Lucy E. Parsons on Anarchy (1887)

From Anarchism: Its Philosophy and Scientific Basis as Defined by Some of Its Apostles

[We are frequently asked, ‘what is anarchy and what do the anarchists want?’ We are free to confess that in all we have read and heard from anarchists about how they expected to attain their ends, we never read or heard just what those ends were. In an interview with the New York World, Mrs. Lucy E. Parsons, the well-known lecturess in this new school of social economy, gave the most succinct account we have ever seen; and in answer to the question, ‘what is anarchy,’ reprint the interview.—Editor Knights of Labor, Chicago.]

“In reply to the reporter’s inquiry as to the prospects of anarchy in this country and the world in general, the woman anarchist dropped her eyes for a moment in deep thought and said:

“‘This is the evolutionary stage of anarchism. The revolutionary period will be reached when the great middle classes are practically extinct. The great monopolies and corporations and syndicates met with on every hand are now rapidly extinguishing the middle classes, which we regard as the one great bulwark between the monopoly or wealthy class and the great producing or working class. There will come a time when there will be in this world only two classes—the possessing class and the nonpossessing but producing class, the middle classes have been forced into the wage, class, owing to the enormous capital now needed to remain in the field of production. These two classes will therefore find themselves arrayed against each other; a struggle, the revolutionary stage will come and the order of things in the world will be changed by the people themselves’.

“‘Will the change come peaceably?’

‘”I think not, for all history shows that every attempt to wrest from the wealthy and powerful that which they have, has been made by force. The vanguard of this struggling army will be found in America, because Americans will never submit to being forced to the conditions of the European masses. All the signs of the times show that the fight will begin here. Witness the strikes without number that have swept up and down this broad land like a grand cyclone. Millionaires are made here in one generation, whereas it takes centuries in Europe, and that is a fact that proves that Americans will respond to uuD me quicker. The wage system in this country has now reached its full development. It no longer satisfies the needs and wants r.nd aspirations of the people, facts which are illustrated by the poverty and starvation to be met with in the midst of plenty.’

“‘When this struggle comes and culminates in the sovereignty of the people, what then? What sort of a state will follow under anarchism?’

“‘ Well, first let us look at the derivation of anarchy. It means with out rule. We pre-suppose that the wage system has been abolished. There wage-slavery ends and anarchy begins, but you musn’t confuse this state with the revolutionary period, as people are in the habit of doing. We hold that the granges, trade-unions, Knights of Labor assemblies, etc., are the embryonic groups of the ideal anarchistic society. Under anarchy the different groups, including all the industrial trades, such as the farmer, the shoemaker, the printer, the painter, the hatter, the cigarmaker, etc., will maintain themselves apart and distinct from the whole. We ask for the decentralization of power from the central government into the groups or classes. The farmers will supply so much of the land products, the shoemaker so many shoes, the hatters so many hats, and so on, all of them measuring the consumption by statistics which will be accurately compiled and published. Land will be in common, and there will be no rent, no interest and no profit. Therefore there will be no Jay Goulds, no Vanderbilts, no corporations and no moneyed power.

“‘Drudgery, such as exists to-day will be reduced to a minimum. The children will be taken from the factories and sent to museums and schools. The number of hours of labor will be reduced, and people will have more time for pleasure and cultivation of the mind. We base all these results on natural reasons, believing that nature has implanted in every man, in common with all his fellows, certain instincts and certain capacities. If a man won’t work nature makes him starve, so in our state, you must work or starve. But we claim that the sum of human happiness will be increased, while the drudgery and poverty and misery of the world of to-day, all due to the powerful concentration of capital, will be done away with. It will be impossible for a man to accumulate Gould’s wealth, because there would be no such thing as profit, and no man could get more for his work than he produces. There would be no over-production, because only enough of any one article would be pro duced to meet the demand. There will be no political parties, no capitalists, no rings, no kings, no statesmen and no rulers.’ “‘How is this change to be brought about?’

“‘That comes in the revolutionary stage and will happen, as I said, when the final great struggle of the masses against the moneyed powers takes place. The money and wages now found in the possession of the wage class represent the bare coarse necessaries of life, nothing over when the bills from one week to another are paid. The rest goes to the profit-taking class, and that is why we call the system wage-slavery.’

“‘What criticism of the present form of government do you make?’

“‘All political government must necessarily become despotic, because all government tends to become centralized in the hands of the few, who breed corruption among themselves, and in a very short time disconnect themselves from the body of the people. The American republic is a good illustration. Here we have the semblance of a republic, of a democracy, but it has fallen into the hands of a powerful few, who rule with a despotism absolutely impossible in Europe. I have but to refer you to Carter Harrison’s interview not long ago in the World, in which he remarked that the atrocities committed on the anarchists in Chicago would not have been suffered in any monarchy.'”

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Independent scholar, translator and archivist.