THE DAY AFTER TO-MORROW.
FREEDOM = NO GOVERNMENT.
We are now travelling towards Socialism: a system of the most tortuously interlocked Government control. But surging its way to the surface is a powerful wave—a wave which, when it breaks, will wash away all before it, will explode into a thousand pieces the counter-forces which now surround it,—a wave which, by its very compression, is gathering in intensity and energy; this wave is called the Desire for Freedom.
It is to the Socialists of to-day that we believers in Freedom look for a great many of to-morrow’s recruits, and we know that their allegiance, when it comes, will have a great spiritual value: the energetic value of a powerful recoil. The recruits who are, almost unconsciously, ranging themselves with us from the ranks of the upholders of the old autocratic regime have their peculiar value, too. The spiritual power they bring is the adhesive strength of natural affinity. From these two sources we Freedomites can most confidently expect to recruit our following.
At first glance, it may seem a strange theory that two opposite stocks should be said to be breeding the same offspring. But once again extremes will have met, as extremes so often do. And it will have been discovered that the original cleavage was one of method rather than aim.
The progress of the Socialist to definite Freedom is fairly easy to trace, in the light of history. Socialism, as an articulate political theory, has gradually evolved and elaborated itself from a demand for equality, and from a simple and primeval instinct, namely, the struggle of the under-dog for freedom from its self-appointed rulers. The natural repudiation of the right of one person or set of persons to govern another—the challenge to “authority”—was there; and that is the spiritual basis of the Freedom movement: resentment and repudiation of the Sublime Impertinence of Government, whether benevolent or otherwise.
But the times which gave birth to Socialism were guilty of more tangible tyrannies than outraged dignity. Conditions of labour were awful, hunger and sweating throve side by side, and the swaggering insolence of the top-dog added gall to the bitter cup. Thus a great division was perceived between the rulers, with their hangers-on, and the labouring type; and “class” distinction became a slogan.
The labouring classes, being quite unorganised, were helpless at that time, owing to the constitutional power which their opponents possessed. So the advantages of co operation were seen, and various “movements” sprang up. Trade Unionism, for one, and the gathering of the nucleus of the Labour Party. Demos, the People, got together. United effort achieved what probably nothing else could have done, and “organisation” and “unity” became magic words.
The source, then, of the democratic party which has since resolved itself into the Socialist movement was twofold. First of all, it attracted those who were struggling for the possession of their personal political freedom; and secondly, it attracted those who clung to the doctrine of equality. Both these factions were originally joined together in a bond of common hostility to the existing conditions.
So long as they all were agreed on a common aim, unity was easy and united effort simple. But when internal differences of opinion occurred, it became obvious that, if the party was to act as
one, some authority would have to be set up to decide its actions. Therefore, some machinery had to be found which would conserve among the members the ideas of equality and self-government. The result was that the systems of representation by equal vote, and Majority Rule, sprang up.
The actual policy of the Socialist movement, as we know, is now one of State control for everything. The autocrat has been overthrown, and we are promised Majority Rule. The State will own us and look after us, and say what we may do and what we may not do. And if we say that the State is a despot, we shall be told that we are the State. But if we refuse to carry out the law of the State, we shall be told that we (the State) are traitors, and shall be under the Gilbertian necessity of hanging ourselves!
Everything will be tied up and docketed; individual life will be thwarted; individual enterprise a crime. Like well-bred horses, we shall be groomed, stabled, and fed; and, like well-bred horses, we shall be “owned.”
This state of living may be all very well for those whose instincts are herd instincts, and call only for equality and security. But the man with an individual soul and a capacity for adventure, the man who first joined the Socialist movement because it was the escape from outside autocratic control—this man will surely realise that he is in a false position; and his instincts must lead to the only real goal: personal freedom. This will be the bursting of the wave.
The recruits who are coming over from the autocratic regime are actuated by a different temperament. The Freedomites-via-Socialism, as we see, are individuals who felt and resented the impertinence of outside government, and joined forces with those of the herd instinct, without realising the danger to individual freedom which democratic methods imply. They are simply people who have lost their way. Real personal freedom has been their goal from the first, did they but know it. In high reaction against autocratic government, they flew to the comradely arms of democracy, because their personal instincts are friendly and sociable.
The seceding pro-autocrat is made of different stuff.
Two main explanations lie at the back of a belief in autocratic rule. The first is a belief in the lack of confusion which results from single-minded government: the desire for a clear-cut policy: the calm strength of a one-man show. The second is an instinctive or temperamental explanation. An autocratic regime rests on a belief in the inequality of man. It fosters individuality and competition. It paves the way for the rise of dominant personalities. It permits personal power. Naturally, therefore, the spirit and atmosphere of such a system exerts a sort of magnetic attraction towards individuals who have dominating temperaments. In such circumstances they breathe their native air. Democracy is not for them: no herding or levelling.
The pro-autocrats I have in mind have themselves the autocratic instinct. They are, in fact, autocrats without the opportunity for self-expression. Freedom from government offers them this opportunity. That is why they will come over in the long-run. They may be more content to knuckle down to an autocrat whose personal power they can respect, than to jostle familiarly with Nobodies. But the real ideal of your true autocrat is not to be governed, but to govern. His instinct is to dominate. When once he wakes up to the ignominy of his present position under outside control, he will take a short cut to freedom where he can expand his wings, not by the aid of official position, but simply as a personality. His goal is personal freedom.
Believers in freedom are always asked what they will do with the world when they have got it. And from the variety of answers which are given, it is easily seen that specific aims differ. Some Freedomites have very strong leanings towards Communism—what is called Free Communism: Communism by common consent. Personally, I cannot see how this is going to work. Communism would be possible under government. But that immediately reverts everything to State Socialism; and that is directly opposed to freedom. Other Freedomites have no communal bees in their bonnets, in the sense in which Communism is usually understood; and these persons generally go by the name of Individualists. They are out for the safeguarding of individual freedom first and foremost.
All the sub-divisions have not yet been exhausted, for there are still pro-capitalists and anti-capitalists, who form separate camps.
(To be concluded.)
[We will publish a reply to Miss Peacock when her article is concluded next month.—Ed. Freedom.]
THE DAY AFTER TO-MORROW.
FREEDOM = NO GOVERNMENT.
(Continued from last month.)
My Freedom theory, which follows, will be opposed, on points, by many who, nevertheless, believe in No-Government.
The basis of my position is freedom. Freedom from government or authorised control. I consider that I am the correct one to decide my own actions in any circumstances. I do so now in all matters within the law; and when I am in doubt I resort to the advice of my friends, just as they resort to mine. Often, I make mistakes. So do Governments! Often, Governments act with wisdom. So do I!
We, who do not believe in government, take the world for our range. It is not only one country we wish to have free access over: we covet the lot. We do not recognise national boundaries and national monopolies. If it were not paradoxical to use the term, our outlook might be said to be international. Once freedom is secured, international relations, as such, will cease to present any problems, for the simple reason that nations will be disintegrated, and there will be no national problems to parley over.
National armies and navies will go the way of national boundaries. There being, technically, no nations, there will also be no national armies or navies. Neither, therefore, will there be international wars. Free conditions will see the end of conscription and the end of national wars. The stupid, tragic spectacle of men fighting others with whom they really have no quarrel will no longer be possible. Wars there may be. But they will be factional affairs, little local squabbles, perhaps; and those involved will entangle themselves voluntarily, from really personal motives, and with full personal responsibility.
With the passing away of the nation as a unit will come the end of the judicial system as we at present understand it.
“But what,” gasp our opponents, “what will happen to criminals? Are crimes to go unchecked? And who is to say what is a crime? It is the function of the judicial system to do this.” Let such people remember that “justice” and legal decisions are man-made; and that if men have been competent to mete out deterrence and punishment in the past, they will be no less so in the future. “Justice” is not justice because it is boxed up in statutes. Moreover, we hear a good deal about the defects of our present legal rulings. Many cases come up before the courts and are decided in a manner which does not meet with popular approval. Under Freedom, crimes against society would certainly be open to the vengeance of mob law. But mob law can certainly be more merciful as well as more stringent than Book Law, and has the inestimable superiority of permitting discrimination. And this free method gives a healthy sporting chance all round.
Much the same remarks apply to morality and ethics. Objectors say that free conditions would alter present standards. The obvious retort is that if present standards cannot stand on their own feet, there is not much to be said for them.
These objectors should realise that morality and ethics are deeper, wider things than the petty concerns of legal institutions. They go down into the deeps of life; nay, beyond this life, into eternity. How can they depend upon legal rulings and conventional traditions? Freedom would usher in the preachers’ and teachers’ hey-day; for they would be addressing the naked souls of free, man—men with both opportunities and responsibilities in relation to good and evil. There would be no State system to shelve the blame on to; no accepted conventions to baulk the issues.
The trickiest problem of all, of course, will be the territory problem. The land and all its wealth rightly belongs to no one, any more than do the sea or air. Under Freedom, territory will become relieved of its present “owners,” and rent will disappear. What will happen? Simply this: there being no State, the danger of State control will have passed. There being no police and no army, the private grabber will not be able to monopolise and hold what other people want. The simple result will be that people will squat where they can, and be liable to be challenged by free competitors. But being liable to a thing is not the same as perpetually coming up against it; and there is no doubt that, with the exception of individual quarrels here and there, the territory question will work itself out on lines of general convenience or opportunity.
The insecurity of tenure under conditions of virile competition will be healthy. And always remember that the real monopolist (in the big, objectionable sense) will be immediately curbed by his watchful and interested neighbours. We may assume, also, that the claims of the reasonable person will be safeguarded in the same way.
With the passing of the State we shall witness the exit of several familiar bugbears: income tax, defence tax—in fact, the whole burden of taxation!
If we want any of the things we at present pay taxes for, we shall have to buy them from another source; and we shall not have to buy what we do not want, or pay for what ought to be free.
Under conditions of real freedom there will be no need to abolish Capitalism on principle. We shall always have supermen of commerce, together with thrifty individuals willing to risk their savings, and others who prefer working for a wage (under free contract) to setting out on a personal enterprise.
But the grave objections which hang round the skirts of Capitalism to-day—such as the exploitation of the worker through low wages, under economic conditions which he is powerless to resist—these will have been swept away. With the release of the land, and the earth’s fulness generally, to the free access of all, waged-labour will naturally become scarcer, and counter-opportunity all round will become greater. Therefore, the capitalist’s profits will be sapped down to a sane level.
In conclusion, I should like to quote a quibble which is continually put forward by our opponents. Jones says: “It would be all right for me. I am a reasonable human being, and require no bossing by Government. But what about Smith?” Smith turns up and, pointing at Jones, he says: “It would be all right for me. I am a reasonable human being, and require no bossing by Government. But what about Jones?”
I leave it at that!
[Miss Peacock has stated her position fully and frankly, and we are pleased to welcome her to the ranks of the Freedomites, as she prefers to call the Anarchists. But she hints at the coming of other recruits whom we would not welcome. The “pro-autocrats” who find their will to dominate curbed by the State will also, we hope, find their will to dominate curbed by Freedomites. We look forward to the time when there will be unlimited opportunity for the free expression of every individuality, but we should certainly oppose all attempts to dominate. Our contributor says the instinct of the “true autocrat “ is to dominate. Yes; but when she says “his goal is personal freedom,” it seems this personal freedom is only for himself. We Anarchists aim at personal freedom for all.
With regard to Free Communism—or Anarchist Communism, as we term it—we see no reason why men and women in a free society should not be able to work together Communistically without sinking their individuality. But a Government can never govern a country on Communist principles. Communism means all things in common; if a Government claims the ownership of the land and the instruments of production, then they are no longer held in common. We are quite prepared to admit that individuals should be free to experiment in other economic methods, and we never expect one system to prevail everywhere. But when Miss Peacock says there will be no need to abolish Capitalism on principle, we disagree. Capitalism has ever stood for the production of wealth by slaves who are not allowed to enjoy it. It has ever meant […] and waste on an enormous scale—waste of human life and waste of wealth. Europe to-day presents a spectacle of Capitalism in action. The “supermen of commerce” stride across the world trampling on all who come in their way. We are working for a society where men and women will be jealous of their own personal dignity, neither dominating nor dominated; a society where we shall produce things because we need them and not because they may bring us privileges other than those common to all; and a society in which we shall recognise that the possession of superior physical or mental abilities is no excuse for taking advantage of others less favoured in those respects.— Ed. Freedom.]
Marjorie Peacock, “The Day after Tomorrow. Freedom = No Government,” Freedom (London) 38 no 411 (October 23, 1923): 53; 38 no 412 (November, 1923): 59.