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 defined 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.
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.
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.
[Sections on subsequent pages have not been closely edited or annotated.]