has very little of a German name, and is thoroughly cosmopolitan in all his instincts and training. His father was a Scotch man, his mother German. He was brought up in Hamburg, travelled all over Europe, spent some time in America, and now lives mostly in Zurich.
He is now just 30 years old, and is accounted the finest of Germany's younger poets. Many of his songs have been translated into English, and two of his prose works. One of the latter. "The Anarchist," translated by Benjamin R. Tucker, has had quite an extended sale. It is a vivid and thrilling picture of civilisation at the
close of the century, written by a man whose instincts and sympathies are warm, poetic, and revolutionary. One of the most notable chapters in the work is a savage denunciation of the hanging of the Chicago anarchists. In Europe, he believes, will the revolution come first. Of course, his works, or the most of them, at least, are prohibited in Germany, and he would find living in that land as unhealthy as Heine did along about 1848. Like Heine, he observes that "the fly soup at Spandau is very bad, and the iron chains there are very cold in winter." Unlike the most of his fellow anarchists, Mackay has never been in prison. But he is young yet.
Benjamin R. Tucker may, by reason of his long companionship of anarchy in America be regarded as its foremost champion. He is best known, perhaps, to the general public by his translations of Tolstoi's "Kreutzer Sonata," Claude Tillier's "My Uncle Benjamin," and other noteworthy French, and Russian works. He began the publication of LIBERTY as a fortnightly journal about 13 years ago in Boston. It was a very modest affair, but its radical ideas and stimulative thought soon won it recognition, not alone in America, but in Europe as well. Tucker is rather to be regarded as an exponent of the ideas of Josiah Warren than of Proudhon, although he has translated the latter's voluminous work, "What Is Property ?" into English, as well as Proudhon's far greater, though less known, work, "A System of Economic Contradictions ; or, the Philosophy of Misery." His paper, LIBERTY, was discontinued about a year ago, but has since been revived.
Unlike socialism, anarchism has never had many notable female exponents. Perhaps this is because, in a general way, socialism appeals more to one's heart, and anarchism more to one's head. Louise Michel is about the only woman in Europe who has ever gained any prominence as an anarchist, and she is really little more than a revolutionary communist.