The Anarchism.net editors are thrilled to present what is commonly called Benjamin R. Tucker’s best essay
This essay, which is the clearest statement on the subject that has
ever been produced, was written by Mr. Tucker in 1886, in response to an
invitation from the editor of the North American Review to furnish
him a paper on Anarchism. It was accepted, announced for publication, and was
paid for; but it was never printed in that magazine, and, after numerous letters
of inquiry had been sent, the manuscript was returned to the author, although
the editor of the Review volunteered the declaration that it was the
ablest article that he had received during his editorship. It appeared as the
leading article in Instead of a Book, and, after forty years, it
is still easily the most important thing in the present volume:
Probably no agitation has ever attained the magnitude, either in the number
of its recruits or the area of its influence, which has been attained by Modern
Socialism, and at the same time been so little understood and so misunderstood,
not only by the hostile and the indifferent, but by the friendly, and even by
the great mass of its adherents themselves. This unfortunate and highly
dangerous state of things is due partly to the fact that the human relationships
which this movement--if anything so chaotic can be called a movement--aims to
transform, involve no special class or classes, but literally all mankind;
partly to the fact that these relationships are infinitely more varied and
complex in their nature than those with which any special reform has ever been
called upon to deal; and partly to the fact that the great molding forces of
society, the channels of information and enlightenment, are well-nigh
exclusively under the control of those whose immediate pecuniary interests are
antagonistic to the bottom claim of Socialism that labor should be put in
possession of its own.
Almost the only persons who may be said to comprehend even approximately the
significance, principles, and purposes of Socialism are the chief leaders of the
extreme wings of the Socialistic forces, and perhaps a few of the money kings
themselves. It is a subject of which it has lately become quite the fashion for
preacher, professor, and penny-a-liner to treat, and, for the most part, woeful
work they have made with it, exciting the derision and pity of those competent
to judge. That those prominent in the intermediate Socialistic divisions do not
fully understand what they are about is evident from the positions they occupy.
If they did; if they were consistent, logical thinkers; if they were what the
French call consequent men,--their reasoning faculties would long since
have driven them to one extreme or the other.
For it is a curious fact that the two extremes of the vast army now under
consideration, though united, as has been hinted above, by the common claim that
labor shall be put in possession of its own, are more diametrically opposed to
each other in their fundamental principles of social action and their methods of
reaching the ends aimed at than either is to their common enemy, the existing
society. They are based on two principles the history of whose conflict is
almost equivalent to the history of the world since man came into it; and all
intermediate parties, including that of the upholders of the existing society,
are based upon a compromise between them. It is clear, then, that any
intelligent, deep-rooted opposition to the prevailing order of things must come
from one or the other of these extremes, for anything from any other source, far
from being revolutionary in character, could be only in the nature of such
superficial modification as would be utterly unable to concentrate upon itself
the degree of attention and interest now bestowed upon Modern Socialism.
The two principles referred to are Authority and Liberty, and
the names of the two schools of Socialistic thought which fully and unreservedly
represent one or the other of them are, respectively, State Socialism and
Anarchism. Whoso knows what these two schools want and how they propose to get
it understands the Socialistic movement. For, just as it has been said that
there is no half-way house between Rome and Reason, so it may be said that there
is no half-way house between State Socialism and Anarchism. There are, in fact,
two currents steadily flowing from the center of the Socialistic forces which
are concentrating them on the left and on the right; and, if Socialism is to
prevail, it is among the possibilities that, after this movement of separation
has been completed and the existing order have been crushed out between the two
camps, the ultimate and bitterer conflict will be still to come. In that case
all the eight-hour men, all the trades-unionists, all the Knights of Labor, all
the land nationalizationists, all the greenbackers, and, in short, all the
members of the thousand and one different battalions belonging to the great army
of Labor, will have deserted their old posts, and, these being arrayed on the
one side and the other, the great battle will begin. What a final victory for
the State Socialists will mean, and what a final victory for the Anarchists will
mean, it is the purpose of this paper to briefly state.
To do this intelligently, however, I must first describe the ground common to
both, the features that make Socialists of each of them.
The economic principles of Modern Socialism are a logical deduction from the
principle laid down by Adam Smith in the early chapters of his “Wealth of
Nations,”--namely, that labor is the true measure of price. But Adam Smith,
after stating this principle most clearly and concisely, immediately abandoned
all further consideration of it to devote himself to showing what actually does
measure price, and how, therefore, wealth is at present distributed. Since his
day nearly all the political economists have followed his example by confining
their function to the description of society as it is, in its industrial and
commercial phases. Socialism, on the contrary, extends its function to the
description of society as it should be, and the discovery of the means of making
it what it should be. Half a century or more after Smith enunciated the
principle above stated, Socialism picked it up where he had dropped it, and in
following it to its logical conclusions, made it the basis of a new economic
This seems to have been done independently by three different men, of three
different nationalities, in three different languages: Josiah Warren, an
American; Pierre J. Proudhon, a Frenchman; Karl Marx, a German Jew. That Warren
and Proudhon arrived at their conclusions singly and unaided is certain; but
whether Marx was not largely indebted to Proudhon for his economic ideas is
questionable. However this may be, Marx’s presentation of the ideas was in so
many respects peculiarly his own that he is fairly entitled to the credit of
originality. That the work of this interesting trio should have been done so
nearly simultaneously would seem to indicate that Socialism was in the air, and
that the time was ripe and the conditions favorable for the appearance of this
new school of thought. So far as priority of time is concerned, the credit seems
to belong to Warren, the American,--a fact which should be noted by the stump
orators who are so fond of declaiming against Socialism as an imported article.
Of the purest revolutionary blood, too, this Warren, for he descended from the
Warren who fell at Bunker Hill.
From Smith’s principle that labor is the true measure of price--or, as
Warren phrased it, that cost is the proper limit of price--these three men made
the following deductions: that the natural wage of labor is its product; that
this wage, or product, is the only just source of income (leaving out, of
course, gift, inheritance, etc.); that all who derive income from any other
source abstract it directly or indirectly from the natural and just wage of
labor; that this abstracting process generally takes one of three forms,--
interest, rent, and profit; that these three constitute the trinity of usury,
and are simply different methods of levying tribute for the use of capital;
that, capital being simply stored-up labor which has already received its pay in
full, its use ought to be gratuitous, on the principle that labor is the only
basis of price; that the lender of capital is entitled to its return intact, and
nothing more; that the only reason why the banker, the stockholder, the
landlord, the manufacturer, and the merchant are able to exact usury from labor
lies in the fact that they are backed by legal privilege, or monopoly; and that
the only way to secure labor the enjoyment of its entire product, or natural
wage, is to strike down monopoly.
It must not be inferred that either Warren, Proudhon, or Marx used exactly
this phraseology, or followed exactly this line of thought, but it indicates
definitely enough the fundamental ground taken by all three, and their
substantial thought up to the limit to which they went in common. And, lest I
may be accused of stating the positions and arguments of these men incorrectly,
it may be well to say in advance that I have viewed them broadly, and that, for
the purpose of sharp, vivid, and emphatic comparison and contrast, I have taken
considerable liberty with their thought by rearranging it in an order, and often
in a phraseology, of my own, but, I am satisfied, without, in so doing,
misrepresenting them in any essential particular.
It was at this point--the necessity of striking down monopoly--that came
the parting of their ways. Here the road forked. They found that they must turn
either to the right or to the left,--follow either the path of Authority or the
path of Liberty. Marx went one way; Warren and Proudhon the other. Thus were
born State Socialism and Anarchism.
First, then, State Socialism, which may be described as the doctrine that
all the affairs of men should be managed by the government, regardless of
Marx, its founder, concluded that the only way to abolish the class
monopolies was to centralize and consolidate all industrial and commercial
interests, all productive and distributive agencies, in one vast monopoly in the
hands of the State. The government must become banker, manufacturer, farmer,
carrier, and merchant, and in these capacities must suffer no competition. Land,
tools, and all instruments of production must be wrested from individual hands,
and made the property of the collectivity. To the individual can belong only the
products to be consumed, not the means of producing them. A man may own his
clothes and his food, but not the sewing-machine which makes his shirts or the
spade which digs his potatoes. Product and capital are essentially different
things; the former belongs to individuals, the latter to society. Society must
seize the capital which belongs to it, by the ballot if it can, by revolution if
it must. Once in possession of it, it must administer it on the majority
principle, though its organ, the State, utilize it in production and
distribution, fix all prices by the amount of labor involved, and employ the
whole people in its workshops, farms, stores, etc. The nation must be
transformed into a vast bureaucracy, and every individual into a State official.
Everything must be done on the cost principle, the people having no motive to
make a profit out of themselves. Individuals not being allowed to own capital,
no one can employ another, or even himself. Every man will be a wage-receiver,
and the State the only wage-payer. He who will not work for the State must
starve, or, more likely, go to prison. All freedom of trade must disappear.
Competition must be utterly wiped out. All industrial and commercial activity
must be centered in one vast, enormous, all-inclusive monopoly. The remedy for
monopolies is monopoly.
Such is the economic program of State Socialism as adopted from Karl Marx.
The history of its growth and progress cannot be told here. In this country the
parties that uphold it are known as the Socialistic Labor Party, which pretends
to follow Karl Marx; the Nationalists, who follow Karl Marx filtered through
Edward Bellamy; and the Christian Socialists, who follow Karl Marx filtered
through Jesus Christ.
What other applications this principle of Authority, once adopted in the
economic sphere, will develop is very evident. It means the absolute control by
the majority of all individual conduct. The right of such control is already
admitted by the State Socialists, though they maintain that, as a matter of
fact, the individual would be allowed a much larger liberty than he now enjoys.
But he would only be allowed it; he could not claim it as his own. There would
be no foundation of society upon a guaranteed equality of the largest possible
liberty. Such liberty as might exist would exist by sufferance and could be
taken away at any moment. Constitutional guarantees would be of no avail. There
would be but one article in the constitution of a State Socialistic country:
“The right of the majority is absolute.”
The claim of the State Socialists, however, that this right would not be
exercised in matters pertaining to the individual in the more intimate and
private relations of his life is not borne out by the history of governments. It
has ever been the tendency of power to add to itself, to enlarge its sphere, to
encroach beyond the limits set for it; and where the habit of resisting such
encroachment is not fostered, and the individual is not taught to be jealous of
his rights, individuality gradually disappears and the government or State
becomes the all-in-all. Control naturally accompanies responsibility. Under the
system of State Socialism, therefore, which holds the community responsible for
the health, wealth, and wisdom of the individual, it is evident that the
community, through its majority expression, will insist more and more in
prescribing the conditions of health, wealth, and wisdom, thus impairing and
finally destroying individual independence and with it all sense of individual
Whatever, then, the State Socialists may claim or disclaim, their system, if
adopted, is doomed to end in a State religion, to the expense of which all must
contribute and at the altar of which all must kneel; a State school of medicine,
by whose practitioners the sick must invariably be treated; a State system of
hygiene, prescribing what all must and must not eat, drink, wear, and do; a
State code of morals, which will not content itself with punishing crime, but
will prohibit what the majority decide to be vice; a State system of
instruction, which will do away with all private schools, academies, and
colleges; a State nursery, in which all children must be brought up in common at
the public expense; and, finally, a State family, with an attempt at
stirpiculture, or scientific breeding, in which no man and woman will be allowed
to have children if the State prohibits them and no man and woman can refuse to
have children if the State orders them. Thus will Authority achieve its acme and
Monopoly be carried to its highest power.
Such is the ideal of the logical State Socialist, such the goal which lies at
the end of the road that Karl Marx took. Let us now follow the fortunes of
Warren and Proudhon, who took the other road,--the road of Liberty.
This brings us to Anarchism, which may be described as the doctrine that
all the affairs of men should be managed by individuals or voluntary
associations, and that the State should be abolished.
When Warren and Proudhon, in prosecuting their search for justice to labor,
came face to face with the obstacle of class monopolies, they saw that these
monopolies rested upon Authority, and concluded that the thing to be done was,
not to strengthen this Authority and thus make monopoly universal, but to
utterly uproot Authority and give full sway to the opposite principle, Liberty,
by making competition, the antithesis of monopoly, universal. They saw in
competition the great leveler of prices to the labor cost of production. In this
they agreed with the political economists. They query then naturally presented
itself why all prices do not fall to labor cost; where there is any room for
incomes acquired otherwise than by labor; in a word, why the usurer, the
receiver of interest, rent, and profit, exists. The answer was found in the
present one-sidedness of competition. It was discovered that capital had so
manipulated legislation that unlimited competition is allowed in supplying
productive labor, thus keeping wages down to the starvation point, or as near it
as practicable; that a great deal of competition is allowed in supplying
distributive labor, or the labor of the mercantile classes, thus keeping, not
the prices of goods, but the merchants’ actual profits on them down to a point
somewhat approximating equitable wages for the merchants’ work; but that almost
no competition at all is allowed in supplying capital, upon the aid of which
both productive and distributive labor are dependent for their power of
achievement, thus keeping the rate of interest on money and of house-rent and
ground-rent at as high a point as the necessities of the people will bear.
On discovering this, Warren and Proudhon charged the political economists
with being afraid of their own doctrine. The Manchester men were accused of
being inconsistent. The believed in liberty to compete with the laborer in order
to reduce his wages, but not in liberty to compete with the capitalist in order
to reduce his usury. Laissez Faire was very good sauce for the goose,
labor, but was very poor sauce for the gander, capital. But how to correct this
inconsistency, how to serve this gander with this sauce, how to put capital at
the service of business men and laborers at cost, or free of usury,--that was
Marx, as we have seen, solved it by declaring capital to be a different thing
from product, and maintaining that it belonged to society and should be seized
by society and employed for the benefit of all alike. Proudhon scoffed at this
distinction between capital and product. He maintained that capital and product
are not different kinds of wealth, but simply alternate conditions or functions
of the same wealth; that all wealth undergoes an incessant transformation from
capital into product and from product back into capital, the process repeating
itself interminably; that capital and product are purely social terms; that what
is product to one man immediately becomes capital to another, and vice
versa; that if there were but one person in the world, all wealth would be
to him at once capital and product; that the fruit of A’s toil is his product,
which, when sold to B, becomes B’s capital (unless B is an unproductive
consumer, in which case it is merely wasted wealth, outside the view of social
economy); that a steam-engine is just as much product as a coat, and that a coat
is just as much capital as a steam-engine; and that the same laws of equity
govern the possession of the one that govern the possession of the other.
For these and other reasons Proudhon and Warren found themselves unable to
sanction any such plan as the seizure of capital by society. But, though opposed
to socializing the ownership of capital, they aimed nevertheless to socialize
its effects by making its use beneficial to all instead of a means of
impoverishing the many to enrich the few. And when the light burst in upon them,
they saw that this could be done by subjecting capital to the natural law of
competition, thus bringing the price of its own use down to cost,--that is, to
nothing beyond the expenses incidental to handling and transferring it. So they
raised the banner of Absolute Free Trade; free trade at home, as well as with
foreign countries; the logical carrying out of the Manchester doctrine;
laissez faire the universal rule. Under this banner they began their
fight upon monopolies, whether the all-inclusive monopoly of the State
Socialists, or the various class monopolies that now prevail.
Of the latter they distinguished four of principal importance: the money
monopoly, the land monopoly, the tariff monopoly, and the patent monopoly.
First in the importance of its evil influence they considered the money
monopoly, which consists of the privilege given by the government to certain
individuals, or to individuals holding certain kinds of property, of issuing the
circulating medium, a privilege which is now enforced in this country by a
national tax of ten per cent, upon all other persons who attempt to furnish a
circulating medium, and by State laws making it a criminal offense to issue
notes as currency. It is claimed that the holders of this privilege control the
rate of interest, the rate of rent of houses and buildings, and the prices of
goods,--the first directly, and the second and third indirectly. For, say
Proudhon and Warren, if the business of banking were made free to all, more and
more persons would enter into it until the competition should become sharp
enough to reduce the price of lending money to the labor cost, which statistics
show to be less than three-fourths of once per cent. In that case the thousands
of people who are now deterred from going into business by the ruinously high
rates which they must pay for capital with which to start and carry on business
will find their difficulties removed. If they have property which they do not
desire to convert into money by sale, a bank will take it as collateral for a
loan of a certain proportion of its market value at less than one per cent
discount. If they have no property, but are industrious, honest, and capable,
they will generally be able to get their individual notes endorsed by a
sufficient number of known and solvent parties; and on such business paper they
will be able to get a loan at a bank on similarly favorable terms. Thus interest
will fall at a blow. The banks will really not be lending capital at all, but
will be doing business on the capital of their customers, the business
consisting in an exchange of the known and widely available credits of the banks
for the unknown and unavailable, but equality good, credits of the customers and
a charge therefore of less than one per cent, not as interest for the use of
capital, but as pay for the labor of running the banks. This facility of
acquiring capital will give an unheard of impetus to business, and consequently
create an unprecedented demand for labor,--a demand which will always be in
excess of the supply, directly to the contrary of the present condition of the
labor market. Then will be seen and exemplification of the worlds of Richard
Cobden that, when two laborers are after one employer, wages fall, but when two
employers are after one laborer, wages rise. Labor will then be in a position to
dictate its wages, and will thus secure its natural wage, its entire product.
Thus the same blow that strikes interest down will send wages up. But this is
not all. Down will go profits also. For merchants, instead of buying at high
prices on credit, will borrow money of the banks at less than one per cent, buy
at low prices for cash, and correspondingly reduce the prices of their goods to
their customers. And with the rest will go house-rent. For no one who can borrow
capital at one per cent with which to build a house of his own will consent to
pay rent to a landlord at a higher rate than that. Such is the vast claim made
by Proudhon and Warren as to the results of the simple abolition of the money
Second in importance comes the land monopoly, the evil effects of which are
seen principally in exclusively agricultural countries, like Ireland. This
monopoly consists in the enforcement by government of land titles which do not
rest upon personal occupancy and cultivation. It was obvious to Warren and
Proudhon that, as soon as individualists should no longer be protected by their
fellows in anything but personal occupancy and cultivation of land, ground-rent
would disappear, and so usury have one less leg to stand on. Their followers of
today are disposed to modify this claim to the extent of admitting that the very
small fraction of ground-rent which rests, not on monopoly, but on superiority
of soil or site, will continue to exist for a time and perhaps forever, though
tending constantly to a minimum under conditions of freedom. But the inequality
of soils which gives rise to the economic rent of land, like the inequality of
human skill which gives rise to the economic rent of ability, is not a cause for
serious alarm even to the most thorough opponent of usury, as its nature is not
that of a germ from which other and graver inequalities may spring, but rather
that of a decaying branch which may finally wither and fall.
Third, the tariff monopoly, which consists in fostering production at high
prices and under unfavorable conditions by visiting with the penalty of taxation
those who patronize production at low prices and under favorable conditions. The
evil to which this monopoly gives rise might more properly be called
misusury than usury, because it compels labor to pay, not exactly for the
use of capital, but rather for the misuse of capital. The abolition of this
monopoly would result in a great reduction in the prices of all articles taxed,
and this saving to the laborers who consume these articles would be another step
toward securing to the laborer his natural wage, his entire product. Proudhon
admitted, however, that to abolish this monopoly before abolishing the money
monopoly would be a cruel and disastrous police, first, because the evil of
scarcity of money, created by the money monopoly, would be intensified by the
flow of money out of the country which would be involved in an excess of imports
over exports, and, second, because that fraction of the laborers of the country
which is now employed in the protected industries would be turned adrift to face
starvation without the benefit of the insatiable demand for labor which a
competitive money system would create. Free trade in money at home, making money
and work abundant, was insisted upon by Proudhon as a prior condition of free
trade in goods with foreign countries.
Fourth, the patent monopoly, which consists in protecting inventors and
authors against competition for a period long enough to enable them to extort
from the people a reward enormously in excess of the labor measure of their
services,--in other words, in giving certain people a right of property for a
term of years in laws and facts of Nature, and the power to exact tribute from
others for the use of this natural wealth, which should be open to all. The
abolition of this monopoly would fill its beneficiaries with a wholesome fear of
competition which would cause them to be satisfied with pay for their services
equal to that which other laborers get for theirs, and to secure it by placing
their products and works on the market at the outset at prices so low that their
lines of business would be no more tempting to competitors than any other lines.
The development of the economic program which consists in the destruction
of these monopolies and the substitution for them of the freest competition led
its authors to a perception of the fact that all their thought rested upon a
very fundamental principle, the freedom of the individual, his right of
sovereignty over himself, his products, and his affairs, and of rebellion
against the dictation of external authority. Just as the idea of taking capital
away from individuals and giving it to the government started Marx in a path
which ends in making the government everything and the individual nothing, so
the idea of taking capital away from government-protected monopolies and putting
it within easy reach of all individuals started Warren and Proudhon in a path
which ends in making the individual everything and the government nothing. If
the individual has a right to govern himself, all external government is
tyranny. Hence the necessity of abolishing the State. This was the logical
conclusion to which Warren and Proudhon were forced, and it became the
fundamental article of their political philosophy. It is the doctrine which
Proudhon named An-archism, a word derived from the Greek, and meaning, not
necessarily absence of order, as is generally supposed, but an absence of rule.
The Anarchists are simply unterrified Jeffersonian Democrats. They believe that
“the best government is that which governs least,” and that that which governs
least is no government at all. Even the simple police function of protecting
person and property they deny to governments supported by compulsory taxation.
Protection they look upon as a thing to be secured, as long as it is necessary,
by voluntary association and cooperation for self-defense, or as a commodity to
be purchased, like any other commodity, of those who offer the best article at
the lowest price. In their view it is in itself an invasion of the individual to
compel him to pay for or suffer a protection against invasion that he has not
asked for and does not desire. And they further claim that protection will
become a drug in the market, after poverty and consequently crime have
disappeared through the realization of their economic program. Compulsory
taxation is to them the life-principle of all the monopolies, and passive, but
organized, resistance to the tax- collector they contemplate, when the proper
time comes, as one of the most effective methods of accomplishing their
Their attitude on this is a key to their attitude on all other questions of a
political or social nature. In religion they are atheistic as far as their own
opinions are concerned, for they look upon divine authority and the religious
sanction of morality as the chief pretexts put forward by the privileged classes
for the exercise of human authority. “If God exists,” said Proudhon, “he is
man’s enemy.” And in contrast to Voltaire’s famous epigram, “If God did not
exist, it would be necessary to invent him,” the great Russian Nihilist, Mikhail
Bakunin, placed this antithetical proposition: “If God existed, it would be
necessary to abolish him.” But although, viewing the divine hierarchy as a
contradiction of Anarchy, they do not believe in it, the Anarchists none the
less firmly believe in the liberty to believe in it. Any denial of religious
freedom they squarely oppose.
Upholding thus the right of every individual to be or select his own priest,
they likewise uphold his right to be or select his own doctor. No monopoly in
theology, no monopoly in medicine. Competition everywhere and always; spiritual
advice and medical advice alike to stand or fall on their own merits. And not
only in medicine, but in hygiene, must this principle of liberty be followed.
The individual may decide for himself not only what to do to get well, but what
to do to keep well. No external power must dictate to him what he must and must
not eat, drink, wear, or do.
Nor does the Anarchistic scheme furnish any code of morals to be imposed upon
the individual. “Mind your own business” is its only moral law. Interference
with another’s business is a crime and the only crime, and as such may properly
be resisted. In accordance with this view the Anarchists look upon attempts to
arbitrarily suppress vice as in themselves crimes. They believe liberty and the
resultant social well-being to be a sure cure for all the vices. But they
recognize the right of the drunkard, the gambler, the rake, and the harlot to
live their lives until they shall freely choose to abandon them.
In the matter of the maintenance and rearing of children the Anarchists would
neither institute the communistic nursery which the State Socialists favor nor
keep the communistic school system which now prevails. The nurse and the
teacher, like the doctor and the preacher, must be selected voluntarily, and
their services must be paid for by those who patronize them. Parental rights
must not be taken away, and parental responsibilities must not be foisted upon
Even in so delicate a matter as that of the relations of the sexes the
Anarchists do not shrink from the application of their principle. They
acknowledge and defend the right of any man and woman, or any men and women, to
love each other for as long or as short a time as they can, will, or may. To
them legal marriage and legal divorce are equal absurdities. They look forward
to a time when every individual, whether man or woman, shall be self-supporting,
and when each shall have an independent home of his or her own, whether it be a
separate house or rooms in a house with others; when the love relations between
these independent individuals shall be as varied as are individual inclinations
and attractions; and when the children born of these relations shall belong
exclusively to the mothers until old enough to belong to themselves.
Such are the main features of the Anarchistic social ideal. There is wide
difference of opinion among those who hold it as to the best method of obtaining
it. Time forbids the treatment of that phase of the subject here. I will simply
call attention to the fact that it is an ideal utterly inconsistent with that of
those Communists who falsely call themselves Anarchists while at the same time
advocating a regime of Archism fully as despotic as that of the State Socialists
themselves. And it is an ideal that can be as little advanced by Prince
Kropotkin as retarded by the brooms of those Mrs. Partingtons of the bench who
sentence them to prison; an ideal which the martyrs of Chicago did far more to
help by their glorious death upon the gallows for the common cause of Socialism
than by their unfortunate advocacy during their lives, in the name of Anarchism,
of force as a revolutionary agent and authority as a safeguard of the new social
order. The Anarchists believe in liberty both as an end and means, and are
hostile to anything that antagonizes it.
I should not undertake to summarize this altogether too summary exposition of
Socialism from the standpoint of Anarchism, did I not find the task already
accomplished for me by a Brilliant French journalist and historian, Ernest
Lesigne, in the form of a series of crisp antithesis; by reading which to you as
a conclusion of this lecture I hope to deepen the impression which it has been
my endeavor to make.
“There are two Socialisms.
One is communistic, the other solidaritarian.
One is dictatorial, the other libertarian.
One is metaphysical, the
One is dogmatic, the other scientific.
One is emotional,
the other reflective.
One is destructive, the other constructive.
are in pursuit of the greatest possible welfare for all.
One aims to
establish happiness for all, the other to enable each to be
happy in his own
The first regards the State as a society sui generis, of an
the product of a sort of divine right outside of and above
with special rights and able to exact special obediences; the
considers the State as an association like any other, generally
worse than others.
The first proclaims the sovereignty of the
State, the second recognizes no
sort of sovereign.
One wishes all
monopolies to be held by the State; the other wishes the
abolition of all
One wishes the governed class to become the governing class; the
the disappearance of classes.
Both declare that the
existing state of things cannot last.
The first considers revolutions as the
indispensable agent of evolutions; the
second teaches that repression alone
turns evolutions into revolution.
The first has faith in a cataclysm.
The second knows that social progress will result from the free play of
Both understand that we are entering upon a new
One wishes that there should be none but proletaires.
The other wishes that there should be no more proletaires.
wishes to take everything away from everybody.
The second wishes to leave
each in possession of its own.
The one wishes to expropriate everybody.
The other wishes everybody to be a proprietor.
The first says: ‘Do as
the government wishes.’
The second says: ‘Do as you wish yourself.’
former threatens with despotism.
The latter promises liberty.
makes the citizen the subject of the State.
The latter makes the State the
employee of the citizen.
One proclaims that labor pains will be necessary to
the birth of a new world.
The other declares that real progress will not
cause suffering to any one.
The first has confidence in social war.
other believes only in the works of peace.
One aspires to command, to
regulate, to legislate.
The other wishes to attain the minimum of command,
of regulation, of legislation.
One would be followed by the most atrocious
The other opens unlimited horizons to progress.
will fail; the other will succeed.
Both desire equality.
One by lowering
heads that are too high.
The other by raising heads that are too low.
One sees equality under a common yoke.
The other will secure equality in
One is intolerant, the other tolerant.
the other reassures.
The first wishes to instruct everybody.
wishes to enable everybody to instruct himself.
The first wishes to support
The second wishes to enable everybody to support himself.
The land to the State
The mine to the State
The tool to the
The product to the State
The other says:
The land to the
The mine to the miner.
The tool to the laborer.
product to the producer.
There are only these two Socialisms.
One is the
infancy of Socialism; the other is its manhood.
One is already the past; the
other is the future.
One will give place to the other.
Today each of us must choose for the one or the other of these two
Socialisms, or else confess that he is not a Socialist.”
Forty years ago, when the foregoing essay was written, the denial of
competition had not yet effected the enormous concentration of wealth that now
so gravely threatens social order. It was not yet too late to stem the current
of accumulation by a reversal of the policy of monopoly. The Anarchistic remedy
was still applicable.
Today the way is not so clear. The four monopolies, unhindered, have made
possible the modern development of the trust, and the trust is now a monster
which I fear, even the freest banking, could it be instituted, would be unable
to destroy. As long as the Standard Oil group controlled only fifty millions of
dollars, the institution of free competition would have crippled it hopelessly;
it needed the money monopoly for its sustenance and its growth. Now that it
controls, directly and indirectly, perhaps ten thousand millions, it sees in the
money monopoly a convenience, to be sure, but no longer a necessity. It can do
without it. Were all restrictions upon banking to be removed, concentrated
capital could meet successfully the new situation by setting aside annually for
sacrifice a sum that would remove every competitor from the field.
If this be true, then monopoly, which can be controlled permanently only for
economic forces, has passed for the moment beyond their reach, and must be
grappled with for a time solely by forces political or revolutionary. Until
measures of forcible confiscation, through the State or in defiance of it, shall
have abolished the concentrations that monopoly has created, the economic
solution proposed by Anarchism and outlined in the forgoing pages--and there
is no other solution--will remain a thing to be taught to the rising
generation, that conditions may be favorable to its application after the great
leveling. But education is a slow process, and may not come too quickly.
Anarchists who endeavor to hasten it by joining in the propaganda of State
Socialism or revolution make a sad mistake indeed. They help to so force the
march of events that the people will not have time to find out, by the study of
their experience, that their troubles have been due to the rejection of
competition. If this lesson shall not be learned in a season, the past will be
repeated in the future, in which case we shall have to turn for consolation to
the doctrine of Nietzsche that this is bound to happen anyhow, or to the
reflection of Renan that, from the point of view of Sirius, all these matters
are of little moment.
B.R.T., August 11, 1926.