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TO-MORROW AND TO-DAY.
The Anarchist Individualists certainly do not place their hope in the society of the future. They are practical people. They realise that their life is only a single moment’s duration compared with that of the universe, and they aim to get the maximum of results out of that moment. They do not ignore the fact that the present is heir of the past and pregnant with the future. They know them to be commonplaces. It is not to-morrow that they want society to cease encroaching, invading, restraining the individual; it is to-day they want to be delivered from dependence upon it and its varying circumstances and conditions.
That does not prevent them confessing their inability to design in detail the map of a future society such as would exist if all their claims and aspirations were realised; nevertheless they are in a position to submit some directive principles which would preside over the constitution of a “future humanity” responding to their hopes. They are able to conceive a general view of it. They know that it will in no way resemble the world as it is, not because certain details will undergo more or less modification or transformation, but because the general mentality, the fashion of viewing life, the current manner of conceiving relations and agreements between one man and another, the particular and universal state of mind, will make the existence of certain methods and the functioning of certain institutions impossible.
Thus the Individualists can affirm with certitude that in the “future humanity” there will not be, there could not be, any recourse to the method of authority. We have there an indisputable, established point to which there will be no returning. To imagine a “future world” wherein the Individualist could move about at his ease and wherein one could still find traces of domination, obligation, and coercion, would be nonsensical. Individualists know that there will be no place whatever in “future humanity” for the intervention of the State, an institution or a governmental or social administration—legislative, governmental, disciplinary; nor shall there be any intervention in the modality of the thought, the conduct, or the activity of human units, whether isolated or in association. We have there another point gained.
Individualists know that the relations between humans and the agreements they may conclude will be voluntarily established; that the understandings and the contracts they may enter upon will be for a determined object and time, and not indefinitely; that they may be cancelled by mutual consent; that there will be no clause nor article of an agreement or contract that has not been weighed and discussed before being subscribed toby the contractors; no “unilateral” contract will be possible, that is to say, a contract obliging anyone to fulfil an engagement that he has not accepted personally and knowingly. Individualists know that no economic, political, religious, or other majority, that no social mass, whatever it be, will be able to compel a minority or a single human unit to conform involuntarily to its decisions or decrees. Here we have another series of certitudes over which there can be no quibbling.
Between this aspiration, this desire, this aim, this ideal—the term matters little—and events as we see them to-day it cannot be denied that the difference is cruel. The method of authority triumphs everywhere. Never have the chiefs of Governments concerned themselves less than at present to ascertain the opinions of individuals or communities. During the period which elapsed from the falling of the regime of the Moral Order to the first years of the twentieth century the wealthy bourgeois gave proof everywhere in Europe of a certain respect for legality; they scarcely dared to give any evident twist to the laws or the Constitution; to create new legislative or constitutional dispositions reference was made to Parliaments. State action appeared henceforward to be reserved to the Balkan States or Spanish-American Republics. It cannot be denied that there was regression on this state of mind and action. There is no great thing left, however, on the Continent of this deference, true or feigned, for Law. All has become a question of pure brute force, of the will and the means of the group who capture power. And not only do the business men and those of the possessing and privileged class proclaim the necessity of trampling on the goddess of Liberty, but men in the confidence of the “organised proletariat” say and do the same thing. One can imagine the sinister row of signposts as they stretch toward the horizon on the imperial road leading to the temple of the idol Authority: Kronstadt, the occupation of the Ruhr, the Fascist coup de force, the pledge of Corfu, the pronunciamento of Primo de Rivera and his associates.
I quite agree that, up to a certain point, these facts are only incidents consequent to the march of human progress. Periods in which governmental pressure is exerted by a hand of velvet alternate with those in which interference is imposed with shameless and wilful severity. Distinguished philosophers and sociologists pretend that the present crisis is the inevitable consequence of the great butchery of 1914-1919. The state of flabbiuess, resignation, censure, and constant requisition lasted too long to allow the general mentality easily to resume its normal balance. So long was the public deprived of what political civilisation denominates “constitutional liberties” that it accepts their suspension or even their annulment without a kick. There is some truth in this point of view. Yet it is essential not to forget that Parliament and governmental procedure had ceased to interest thinkers long before 1914. .
I estimate that all these reasons are only accessory. The strengthening and incontestable victory of the method of authority have far deeper roots. The world’s stage is dominated by economic phenomena, specially by the modes of its accomplishment, by their performances in so far as they are moral values. On one hand economic phenomena consist in intensive production and in series; in the organised flow of indispensable or superfluous utilities; this production or flow implies immense factories, workshops, sheds, mines, warehouses, depots—duplicates of barracks—where masses of disciplined, regimented workers or employees fashioned to obedience to a central directorate carry on their operations to the orders of a hierarchy of overseers and sub-chiefs.
The machine of production as it is actually conceived tends to reduce the worker to the role of operator, tending it so that it may work smoothly; or it may make of him an automaton unceasingly producing the same piece, the same fragment of an object. I hold the present system of production responsible for the universally prevailing tendency to produce individuals of a uniform type—the average type of his group or class. And it is this tendency that created the flesh that contemporary dictatorships feed upon.
On the other hand, economic phenomena are manifested morally by the preponderance they accord to the man who “makes money.” The man who makes money is the master of all the coercive and repressive forces: ministers, generals, newspaper directors. He inspires them and enrols them under his banner; they hold themselves at his disposal. Since he pays, he can acquire everything.
One meets Individualists who think, by some curious sophism, that in a regime of increased repression—statist, governmental, administrative—the one thing to do is to fly to some oceanic island, there to busy one’s self with hygiene or some form of diet reform; or again, perhaps, to make money like everybody else. Their Individualism is not ours. “Our” Individualism is not satisfied so easily. Exactly because it is an actual state of being it will not yield before the tyrant. It is proud. It does not steal away. In the very midst of a period of involution—in relation to its present conception of life, to its aspirations regarding the future—it claims that there is actually a certain number of human beings who affirm, according to their temperament, some by their actions, others by writing, that the method of authority is repugnant and disgusting to them, whatever be the domain in which it prevails; that they feel no species of consideration for the man of money, he whose cash is able to buy lick-spittles and belly-crawlers with university qualifications and uniforms indicating high military rank. In the midst of a period of restrictions upon the faculty of expressing one’s self “ our” Individualism proclaims that the only person who represents a “moral value “ in its eyes is he who, by word or deed, according to his nature and possibilities, revolts against the encroachment upon the individual by governors, rulers, social administrators, or their mandatories, no matter what class or caste profits by the exercise of that encroachment.
(Translated from L’en Dehors by J. Haining.)
E. Armand, “To-morrow and To-day,” Freedom 38 no. 417 (May, 1924): 27.