The translation of E. Armand’s Anarchist Individualist Initiation is ongoing. Completed sections are available here, in English, and on the dual-language pages in French and English. Sections on the first page here have gone through at least one round of correction, verification against the original text and annotation, while sections on subsequent pages may be uncorrected drafts. As the work progresses, links to earlier or later versions of the various sections will be added.
Editorial notes have been added in blue text.
- E. ARMAND—MAIN PAGE
- The Anarchist Individualist Initiation (Parallel (FR/EN) text)
- Notes on “The Anarchist Individualist Initiation”
- E. Armand, “Qu’est-ce qu’un Anarchiste?” (1908)
- Le Rétif (Victor Serge), “To Be and to Appear” (1909)
- Eugène Bizeau, “Anarchist Individualist Initiation” (1924) [verse]
- Sketches of the Social Milieu. Harmful Authority. (EN) (FR/EN)
- The reformers and transformers of the social milieu. (EN) (FR/EN)
The Anarchist Individualist Initiation
E. Armand’s Anarchist Individualist Initiation (1923) is arguably one of the great “lost” classics of the anarchist tradition, not simply as one of the most extensive expositions of anarchist individualism, but as one of the more carefully elaborated treatments of anarchist thought in any form. Part manifesto and part textbook, it manages to be at once a very personal, appropriately individual statement and a sort of catechism—though a consciously pluralistic one. In giving this “attempt to reveal the multiple facets of the anarchist individualist thesis” the significant title of Initiation, Armand naturally invited some comparisons to the teachings of various religions. A few years later, the Encyclopédie Anarchiste, to which Armand was a contributor, would define initiation in these terms:
INITIATION n. (from Latin initiatio) Act of initiating or of being initiated. Ceremony by which one was initiated into knowledge of and participation in certain mysteries in ancient religions and secret societies. By extension, introduction, first knowledge: artistic initiation, literary initiation.
In antiquity the initiation was the ceremony by which a candidate was admitted into the mysteries of some cult, which gave them the right to witness and participate in the honors rendered to the divinity that was the object of worship. All the religions have had their mysteries and, consequently, their initiates. It is through initiation that the ancient clergy was recruited, and the more mysterious the esoteric meaning of a cult was, the longer and more difficult were the trials judged necessary in order to be initiated. Secrecy was always imposed on the initiates. There were several degrees in the initiation, by which one arrived at the contemplation of the holy mysteries. Christianity has also had its initiates. In the Middle Ages, the adepts of magic were recruited through initiation, which was for them a security measure.
The associations created with a mystical aim are not the only one that have practiced initiation. It has also been practiced by schools of philosophy, as well as societies having a political or social goal: freemasonry, for example.
But the mysteries here are of an anti-authoritarian, anti-absolutist variety and we are encouraged, I think, to be as unfaithful to the letter of Armand’s text as we are to be faithful to its spirit. After all, even a much less individualistic thinker, Armand’s sometimes antagonist Jean Grave, would say of his own work:
Our dreams of the future society are in no way precise or unchanging, and, what’s more, the realization of one does not exclude the realization of others…
The translation here is a work-in-progress. I began with a French text that was substantially, but not always perfectly complete and only discovered some of its shortcomings well into the translation process. That means that, along with revisions of the translation itself, I am gradually checking the text against a rather fragile copy of the original publication. These working translations should be used with care, consulting the original French text that is provided.
— Shawn P. Wilbur
To the companion, to the friend who, during the four and a half years of my detention in the Maison Centrale at Nîmes, did not cease for one day to worry about softening my lot or shortening my captivity:
I think of you, in presenting the proofs of this book, the summary and outcome of twenty years of propaganda and of combat for the ideas that are dear to me.
A FEW LINES OF INTRODUCTION
In 1908, I published a study entitled Qu’est-ce qu’un anarchiste? [What is an Anarchist?] through the group of “Causeries Populaires,” then under the influence of comrade Libertad. In it, I tried to situate “the anarchist” in relation to their environment and to their own milieu.
Since then, events have advanced. Faced with misunderstandings and confusions, the idea came to me, in the course of the war which ravaged Europe, to locate not the “anarchist”—a term then rather vague and lending itself to ambiguity—but the anarchist individualist, in relation to the social milieu in general and to individualist theory in particular. The detention to which I was then subject did not permit me to complete my project. However, it was realized in part by the publication, in Spanish, of a revision of my first work under the title El Anarquismo individualista, lo que es, puede y vale.
The crisis over, the same ambiguities remain. Many of the best among us do not have the time to look back on the controversies to which “anarchist individualism” has given rise. They lack some of the elements, some of the necessary references to rid that aspect of individualism of the dross, the slag, and the compromises under which some have wished to tarnish it, cloak it, if not make it disappear. In the first place, this work aims to furnish an idea, a representation and a perspective regarding anarchist individualism—its essence and its demands—as clear as my own knowledge of the subject allows. Although I have seen fit, after much thought, to retain a certain number of pages from Qu’est-ce qu’un anarchiste? the reader will quickly see that this is anything but a simple overhaul of that work. Like that volume, however, several of its chapters have been written in prison—at the cost of some difficulties, alas!
The distinctive character of this volume, what distinguishes it not only from Qu’est-ce qu’un anarchiste? but also from everything that has been published thus far on individualism envisioned from the anti-authoritarian point of view, is its lack of unilateralism, to say nothing of homogeneity. The pages that follow do not develop a single conception: they outline, describe, or at least examine the different manifestations of anti-authoritarian individualist thought and aspirations, from simple anti-statism to the pure negation of society. The tendency that wants the “self” to express itself in a reasonable restriction of needs and a rational simplification of its existence occupies a place in it analogous to that which believes that the flowering the of the “self” is only possible through the intensification of the desires, the Dionysian enjoyment of the pleasures of life.  These diverse manifestations respond to, compensate for and compete with one another. They give to the individualist idea, as we understand it, a character of extraordinary grace and flexibility. They differ so much that they appear contradictory. They almost seem mutually exclusive. All things considered, however, the contradictions and oppositions are only apparent. A common bond keeps them cemented together: the negation, rejection, and hatred of domination and exploitation; the absence of obligation, sanction, and encroachment in every domain; the abolition of the constraint of the herd on individual initiative and impulse.
You will understand the reasons that this attempt to reveal the multiple facets of the anarchist individualist thesis has been given the significant title of Initiation: a name that would have been meaningless if it had only been a question of explaining a single aspect of that individualism. That has naturally not prevented me from peppering this volume with very individual interpretations and commentaries on the individualist “way of life.”
But, in my thought, the Individualist Initiation is not simply an acknowledgment, or a briefing, on anarchist individualist thoughts, deeds, and will. This work is an instrument of labor, a tool of propaganda, and a weapon of combat. This explains the frequent repetitions, the numerous retellings, and the repeated demonstrations. I have not wanted to end a paragraph, to pass to a new chapter without striving to say all that could be said on the subject, even at the expense of “style.” 
Doubtless, some of the opinions expressed, the propositions set down, and the points of view explained are barely outlined, while others are too developed; however, such as it is, I am convinced that this work could lead many to develop their own idea of anarchist individualism or in any case to meditate seriously on the problems that are posed or considered here. 
October 1, 1923.
 The Anarchist Individualist Initiation is divided into two parts, each printed in slightly different type. The first treats the theoretical bases, and the second some practical theses of anarchist individualism. Let us be quick to note that this classification is somewhat arbitrary; in reality–because they are the result of reflection or individual experience–practice and theory constantly aim to find agreement.
 At the end of the volume, the reader will find an alphabetical index of references and connections, the compilation of which has been entrusted to the care of comrade Germaine P… It is conceived in a manner to effectively aid in their research, those of the readers of this work who consider it more particularly as an instrument of study.
 It goes without saying that the term individualist, used alone, indicates exclusively the anti-authoritarian or anarchist individualist; explicit mention is made where this is not the case.
DETAILED TABLE OF CONTENTS
Part One – The Theoretical Bases of Anarchist Individualism.
I. Sketches of the Social Milieu. Harmful Authority.
1. The social milieu. — 2. The rush for appearance. — 3. The complexity of the human problem. — 4. For whom this book is not intended. — 5. To whom this work is addressed. — 6. Our position.
II. The reformers and transformers of the social milieu.
7. Universal sorrow. — 8. Religious reformers and transformers. — 9. Atonement, sin, sacrifice. — 10. The religious outcome. — 11. The ideal of the religious reformers. — 12. Egalitarian reformers and transformers. — 13. The law and the “good citizen.” — 14. Origin of the law. — 15. The law in its application. — 16. The legalistic ideal. — 17. Economic reformers and transformers. — 18. The origins of socialism. The socialist precursors. — 19. The economic fact. — 20. The various aspects of socialism. — 21. Importance of socialism. — 22. Syndicalism. — 23. Organization. — 24. The dictatorship of the proletariat. — 25. The socialist ideal.
III. Anarchism. Anti-authoritarian or anarchist individualism. Its aspirations.
26. Anarchism. — 27. Definition: anarchy, anarchist, anarchism. — 28. Origin of anarchism. — 29. Anarchism and the First International. — 30. The anarchists and society. — 31. Anarchist Individualism. — 32. The individual fact. — 33. The domain of the “Self.” — 34. Individualist work and thought. — 35. Property in the means of production and free disposition of the product. — 36. The individualists and systematic revolutionaryism. — 37. Conditions for the existence and evolution of the Individualist. — 38. “Our” individualist. — 39. Anarchist individualist aspirations.
4. The individualists and the reformers of the milieu social. The law of continuous progress.
40) Last quibbles of the religious reformers. — 41) My atheism. — 42) The social contract. — 43) Quibbles of the democrats and revolutionaries of dictatorship. — 44) Democracy equals dictatorship. — 45) Unnecessary producers and superfluous consumption. — 46) The law of continuous progress.
Part Two – The Practical These of Anarchist Individualism.
5. Christianity and the Individualists. The pagan frame of mind.
47) Primitive Christianity. — 48) The founder of Christianity and his work. — 49) Saul of Tarus. The Greek influence. — 50) An irremediable incompatibility. — 51) The communism of the first Christians. — 52) The pagan frame of mind.
6. Authority, Domination, Exploitation : Origin, Evolution, Aspects and Definitions.
53) The anarchist individualists and authority. — 54) What is meant by domination? What is authority? — 55) The exercise of authority. — 56) Origin and evolution of domination. — 57) Inadequacy of the expression “domination of man over man.” — 58) What is meant by exploitation? — 59) Slavery and the salariat. — 60) The exploiter and the exploited. — 61) The abolition of ’exploitation. Exploitation the corollary of domination. — 62) Inadequacy of the expression “exploitation of man by man.” New definitions of exploitation. — 63) The case of voluntary contribution or renumeration. The distinguishing quality of exploitation. — 64) The “willingly” exploited.
THE THEORETICAL BASES OF ANARCHIST INDIVIDUALISM
1. Sketches of the Social Milieu. Harmful Authority.
1) The social milieu. [*]
A chaos of beings, facts and ideas; a harsh, disorderly struggle, without mercy; a perpetual lie; a wheel that turns blindly, one day lifting us to the pinnacle and the next crushing us ruthlessly.
A mass, both rich and poor, all slaves of age-old, inherited prejudices, the first because they find their interests there, and the others because they are immersed in an ignorance from which some does not want them to escape; a multitude whose religion is money and whose apotheosis is the rich man; a mob brutalized by prejudices, by the educational system, by a superficial existence and by the abuse of alcohol or the consumption of adulterated foods; a rabble of degenerates in high places and low, without deep aspirations, without any aim but that of “succeeding” or “taking it easy.” Something temporary that constantly threatens to transform itself into something permanent, and something permanent that threatens to never be anything but temporary. Some lives that belie their stated convictions, and some convictions that serve as springboards to dubious ambitions. Some free-thinkers who reveal themselves to be more clerical than the clergy, and some devout souls who show themselves to be crude materialists. Something superficial that wants to pass for profound, some profundity that cannot manage to be taken seriously.
A tableau vivant of Society, yet a thousand times short of the reality! Why? Because on each face a mask is placed; because no one is concerned with being; because they all only aspire to appear. To appear, that is the highest ideal, and if we are so greedy for ease or riches, it is in order to be able to appear, since in our times, money alone allows one to cut a real figure!
[*] In the interest of preserving E. Armand’s voice and avoiding possible confusions, a few terms—like milieu and camarade—that were used prominently and perhaps idiosyncratically by him or by his imediate circle have been left untranslated.
2) The rush for appearance. [*]
That mania, that passion, that rush for appearance, or for the things that can procure it, devours the richest and the vagabond, the best educated and the unlettered alike. The worker who bad-mouths the foreman wants to become him in his turn; the merchant who reckons his commercial honor so high does not consider passing up some rather dishonorable sales; the small shopkeeper, member of the patriotic and nationalist electoral committees, hastens to transmit his orders to foreign manufacturers, just as soon as he finds a profit there; the socialist deputy, advocate of the destitute proletariat that is packed into the foul-smelling parts of the town, vacations in a château or lives in the prosperous quarters of the city, where the air wafts abundant and pure; the revolutionaries, who cry against persecution and who strive to stir the tender hearts when the bourgeoisie, holding in its hands the helm of State, hounds them, imprisons them, denying them the liberty to speak and write, may be found, once they have seized power and perched on the dictatorial throne, to be as meddlesome, as nosy, as intolerant, as cruel — more sometimes — as those whose place they have taken. The free-thinker is still willingly married in the church and often has his children baptized there. It is only when the government is well disposed that the religious dare display their ideas, and are still silent where it is customary to ridicule religion. Where, then, is sincerity to be found? The gangrene spreads everywhere. We come across it in the heart of the family where father, mother, and children hate each other, and all deceive one another by saying that they love each other, while pretending that they are particularly fond of each other. We see it in the couple where husband and wife, poorly matched, betray one another without daring to break the link that enchains them, or at the very least without explaining themselves frankly. It spreads in the group where each seeks to supplant their neighbor in the esteem of the president, secretary, or treasurer, before pulling themselves up in their place when they no longer have anything gain from them. It abounds in the acts of devotion, in the brilliant actions, in the private conversations, in the official harangues. To appear! To appear! To appear pure, impartial, generous — when we consider purity, impartiality and generosity to be vain trumpery. To appear moral, honest, virtuous, when probity, virtue, and morality are the least concern of those who profess them.
Where will we find someone who escapes the contagion?
[*] This passage, which appeared in roughly this form in Qu’est-ce qu’un Anarchiste?, was perhaps one of the inspirations for the essay by “Le Rétif” (Victor Serge), “To Be and to Appear” (1909), which appeared in L’Anarchie during the discussions of E. Armand’s earlier text.
3) The complexity of the human problem.
It will be objected that we treat the question from too great a height, or from a metaphysical point of view, and that we must descend to the terrain of realities; that the reality is this: that the present Society is the human result of a long historical evolution, perhaps in its infancy, and that humanity or the different humanities are all simply seeking or preparing their way; that they grope, stumble, lose the path, find it again, progress, reverse, — that they are sometimes shaken to their roots by certain crises, carried away, launched on the road of destiny, to then slacken their advance or beat time in place; that by scraping a bit at the polish, the varnish, the surface of contemporary civilizations, we bare the stammering, the childishness, and the superstitions of prehistoric, even of pre-prehistoric, peoples.
From a purely objective point of view, it will be said that “actually” this “Society” encompasses all the beings, all the aspirations, all the activities, — all the pain and suffering as well. It includes the productive and the idle, the disinherited and the privileged, the healthy and the ailing, the sober and the drunk, the believers and the miscreants, the worst reactionaries and the sectarians of the most improbably doctrines. It modifies, evolves, and transforms itself. It destroys itself at certain points, and regenerates itself at others. Here, it is chaotic; there, it is orderly; over there, it is both at the same time. It glorifies self-sacrifice, but exalts self-interest. It is for peace, but it suffers war. It is against disorder, but welcomes revolutions. It clings to established facts, but constantly acquires new knowledge. It hates anything that disturbs its peace, but follows willingly those of its children who know how to dispel its mistrust, awaken its curiosity with promises of one sort or another, or allay its fears anew by means of some mirage. It grumbles about the powerful, but ultimately it falls in behind them, adopts their customs and governs its opinions in accordance with theirs. Roused by crisis and driven to the worst excesses, it naturally finds itself a vassal and serves as soon as the smoke of the fires is clear. It is impulsive as a child, sentimental as a young girl, hesitant as an old man. It obeys primordial instincts, instincts that guided our distant ancestors when there was no social milieu, — but it submits to strict disciplines and stern rules. It demands that those who lead it sacrifice themselves for it, but does not balk when they exploit it. It is generous and miserly. The rigidity of its manners is unbearable, but it displays decency. It favors the least effort, but adapts to overwork. It flees from suffering, but dances on volcanoes. It is majoritarian, but concedes to minorities. It bows before dictators, but raise statues to those who stab them to death. A sad song drives it to tears, but the beating of a drum awakens in the depths of its being all that has lain dormant for generations: desires to massacre, to pillage, to plunder in bands. It is cruel and tender, avaricious and prodigal, cowardly and heroic. It is a crucible in which the most disparate elements, the least similar characters, and the most conflicting energies meet and join together. It is a furnace that consumes the corporeal and cerebral activities of its members for the pure pleasure of destruction. It is a field always fertilized with the knowledge and experiences of past generations. It is like a woman continuously in a state of pregnancy, who does not know who or what she will deliver. It is Society.
It will be conceded willingly that all is not perfect in Society, but isn’t it proper for that which is actual to be imperfect? It is through authority that it maintains the links of solidarity which unite individuals to one another — links that are sometimes very loose, but it has still not been demonstrated that without authority human societies will remain. Hypocrisy reigns as mistress over the relations of person with person, milieu with milieu, race with race; but it has still not been proven that it does not constitute an inevitability desired by the multiplicity of human temperaments, — an instinctive expedient destined to absorb the shocks and to reduce somewhat the harshness of the struggle for life. The conditions of the production and distribution of products favor the privileged and maintain the exploitation of the unprivileged, but it remains to examine if, in the present circumstances of industrial production, we could, without exploitation, obtain from the producer the output necessary for the economic functioning of human societies; — 2° if all the unprivileged are not would-be privileged, who aspire to supplant the latter in their privileges.
It will still be objected that it is folly to seek to discover and establish the responsibility of the individual, that the individual is drowned, absorbed in its environment, that its thoughts reflect the thoughts, and its deeds the deeds of those who surround it, — that it cannot be otherwise and that if, from the top to the bottom of the social ladder, the aspiration is to appear and not to be, the fault is with the present phase of the general evolution and not with the individual element of the social environment, a tiny atom lost, dissolved, in an enormous aggregate.
4) For whom this book is not intended.
We do not deny it. We are willing to agree that these findings render the human problem singularly complex, strangely complicated. We could conclude that there is nothing to do but to let the “inevitable evolution” continue slowly, to bow tamely before circumstances, to witness, passively, the march of events and to accept that, until a better one comes along, all is good in the best of societies. Our theses, opinions and propositions will not interest those who see things in that way.
5) To whom this work is addressed.
Thus, we address ourselves here to “those who think” or are “on the road to thought” — to those who do not accommodate themselves to appearances and who are not satisfied by the present phase of general evolution. We address it to those who are conscious of the domination that suppresses them and the exploitation that crushes them. Thus, we write for the curious, the thinkers and the critics, — those not content with prescriptions that brook no debate or with stop-gap solutions.
Thus, we do not address ourselves to those who are satisfied, nor to those who have faith. We address the unsatisfied and those who doubt. To those who are dissatisfied with themselves, to those who feel the burden of hundreds and hundreds of centuries of conventions and ancestral prejudices weigh on them. To those who thirst for true life, for freedom of action and for real activity, and who encounter around them only insincerity, rubbish, conformity and servility. To those who want to know themselves more, and more intimately. To the uneasy, to the tormented, to the seekers of new sensations, to experimenters with unknown formulas for individual happiness. To those who believe nothing of what is shown to them. To the troubled, yes, to the troubled, for I prefer the seething waves to stagnant water. The others have no need of this book; Society has a high regard for them, everyone speaks well of them: they are the “satisfied.” It could be said that we let ourselves be carried away by our indignation, that in the end nothing proves that our anger and our invective are not also a means of appearing. Attention: what you will find in this book are observations, opinions, arguments and indications. It remains up to the reader to determine what they are worth. Our design is only to lead those who read it to think more deeply.
6) Our position.
All the objections having been heard, we propose as a thesis that whoever reflects and attentively considers people and things, encounters, in the ensemble of social manifestations gathered under the name of “Society,” a nearly insurmountable barrier to the true, free, individual life, a barrier based on a patent, undeniable fact: the exercise of authority. That is enough to consider the present society defective and to wish for its disappearance.
2. The reformers and transformers of the social milieu.
7) Universal sorrow
Those who proclaim, from the height of a blissful optimism, that Society is perfect are rare. As a result, the reformers, improvers and transformers of Society are legion. It is so far from the case that individuals are content with their condition, that everyone complains about their lot in life, including those best provided for. Without seeking the degree of sincerity that these lamentations contain, the fact is obvious and the sorrow is proclaimed as “universal.”
It is a commonplace to write that contemporary civilization has failed. That the previous civilizations did not succeed any better, no one will deny. They have all run aground on this fact: they have never been able to guarantee the human beings whom they gather under their aegis a sum of happiness sufficient that life— individual life and collective life—should be found good and pleasant to live. It is true that the civilizations that have followed one another have not always set themselves this goal, or that they have only proposed it in a very imperfect manner. And it is obvious that they have often excluded from participation in that happiness, such as they imagined it, a considerable share of sub-humans: outcasts of all categories, slaves, serfs and others. In nearly every case, however, with some few exceptions, the great civilizations that have sparkled on the planet had set their sights, in a general fashion, on the happiness of the people for or among whom they flourished.
I claim that they have failed and failed miserably. I readily concede that the conductors who guided them, in the most glorious, remarkable and prosperous epochs of their history, have contributed all the effort of which they were capable. I nonetheless maintain that “civilized” life, “social” life, both formerly and today, is a weight, a burden, even a constant sorrow for the majority of the living—and this to such an extent that one wonders if life “in society” and woe are not synonymous terms. No doubt there are exceptions, but they are so few, and they are the prerogative of such a limited number of privileged persons, that they do little more than confirm the thesis of universal suffering.
8) Religious reformers and transformers.
It would be tedious to enumerate all the classes and sub-classes in the catalog of reformers and transformers of the social environment. A thick volume would not be sufficient and that is not the aim of our book. Three large divisions will suffice to cover them all. The most ancient are the religious reformers.
For sophisticated minds, their theories present no more than a retrospective interest. Their fantasies were valuable in a time — not always very remote — when individuals, even the most gifted, fearful in the face of poorly explained phenomena or the accidental incidents of existence, sought a recourse, a support, a response to their questions in an extra-human intervention. For it is an extra-human, extra-natural intervention, the will of the divinity or the revelation of that will to which the religious reformers always return. The member of Society, or rather its creature, is a plaything in the hands of the creator; the great drama of the historical evolution of human groupings, the inequality of births or aptitudes, the control of the powerful and arrogant over the rest of humanity — all of that arises from the good will of the divinity and is the tangible expression of its work. “Let the divine will be done!” — That is the last word of the most spiritual souls, the most frantically religious, even when that so-called will implies the annihilation of the individual personality, passive acceptance of all that which suppress the growth and blossoming of the individual life.
9) Atonement, sin, sacrifice.
But there is another point of view that must be studied in order to consider the religious problem in its full extent and to clearly understand the “state of the religious soul.” The deeply, sincerely religious being is devoured by an unquenchable, insatiable need for atonement. Even when irreproachable from the moral and social point of view, it feels an almost irresistible desire to renounce its faculties of reflection in order to find a bitter, nagging joy in a keen feeling of regret and remorse for not finding itself in conformity to a certain ideal of value or moral level, whether it has drawn that ideal itself, or whether it has been recommended by dogma or shown by the priest. The sincerely religious being places within a pure, sanctified absolute, which it calls God, the sum of all the spiritual values that it is capable of conceiving or imagining. It always feels that it is powerless and miserable in relation to that spiritual absolute, toward which it is conscious of being morally responsible.
It establishes such a difference between itself, as a being preyed on by sensual passions, and the extra-natural phantom that is has created, that it constantly feels itself in a more or less heightened state of disobedience. What indeed is “sin,” if not having yielded to the pull of the passions, having preferred tangible enjoyments, and the stimulation they bring, to the denial and annihilation of “the flesh,” or to the observation of certain rites and ceremonies? The fundamentally religious being is a tormented soul, who goes through life always asking itself how it will go about atoning for its shortcomings and redeeming its sin. It goes without saying that the sacrifice of a heifer or a goat, or even of a mournful turtle dove, symbolic as it is, will not satisfy the delicacy of conscience of an eminently spiritual being. Blood alone, life, redeems sin. To atone, the man in a religious state of mind will sacrifice himself, devote himself, renounce himself. He will give his life, his flesh and his blood. He will mortify his flesh by imposing silence on the boiling of his blood, even to the point of inflicting bodily suffering on himself. He will devote himself to the service of the divinity. He will impose all sorts of privations on himself, he will abstain — despite the desire that devours him — from tasting the joys of existence, distressed until the hour of death by a poignant doubt, not knowing if he has accomplished enough, or in the right way, to calm the anger of God, of that jealous Absolute who demands of his faithful, his creatures, a complete submission and devotion.
(1) « C’est par la raison qu’il est l’âme que le sang fait expiation ». (Leviticus, XVII, 2.) [Roughly: “It is because it is the soul that the blood makes atonement.”] [*]
[*] The ESV renders Leviticus 17:11—almost certainly the passage intended—in this way: “For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it for you on the altar to make atonement for your souls, for it is the blood that makes atonement by the life.”
10) The religious outcome.
Religious reformers have always achieved one of two results: either, under the pretext of reform, they plunge their followers into an abyss of resignation and atrophy even more profound than the chasm from which they pretend to pull them, or, if they show some sincerity, they lead their partisans to surpass them, to become no longer modifiers of religious forms, but critics of the religious basis itself. This was the case with the Reformation, which led far from the goal that its originators assigned it: first, to the free-thinkers of the eighteenth century; then to the spread of the contemporary critical spirit and finally to anarchism, which we can consider the normal and logical culmination of the evolution of freethought. We will return to this point.
What reforms, what transformations have the religious reformers proposed to us? Generally, the return to a religious idea of the past, abandoned or distorted by corrupt zealots or lukewarm sorts. What ideals have they presented? A divinity, single or divided, a pantheon of gods or demi-gods endowed or afflicted with all the attributes, all the qualities, all the faults and all the follies with which mortals are adorned or marred. They all come down to this: some working gods, slaving away like men so that men become gods. The great hobby horse of the religious reformers is to push humans to become like God or to annihilate themselves in him — if not in this world below, at least in the other — since — safety-valve and encouragement to resignation — a day will shine after death, when the elect creature will contemplate the creator “face to face,” when the soul will bask in eternal beatitude, when the spirit will return to the spirit. What does the name of this place of delights matter? It varies according to races or climates. Call it the Champs-Élysées, Valhalla or Nirvana. Paradise is always realized beyond the tomb.
We hear the objections: we are too exclusive, we ride roughshod over revelation, where the theological metaphysics soar, and over the great mystery which lies at the root of the religions, the struggle between good and evil, the beautiful and the ugly, the great and the base, the pure and the impure! The religions will speak the language of their times, that is understood—nous fait-on remarquer—but their last vision was the triumph of the fair and the good that they symbolized in some images that strike the imagination. We do not deny the importance of the religions in the history of the development of men: it is a stage through which it must pass.
Do no forget that, in practice, the aim of the priests is, above all, the triumph of dogma over free inquiry, of the tyrant over the rebel, of obedience to the mystery over the revelation of the initiation. For the individualist, it is Prometheus who was in the right against Jupiter, Satan against Jehovah, Eblis against Allah, Ahriman against Ormuzd.
The grandeur of theology, if you look at it closely, vanishes into casuistry. If the religious nuances have never reached the degree of elevation that is claimed, there remains only one conclusion to draw from it: the regret of knowing that some well-endowed brains are given to such mental games. In the end, no one dreams of denying the selflessness, the sincerity, the pure enthusiasm of many religious reformers whose ideas may surpass the common conceptions. They have a right to our impartial estimation and to nothing else.
11) The ideal of the religious reformers.
Let us summarize the ideals of the religious reformers:
a) Their human ideal is the believer. It is impossible for them to give an education other than one based on faith, that “indemonstrable” virtue; the believer, “the man who has faith”–whatever may be his education or aptitude–will never cross certain frontiers, will not dare to taste the fruits produced by “the tree of good and evil,” will not experience all things; he is faint-hearted: he fears finding himself face to face with a fact that destroys his faith.
b) Their moral ideal is God, a fictive entity, not demonstrable by science, allegedly extra-human and in reality created by humans, a product of their imagination.
c) Their social ideal is the reign of God on the earth or, in other words, a society no longer inhabited by anyone but priests, charged with explaining and interpreting the will of the divinity, and believers, constrained to accomplish it. In short, a society based on the “divine fact.”
12) Egalitarian reformers and transformers.
If those who propose a religious reform of Society lose ground every day, it is not the same for the legalistic reformers, those who only know how to think of Society as based on the code of regulations and ordinances designated abstractly as the Law. The legalistic reformers, admitting that the present Society is not perfect, that it is far from being so, allow that it is perfectible, eminently, infinitely perfectible; they claim at the same time that the imperfections of Society arise from defects in the laws, insufficiently or unjustly applied, but they add that if these laws were modified, redrafted in a more general, more equitable sense, applied more humanely, that same Society, without becoming perfect, would transform itself into an abode more and more bearable and pleasant to inhabit.
13) The law and the “good citizen.”
No agglomeration of people, they say, can subsist without written law, regulating the rights and duties of the “good citizen:” each setting the infractions and determining their punishment. To the laws, or to the law, their ideal expression, the citizens owe obedience, as the believer must obey the divinity. They owe the same respectful deference to the commentators of the law as they faithful owe to the interpreters of the divine will. It is by their conformity of their outward acts to the law that we recognize the model citizens. The ideal of the legalists, the ideal type, is the “good citizen” who by obeying the law, out of love for it, sacrifices his independence, even his most legitimate personal aspirations, and his affections, if necessary,—sacrificing himself and, if need be, those who are most dear to him. Dura lex, sed lex.
14) Origin of the law.
The law can issue from one alone, as in the case of aristocracies. In reality, apart from extraordinary exceptions, it never issues from the monarch alone, even in the most absolutist regimes; the laws in force are the expression of the interests or ideas of the camarilla grouped around the throne, of the partisans of the ruling dynasty.
The law can issue from a small number of individuals, influential within the State, in the hands of which is found concentrated the management of the government,–let this privileged few be priests, as in the case of the theocracies, so common in antiquity, where the law most often rested on mystical foundations; or laymen, as in the case of the aristocracies or the oligarchies, the well-studied example of which is furnished by the Italian republic of the Middle Ages. In that case, the laws are purely destined to preserve in possession of political and economic domination a small number of families whose work consists of making acceptable, now as a divine revelation, now as indispensable to the security of the State, the necessity of continuing their authority.
The law can also appear to issue from the greatest number, from the majority of the citizens, to be the expression of “popular sovereignty,” as we maintain in the case of democracies, constitutional monarchies or republics. This is only an appearance, for in our contemporary collectivities the education dispensed to the masses makes them a reflection of the ideas and interests of the “directing classes,” of the “bourgeoisie;” the democratic laws only express these ideas or these interests.
15) The law in its application
In practice, the law is summed up in this way: it being admitted that certain principles rule societies—civic, moral, economic principles, etc.—it is a question of formulating a rule of application that determines the circumstances in which the subject or citizen reinforces or puts in danger the aforesaid principles.
Let us take the principle of “property,” cornerstone of civil rights; the task of the law will consist not only of confirming those who possess in their rights, but also to protect them against the attacks of those who would attack those rights. The law will determine in what conditions property is gained, lost, or transmitted; it will also announce the punishments it is appropriate to inflict on those who attempt to claim the property of others; it will establish the legal meaning of the acts designated as “violence,” “ruse,” “fraud,” and “misrepresentation.” It will go no farther. The law does not concern itself with whether it is just or unjust that property or capital are concentrated in the hands of some, if that monopolization is not itself caused by attacks on property; if there is an equitable property or a sinful property. The law does not care.
Another example: French constitutional law decrees that every citizen reaches majority at 21 years and that from that moment they enjoy their civil and political rights. It does not concern itself with the moral capacity of the individual enabled thus to choose the legislators. It is not worried if he possesses the least notion of the management of public affairs, if he could be lying, dishonest, cowardly, drunken, or barely knows how to read and write; the law does not care.
Let us also consider marriage, which plays a very large role in the current law. Two human beings present themselves before an officer of the civil state and there they are united,—if not for life, since divorce, as long and costly as it is to obtain, can split the conjugal link,—but for a period, always sufficiently long, during which one of the spouses, the husband, exercises over the other a tutelage from which this latter can only rarely or exceptionally remove themselves. The law will not fret if it is a union dictated by love, a marriage of convenience, or a couple arranged by parents much more concerned with uniting interests than affections. It does not ask if there has been trickery, concealment of character or temperament, if those united are qualified to fulfill the roles of spouses, if their union was the fruit of a mutual attachment or the result of being carried away by their senses and the moment. The law does not care about it.
A criminal appears before a tribunal; the crime matters little. What will happen? Dressed in his robe of purple and ermine, defender of Society, the one who applies the law will not concern itself with the education of the man who presents himself at the bar, nor with the hereditary influences that could have determined his acts, nor with the twists and turns of his existence. He will not ask if before “falling,” the delinquent has not resisted a hundred temptations; if the conditions of existence of the milieu itself have not led him to commit the infraction that we now impute to him with disfavor. He does not care. He will condemn.
16) The legalistic ideal
In summary, the legalistic reformers present:
a) a human ideal: the perfect citizen, the being who obeys the law. Also, the legalistic education that the State dispenses to the future citizen aims, according to a well ordered program, to permeate it with respect with regard to the facts, deed and men who sanction, protect and perpetuate the things recognized as well-founded by the law;
b) a moral ideal: the Law, an abstraction, of purely human creation, but essentially restrictive of the needs, of the aspirations of the constituent of Society considered as an individual;
c) a social ideal: the State, a Society where the relations between men are only conceived and realized within the limits established by the law, in other words, based on “legal fact.”
17) Economic reformers and transformers.
In apparent opposition to the theories of the religious and legalistic reformers, with the obvious aim of toppling them, rising up, last come and already powerful, those that we name the “economic” reformers, and transformers, those who base the life of the human agglomerations on the arrangement of production, distribution and consumption of the things necessary for the subsistence of the members of societies, otherwise known as the “socialists.”
18) The origins of socialism. The socialist precursors.
Although the collectivist socialism, the scientific socialism, boasts of recent origins and communism, the accomplishment of socialism, sometimes claims to date back to the beginning of the 19th century, it is beyond doubt that the different socialist schools count numerous precursors, especially among the Christian sects of the Middle Ages. In France, in Germany, in the Low Countries and elsewhere socialists or communists have abounded who claim to have drawn their notions of economic equality, of pooling the collective wealth, from evangelical ideas. Moreover, they have some contemporary successors. The historical episodes to which the Albigenses, Waldenses, Anabaptists, Levellers and so many others have attached their names and shall pass on to posterity are a sufficient proof of it; in the time of Cromwell, Winstanley the digger wrote up a collectivist charter. The judicial annals, it goes without saying, represent these precursors to us as highway robbers or as possessed by devils, but we must guess rather than reestablish the truth when we scan the legal jargon that motivates the death sentences of so many of them.
Moreover, the idea of economic equality has always persisted, latent, among the heterodox Christians: it is a tradition that appears to go back a long time, to the Judeo-Christian conurbation of Jerusalem which, the day after the disappearance of the founder of Christianity, was established as a voluntary collectivist association. A legend, perhaps, which would only prove the age of the tradition. Whatever the case, the scientific form of collectivism or contemporary communism is only an economic adaptation of Christianity, especially of Catholicism, to the spirit of the present day. In different terminologies, socialism and Christianity recommend love between men, all men; they call each and all to the banquet of life without demanding any other effort than an external adherence to a program, we were about to say obedience to a credo. It is with reason that we could call socialism: “the religion of the economic fact.”
19) The economic fact.
In its present form, socialism maintains and strives to prove that the human problem is only of the economic order. Man is only of interest to socialism considered in his double role, in his double functio as producer and consumer. So Society will function perfectly as soon as the socialists or communists find themselves in the conditions required to organize labor and divide the products.
20) The various aspects of socialism.
The means proposed to attain that goal are numerous, all different as they are according to periods and races. The thesis is of an infantile simplicity: let it be made possible, say the socialists, for us to take possession of the power necessary to manage Society and, willy-nilly, we will apply our doctrines. Despite an apparent antagonism, we will soon see, on consideration, that, far from clashing, the means proposed to conquer that power complement one another. Among the socialists, some want to employ revolutionary violence and seize the administration of things by force, others count on the ballot to achieve most rapidly what we are accustomed to calling “the conquest of the public powers.” Here, socialism proclaims itself materialist, is violently atheist and sensualist; there it is monist, tinted with a mechanist mysticism; elsewhere it mixes willingly with Christianity, even calling itself “social Christian” or “Christian socialist.”
We have seen socialism side with the antimilitarists, the anti-patriots and even the anarchistic syndicalists; we have seen it [appear] corporalist, a partisan of “national defense,” flee the anarchists like the plague and, possessing the power, hunt them down like any old bourgeois government.
Anywhere, moreover, at election time, a socialist candidate knows to change jackets, transforming from a proven antimilitarist into a vague pacifist, making little smiles to the capitalists of the district; isn’t it above all a question of not frightening the voters? In Catholicism we thus encounter some confessors of a remarkable puritanism; and others, easy-going, who extend themselves marvelously to absolve the worldly of their favorite little sins.
That is all logical. One thing matters: to win a position allowing the organization of production and the division of the products indispensable to the feeding of societies. Whether it is a question of strong-arm tactics, dear to the revolutionary and anti-parliamentary socialists or communists, or it is a question of a slow and progressive saturation of the populations and parliamentary assemblies, according to the dram of the opportunist socialists, all of it comes down to the transfer of the governmental power from the hands of the capitalist “bourgeoisie” (from the class that possesses monetary “capital” and “capital” tools) to those of the “proletariat” (class of the wage-earners and workers of every category, represented by its directors).
21) Importance of socialism.
It would be childish to deny the influence that socialism has acquired. It has aroused in the deep layers of the proletariat, in many a generous soul, the enthusiasm and hopes raised among the slaves of the Roman Empire by Christianity. In superstitious times, when the prestige of the gods crumbled, Christianity proclaimed, through apostles at first passionate and selfless, that before God, creator of the heavens and the earth, all human beings were equal, a song sweet to the ears of the disinherited.
In our time, when Christianity has gone bankrupt, the French Revolution has promulgated, if not realized, political equality, and education spreads as respect for the past diminishes; in our time, socialism appeals to immediate necessities—to those perceptible by the senses. The social question, it proclaims, is a question of the belly, Magerfrage, a question of the stomach! In a Society where new needs are constantly asserted,— sometimes artificial, it is understood, but which demand satisfaction no less imperiously,—how will that appeal not encounter an echo, especially as socialism lacks neither talents, nor dedication to spread and interpret itself?
Under the name of syndicalism appeared a revolutionary activity, first hostile parliamentary and political action,—attempting to group the workers in unions, according to profession, and maintain a constant agitation among the workers. The means recommended by syndicalism consist of presenting to the employers and wage-payers always increasing demands, increase of wages, decrease of the hours of labor, etc., etc.,—to urge employees to strike in case of refusal or return of the concessions granted, in a manner to inflict more or less serious losses on the capitalists who thus see their capital, money and means of production remain unproductive for a longer or shorter time. The advanced form of syndicalism has recommended direct action, “sabotage,” has shown itself antimilitarist, etc. A child of socialism, it places the economic fact at the base of its conception of Society. We can say that with regard to socialism, syndicalism fills the role of goad and we appreciate perfectly that in the milieus of the revolutionary workers, its success has been brilliant.
It should be added here that the socialist reformers or transformers of the social milieu do not conceive of that reform or transformation without an “organization,” without the existence of guiding organs represented by all sorts of administrative and legislative commissions, by a multitude of executive functionaries of one sort or another—cogs that they maintain are indispensable to the functioning of the great, animated machine that is the societary organism.
“Organize”—that is the great socialist watchword. The socialists, communists and syndicalists have cried “Organize yourselves!” to the “class” of proletarians and to those disinherited of the goods of the earth. Organize — for the conquest of power — in order to obtain the nationalization of a public service — to vote in a reform — perhaps to gain a higher wage; to organize implies not only a hierarchic organization of functions, but also — and inevitably — the recognition of a legal norm, with the inevitable corollary of obligations and sanctions.
24) The dictatorship of the proletariat.
The bourgeoisie does not possess a well-defined and well-established doctrine to justify its hold on the high administrative functions of human Societies, and its monopolization of capital-funds and capital-tools, with their procession of monopolies and privileges. Apart from the theocratic affirmation that if things are so, it is because God willed it — and they rarely have recourse to it — the “capitalists” only have commonplaces to call upon to explain the privileged situation that they occupy in the social milieu. At the end of the day, it is on legal repression, exceptional measures, armed force, the support lent to them by the most groveling among the employees who are adapted to the dominant system and interested in its continuation, on the spinelessness of the multitude, that the capitalist “class” leans on to maintain its prerogatives.
So it’s all very well for the “leaders” of the proletariat to construct and disseminate new systems of administration of the human milieu where the economic fact will play the leading role, and which will reorganize on an entirely different plan the production and distribution of the utilities of consumption: the capital and the power that it procures passing, naturally, into the hands of the new societary management. To achieve this result, it was necessary to dispossess the occupying social class from its position as director—and that without pity or mental reservation. In other words, it was indispensable that the proletariat take possession of the administration of things, to eject from power and force into silence all those who were hostile or appeared to be hostile to its class domination.
There is no doubt that the leaders of the proletarian masses thought for a moment they might achieve this goal, thanks to the play of representative institutions; some still see a powerful auxiliary in these institutions. We saw very quickly, because of the inertia of the popular masses, unconcerned or corrupted by capitalism, on the one hand, and because of the demoralizing influence exerted on the worker-members by the parliamentary atmosphere, on the other hand, that the ballot showed itself insufficient to assure the success of the expected transformation.
In order to make the socialist demands and expropriative ambitions of the proletariat prevail, the primary means is to violently take hold of the reins of the State, with the support of the Army, to decree the social revolution in a permanent state, to establish “a dictatorship of the proletariat” — or rather of its “elite,” personified, by its leaders — administrative and economic, flowing back, sweeping away, suppressing all the resistances of those who have an interest in the perpetration of the capitalist regime, all the oppositions likely to put the new regime in danger or even to cast doubt on its efficacy.
25) The socialist ideal.
Let us summarize: The socialists offer:
a) A human ideal: the perfect producer and the perfect consumer, the human being whose entire life will consist of adapting itself to an organization of productive activity that will provide for its consumption. Socialist education aims to relate to the economic fact all aspects of the development of human societies: political and ethical, as well as economic;
b) A moral ideal: the right of all to consumption, to economic life and, with some nuances, the disappearance of social inequalities, which are presented as the fruits of capitalism, and the abolition of property, which is presented as the fruit of exploitation;
c) A social ideal: the collectivist State or the communist Society. A Society based on the economic fact; in other words, a Society where, the relations between individuals being determined by the mathematical or scientific regulation of the satisfaction of the needs of each, one can encounter neither economic “competition,” nor the “struggle for life.”
3. Anarchism. Anti-authoritarian or anarchist individualism. Its aspirations
It would seem that, having spoken of the reformers or transformers of Society, considered from the triple point of view—religious, legalistic, and economic,—the list would be completed. Not at all. Examining the foundations of the proposed projects, we very quickly discover a gap: the religious reformers consider the individual as an occasion for divinity to manifest its designs; the legalists consider it a function of the law; the socialists regard it as a constituent-functionary, a tool, a sort of machine to produce and consume; the revolutionaries see it as a soldier of the revolution. They all neglect the individual considered apart from authority; they known nothing about it as an individual unity shielded from domination, from constraint of one sort or another. Now, it is this gap that anarchism fills.
There has been a great deal of quibbling and debate about the role, value and present significance of the anarchist movement.
We will attempt to throw some light on that confusion, which is desired by some and exploited by many.
27) Definition: anarchy, anarchist, anarchism.
The term anarchy comes from two Greek words that mean roughly the negation or absence of government, of authority, of command. It is sometimes understood in the sense of disorder, a meaning that does not interest us. However, it is a fundamentally negative term. By extension, it designates a certain philosophical conception of a Society or life that excludes the idea of government or authority;—the anarchist is the protagonist, the “director” of the ideas or facts that are a consequence of anarchy or lead to it—anarchism is—examined from the speculative, practical or descriptive point of view—the ensemble of ideas and facts that result from anarchy or bring it about. In the sense that we intend, anarchist and anarchism are synonyms of anti-authoritarian and anti-authoritarianism.
In practice, it seems to us, we can consider as an anarchist every being that has been led by their temperament, or by serious, conscious reflection, to deny and reject all authority or coercion external to itself, whether that authority is of the governmental, ethical, intellectual or economic order. We can also say that anyone is an anarchist who consciously rejects the domination of men or of the social milieu over men, along with its economic corollary: the exploitation of man by man or by the social milieu.
28) Origin of anarchism
It is difficult to define the historical origin of the anarchist movement. The first man who consciously reacted against the oppression of a single man or a collectivity was unquestionably an anarchist.
Legend and history cite some names of anarchists: Prometheus, Satan, Epictetus, Diogenes and even Jesus can be considered from different points of view as types of ancient anarchists. The sects derived from primitive Christianity have certainly included some anarchists, relative, of course, to their era. The philosophical beginnings of the present anarchist movement seem to date back to the Renaissance, more precisely to the Reformation, which sowed in minds the idea of free examination and investigation in biblical matters, surpassed the goal of its originators and led to the diffusion of the critical spirit in all domains, to free thought, which, instead of developing, going as far as the rational critique of human institutions and conventions, lingered over the dissection of the puerile fables on which the orthodox believers built their faith. The anarchist movement came along, completing the work of free thought, subjecting to individual analysis charters and laws, morals and programs of education, economic conditions and social relations of every sort; anarchy has become the most dangerous manifestation of opposition that the governmental tyrannies have ever encountered.
29) Anarchism and the First International.
It is customary to relate anarchy historically to the workers’ movement that, under the name of the International, flourished towards the end of the reign of Napoleon III. That is inaccurate. The hatred and the invectives with which Karl Marx pursued Michel Bakunin were not caused by profound divergences of intellectual or ethical views. Bakunin and his friends were expelled from the International in 1872, because federalists, decentralizers, autonomists hostiles to the statist-conquest form of parliamentary sieges that socialist activity would take in the course of the next fifty years.
It was federalists who translated “Capital,” the masterwork of Marx, and spread it though the Mediterranean countries. Certainly, Bakunin was anarchistic, often violently and sometimes profoundly, much more than were many of his political heirs, but if we study the movement of the Jurassian Federation carefully, we encounter there all the familiar features of the socialism of the past: beliefs in equality, fraternity among all men, ideas of solidarity and universal love, of the future Society and of the revolution as savior and immediate transformer of the human race—conceptions that are in no sense specifically anarchist. The truth is that the federalists of the International would show themselves anarchistic with regard to ideas of tactics and of the organization of the socialist movement. For the rest, nothing differentiated them from the revolutionary socialists of the time.
30) The anarchists and society.
Outside, without party, like lost children, the living antitheses of socialism, the anarchists find themselves, on all points, in disagreement with the present Society. If they deny the law, rise up against the authority of its representatives and against the acts of the governmental executives, it is because they affirm [an internal law?], because they want to be able to serve as a law unto themselves and find in themselves the necessary means to exist and conduct themselves.
The Societies where it develops need, in order to perpetuate themselves, to continue to exist, to appeal to a thousand sorts of authorities: the authority of the gods, the authority of the legislators, the authority of the wealthy, of consideration, of respectability, of ancestors, of leaders, of conductors, of programs of every sort. All men ask to be or accept being determined by their milieu: the anarchist struggles—within the unavoidable limitations of the physical order—to determine himself apart from all authority.
31) Anarchist individualism.
Anarchism, we have just seen, is the philosophy of anti-authoritarianism. Anarchist individualism is a practical conception of that philosophy, postulating that it is up to each human unity, taken individually, to translate in their daily life and for themselves, that theory into acts and deeds.
32) The individual fact [*]
The anarchist individualists based their conception of life and base their hopes on the “individual fact.”
What do we mean by the “individual fact”?
This: it is—despite all the abstractions, all the secular or religious entities, all the gregarious ideals—that at the base of the collectivities, societies, associations, agglomerations, ethnic, territorial, economic, intellectual, moral, or religious totalities, we find the person-unity, the individual-cell. Without that, they will not exist.
It is vain to object that, without a social or societary milieu social the individual-cell could neither survive nor develop. Not only is that devoid of exactitude in the literal sense of the word,—man has not always lived in society—but when we look over the question in all of its facets, we will not escape this observation that without individuals, there would not have been a social or societary milieu.
It is the human being who is the origin, the foundation of humanity. The individual has existed before the group; that is obvious. Society is the product of individual additions.
[*] There are a number of ways that fait might be translated. For now, I have chosen fact (rather than, for example, act or event) because Armand seems to be contrasting this individual fact to similar elements, such as the economic fact.
33) The domain of the “Self.”
We can make human unity synonymous with “Self.” Now, the individualist does not posit any boundary to their development of the “self,” no limit to the movement of its personality on the social plane, save for this one: not to invade the domain where its comrade develops. Individualism, the “domain of the self,” asserts this conception of the relations between the “self” and the “non-self:”
A human, however small or insignificant they may be, cannot be sacrificed to any other of their fellow,s however great they may be; nor to a group of people, nor to the majority in the midst of which they develop, nor even to the totality of that milieu.
34) Individualist work and thought.
The essential, main work of individualism is to develop, among those reached by its propaganda, personal hatred, disgust, and scorn for the domination of man over or by man, the domination of collectivities over or by the individual.
It is to create among those who adopt it — and we are of the opinion that it takes a special predisposition to rally to it — a permanent and intransigent spirit of critique with regard to the institutions that teach, maintain, and advocate the domination of human beings over their fellows. And not only against the institutions, but against the men who represent these institutions, for it is by the latter that we know the former.
It is also to bring out, in those who identify with it—through reflection or temperament—individualist thought, a pressing desire to live the phases of their life, for all their days, apart from all external authority, without considering the institutions that maintain domination, without exerting any coercive influence over those of their comrades who conceive of the details of daily existence differently from them.
Finally, it is to make each individualist an individual propagator, and bearer of individualist thought.
Let us summarize: the individualist anarchist movement consists of an intellectual activity aimed at kindling within the beings identifying and experimenting with, and propagating, each as they please, anti-authoritarianism in the different careers where human activity is played out: ethical, intellectual, social, economic. And practically, in the individual resolution—in the anarchist sense—of the problems posed by the manifestations of the aforementioned activity.
The definition of individualism given above does not, however, mean that those who claim it will be bound to live like hermits, without ever associating. Some will find that when isolated, they are stronger than when associated. When it attacks, they say, authority is stronger against the associated than against the isolated. And when it defends itself, it is more feeble. Those who prefer isolation maintain that when two act in concert, you never know if your partner will be a traitor, even unintentionally. The others affirm that association allows one to obtain a larger sum of results, a greater output from labor, in a more limited lapse of time, with less effort. It is the latter finally, for whom association constitutes something like an instinctive need.
At base, it is a matter of individual dispositions.
In practice, in the present circumstances, the individualists battle against those who are dominant, they struggle against authoritarian institutions, diminishing bit by bit the influence of the coercive milieu, in order to gain the possibility of living as they choose, in more or less vast affinity groups, or else in isolation, concluding among themselves such agreements as seem to them most proper to assure their well-being and to safeguard their autonomy.
It goes without saying that the individualist can not be considered only as an individual negator of authority, he is also an individual negator of exploitation. Exploitation is the domination of man by man transported onto the economic terrain. An individualist no more wants to be the exploiter than the exploited.
35) Property in the means of production and free disposition of the product.
The individualist differentiates himself from the anarchist communist (the anarchist of the Jurassian Federation and its heirs), in the sense that he considers—in production and apart from property in the objects of enjoyment forming an extension of the personality—property in the means of production and the free disposition of the product as the essential guarantee of the autonomy of the person. It being understood that this property is limited to the possibility of staking out (individually, by couples, by familial groups, etc.) the area of soil or the productive machinery indispensable to the necessities of the social unit; provided, for the possessor, that he does not lease it to another or employ for his own enrichment someone in his service.
36) The individualists and systematic revolutionaryism.
In general, the individualists are not revolutionaries in the systematic and dogmatic sense of the word. They do not think that a revolution can lead, any more than a war, to a true amelioration of individual life. In times of revolution, the fanatics of the rival parties and struggling schools occupy themselves above all with dominating each other and, to achieve this, tear at each other with a violence and a hatred which often ignores the hostile armies. Like a war, a revolution can be compared to a bout of fever in the course of which the sufferer behaves very differently than in their normal state. When the bout of fever passes, the patient returns to their ordinary state. Thus history shows us that revolutions have always been followed by setbacks that cause them to deviate from their original aims. They must commence with the individual. It is from individual to individual that the notion must first be spread that it is a crime to force someone to act in ways other than they think useful, or advantageous, or agreeable for their own preservation, their own development or their own happiness,—whether this crime is committed by the State, the law, the majority or any isolated person. This idea of the individual acting on the social must be communicated from individual to individual. These conceptions should be the fruit of reflection or the consequence of a observant temperament, not the result of a passing over-excitement, foreign to the normal nature of the one who professes them.
37) Conditions for the existence and evolution of the Individualist.
Anarchist individualism presents no plan regulating—in advance and in slightest least details—a milieu where the individual, taking precedence over the human aggregation and wanting neither to serve nor to enslave, would know neither domination of the social or of man over man, nor domination of man over man or the social—nor the exploitation of man by man, or by the social, or reciprocally,—a milieu where each would live, without authority or legislation, the life that best suits their temperament and aspirations, without having to account to anyone for their acts and movements, from the moment that they employ reciprocity with regard to others. It is a question of a new and profound orientation of minds, much more than the artificial establishment of a new society.
When pushed for further explanations, the individualist frankly recognizes that there could logically exist, evolving comfortably in a single humanity or functioning side by side simultaneously, any number of groups or isolated individualities, fulfilling themselves as they understand that process, applying all sorts of combinations or concepts, whether economic, political, scientific, emotional, literary, or recreational. A wide range of realizations, individualist or collective. Here, each receiving according to their needs. There, each gaining according to their effort. Here, barter: products for products. There, exchange: products for representative value. Here, property in the product to the producer. There, the abandonment of the product to the ensemble. Here, omnivorism. There, vegetarianism, or who knows what hygienic or culinary arrangement as an “ism.” Here, the couple and the family. There, sexual liberty or even promiscuity. Here, materialists. There, spiritualists. Here, offspring to the mother. There, children to the group. Here, the study of the artistic or literary emotions. There, the study of scientific experimentation. Here, institutes of sensual pleasure. There, schools of austerity… all provided that it is understood that each has the ability to pass from one milieu to another or to isolate themselves from every milieu. And that without the strongest ensembles feeling the temptation to absorb the weakest ensembles, or to the groups that of violently subsuming the isolated individualities.
38) “Our” individualist.
The individualist as we conceive him, — our individualist — loves life and strength. He proclaims and glorifies pleasure, the enjoyment of living. He recognizes plainly that his own happiness is his aim. He is no sort of ascetic and the mortification of the flesh disgusts him. He is passionate. He presents himself unvarnished, his brow crowned with vines, and sings gladly, accompanying himself with Pan’s flute. He communes with Nature, its energies stimulating his instincts and thoughts. He is neither young nor old! He is the age that he feels. And as long as there remains a drop of blood in his veins, he fights to win or to fortify his place in the sun. He does not impose, but he does not want to be imposed upon. He repudiates masters and gods. He knows how to love, but he knows how to hate. He is full of affection for his own, those of his world, but he has a horror of false friends. He is proud and conscious of his personal dignity. He shapes himself internally and he reacts externally. He saves and he spends himself. He is not concerned with prejudices and laughs at what people say about him. He has a taste for art, the sciences, and letters. He loves books, study, meditation, and labor. He is an artisan, not an unskilled worker. He is generous, sensitive and sensual. He is hungry for new experiences and fresh sensations. But if he advance in life on a chariot swift as a whirlwind, it is on the condition of sensing himself the master of the chargers that bear him along; he is animated by the will to assign to wisdom or to voluptuousness, according to his own determination, the portion that falls legitimately to each of them in the course of his personal evolution.
39) The aspirations of the individualists.
Conclusions : The anarchist individualists present:
a) An aspiration at once humane and moral: the anarchist individualist, the individual denying authority and its economic corollary, exploitation, and refusing to exercise it; the being whose life consists of a continual reaction against a milieu which cannot, which neither wants to understand or approve him, since the constituents of that milieu are the slaves of ignorance, of apathy, of ancestral flaws and of respect for established things; tending towards the realization of a new type: the man who feels no need of regulation or external constraint, because he possesses enough power of volition to determine his personal needs and maintain his individual power of resistance;
b) An aspiration at once moral and social: a concept of the individualist anarchist milieu entailing particularly, from the economic point of view: property in the means of production and the free disposition of the product, envisioned as an essential guarantee of the autonomy of the person. That milieu existing and evolving within a humanity the constituents of which will determine their lives, in their intellectual, ethical and economic aspects, by a contract freely consented to and applied, entailing the liberty of all without harm to the liberty of any; a humanity where there could blossom, concurrently and simultaneously, all the attempts, all the systems, all the methods of individual or plural existence, all the imaginable associations, without any other restriction or limit but the counterweight of their respective functioning.
c) An aspiration at once individual and social: the anarchist individualist association, a guarantee destined not only to increase and bring to their maximum liberty, productivity, well-being and the enjoyment of life for each of those who enter into it, but also to safeguard and guarantee their personal autonomy against all encroachments, invasions and requisitions from the non-self, whatever they may be.
4. The individualists and the reformers of the social milieu. The law of continuous progress.
40) Last quibbles of the religious reformers.
The account that we have just mapped out explains the attitude of the anarchist individualist with regard to the reformers of Society. Since all the proposed systems of renewal or improvement throw the individual into the background, how could the individualist feel anything but mistrust or hostility with regard to them? In vain the religious reformers or innovators – last resource – would come to affirm that the will, the supreme design of all the divine wisdom is to realize on the planet harmony between men, to suppress inequalities of fortune, education; in vain would they say that the painful stages that make up the march of humanity towards that “millennium” were necessary, indispensable to the collective perfectibility; in vain would they proclaim their unshakeable faith in the coming of the “kingdom of God,” synonym for the city of harmony, equity, and fraternity; the individualist will demand by what tangible means this all-loving god communicates his thought to them, what scientific notions they have of his existence, with what power he disposes and how he exerts it.
Cornered, the last representatives of religious mysticism stammer that perhaps God is a sentiment internal to the individual, the ideal, a category of the ideal, that is has still not completely manifested, that it “becomes;” they will use other cloudy expressions of the same farine, which can satisfy some unorthodox, but still pious believers, and with which a free mind cannot be content. The individualist will simply respond that that it is not of the ideal, which is a creation of the human brain. To say that God is a phenomenon of the interior life, a manifestation of individual thought, that is to say that it is not extra-humanly; now, what need is there to call an individual aspiration or sentiment “God”?
41) My atheism.
I am an atheist. Not only do I not believe in divinity, under whatever name or species that you present it, but also that I am resolutely hostile to any conception implying the existence of one or several gods. I am an atheist because I am an individualist, especially because I am an anarchist individualist.
It goes without saying that my atheism is not caused by the fact that the so-called representatives of God show themselves to be detestable specimens of the human species. There are believers in God who seem to be worth very little; there are those who appear to be individually superior to the average general morality. I am only too convinced that human beings are influenced by their temperament to attach great importance to the foolishness of the Christians, Muslims, or Buddhists. Nor am I surprised by the differences presented between the daily lives of certain individualists and the theories that they profess. I understand full well that it is easier to isolate oneself cerebrally from the milieu than to triumph over the appeals that the atmosphere addresses to the senses.
Nor I am not an atheist because of the impossibility faced by deists to answer some “posers” that amuse the gallery at the expense of those who are victims. God, according to the theologians, being omnipotent and omniscient, and many other things, we see here the excuses that these attributes provide the freethinking speaker to demonstrate some proofs of the nonexistence of the unfortunate “gaseous vertebrate.” It only takes the “problem” of suffering. God, then, who knows everything, foresees everything, is all powerful, can abolish it, since he is also infinitely good, just, etc. If he does not suppress it, is because he is not all-powerful, unless it is because he is cruel. Or he has not been able to predict the suffering, and then he is by no means all knowing. As irrefutable as they appear, these arguments would affect me very little if I was a deist. God, the “intelligent First Cause,” the “permanent and conscious” cause, “creative and active,” would have, I suppose, if it he existed, a totally different idea than his advocates and detractors—tiny parasites planet Earth—have of good, evil, joy, suffering, matter and even his own existence. It is not the scholastic arguments that make me an atheist.
Despite the importance that I attach to demonstrations of the scientific order, I am also not an atheist because I am “scientific.” To avoid any uncertainty, I do not confuse science,—the collection of practical observations, beneficial and useful application,—with speculative Science (with a capital S). Haeckel said of science that it is “impossible without hypothesis” and, for it, Henri Poincaré proclaimed hypothesis “essential.” I think, following the philosophers and eminent contemporary scholars, that the scientific fact is a human phenomenon, essentially relative, about which the commentary varies according to the intellect of interpreters. If I concerned myself with Science other than as a layman, I would intend to pass though the sieve of my personal criticism, and with the same severity, both religious hypotheses and scientific hypotheses.
I am an atheist because I am an individualist. The human brain can only conceive of God anthropomorphically, as a sort of a kind of authoritarian and despotic dictator. Now, I am a denier of authority. I want neither God nor master. I do not want a boss of the universe any more than I want a boss in the workshop. Bakunin said somewhere: “If God exists, man is a slave; if man is free, God does not exist.” I do not want to discuss here what is meant by the freedom of man. After Proudhon, I repeat: “If God exists, he is the enemy of man.” I do not want a God that we must fear in order to be wise. We only fear tyrants, those who have the power to deprive their fellows of liberty, even of existence: the police, judges, jailers and executioners, and God, every god is the ultimate symbol of all these beings, who are themselves the epitome of organized coercion. I proclaim insurrection against the gods that we must fear in order to be classed among the wise. No reconciliation is possible between my anti-authoritarianism, my hatred of domination, my revolt against exploitation and any conception of divinity.
And not only, as an individualist, do I deny and reject God, but practically, I have no need of him. I have no need of the hypothesis of a creative, provident and law-giving God in order to feel that I exist, to develop intellectually, to evolve physically, to observe, contemplate, move, love, etc. I can do all of that by refusing to believe in the all-power of that product of fear or ignorance of insufficiently enlightened ancestors. I have no need of God to know a deep inner life, which resists the assaults of disappointment arising from outside or from my own errors. I have no need of God to persevere or to make my way down the road of individual life, gathering experiences, assessing the enjoyments, in quest of expansion and activity for my brain and my senses. I do not attach great importance, I repeat, to the scholastic arguments, but, to lead me in life, I do not feel the need at all of being guided by a moral director, who in order to bring his creatures back to him, or punish them for their disobedience, delivers the to slaughters, to the refinements of cruelty in our contemporary wars and to the suffering that are their consequence.
I do not mechanically detest the believer. My point of view is that of the individualist anarchist Benjamin R. Tucker: “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.” While I am a mechanist, while I consider the most ingenious philosophical idea, the most audacious metaphysical hypothesis, and the most curious scientific theory, as a normal of the functioning of the cerebral activity, in the individual as well as the collective — I am ready, personally, to cooperate for a specific task with the “individual” spiritualists, those belonging to no ecclesiastical organization and committed adversaries of the statist and social exploitations and authorities.
42) The social contract.
In vain the legalists maintain that the aim of the law is not to oppress the individual, but to ensure for them, according to what is called the “social contract,” the possibilities of living in Society, — possibilities that in fact the law delimits and codifies, establishing the rights and duties of the individual toward Society and Society towards each individual. The individualist will ask who has published this so-called social contract and will have soon demonstrated, with historic proofs in their support, that it has always been imposed on the different collectivities by a minority of strong or cunning beings, priests or mages, fortunate or conquering soldiers, renowned families, powerful capitalists. Never, anywhere, has any social contract been freely proposed, freely consented to, freely applied. What we all know of the social contract is its apparatus of constraints and chastisements; its executives and its supporters: finks, police officers and justice bringers; the institutions on which it is founded: courts, houses of detentions and penal colonies. It is its so-called lay education, in reality as dogmatic, as demoralizing, as intolerant as the clerical education.
For the individualist, the State is the secular form of the church, as the church was the religious force of the State. They are two enemies who always reconcile on the terrain of domination. Whoever denied the divinity of Jesus, the Trinity or the mystery of transubstantiation, would have been condemned to perish in the flames. Let one attack the dogmas of property or the homeland with any violence, either by word or in writing—or, for that matter, any of the dogmas that underpin the civil institutions of the twentieth century—and you will see (the examples are there) if prison is not the punishment for the miscreant guilty of such a crime. What does the social contract speak of? Obsolete morals, ridiculous prejudices that ring false in the face of current knowledge and for which, at school, we still teach respect: that is the reality of the social contract.
43) Quibbles of the democrats and revolutionaries of dictatorship.
In vain, the “reformists,” the “progressives” will explain that there are no more absolute monarchs, no more hermetically sealed castes, no more social classes whose barriers we cannot breach. Democracy, in the words of a renowned politician, “flows bank-high.” The more we advance, they explain, the more the decisions of the people are sovereign—it is public opinion that is without appeal and not the whim of a Master. It is understood that popular revolutions are marked with the stamp of the average mentality—that is to say that in normal times they hold themselves apart from extreme solutions. But it is the business of the extremists of the front or rear guards to change that mentality. It is also understood that in a democratic regime, it is the decisions of the majority that prevail and are imposed, but, as a famous statesman sagely noted, in full parliament it has not hitherto found a better way to ensure the functioning of the social organism. It is finally understood that not everything is for the best in the best of democracies, but it takes time to enlighten the masses, very much time even.
The concerns that agitated the minds of the ancient or medieval demos were not the same as those that confront the contemporary demos. The march of human evolution rushing with an speed unknown to our ancestors, we must recognize that the problems shaping human intelligence today are constantly renewed and transformed. Hence the necessity of a political and economic education destined to put the people in a position to quickly solve the new problems that are presented to them. It is the business of a small number of generations, a drop in the ocean of the centuries. All in all, once separated from the whim of the prince and the arbitrary will of theocratic or oligarchic tyranny, it is still the democratic system that permits the development of the human race to continue most normally and allows the individual to enjoy a middling happiness.
In vain the “revolutionaries of dictatorship” will demonstrate that historical experience is enough to indicate how little we should rely on the democratic regime, on public opinion. The people are subject to all manner of contradictory influences and vacillate at the mercy of passions, hatreds, collective fantasies. The caprices of democracy yield nothing to those of the prince—a beautiful speech, an agreeable presence, a nice uniform, a fine horse or a grand-sounding slogan are enough to overturn the “average mentality” from top to bottom and make it swallow today with delight the political, economic, intellectual brew that it vomited up yesterday in disgust. A century of exercise has been enough to sanctify the fiasco of universal male suffrage and it does not seem that the entrance of the fairer sex to the electorate redeems it. The characteristic trait of the representative assemblies has always been to divide themselves into fractions that, despite apparent divergences, had in common among them that they sought to dominate and supplant one another, and to impose their respective opinions.
We do not deny, add the revolutionaries of whom we are speaking, that generous grandiose and beneficial aspirations are in gestation in the loins of contemporary democracy, but these aspirations must be delivered. Now, that birth is the business of a dedicated minority, of an elite conscious of the goal to be reached: the happiness of the human species. Until the aspirations for a new state of affairs take shape, penetrate and saturate the minds and senses of the people, a dictatorial regime is in order. It is through a dictatorship of the most intelligent and most gifted of its vanguard elements that the happiness of the social ensemble will be organized and realized, willingly or by force. It matters little that the people, still uncultured, must be driven, drums beating, at gunpoint, toward the social paradise. Later, they will thank the dictatorial elite for its energy and its determination.
44) Democracy equals dictatorship.
If the individualists agree with the instigators of the dictatorship of the advanced elements of democracy on recognizing that universal suffrage, parliamentarianism and public opinion are ridiculous panaceas or impressive trompe-l’œil, they separate from them when they attempt to present their dictatorial conception as a novelty. Democracy and dictatorship are synonymous terms. The people have never marched but under the goad of a dictatorship—concealed or declared. Democracy, in all the periods of history, has set its pace according to the injunctions of the dictatorship of one of its privileged elements. The reason is very simple: the people—taken as a mass—are incapable of thinking for and by themselves. They do not reflect because they cannot reflect—because a collectivity of human beings of average mentality normally aspires to a state of equilibrium that spares it some decisions of the sort that would trouble its stability. When a human collectivity modifies its status quo, it is under the influence of some individuality, of a certain number of its components, of a party or else because it finds itself under the sway of an abnormal overexcitement. But it always returns to stability, even if that stability should be found in submission to an extremist solution, to a terroristic party, to a whimsical autocrat. Collectivities tend towards repose, towards forgetfulness, towards stagnation. That is why they have always constituted marvelous instruments in the service of absolutisms and tyrannies of every sort.
There are no democratic customs, politics, economics or education. In these matters, the people think like their managers, their rulers and their exploiters desire. Since the revolution of 1789, democracy has thought what was dictated to it by the newspaper articles, the schoolmasters, the orators in the public meetings, the men of State. So the partisans of dictatorship by the popular or proletarian elite break no new ground. The individualists willingly admit that it is only very rarely that the advanced elements have been able to seize the helm, but they refuse to see a new order of things in the ascent to power of the workerist or revolutionary elite. It is a question of stripping the leaders of the bourgeoisie from their governmental situations and replacing them with the conductors of the fourth estate. The individualists see in this only a change of personnel. Democracy remains what it was: an instrument of dictatorship; the people have not changed their role: they have only changed shepherds.
45) Unnecessary producers and superfluous consumption.
To the pure socialists, claiming that the economic fact dominates all the details of the evolution of humanity, the individualist will object that this is pure conjecture, that, without neglecting for a single instant the value of the economic factor, since it is first of all a question of sustenance, we cannot accept that it has been the unique cause of all historical events. To tell the truth, according to the circumstances, events have sometimes had a political origin, sometimes a religious motive, sometimes an economic cause—without speaking of the influences of climate. It has long been the practice to relate all of history to political causes, just as in the past we considered it as the works of “God” among men; as for the socialist metaphysics, it would reduce everything to the economic fact. It is a considerable exaggeration to maintain that philosophy, the arts and literature have constantly depended on economic facts, when certain of their periods indicate, to cite one example, a clearly religious influence.
Examining the question of production and consumption in a critical manner, the individualist asserts that it is obviously outrageous, in the present society, to group men by professions or trades; that in the regime of capitalist overproduction and exploitation it is an arbitrary, dangerous and even unhealthy classification.
To exalt the producer, in the current state of things, is a pure sophistry. In many cases, they produce objects or values that are useless, if not harmful; or they accomplish a labor without either individual or social impact. Have the metallurgists who work in the arsenals, in the weapons factories or cannon done a useful task? Have the prison guards, customs officers, pencil-pushers of the official administrations, excise-men or tax-collectors accomplished useful work? Have the workers devoted to the production of fabrication of aperitifs, bitters and “strong drink” of all sorts performed useful labor? Have the employees of the railroads occupied with the transport of so many objects of superfluous luxury, with handling adulterated good or with sending soldiers to the slaughter fulfilled a function of some utility? In vain, the masons who construct prisons, barracks or churches group themselves in revolutionary syndicates; in vain, the manufacturers of machine guns, of Lebel, Maennlicher or Vetterli rifles, of uniforms, join the Confederations of Labor. Before and after, these are useless producers.
What is true, from the individualist point of view, is that a large part of the producers live as parasites at the expense of the consumers since a large part of the consumption relates to objects or values that, directly or indirectly, perpetuates the dependence of the human unity. What is also true is that a great number of consumers maintain, thanks to their servile and ovine mentality, a mass of useless producers.
46) The law of continuous progress.
Finally, we are not unaware of the thesis of the proponents of the law of “continuous progress,” an idea that is not new, the seeds of which we find in Greece and Rome, and later among the mystics of the Middle Ages, who announced that just as the kingdom of the Son had succeeded the kingdom of the Father, the kingdom of the Son would be followed by the kingdom of the Holy Spirit, or the age of the eternal Gospel, when there will be no more error or sin. Leaving mysticism behind, that conception was clarified, refined and confirmed philosophically, first with the Bacons and Pascals; then generalized by the Herders, the Kants, the Turgots, the Condorcets, the Saint-Simons, the Auguste Comtes and their successors, the utopian and scientific socialist schools, and finally the evolutionists-finalists of every order.
We are not unaware that the law of constant and uninterrupted progress has been accepted, glorified and popularized by the poets, the littérateurs, the philosophers, the propagandists and many a scientist. It has enjoyed among men the role of comforter previously held by religion in the age of faith. But examining it closely, we soon see that nothing is less justified, scientifically speaking, than that so-called law.
In the first place, it is impossible to prove experimentally that the acts of each human unit, of each race, or of all the races, are invariable and incontestable effects of primitive antecedents and original circumstances. We do not know, in fact, in an indisputable manner, the point of departure of humanity and the point or points toward which it advances. Even if we knew that point of departure exactly, we possess no scientific criterion permitting us to distinguish that which is progress from that which is not. We may note a displacement, nothing else. According to their aspirations or the party to which they belong, humans call this movement “progress” or “retreat,” and that is all.
At the heart of this conception of continuous and inescapable progress, under its most scientific appearance, slumbers a mystical and finalist ulterior motive. Here we see it attached to this idea that man is nature becoming conscious of itself. There, we see it accompanied by that other idea that all animal evolution postulates, announces and prophesies the upright biped endowed with speech that is the human being. We swim in full anthropocentrism and forget the very simple reality, which is that on one of the lowliest bodies scattered about the Cosmos, in the depths of the fog that surrounds it like a diaphanous vapor, vegetate, swarm or crawl a multitude of parasites. In all probabililty a geological accident overstimulated the intelligence of one of the parasitic species of this body—the Earth—and allowed it to dominate the other species, Was it a matter of happiness or misfortune for the inhabitants of the planet? We do not know. We are totally ignorant of what would have resulted from the advent of another species of vertebrates, the elephant or horse, for example, or of other variety to which it could have given birth. Nothing proves that nature would not have much better and more exceptionally “become conscious of itself” in these races. Nothing proves that another geological, meteorological or other incident will not strip the human race of its scepter, its power and its impertinence. But the facts are the facts. Man indeed seems, from the intellectual point of view, the best endowed, at present, of the terrestrial parasites. Let us yield and return to the law of continuous progress, to the thesis of progressive and necessary evolution. Now, we cannot accept it without admitting at the same time, not only that all the events that have been and are taking place have been and are necessary, but also that they have inevitably served and still serve the development and happiness of the human species. This is where Auguste Comte was logically led, and Taine has formulated that idea in a lapidary phrase: “What is has the right to be.” So all is good and for the best in the best of evolutions. In the past and in the present. The violence done to bodies and the violence done to opinions; the inquisitions, the court-martials, the wars and epidemics; the stifling of opposing thought, the pyres where the detractors burned; the firing squads that pierce them with projectiles; the jets of flaming liquid, the asphyxiating gas, the aerial bombardments, the “cleaning” of the trenches with great cutlass blows. All is good. The prisoners of war massacred despite the promise of mercy, the Christians of Rome thrown to wild beasts, the exterminations of the Albigensians and Anabaptists, the lettres de cachet, the reasons of State and the lois scélérates. All is good, all has served the development of humanity, all has contributed to the march of progress and all that has facilitated and prepared the coming of inevitable, final and universal happiness.
Ha! No! Our reason rises up, rebels against that idea.
We look down into the bottomless abyss into which have rolled, one after another, the famous civilizations, the magnificent ages—into the gulf where the colossal and momentous historical periods meet—and what we hear mount up from those unfathomable depths is neither hymns of joy nor sighs of pleasure. It is, on the contrary, a dissonant and dreadful concert of protests, groans and lamentations, of opinions, aspirations and needs shackled, mutilated, bruised and wounded. In vain do the ferocious and rather forced clamours of the successful and the satisfied try to cover, to stifle the cries of rage of those to whom the opportunity to satisfy themselves has never been offered or has always been unsuccessful—they cannot succeed!
Figures of speech? Sentimental arguments? I admit it. But documented, supported however by data, by documents of the historical experience. At whatever stage in the development of whatever civilization—whatever the influence that presided over its growth—the protesters, the forerunners, the « en-dehors » of one kind or another have emerged, scattered or in groups. Some humans have stood up and proclaimed that their happiness stood at the antipodes or on the margin of what was defined as such by the dogmas, conventions, laws, decrees and dictatorships, by the achievements of the average mentality, the environment or the social elite. The flame of resistance and nonconformity was never completely extinguished, even in the darkest days of the evolution of humanity. No doubt the torch of the aspiration to a happiness other than the official happiness, happiness of the happy medium, does not always have the same glare. It has nonetheless lighted the path of disobedience, individual autonomy, where the road has always committed the best portion of mankind, according to its knowledge of the time at least. If there were a law, it would be the law of the “continued persistence” of the spirit of nonconformity that it would be appropriate to attribute to the improvements (?) that some want to see in the relationship between the constituents of the same social circles.
THE PRACTICAL THESES OF ANARCHIST INDIVIDUALISM
1. Christianity and the Individualists. The pagan way of thinking.
47) Primitive Christianity.
Is there any link of kinship whatsoever between Christianity and anarchism? Can we reconcile them? Can it be maintained that anarchists—individualists or communists—are what Christians would have become if Christianity had followed its normal evolution instead of crystallizing into formulas and rites?
There is no one who intends, in good faith, to reconcile the Christianity of today, the official Christianity of the churches, partisan of the strongbox and admirer of government violence, with socialism or anarchism. When we speak of anarchist, social, even revolutionary Christianity, we only ever mean “primitive Christianity.” The great difficulty is that regarding this period of Christian history, we have hardly any authentic, convincing documents, to which we can give absolute credence. The critical elements are missing, the writings hostile to Christianity having been carefully destroyed by the Christians who had become victorious. The documents only became historical when the Christian movement had transformed itself into a religious organization, a church that meant to conquer the world, which aims at spiritual and temporal supremacy, thanks to a formidable hierarchy. At that time, the church seemed above all concerned with assimilating beliefs, mythological superstitions, in order to win over the last oppositions, and its internal divisions served as a cloak for political purposes.
48) The founder of Christianity and his work.
Jesus, of irregular birth (perhaps with Greek blood in his veins), seems to have had more resentment against the Jewish pseudo-believers than against the Roman oppressors of Judea. Nourished by the reading of the great Israelite prophets, perhaps mixed with a knowledge of Greek philosophy, surely cradled from childhood by the Jewish apocalypses, believing in the approaching end of the world, undoubtedly endowed with faculties that we would link today to the phenomena of hypnotism, it seems that he thought himself called to renew the prophets of old, so much so that before or instead of preaching revolt against foreigners, he advocated an “inner” regeneration. Jesus still appears to us as a man of modest origin, brought up by a carpenter or even on a farm, as E. Crosby wanted, but one that the worries of an education that he owed only to himself, or perhaps distant journeys, would have taken away from the immediate contact of others. While sharing many superstitions and espousing the cosmogonic theories of his time, he shows himself to be in possession of an undeniable individual value and exerts a profound influence on those around him; he is depicted to us as endowed with great sensitivity, lively enthusiasm, free from narrow conceptions, a polemicist, abhorring the mercantile spirit that made his compatriots so detestable.
Having found no echo among the wealthy people, apart from two or three liberal bourgeois or rabbis, Jesus went to recruit friends among the “tax collectors and sinners”: tramps, vagabonds, beggars, prostitutes, neuropaths and other “people without a faith,” with whom several of these Jews mingled waiting for the coming of a Messiah who would deliver them from the yoke of the Caesarean legions. Jesus does not seem to have attached much importance to civil laws, to property, and the episode of the two sisters whom he loved dearly indicates free morals. Two or three women whom he had cured of nervous diseases provided for his needs and those of the little group who followed him everywhere (1). In short, with his handful of unmentionable people and fanatics, he launched an assault on Israelite ecclesiasticalism, formalism and hypocrisy, a formidable fortress.
In opposition to the teaching of the rabbis, the official teaching, Jesus adopted one that had to have as its basis this advice: “If you do this or that, do it, not because you were told to do it, but because, deep down inside, you find it good.” More new than well understood, this teaching aroused attention and people crowded around the young propagandist, whose invectives against the powerful and the rich—Jesus does not seem to have recoiled from demagogic remarks—flattered the ears of the poor who listened to him. They must have liked his simplicity: a boat, a terrace, a hillock served as its pulpit. Moreover, he does not seem to have carried out a work of unlimited propaganda. He was content to sow words and ideas: “Let him who has ears to hear, hear.” The seed may fall on the side of the road where the birds will eat, on the stony ground where the sun will dry it up. Too bad! If it falls on fertile ground, it will produce a hundredfold. Sympathetic to the populace, because by no means ascetic, he ate and drank in the crossroads, with all kinds of people that his conversation attracted. He spoke of fields, of flowers, of harvests, of the starry sky… what a difference from the starchy priests and the ritual of the synagogue!
An indelible trait of Jesus’ character was his confidence in those who followed him, his patience with them, let us say his love for them. Courageously, he undertook their education, excusing their cowardice, their ignorance; their petty ambitions, their childish rivalries did not put him off. Though his biographers pass quickly over these sides of his moral character, they stand out so strongly that they ruthlessly eclipse all the so-called miracles to which the evangelists give so much room.
One fine day the inevitable crisis broke out. Intoxicated with enthusiasm, probably expecting a demonstration in his favor and in his role as an extra-human power, Jesus went up to Jerusalem at the time of the Easter celebrations, when the city was overflowing with Israelites from all points of the Roman Empire. He went to the Temple, haranguing, debating, causing uproar. A great opportunity for the leaders of the synagogue to get rid of the nuisance and the disagreeable consequences that his fiery speeches could have had. On having heard, it seems that Jesus hid himself with some friends; undoubtedly betrayed, he was quickly discovered, apprehended, arrested and the Roman and Jewish authorities immediately agreed to put him to death. He suffered his fate with a certain weakness, it seems, probably caused by the collapse of his hopes in an intervention of the divinity and also by the abandonment of his disciples, who had gone into hiding. Moreover, to strike at them and prevent them from making a prophet of him, care had been taken to ridicule their leader and inflict on him a punishment usually reserved for criminals.
It’s an old story: far from knocking down his followers, the torture of their friend revived their courage, electrified them. Dazzled by the influence he had exercised over them during his lifetime, an influence that their pitiful behavior still increased, they met again, assembled, regained courage and confidence. Christianity was born.
From the accounts of the activity of Jesus, we can draw many contradictory aspects of his personality. Without doubt, he is an anarchist, a revolutionary; he rejects and fights the authority of the priests, hypocritical and official morality, traditionalism, the written and imposed law; but he also came to fulfill “the law” and “the prophets” and not to “abolish” them. There are so many manipulations and interpolations in the texts that it is very difficult to know what to take from them.
(1) Origen, in his refutation of Celsus, cited one by the name of Suzanne.
49) Saul of Tarsus. Greek influence.
What makes an exact determination of “early Christianity” difficult is that immediately after the death, presumed or real, of its founder, it came under the influence of a man who was well-educated man for his time—a Jew by birth, Greek by education, an outstanding dialectician, a debater of the first rank, a visionary enthusiast coupled with a consummate organizer—who soon transformed it into a universal religion and led it towards Catholicism. We mean Saul of Tarsus, otherwise known as Saint Paul. Brought to Christianity under the influence of a mystical hallucination, he traveled the Roman world as a propagandist, presenting Jesus to some as the “unknown God,” to others—the Jews and the Jewish converts—as a sort of theological thesis, the incarnation of the fulfillment of ancient Jewish prophecy. The torture of the Galilean agitator became the ransom of a humanity separated from “God” by original sin; the bloodshed on Mount Golgotha symbolized the last and supreme sacrifice demanded by the implacable justice of Jehovah; later, Jesus rose to the rank of Anointed of the Lord, of Christ, of Son of God, to be a person of God himself. Christian churches were established everywhere. The mystics got involved. Faced with such success, the Greeks of Alexandria tried to reconcile Christianity with their philosophical ideas. In the Gospel attributed to John, Jesus has become the incarnation of the Word, of the Logos, of Reason, and it is “within us” that the Kingdom of Heaven exists.
50) An irremediable incompatibility.
Two principles vitiated Christianity at its origin: its hatred, not only of the world, but of life, of the flesh; and its blind submission to the so-called will of “God.” “Thy will be done”, cried Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane: this is the impassable abyss that will always distance the Christians from the individualists, the people of initiative, the independent, the refractory, the rebels. In vain we will torture the texts to try to make a bridge of them; the bridge will crumble.
The position of the man on his knees is the attitude of a slave: Christian morality is not only a morality for slaves, but one for the use of people who are convinced that they have very little time to pass on earth and who find themselves in the continual expectation of a general, spiritual and cosmic upheaval. There is no doubt that the early Christians—long enough even after the disappearance of Jesus—were expecting the end of the world shortly before the coming of the Messiah, that is to say the return of Christ and the establishment of the Kingdom of God on the earth. This is what is known as the Parousia. Everything that is physical, carnal, will give way to the spirit, to the immaterial. Because of the imminence of this end, and of the “universal judgment” that was to follow, it became urgent to “repent,” to sacrifice Desire, to mortify Instinct, to renounce the palpable and the tangible. This is the ethic of the early Christians.
Be that as it may, Christianity was a product of its time. If at one time in the history of humanity it played a role that was, let us admit, liberating, its past merits cannot make us forget all the harm it inflicted on independent thinkers, on lovers of existence for its own sake. Torquemada, Calvin, Luther, Henry VIII, Loyola, the Jesuits, the Holy Office, the Russian Holy Synod, the Anglican dragonnades, the missionaries in boots… “We recognize the tree by its fruits.” There are the fruits and, yes, they are bitter. They are still fruits of Christianity, its rotten fruits: this pietism, these mummeries, this morality, all this Protestant hypocrisy which only considers appearances, which only looks at respectability, which wants to mutilate the individual under the pretext of freeing them from the free, strong passions that are the essence of life and only succeeds in making it a perverted, unhealthy, saddened, boring being.
51) The communism of the first Christians.
Tolstoy, socialists and “Christian” anarchists believed that primitive Christianity had aimed at an economic, social action—a kind of “communism”—other than the practice of charity. A critical examination of what has come down to us from the few fundamental documents of Christianity shows that this view is not correct.
The preaching of the Gospel bears the mark of the most authentic individualism. Salvation is a question of faith, strictly personal and not collective.
The Pauline Epistles leave no doubt about this. It is true that the Judeo-Christians of Jerusalem, expecting the imminent end of the world, sold their properties—at least the majority of them—and pooled the proceeds. But this end of the world was slow to come, this church or community fell into poverty and was forced to seek the aid of other Christian communities or churches—not communists—to get out of trouble. The “religious communities” existed later. Even when it was admitted that Jesus was part of the Jewish, communist and monastic sect of the Essenes, “Christian” communism was never preached or practiced except by heretical sects wishing to bring spiritual equality into the economic domain, which before God Christianity grants to men. And the orthodox churches have always been implacably hostile to these social deviations from Christianity.
52) The pagan frame of mind.
We cannot summarize a movement of the importance of Christianity and outline the influence it has exerted on the development of human societies in a few pages. But what we have said about it will allow us to compare the post Judaic “Christian” frame of mind with the “pagan” frame of mind. The tendency of pagan morality is to develop in the human being, in an equal degree, the aspiration to Wisdom—the spirit—and to Pleasure—the flesh. Not to be all wise and all voluptuous, but to orient yourself equally towards the spirit and the flesh, two orders of enjoyment whose knowledge is essential to the true and integral science of life. What an abyss exists between this conception, the conquest of life in its double psychic and physical aspects, and the asceticism of the Christian conception.
Pagan-minded individuals wants to exist fully, to live their life in all its plenitude, in all its blossoming, and if their imagination leads them to conceive a personalized Absolute, the main idea of the worship they renders to it consists in enjoy, to please themselves, as intensely as possible, the good things that the planet reserves here and there for those who tread its soil. Intensely, not abnormally or morbidly.
If, therefore, the stage of evolution in which they move pushes them to imagine divinities, these divinities are nothing other than the symbol of the natural forces that procure or recall the pleasures or the pains of life—or even the faculties inherent in nature. human. They are not unaware that they are only passengers on earth; but they attrempt to experience this passage, in spite of contrary circumstances, as cheerfully, as advantageously, as intelligently as possible—and as wisely as well. The individual likes the things that speak to the intellect, to the psychological aspect of the “self,” as much as those that speak to the senses, to the physiological aspect of the “self.” They like art, poetry, philosophy, study, abstract or applied sciences. They love form, beauty, the harmonious, the grandiose and the products of the soil—and love them all the more the more finished they are. They admire the faculties of the mind; they are sensitive to the charms of friendship. They delight in intercourse with experienced beings. Cruelty, meanness, violence, tyranny, dogmatism and the spirit of domination horrify them, precisely because they restrict the few joys that existence grants. All this, moreover, without neglecting depth in reasoning and even, for particular temperaments, a certain dose of spirituality, sometimes close to mysticism.
In the pagan idea of life—as we can deduce it from those who have best expounded it—there is nothing dark or rigid, nothing accomplished under the influence of the fear of displeasing an extra-natural Absolute. Nothing in the pagan mindset involves the renunciation of Desire. Fulfilling Desire to the last limits of its normal expansion—but remaining its master, not allowing it, however powerful and violent it may be, to escape individual control: this is the beginning and the end of the pagan wisdom, which is in absolute opposition to Christian austerity. Death will come, regretted if it comes too soon, when one is still in possession of too many faculties not to appreciate and taste what is good in life, and welcomed with relief when the sufferings of death, illness or loss of faculties make old age an undesirable state. For that matter, as long as there remains a drop of blood in their veins and if they do not yield to a fit of discouragement, an individual with a pagan turn of mind will not hesitate to go to meet death if they feel that life can now only be a burden to them.
6. Authority, Domination, Exploitation: Origin, Evolution, Aspects and Definitions
53) The anarchist individualists and authority.
It is indisputable that the activity, propaganda and aspirations of anti-authoritarian or anarchist individualists rest on a known basis: the negation and rejection of authority, the struggle against the exercise of authority and resistance to all kinds of authority. In the course of this work we will find the sentimental, rational, ethical or other reasons that the lead individualists to consider the exercise or practice of domination eminently prejudicial and harmful to the development, evolution, change and fulfillment of the human person. Moreover, the individualists go so far as to admit that they could be mistaken if they claimed that men, in order to behave in life, to regulate their mutual relations—whatever those relations may be—must have, at present, absolutely nothing whatsover to do with authority, authoritarian institutions and methods of authority. They have never made such a claim. They have simply demanded for themselves—whether their temperament, their reflections or their aspirations have led them to this conception—they have demanded and they demand for themselves the ability to live and evolve without the intervention of the factor of authority in their individual way of being and in their relations with others. They have never had the thought or the ulterior motive of imposing their point of view on those who declare that they cannot dispense with the blinkers of authority.
The fact that, in certain details of their manner of conducting themselves, they would not be rid of certain authoritarian recollections, through the action of an atavistic influence or of a fault in their character—this fact alone would prove nothing against their demands. They evolve in a milieu saturated, rotten with authoritarianism. They are the issue of beings who have been subject to or exercised authority, who are at the very least bent beneath the weight of authoritarian prejudice— and it is not surprising that the influence of the environment has not entirely loosened its grip. What is important is to know in what direction they constantly exert their influence and dedicate their efforts—if it is in favor or to the detriment of authority, if they are for or against authority in all its aspects.
As soon as their activity, their efforts are directed against authority, what matters to them is to be right, for themselves. The opinion of others is more than secondary. One could quibble and demonstrate that, after all, the great majority of men are presently not in a position to dispense with authority—individually or collectively. For the individualists endowed with a propagandistic temperament, the observations of such a mentality will simply incite them to intensify their propaganda, to ask themselves to what new means they must have recourse in order to reveal to themselves the anti-authoritarians who hesitate or who are not self-conscious.
Individualists do not, under any circumstances, ask themselves whether the authority exercised by one or the other for the benefit of this personality or that party is better than when it is another person who exercises it or who benefits from it. Their minds are made up. As for them, they have come to the conclusion that authority, domination, and the institutions and methods that take it as a basis or prop are harmful to the life and development of the individual being, and of the human milieus. Divided or not, authority lacks their approval. It cannot win their sympathy or disarm their repugnance and enmity. For them, there is no authority worse or better than another. There is no authority, for them, that is good, acceptable or tolerable.
Some who would be counted among them may discover that they have deceived themselves and recognize in the factor of authority a value they had previously denied. That is their business. For individualists, the situation remains clear. As long as they claim to be anti-authoritarian, anarchistic—as long as in their demands and their propaganda, whether by action, the spoken word or the pen, they profess anti-authoritarianism—let them deny, denounce, criticize and incriminate authority, and the methods or systems of authority—let them fight domination, control and those who use or exercise them—their position can not vary. Not only do they fight, in all circumstances, against all manifestations of authority—but they are suspicious of its promises, hold its achievements in suspicion, and stand in self-defense against its decrees, its edicts and its encroachments. This is logic itself.
So the question is not to ask if they are “dreamers” or “idéalists,” if authority is better when “provisional” than when “definitive.” Or if there are parliamentarianisms, clericalisms or dictatorships less detestable or better than the others.
No. For them, it is a question of recognizing, each for themselves, what the conditions are that strip an action of its anti-authoritarian, anarchist character.
The response is not, cannot be doubtful.
Every action, every series of actions, based on the exercise of domination, on the recourse to authority, is not anarchist, is incapable of contributing in any way to the advent of an anti-authoritarian, anarchist mentality or state of things.
54) What is meant by domination? What is authority?
To dominate is to make a power or constraint weigh upon another, which obliges or leads them, without discussion or opposition being possible, to carry out acts and gestures that they would not carry out of their own free will or when left to themselves.
Domination is the act of holding and exercising this power of obligation, this power of constraint—more or less arbitrarily, more or less brutally—whether for one’s own benefit or that of any individuality or community. In this work we make “domination” a synonym of authority. According to its degree of brutality or its beneficiaries, we also call it oppression, tyranny, command, dictatorship or law.
Authority consists, consequently, of the oppression that weighs on an individual or collectivity in order to force or lead them to acquire habits of thought, to carry out actions or to conform to the terms of contracts that have never truly been subject to their examination.
55) The exercise of authority.
Confusionists will argue that it is a question of clearly defining what is meant by “the exercise of authority.”
For the individualists there is exercise or use of authority when a man, a group of men, a State, a government or an administration of any kind uses the power it possesses to constrain a human unity or collectivity to perform certain acts or gestures that displease it or which are contrary to its opinions, or else that it would accomplish in other ways if it were allowed to behave as it pleases; or, finally, to force it to fulfill the clauses of a “contract” that it could not discuss, accept or reject.
For the individualists there is exercise or use of authority when a man, a group of men, a State, a government or an administration of any kind uses the power it possesses to forbid a human unity or an association of human unities from behaving as it wishes, inflicting on it certain restrictions, placing certain obstacles before it, even when that human unity or association acts at its own risk and peril, without imposing its views on anyone developing outside of it.
Anyone who claims the name of anarchist (whether communist or individualist, by the way) cannot understand the exercise of authority in any other way, whatever the sphere of human activity envisaged: intellectual, economic, political, ethical, recreational or any other.
56) Origin and evolution of domination.
Domination was originally exercised from man to man. The physically stronger, better armed dominated the weaker, less defended—forced them to do their will. The man who had a hardened wooden club as his only defense obviously had to give in to the one who was pursuing him armed with a spear tipped with flint, a bow and arrows. Later—perhaps simultaneously—another factor determined the exercise of man’s domination over man: cunning. Human beings arose who managed to persuade their fellows that they were in possession of certain magical secrets capable of doing a great deal of evil, of causing great harm to the person and property of those who would rebel against their authority. It is possible, moreover, that these sorcerers were themselves convinced, in the beginning, of the reality of their power. Be that as it may, it is to these two sources, violence and cunning, that the various aspects of Domination can be traced, at all times and in all places.
In our current human societies, domination is rarely exercised–in normal times–with such brutality, from human being to human being. When it is practiced in this way, it is thanks to custom, to moral or legal sanction, to an abnormal state of affairs. We meet many mothers who beat their children because they disobey them, husbands who beat their wives because they refuse the obedience legally due, policemen who shoot fleeing prisoners or vice versa. But either this is tolerated by custom or it is exceptional. When domination is exercised over a human community for the benefit of a chief or autocrat, it is because the latter is supported by a fairly large number of accomplices or satellites who have an interest in the persistence of his authority, who are, by themselves or are assisted by an armed, bribed troop, strong enough to make any resistance useless.
Domination is no longer very often exercised for the benefit of an autocrat—at least directly. It is exercised more generally for the benefit of a caste, a class, a political coterie, a financial group, a social elite–or for the majority of a human community. It is based on regulations, whether political or economic, civil, military or religious, legal or moral. It is consecrated by institutions governed by the agents of the beneficiaries of the authority, agents having at their disposal and under their dependence an armed, executive force—police force and judicial apparatus—organized to reduce to impotence, deprive of their freedom and even of their life those who not only actually transgress, but, in extreme cases, express or promote the intention of transgressing against the dominating power.
It is obvious that the forces of justice and police available to the Authority, however numerous and well armed they may be, would be incapable of reducing to impotence and silence the transgressors of the law and the regulations, if they were not powerfully aided by other forces, “imponderables” of an intellectual and “moral” order. It is in this way that religious and secular, bourgeois and socialist educators, the press, influential men from the point of view of the political situation, men of fortune or the high officials of the State Administrations, manage to implant in the intelligences, to inculcate in the general mentality an arbitrary and completely conventional conception of “good” and “evil,” which is absolutely in conformity with the views and designs of the rulers and masters. Here we are brought back to the two starting points of Domination: Violence and Cunning, Force and Suggestion.
Declaring that one denies, rejects, opposes “the domination of man over man” is a confusing phrase that needs to be supplemented. We have seen that in reality, the man who “legally” uses violence does so only as a proxy for authority; also the individualists declare that, not only do they rise up against the domination of man over his fellow man, but also that they are in a state of self-defense and of struggle with regard to the domination of the State, government, administration, institution or social organization over the human unity. Any other attitude is ambiguous. This attitude does not vary if it is a question of the domination of man over the milieu or the social group. Since individualists consider domination as eminently hostile and harmful to the achievement of personal determinism, it is clear that this domination is as dangerous and formidable when it is exercised for the benefit of a single individual as when it is exercised for the benefit of a community or of a majority of human beings.
Let us now return to the definition of Domination presented at the beginning of this chapter: Exercise over the human unity—isolated or associated—of a power obliging it, constraining it, without discussion or valid opposition—to actions or gestures that, of its own free will, it would not accomplish.
However slightly modified it may be, this definition itself still needs to be supplemented. We have seen that Domination is not exercised only in a brutal, violent way; it is also exercised by trickery and by suggestion.
Thus there is not only political or economic, civil or military domination, with the sanctions that it entails. It is also a religious, moral, intellectual domination. There is the authority of prejudices, customs, habits and conventions, mores, family traditions; the authority of formulas, dogmas, professions of faith, programs. There is the domination of schools, churches, parties, sects, chapels, groups—and who knows what else? And it is undeniable, despite the absence of legal sanctions, that these modalities of Authority exercise a disastrous influence on the formation of the individual mentality, on the growth and shaping of the human personality. So the individualists fight them with as much energy and determination as the other, cruder manifestations of Domination. Any other attitude on their part would be contrary to the most elementary logic.
58) What is meant by exploitation?
Anarchist individualists are the adversaries of exploitation just as they are the enemies of domination. Exploitation is as repugnant to them as authority. They deny that it plays a useful role in the formation and fulfillment of the individual being; they absolutely refuse to consider it as a factor of liberation and emancipation of the human person; they hold it, on the contrary, to be eminently destructive and harmful to the normal development, to the growth of human unity. They regard it as the substitute, as another aspect of slavery and serfdom, as a system of oppression intended to consolidate, to maintain the servitude and the economic dependence of man.
But it is not enough to deny and fight exploitation; it is necessary to realize exactly what is meant by the terms “exploiter” and “exploited,” which are rehashed so often in the “popular” newspapers and public meetings, and which are the pretexts for so many declamations.
In fact, what is meant by exploitation?
In the sense given to it by individualists, exploitation is a “system thanks to which a man, a milieu, a social institution can—and this in complete safety—capture, monopolize, requisition or divert the individual production of a human being, take all or part of it for his own profit, in spite of their resistance, their opposition or their protestations—a production which, if left independent, they would dispose of as they or for their own advantage quite differently than they are forced to.”
It is fair to point out that there has never been a total capture or monopolization, by a man, a milieu or the State, of the result of the work or the production of an individual being. Even in the darkest times of slavery, the slave owner fed, clothed, lodged his slaves—in a way sometimes too insufficient or too basic, it is understood—but the expenses entailed by this maintenance constituted a part of the cost-price of the production of those times and the main part in many cases, the cost of the raw material then being often low.
From the special point of view of current economic conditions, exploitation can also be defined—and this is a consequence of the above explanation—as “a system by which the possessor or holder of cash capital, machinery or means of production—the boss, the employer, the wage-payer—individual, milieu, social institution—can, in complete safety, take a net profit from the production of the employee whose work they lease or hire, which profit is made up of the added value left by the sale or use of that production, once they have deducted the remuneration of the employee, the general expenses, the interest, the depreciation, the stock, the cost of the raw materials and all the other contingencies of which the whole constitutes the cost-price.”
59) Slavery and wage labor.
To return to the form of exploitation that predominated in antiquity, it is necessary to realize that the difference between this system and wage labor (the name of our contemporary economic dependence) does not only consist in the fact that the exploited ancient, the slave, was considered as a transferable and transmissible movable object, as well as a movable property, like a piece of cattle; whereas they are currently regarded as a person who belongs to themselves politically and legally—but, above all, speaking in a general way, in that the master, the current boss does not intervene in the private life of his worker or employee and doesn’t worry about their maintenance.
The salary or remuneration that the hirer of services pays to the individual whose work he uses, the contributions that he pays in certain specific cases to comply with social laws, relieve him of any further responsibility.
Finally—which did not take place in antiquity, or which only happened very exceptionally—there is a constant struggle between the wage payer and the wage earner: the former generally and constantly aims to ensure that the remuneration that he consents to the one whose labor he hires does not exceed what the latter strictly needs for their upkeep; the employee resists with all their might. Competition between wage-earners forces them, so to speak automatically, to reduce as far as possible the selling prices of their goods, and consequently their cost price, in order to sell the greatest possible quantity and to obtain the highest interest or profit on the capital money or tools they have devoted to or invested in their business.
In the best times of antiquity, the slave owner had an obvious interest in his slaves being well fed and even well treated, especially where labor was not plentiful. He dealt with his human cattle as with his animal cattle. The quality of the production depended on the treatment of the slave.
This is why slavery includes a whole range of conditions: from the slave beaten, led with whips, constantly under the threat of death, to the slave enjoying a well-being comparable to that of a servant of good bourgeois house or even saving, awaiting emancipation: reward for their services or premium for their intellectual faculties.
Moreover, the contemporary wage payer acts no differently than the slave owner. The employer does not care about the maintenance of those he employs, the nutritional value of the food they consume, but he increases the remuneration of those of his employees from whom he expects or desires a production of superior quality, or whose technical knowledge or skills are more secure or broader than those of the average worker whose abilities he exploits. The employer is aware that he will obtain a better, superior output from the employee who is a little less miserable, a little better off than their fellow workers.
Similarly, a boss will not hesitate to increase the wages of those whose services he hires when, as a result of a new circumstance—considerable consumption, new outlets, emigration of workers—labor becomes scarce.
60) The exploiter and the exploited.
Let us return to our definitions, a return that is all the more useful since many of those who rail against exploitation do not always know how to clearly define the terms “exploiter” and “exploited.”
We have explained exploitation as a capture, monopolization, requisition, diversion or removal of part or all of work or strictly individual production for the benefit of a human being, a human milieu, or a social institution.
The exploiter is therefore the one for the benefit of whom the system of exploitation is practiced.
The exploiter is also the one who owns or owns more means of production—tools, machinery, soil, etc—than he is able to work or put to use on his own. Or who has more cash capital than it would have been possible for him to accumulate if he had not found himself in this favored situation. He is the Privileged, the Monopolist, for whom the overabundance, the monopolization of cash capital or machinery of production makes it possible to rent, lease, remunerate—in order to benefit from it—the labor, the aptitudes of others.
Its also one of the exploited whoever is prevented—whatever the form or the source of the hindrance, impediment, restriction—from enjoying or disposing of their personal product as they sees fit, even though they own the means of production.
61) The abolition of exploitation. Exploitation the corollary of domination.
It is obvious, by referring to these different definitions, that the disappearance of the system of exploitation results from the possession, by definitive and inalienable title by the producer—isolated or associated—of the means of production—tools, machines, soil—that he is able to actuate or assert on his own.
The day when the general mentality will be such that no one could hold more means of production than they are able to operate or develop by themselves, there will be neither privilege nor monopoly.
The abolition of exploitation is also linked to the abolition of domination.
Exploitation is nothing else, in fact, than domination transplanted onto economic terrain: the day when the general mentality—if it is a question of humanity—or individual mentality, if it is a question of a selected milieu—would be such that it could not tolerate domination, it would no longer condone exploitation.
Undoubtedly, the employer no longer has the right of life or death over the person they employ; but under obligation to die of hunger or to violently attack the economic order, those who have neither money nor means of production must finally rent themselves, and rent themselves at the price that the employer will want to offer them.
Undoubtedly, the employer does not have the right to force the disinherited or the individual proletarian to work for them. They do not possess the power of requisition, a monopoly reserved for the state or governmental administration.
But this objection is purely theoretical; in practice, the power conferred on the employer, on the boss, by the possession of cash capital and the means of production in abundance is such that at a given moment the employee, once his meager resources have been exhausted, is obliged to subject themselves to the conditions imposed by the operator.
It is true that the exploiters have the ability to unite against their wage-earners, that they have used this ability with varying results, that they have struggled to wrest concessions of one kind or another from the exploiters: wage increases, reduction in working hours, share in the management of the companies that employ them or in the profits made by them.
But the wage-earners also came together, having as allies or accomplices the governments, which have never hesitated to throw in the balance the weight of their influence, an influence exerted, of course, to the benefit of the employers, whoever they were, from the intervention of armed force to imposed and compulsory arbitration.
Exploitation is so much the corollary of domination on the economic terrain that those who resent or murmur against it find themselves in exactly the same situation as those who are bothered or dissatisfied by domination.
The exploited, in the economic order, find themselves on the same level as the dominated in the political or social order: they are forced to accept an economic contract whose terms they have not been able to discuss or decide on, and whose terms they can only escape illegally, even though they realize that this economic contract is established for the exclusive benefit of the Privileged and the Monopolists. They are forced to give up to whoever will pay them the surplus mentioned above, a surplus that they would intend to use for their well-being, in the way that would suit them, if they were not forced to give it up.
62) Insufficiency of the expression “exploitation of man by man.” New definitions of exploitation.
Declaring oneself against “the exploitation of man by man” or “by his fellow man” is an insufficient expression.
It is not only by their individual fellows that the human being is or can be exploited.
They can be affected just as much by a social milieu to which they are obliged to belong. It may also be by any social institution—any state, government, administration or organization of one kind or another.
The expression to declare oneself, to situate oneself, to stand up “against the exploitation of the human unity by its fellow humans, the milieu or a social institution” expresses the point of view of the individualists much more clearly.
Thus, according to them, there is exploitation of the individual being, when a human unit, isolated or associated—is forced to contribute or participate in taxes, duties, contributions—forced to undergo requisitions of any kind whatsoever, intended for the operation of institutions or services, for the remuneration or pay of agents or civil servants of which they make no use, of which they deny, dispute or condemns the usefulness.
There is also exploitation when an individual being—a producer, any worker whatsoever—is obliged to perfect, supplement or complete, as a result of a legal or administrative seizure of all or part of the result of their personal effort, the share of production or maintenance of one of their fellows, whoever they are, whose performance is inferior or unequal to their own.
There is also exploitation when a producer—whoever they may be, whether isolated or associated—cannot dispose of their production, the product of their personal effort as they wish or as they have agreed, without undergoing any intervention or taxation whatsoever, governmental or administrative.
Finally, there is exploitation when they cannot alienate their product, by gratuitous or onerous, transmit it or bequeath it, deal by mutual agreement for its transfer with whomever they please, without being forced to render an account to any individual, to the milieu or to an institution.
63) The case of voluntary contribution or remuneration. The distinguishing quality of exploitation.
From the point of view taken by individualists, exploitation always manifests itself accompanied by coercion, constraint, obligation and violence of one sort or another. Thus there is no exploitation in the fact of voluntarily remunerating the efforts or services of one or more of one’s fellows whose activity or profession is useful or pleasant to the person or persons who use it. There is no exploitation when a single person or group of associates voluntarily remunerates the work of a carrier, a peddler, an agent, a teacher, a doctor, an artist, an association undertaking any public or private service. There is no exploitation in the case of a subsidy or voluntary contribution intended, for example, to enable a scientist to carry out certain scientific research, a painter or a musician to study or travel to improve their skills in their art, to a newspaper to be founded or to extend its radius of influence, to a sanatorium to be built or to grow, to any association whatsoever to pursue or achieve the goal for which it was created, etc., etc.
These examples are clear enough to make well understood the obligatory and plundering character which, for individualists, must inevitably qualify the exploitation of man by his fellow man, the milieu or a social institution.
64) The “voluntary” exploited.
This being well understood, one can wonder if there are not men, in much greater quantity than one imagines, who, left entirely to themselves, would be disposed to hire their services to a wage-payer; that is to say, they prefer the wage-earning system, with all the drawbacks and imperfections it entails, to the individualistic method of exploiting the means of production and the free disposal of the product, either in isolation or in association. One can also wonder if the number is not as large of those who, to the individualistic method, still prefer to be exploited by an organization or a social administration, for fear of the effort and the initiative demanded by free production, the play of competition-emulation, the mutual negotiations that it necessitates between producers and consumers, isolated or grouped in associations.
The individualists do not evade the question. They have never disputed that the number is considerable, very considerable, of those who imagine that they not survive, act or behave without being dominated or exploited, without the intervention in their affairs of the Government, the human milieu, a social Institution of one kind or another. Let those who cannot or do not want to do without any system of exploitation let themselves be exploited as they see fit. Anarchist individualists will refrain from interfering with their economic combinations, they may be certain; not understanding, not wanting to impose themselves on others in any way, they only demand from others the reciprocation, that is to say to be able to evolve, free from all constraint, safe from any confiscation or reduction of their autonomy, even if “others” meant the majority of earthlings, the most colossal social organization or administration that has ever existed. Anarchist individualists only ask of those who cannot subsist without exploitation to let them exist, shape themselves, act, work, conduct themselves according to their own particular conception of economic life. They only ask of those to whom dependence, in this matter, is indispensable in order to grow and develop that they not force them, in one form or another, to conform to, participate in or cooperate with the obligations or charges implied by the different aspects of exploitation, as presented above.
[Sections on subsequent pages have not been closely edited or annotated.]