E. Armand, The Anarchist Individualist Initiation (1923) (in progress)

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 the 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 firmly convinced that human beings are determined by their temperament to attach great importance to the foolishness of the Christians, Muslims, or Buddhists. Nothing surprises me more than the differences that the daily lives of certain individualists can present with 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 sense.

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 “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). Of science, Haeckel said 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, of which the commentary varies according to the intellectuality of interpreters. If I concern 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, under the species of a kind of authoritarian and despotic dictator. Now, I am a négateur of authority. I want neither God nor master. I do not want a boss of the universe any more than 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 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, the executioners, God, all the gods are the ultimate symbol of all these beings, who are themselves the epitome of organized coercion. I proclaim insurrection agaiis 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 God as creator, provident, legislator in order to feel I exist, to develop intellectually, to evolve physically, to observe, contemplate, move, love, etc. All that, I can do it 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, that resists the assaults of disappointment arising from outside or from my own errors. I have no need of God to persevere or to m’en aller on 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 bring his creatures back to him, or punish them for their disobedience, delivers the to slaughters, to the refinements of cruelty of the 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 : “Although,” he said, “[…] a contradiction of Anarchy in the divine hierarchy, while not believing in it, the anarchists are no less partisans of the liberty to believe. They absolutely oppose any negation of religious liberty, and just as they proclaim the right of the individual to be or to choose their own doctor, they demand his right to be or to choose his own priest. No more monopoly or restriction in theology than 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 fonciers 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 assure them, according to what is called the “social contract,” the possibilities of living in Society, — possibilities that in fact the law delimits, codifies, establishing the rights and duties of the individual toward Society and Society towards each. The individualist will ask who has published this so-called social contract and would have soon fait de demonstrate, with historic proofs in its support, that it has always been imposed on the different collectivities by a minority of strong or cunning being, priests or mages, fortunate or conquering soldiers, renowned families, powerful capitalists. Never, anywhere, no social contract has been freely proposed, freely consented, 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. Who had once denied the divinity of Jesus, the Trinity or the mystery of transubstantiation, had been condemned to perish in the flames. Let one attack at all violently the dogma of property or dogma of parie, either by word and writing—or any of the dogmas on which underpin the civil institutions of the twentieth century—and micreant guilty of such a crime. Who speaks of the social contract? 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 of which we cannot cross the barricades. Democracy, in the words of a renowned politician, democracy “flows bank-high.” The more we advance, the more they détaillent us, and 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 the popular revolutions are struck in the coin 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 prevails and is 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 se posent before the contemporary demos. The march of human evolution rushing with an speed unknown to our ancestors, we must recognize that problems working 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 affair of a small number of generations, a drop in the ocean of the centuries. All in all, once you set aside the whim of the prince and the arbitrariness of theocratic or oligarchic tyranny, it is still the democratic system that permits the development of the human race to continue most normally and to the individual to enjoy a moderate 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 retourner the “average mentality” from top to bottom and making it swallow today with delight the political, economic, intellectual beverage 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’ dont s’agit, 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. En attendant que les aspirations à un état de choses nouveau prennent corps, pénètrent et saturent l’esprit et les sens du peuple, un régime dictatorial est de rigueur. It is through a dictatorship of the most intelligent, and of the 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 and at the point of a gun, 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 to recognize that universal suffrage, parliamentarianism and public opinion are ridiculous panaceas or impressive trompe-l’œil, they separate from them when the 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 by 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 a 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 an 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 changers 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 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 dependent 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, a pure sophistry. In may 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 which 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 age of the eternal Gospel when there will be no more error or sin. Leaving mysticism behind, that conception 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, 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,” 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 is 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 for the happiness or misfortune of 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, is 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 inquisition, 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 beast, 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 here 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 somewhat 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 failed—they cannot succeed!

Figures of speech? Sentimental arguments? I admit it. But documented, but supported however by data, by documents of the historical experience. At whatever stage in the development of whatever civilization—whatever was the influence that presided over its growth—the protesters, the forerunners, the “outsiders” of one kind or another have emerged, scattered or grouped, some humans have stood up and proclaimed that their happiness stood at the antipodes or on the margin of what defined as such the dogmas, conventions, laws, decrees, dictatorships, the achievements of the average mentality, of the environment or of 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 his 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.


PART TWO

THE PRACTICAL THESES OF ANARCHIST INDIVIDUALISM

5. Christianity and the individualists. The pagan way of thinking.

47) Primitive Christianity.

Y a-t-il un lien de parenté quelconque entre le christianisme et l’anarchism ? Peut-on les concilier ? Peut-on soutenir que les anarchists-individualists ou communists – sont ce que seraient devenus les chrétiens si le christianisme avait suivi son évolution normale au lieu de se cristalliser en des formules et en des rites ?

Il n’est personne de bonne foi qui entende concilier avec le socialisme ou l’anarchism le christianisme d’aujourd’hui, le christianisme officiel des églises, soutien du coffre-fort. et admirateur de la violence gouvernementale. Quand on parle de christianisme anarchist, social, révolutionnaire même, on n’entend jamais que le « christianisme primitif ». La grande difficulté, c’est que sur cette période de l’histoire chrétienne, nous ne possédons guère de documents authentiques, probants, auxquels on puisse ajouter absolument foi. Les éléments critiques manquent, les écrits hostiles au christianisme ayant été soigneusement anéantis par les chrétiens devenus victorieux. Les documents ne deviennent historiques qu’au moment où le mouvement chrétien s’est transformé en une organisation religieuse, un église qui prétend conquérir le monde, qui vise à la suprématie spirituelle et temporelle, grâce à une hiérarchie formidablement agencée. A ce moment-là, l’église parait surtout préoccupée de s’assimiler les croyances, les superstitions mythologiques, afin de rallier les dernières oppositions et ses divisions intestines servent de manteau à des desseins politiques.

[……………….]

165) Obligatory solidarity.

Mystics, legalists, socialists, and communists, write and hold forth about a solidarity which would link all people: these because they accept the unwarranted affirmation that “God” is the father of the human race, those because the law is the bond which unites men since it allows them to live in society, and others because production and consumption are so inextricably linked that the producer is indispensable to the consumer and vice-versa. “God”, the law or economic fact, it is always necessary to bow and obey.

166) The individualists and imposed solidarity.

The individualist anarchist does not bow and, coldly, faithfully, they submit this formidable argument to critique: compulsory solidarity amounts to no solidarity at all.

“I have discovered,” he says, “that, come through the play of a natural phenomena, in the society of men, I found myself, from the beginning, faced with moral, intellectual, and economic conditions to which I had to submit without being able to dispute them. I did not ask to be born, which did not prevent that from my most tender infancy, institutions and persons, everything has been in league to condition me to be a resigned and solidary component of the social environment. In the family, at school, in the barracks and the factory, everyone told me that I should be in solidarity with my fellows. In solidarity with my parents, even when they prevented me by force from going to meet the girl towards whom I felt myself attracted; in solidarity with the school teacher who held me in the classroom for long hours in the summer, while outside the flowers bloomed and the birds twittered; in solidarity with the corporal or sergeant who imposed on me painful drudgery, repulsive exercises; in solidarity with the boss for whom each our of my labor increases the income along with the well-being… Thus I understand that “solidarity” means “slavery”.

“Later, a little more reflection taught me that I was as much a slave to those that chance had placed in circumstances better than mine as I was to those whose conditions we worse. The penniless person who cheers the passing regiment, the guard who keeps the unfortunate in prison, the worker who informs on his comrades in order to make foreman, the police officer who uses all sorts of ruses to deprive his fellows of freedom, the peasant who eyes me with contempt because I prefer to stroll along the byways rather than breathe the stinking air of the factories, the syndicalist who would willingly expel me from my work because I refuse to register with the workerist association to which he belongs – all these beings maintained that I was solidary with them, that it is for them and with them that I should think, work, produce, that is to say, devote the best of my faculties.

“I have reacted. To that terrifying determinism of the social environment, I have opposed my personal determinism. I refuse to accept gladly a solidarity of which it would be impossible for me to feel the bases, to negotiate the conditions or to foresee the consequences. I maintain that where solidarity is imposed on me, it is null, and that I am not required to observe it. In vain the “excessive” solidarists will object to me that the devout peasant, the radical tailor, the socialist postal employee, the bonapartist baker, the communist laborer, the jingoistic sailor are are necessary to my life: that they contribute, anonymously or not, directly or not, to furnish me the utilities without which I could not subsist. I respond to them that in the conditions under which society currently evolves, these different members of the social milieu social are not only producers, they are voters or members of political parties, sometimes members of juries, often progenitors of magistrates, and officials; of exploiters each time that they can; they are partisans of authority who employ their own moral or intellectual authority to maintain or cause to be maintained, by delegation, the regime of forced solidarity.

“I do not feel myself at all in solidarity with those who contribute to maintain domination and exploitation, I am not more in solidarity with whoever perpetuates the survival of prejudices which hinder individual development; I am not in solidarity with the harmful consumers nor useless producers; I am presently in solidarity with them only because I have been forced to be and each time that I find the occasion to escape from that constraint, take advantage of it.

“No, I am not in solidarity with those who, by their approval, silence or resignation, continues to maintain conditions of being or doing involving coercion or exploitation, little matter in what form. Those who differ from me in this regard are not individualists.

“I do not reject all solidarity a priori and stubbornly. I simply refuse solidarity with those whose efforts run counter to my plan: to live the present moment in full liberty, without infringing on the liberty of others. I would reject a priori solidarity even even with those of my dearest friends accomplishing deeds about which they have not consulted me and results of which I have had no part. It is a posteriori – having all the background information in hand – that I want to declare myself in solidarity with beings who do not live by my side or acts which are committed without my participation, near or far.

“That does not mean that I do not feel myself generally in solidarity with all the deniers of authority, with all the rebels, against exploitation, with all the critics of established facts and res judicata: with the individualist anarchists, finally. Where I will separate myself from them, is if they want to compel me to accept responsibility for forms of struggle or propaganda which are not my own. Of solidarity, I only know what I have accepted, debated, and consented to, having first examined it consciously. I am in solidarity only with those who think about solidarity as I do.”

History shows us that the concept of imposed “solidarity” has particularly served to create dogmas or to give rise to despots. To render solidarity concrete and effective between beings that are not associated by temperament, or interest, requires Religion or Law; in order that the relations that they determine between persons do not remain a dead letter, there must be executives of religion of of law, priests or magistrates. Whoever voluntarily accepts the obligation of solidarity or the constraint of mutual aid belongs to the world of authority.

167) Voluntary Solidarity.

In summary, the individualists tend to accept no solidarity but what they have weighed, desired, examined, discussed. They will attempt to make it so that the solidarity that they accept never binds them. And free themselves from it as soon as they perceive that its practice leads them to accomplish acts which do not suit them, or to take on responsibilities for which they have no taste. In all domains, a single preoccupation dominates their thought: will I personally gain, from the path on which I am engaged, more liberty to be and to do, without depriving another of their liberty to think or act? The manner in which they will tend to determine their lives, and all the acts existence, will depend on the answer to this question.

168) Imposed solidarity.

The human is a sociable being and the individualist, who is part of the human race, is no exception. The human being is not sociable by accident, since its physiological organization constrains it to seek, in order to complete itself, to reproduce, one of its fellows of a different sex. In a general manner, we can however state that humans practice sociability without reflection or under duress: at school, in the barracks, and later at the factory, they live a large part of their existence in common with individuals towards whom no affinity attracts them, beside whom no sympathy holds them. In the cities, they gîtent in immense edifices, another sort of barracks, door to door with neighbors to whom no intellectual or moral tie links them. We even marry without knowing one another, without any knowledge of our respective needs.

169) The individualist anarchists considered as a “species.”

Now, that is not what the individualist anarchists want. They no more intend to be slaves of imposed sociability than they do of placing themselves under the yoke of forced solidarity. They can associate with their comrades, with the individualists, with those of their world, of their “species.” “With those of their species” is certainly the appropriate expression, for we would not deny that the individualists form a species within the human race recognizable by well determined psychological traits. The individuals who, consciously, reject domination and exploitation of all sorts, live or tend to live without gods or masters, seeking to reproduce themselves in other beings in order to perpetuate their species and continue their intellectual or practical labor, their work of simultaneous emancipation and destruction; these individuals form a separate species, in the human race, a species as different from the other human species as, in the canine tribe, the Newfoundland is from the pug.

Listen to us well, it is not a question of making the individualist anarchist a “superman” among humans, any more than it is a question of making the Newfoundland a “superdog” among dogs. There is a difference, however: the Newfoundland is a fixed type which will not evolve; the individualist type will evolve: it fulfills, in the human race, the role that the prophetic species have played in the evolution of living beings. We can compare it to those more gifted and vigorous types, more fit for the struggle for life, that appear at a certain moment within a species and end up determining the future of that species. With their imperfections, their shortcomings, their errors, the individualist anarchists constitute, we believe, in the latent state, the type of the future human: the individual of free spirit, sound body, educated will, ready for adventure, inclined to experiment, living life fully, but not wanting to be either dominated or a dominator.

170) Mutual aid within the species. Camaraderie.

The individualist is not then isolated within his species. Among themselves, the individualists practice “camaraderie;” like all species in constant peril of being attacked, they tend instinctively to the practice of “mutual aid within the species.” We will return later to certain of the forms that this “mutual aid” can assume. The tendency is toward the disappearance of avoidable suffering within the species: there is not any comrade who, on the contrary, would tend to prolong or increase the suffering among their fellows.

The individualists urge whoever will to go along with them to rebel practically against the determinism of the social environment, to assert themselves individually, to sculpt their internal statue, to render themselves as independent of the moral, intellectual and economic environment as possible. They will press the ignorant to educate themselves, the apathetic to respond, the weak to become strong, the bent to raise themselves up. They will push the poorly endowed and less able to draw to themselves all possible resources and not to relay on others.

171) The individualist and the “lesser brethren.”

Individualists may have to use animals to help them in the course of their investigations, experiments, and accomplishments. The protests against domination and exploitation would ring false if they considered them purely as living instruments. As assistants, collaborators, “comrades” with a psychological constitution not inferior to their own, but different, that is how they would consider their cow, horse, donkey, the guests of their barnyards, and not just as slaves, or productive machines. They would not be able to forget that these beings are gifted with cerebral and sentimental faculties, which, if they are perhaps not equivalent to those of which humans boast, are as susceptible as those to being perfected, developed, and carried to a maximum of fulfillment. They could not fail to recall that these so-called “inferior” brethren are endowed with a complete nervous system, and that in certain manifestations of their instinct, they happen to be far superior to them. They could not be mean or cruel towards animals which extend them. They would remember that if they are not susceptible to initiation, they can at least be educated. If he does not feel the necessary aptitudes to be “an educator of animals,” he will not tolerate anyone in his circles who mistreats them, torments them, or makes them suffer. And it is not only the problem of animal exploitation which will present itself to individualists, but they will wonder at the very least whether or not it is consistent with their professed opinions to domestic animals for their sustenance.

172) Private life and public life.

Above we defined the individualist theory as the philosophy of anti-authoritarianism conceived, tested, and practiced individually. Provided that this experiment or practice does not interfere with the life or activities of the comrade d’idées, quel qu’il soit.

“So that you are as much more my comrade as you leave me to pursue in peace the experience of my personal life without interfering.”

There is no mutual mistrust there. An entente, a tacit contract, a psychological concept links me to the constituents – we will return there later – of the “individualist anarchist species:” it is non-intervention in the in the acts and movements of my comrade to the extent that they do not bear real prejudice against me, or do not truly harm me. Entering among the individualists, I know that is their sole conception of good and evil. I know, by mixing with them, that the only action that they recognize as criminal us an incursion into their intimate life. I know that is the alpha and omega of their “social morals.” It is up to me to now if this milieu does or does not suit my aspirations or my temperament. I am forewarned.

On my part, I reckon that the “individualist species” will never be numerous enough on the planet for the individualists to ever get in one another’s way. So there is no serious motive for them to commit the crime of judging one another, condemning or excommunicating one another on the basis of events in their private lives. That is why, finding myself in the presence of a comrade demanding explanations of any facts regarding my private life, I categorically refuse – if I find it good – to furnish any clarification. It is enough for me to know that none of these acts have had a restrictive influence on the development or activity of that comrade to reject any intervention on his part, an intervention tyrannical or insupportable.

There is not an atom of mistrust in that – I simply practice the “moral” agreement which serves as the link/hyphen between the anarchists: complete respect of the liberty of action of my comrade insofar as my own liberty to act I not compromised.

It is obvious that I would not have that same reserve concerning the public life of any comrade insofar as it relates directly to the fundamental conception of anarchist individualism. An individualist cannot be an agent of governmental authority, he cannot in any way aid in the maintenance or development of that authority, he cannot make propaganda in favor of a regime of authority.

That is why I protest when I learn that an individualist defends a form of government, recommends the vote, approve of war, for example. That is why I separate myself from anyone who is judge, policeman, jailer, executioner, elected or elector to any degree whatsoever. They are not “mine.”

173) Concessions to the milieu.

While I do not recognize the right to interfere in certain individual concessions to the milieu, necessitated by a significant economic independence. I consider as my comrade the school teacher or employee of the State-run railroad whose situation has not removed their hatred of Authority. The lesser economic evil to which they must submit does not lead to taking liberty from anyone and keeps no one in prison. What does it matter if, having had to marry a companion whose situation depends on the completion of an absurd legal last resort, the “concessionary” comrade continues to encourage or practice liberty in love… I will only separate myself from them if the teacher, the employee of the State and the married comrade wage a campaign in favor of the excellence or usefulness of the legal formalities…

174) Considerations on the practice of camaraderie.

The previously mentioned idea of the anarchist individualists envisioned as a species does not imply that there would not be friction, clashes, or discussions among individualists, taken personally. Hardly emerged from animality, here they are rallied to the most elevated philosophical concept that we can conceive: How could we hope that some would not sometimes try – too often – to attack the development of their neighbors? How could we hope, on the other hand, that those threatened with encroachment would not react? There are or will be schools, biases, instances of incomprehension, judgments made too hastily, steps backward, desertions, returns, and who knows what else? It is inevitable in a movement which is nearly for the use of supermen and to which belong beings which are barely superbrutes. That proves nothing against the value of the individualist idea in itself. Some men can misunderstand it or misrepresent it intentionally. There is no other conclusion to draw: that they will be unfit to attempt to live it.

All that has just been said does not imply either that, moved by a ridicule presumptuousness, and individualist would refuse to admit the superiority of such of his comrades in a branch of activity where he knows himself completely ignorant or inadequate. Not at all. Not knowing how to row, he would not feel diminished, nor dominated because, traveling in a small boat, other comrades manned the oars. No more than I would feel diminished or dominated because a comrade can translate an article in Chinese, a language of which I know only a few words, and that he knows deeply: in such a case, I understand that incapacity or unfitness rules out responsibility! The individualist intends to be responsible only for what he believes he has the strength to carry out, even to be released from his responsibility if, in retrospect, he perceives that he was mistaken. My experience (incidentally) has convinced me, in cases of association between individualists, that they endure much better when the task to be accomplished together is susceptible to being divided between several persons, autonomous in their respective departments.

The individualist groups established more strictly on the affinities of temperament or character of those who make it up. They are not jealous and accept very well that one comrade may take part in several of these groups, and quit one at a given moment in order to join another. In a general fashion, it is in relation to himself that the anarchist determines that such and such is a comrade, it is in no way by individual or common hearsay; above all camaraderie is of the individual order and, like all the other phases of the individualist life, it is an experiment. Because it is of the individual order and an experiment, the individualists do not give themselves over to criticism of the private lives of their comrades, of the manner in which each intends to live their lives, provided naturally that that life tends towards agreement with their public convictions, in other words, that it does not imply the usage or employment of coercion with regard to others.

175) Necessity of the critique of ideas.

If, for the reasons we have just sketched out, the individualist criticizes the lives of his comrades only with great reservations, he will certainly not forbid himself the critical examination of their ideas, as much as they are expressed publicly; he will not let individuals establish [themselves] “above the fray” who will place certain works, certain declarations on a footing of infallibility. The anarchist individualist life resonates, evolves, transforms, critiques and analyzes itself, and will not be tomorrow what it was yesterday; it does not freeze itself in immutable conceptions and the true individualist will do everything that is possible – this will even be one of the occupations of his life as a militant – to avoid the individualist movement sinking in the rut of routine or dogmatism.

176) The disappointments of camaraderie.

It is very rare to hold a conversation with an individualist without at the end of a quarter of an hour – sometimes it is after five minutes of conversation – hearing them complain about the disillusionments that the practice of camaraderie has caused them. It is whispered at first in a mysterious tone of voice, but soon, if one insists and on the condition that one will keep the secret (!) the individualist, or would-be individualist, will enumerate all the bad luck, all the disappointments, all the bitterness with which his encounters with Pierre, Paul and Jean have showered his existence. His complaints – nine times out of ten – are sincere and, why deny it, there is no doubt that camaraderie has not always given all the results that we expect.

I propose to examine very briefly if there has not been a misunderstanding in the conception that still imbues some communists ideas of fraternity and universal love, a fairly large number of individualists se sont tracé from camaraderie.

When we analyze at all seriously the causes which have led to the disappointments attributed to the practice camaraderie, we discover this: it is that in such and such circumstances, Pierre, Paul or Jean have not conducted themselves as their comrade expected that they would or rather that they have not acted as they would have acted themselves.

All the misunderstandings between comrades have no other reason. We journey with a comrade for a month, a year, ten years: an event emerges, unexpected, where his attitude is absolutely opposite to the gestures that we expect from him. Disappointment? Trickery? Concealment? Words too coarse. We only know the comrade imperfectly or rather the events encountered together had not been of a nature to put them in a position to reveal his true personality.

The individualists are too inclined to forget that camaraderie is not an “obligation” or a “duty,” it is a “relativity” like all the incidents of individual life, and “experiment.” Camaraderie is above all of the individual order. We have already said it.

In vain will we accumulate mountains of gossip, if not of slander about Jean, Pierre or Paul; I wish to account by myself for the manner in which they act towards me. I do not intend any longer to espouse the quarrels of others that see in camaraderie a process of photographic reproduction – to the “moral.” What monotony if it was necessary that individualist, under the pretext of camaraderie, must repeat the gestures or attitudes of his fellow in anarchist individualism!

But before posing as a thesis that camaraderie is no more an “obligation” than an “obsession” and put forward that opinion that it is necessary not to confuse any more with “familiarity” than with “promiscuity,” it is necessary at least to determine who is “my” or “our” comrade.

I define: our comrades are all those who show an individualist activity, all those who elaborate and endeavor to bring to realization a conception individual “life” in the anarchist sense of the word, in other words an existence and an activity conceived and lived outside the influence of the ambiance and in reaction against the determinism of the milieu. I insist on this point: I consider as my comrade every being which has imagined and which leads to an individualist “activity” and life in relation to his knowledge, to his experiences, to his psychological constitution, to his evaluation of the pleasure and not in relation to my aspirations or my ideal of the “individualist comrade.”

[……………….]

Likewise camaraderie between nomads and those who value the comfort of an interior – between those practicing unicity in love and those practicing diversity – between diligent vegetarians and meat-eaters, – between non-smokers and smokers.

Certain temperaments can only provide the intellectual production and it would be folly to ask any sort of camaraderie of them; it would even diminish their usefulness. Others find a great deal of happiness in isolation, in the company of a single friend or in intimacy with one male or female companion – or with several – who share all the experiences of their daily lives. The important thing in all this is that does not diminish the intensity of their individualist activity.

Active by nature, it is understood that I could not find a place for intimate camaraderie with the anarchist I found sprawled on his bed at three o’clock in the afternoon, while in my closet I have a thousand pamphlets waiting to be distributed. I can continue to have an excellent relationship with him, but we will not be close.

[……………….]

177) My enemies and my friends.

There are beings that we feel ourselves determined to flee, to detest, to hate. The Tyrant, for example, or the False Comrade who betrays your confidence, to invade your privacy, has grasped some secrets of a private nature and uses them to harm you. It is not enough for me to know they were determined by their heredity, their education or their cerebral construction, to do me ill. The simple instinct of preservation incites me to defend myself against their acts and to forestall their return – that is to say to continue myself in a continual state of enmity with regard to them.

There is thus a category of beings who are my enemies: – those who seek to harm me. And with regard to whom I feel an entirely different sentiment than love or indifference. There are those who seek to harm me because I would not subscribe to their stupid pretention of playing at party leader – or else because I do not fear to bring to light their bluffing pedantry– or else because I think that it falls to me to put others on guard against their ambition. They pursue me with their hatred, and I am satisfied. There are also all those from top to bottom of the social scale that I disturb by my propaganda, despite its feeble impact: the leaders from whom I do not hide my hostility and the led to whom I do not spare my scorn; the rulers whose situation I struggle to undermined and the ruled whom I pursue with my sarcasm. My enemies are thus great in number. And I am happy with that. It is the proof that my blows carry. The sharers of authority are also my enemies, those who arrogate to themselves the right to others of their liberty or possess the power to rule the lives of others according to a given norm, whether or not it conforms to their own individual determinism.

My friends are, on the contrary, very few in number. They are those to whom I can reveal myself just as I am, as I am, without every dreading that they profit from my frankness to exploit it and do me wrong. They are also those who do not give me the slip in troubled times, in the evenings of defeat; that I find at my side when the shadows fill my road, even when I am mislead, even when I am wrong – which does not mean that they give up criticizing me…

All those who profess ideas similar to mine or equivalent, are my comrades – not necessarily my friends.

I feel myself in intellectual communion with all those who pursue the emancipation of human individuality, who want to release in the human being a personality distinct from the surrounding milieu. This is understood. But it is a purely intellectual link unites us. But it is the propaganda of ideas which are dear to us, to them and to me, which marks out the field of our solidarity. Apart from the propaganda, I know as little of their extra-intellectual life as they know of mine. It would not cross their minds to ask of me other services than those implied by our intellectual association. I give back to them the same [réciproque]. Because that pleases us – and when that pleases us – and because it is a trait of our temperament – we mutually communicate the experiences that we believe are most appropriate to arm ourselves in the struggle for our lives. But nothing obligates us to that communication. Or to mutually exhort one another to make ourselves strong, in order to conquer our lives. We do it because it agrees with us. And it is not in the power of anyone to force us to believe that it is by obligation/duress that we act. And someone who interests me from the point of view of his mentality can very well only inspire antipathy from a sentimental point of view. With those whom I value for scope of conception, energy in discussion, conscientiousness in scientific research – it could be that I do not want to make a friend.

178) Citizen of “my” world.

I am not a citizen of the world. I am the citizen of my world.

First, because there is no world but “my” world. The most specious arguments will not prevail against this observation. The world only exists for me because I exist, because I sense my existence, because I perceive the effects of it. When I sleep beneath the tombstone, when I no longer assimilate or eliminate, when my useless organs have ceased to function and my flesh decays, gnawed by worms – there will no longer be for me either past, present, or future – or energy, or matter – or humans, or world. When I have ceased to exist, the world, for me, will have ceased to exist. The world is not an absolute to me; it is a relativity. Thus it is only the world because it is my world.

My world, as one can foresee, is far from being the narrow domain that the possessive “my” would seem to indicated. It is everything that I – an organism conscious of my existence – sense, feel, experience, perceive, and distinguish within and outside of myself. My world, it is my heart which beats and my brain which quivers – it is the starry night that extends above my head and it is the wind that hinders my walk on the road – it is the waves which brings wreckage to the beach that I wander with slow steps and it is the stacks of wheat silhouetted like immense beehives on the horizon of the plains – it is the paper where my pen walks and it is the dictionary where I seek the meaning of a term the sense of which appears uncertain to me. My world is the books that it interests me to leaf through, the opinions that it pleases me to express, the arguments it suits me to discuss, the beings with whom it is agreeable for me to keep company more or less of the time. What’s more, my world is not only made up of pleasurable events or spectacles. I shall not forget the office or factory where I have had to go so often – in winter, when I would have liked to remain at home; in summer, when blooming, sunbathed nature invited me to gambol on the thick lawns or to frolic along shaded streams. I am the involuntary witness of sufferings that wound my sensibility. I sometimes hear cries of pain ring out which freeze me with fear. For I am neither deaf nor indifferent. I no longer accomplish all the labor that I have laid out for myself. Or I do not perform it as I would like. My world is not only “pleasure;” it is also “pain.” But such as it is, it perfectly fills my life.

My world is not a desert. It includes all those who sense, feel, experience, perceive, and distinguish in the way that I do. Those of today and those of long ago. All those, as well, who have dared what I could not or would not dare. All those who have accomplished what I have not wanted or been able to accomplish. All those who have practiced what I have still only devised in theory. I do not know them, the majority of them. But I know that they exist. And sometimes it seems to me that I see them rise from the dust of the past – my past – a veritable legion. They are those who have reacted against the environment and never allowed it to have the last word. They are those who have never let the collectivity to rattle their individuality. They have not yielded. The lure of money, that of security, the attraction of a home – nothing has done it. Society, sometimes, has promised popularity if they consent to accommodate themselves. To play the puppets – to drag the populace around by their chausses – « la faire » aux chefs de file – never! They have suffered in their body and mind. They have wept, but they have hated. They have lived who knows where – where they are too well known. They have known the heights and depths of existence. They have been fugitives, tracked, denounced, condemned, and walled up. Because they have neither respectable manners, nor stable situation, nor respectable relations, society has scorned, maligned, and rejected them, expelled them from its midst. But they have not let go. They have been silent, or they have said what they had to say. As they wanted to say it, without pandering to the elites, without toadying to the masses. Without prostituting themselves, without consenting to sleazy contracts. If they perished, they were undefeated. On a pallet, in the promiscuity of a flophouse, on the edge of a ditch, in the penal colony, under the guillotine blade. In their bed, perhaps, sated by experience, – or still devoured by resentment, assailed by doubt. But going on regardless.

Those people are “mine,” the citizens of my world.

17. Reciprocity

179) Search for an individualist anarchist basis for relations and agreements between persons.

On what basis shall we establish relations between humans when we have excluded obligation and sanction? What method will serve to achieve relations and agreements between the constituents any human milieu – those relations and agreements which increase in complexity as intelligence is refined and as the acquisition of human knowledge becomes more considerable, as the range of their applications is amplified? What principle shall we posit as foundation, as norm for the accords and contracts of every species that human beings can be brought to consider and to strike among themselves in order to allow them to behave with regard to one another according to their needs, their desires, and their aspirations – whether it is a question of isolated or associated units?

A first consideration presents itself. Since we intend to exclude coercion in all its forms – legal regulation, or penal or disciplinary sanctions, it is absolutely necessary that the method that will be used to establish relationships and agreements between persons implies “equity” in itself; it must be the case – whatever the object and nature of these relations and agreements – that no one, on any side, is harmed, duped, or mislead.

Everyone knows that the presumed object of the law is to render efficacious the conditions which determine or are supposed to determine the relations between the inhabitants of a given territory. That efficacy is obtained by the application of certain punishments to those who disobey the law. We understand that the law is required, since the conditions which, in human societies, preside over the relations and accords between their members are established without their unanimous consent, often even despite the protests of imposing minorities, in any case without ever taking account of the advise or opinion of the transgressors and the disobedient. It is not difficult to recognize that it is is the fear suffering these sanctions which keeps a large number of persons from transgressing the law – at least overtly; besides, whatever the threats – and certain of the punishments to fear are very serious – there are individuals who prefer to court the risk of a punishment rather than observe the terms of a contract which has been imposed on them, or of an agreement which disturbs or disgusts them, for whatever reason. Naturally, it is not a question here of wondering if we should hold responsible for the attitude of these pig-headed types the arbitrariness which currently presides over the establishment of the conventions of which societies rest. Or up to what point the practice of these conventions is responsible for it. We make an observation. nothing more.

180) Theory of Reciprocity.

One method exists of which the absolute application would guarantee, to those who would choose them as the basis of their relations and accords, that they will not be harmed, duped, or mislead – materially speaking; that they would be weakened or even wounded from the point of view of their dignity: it is reciprocity. Faithfully practiced, whatever the domain or branch of human activity where it is applied, the method of reciprocity implies, in itself, equity, as much is the economic sphere as in that of morals, in the intellectual as well as that of sentiment. Indeed, there is nothing which could escape the reach of reciprocity. It is a method of behaving towards others with a truly universal influence. It is very simple to explain: since it comes down to and consists in receiving as much as we have given, as much in that which concerns the isolated as the associated.

In exchange for the product of your effort, I offer you mine. You receive it and we are quits. On the contrary, it does not satisfy you, as you do not think it is equivalent to what you are giving. In this case, let each of us keep our respective products and let us see if we cannot find a better match elsewhere. In this way, neither of us will be indebted to the other.

[……………….]

181) To give and to receive. Aspects of their equivalence.

But what those anti-authoritarian individualists mean by reciprocity is another thing entirely fro the arid functioning of a system of exchange, consisting of receiving the exact equivalent in weight, measure and value of what we have given. Or vice versa. It is no longer, from the ethical point of view, the inexorable application of the law of the jungle. Yes, if you will, reciprocity is that, exactly that, but it is also much more. I view it, for my own part, from a point of view so individual, so plastic and subject to the variations of personal evaluation that it is absolutely necessary for me, in order to explain the practical reach, to situate myself far outside the idea of a mathematical evaluation or unwavering standard. I posit then in the first place that each person has the conception of reciprocity furnished to them by their determinism: temperament or nature, reasoning or feeling. It is then understood in my relations with others, in the agreements that I can conclude with them that I do not want to be harmed; and I sense and know myself to be harmed as soon as I receive less than I give. And I harm others as soon as I give less than I receive. But to give and receive are two relations, two values, two terms of which the meaning and sense are uniquely relative to the one who gives and the one who receives.

For example, I have spent some years dedicating myself to the education of a child, to do all that was in my power in order that he formed, that he sculpted, that he became “himself,” that he freed himself from the much of prejudices and traditions detrimental to the evolution and constitution of an original personality. That was my gift. I considered myself amply paid, in return, by assisting in the spectacle of the gradual development of this young being, asserting himself bit by bit, borrowing less and less, as he grows, from routine and the conventions of the social atmosphere. I recognized that he had certain dispositions for letters or the sciences – for music – for voyages. And there he is, grown to the stature of a man, an accomplished writer, an eminent chemist, a successful musician, an intrepid explorer. Not a servile imitator of those who have preceded him on the path where he is engaged, but by assimilating to himself the efforts of his predecessors so as to carry his own to the highest possible degree of originality. Perhaps it is in an entirely different sense than I would have hoped, that the dispositions that I had distinguished have developed or that his possible originality has been demonstrated. I have, however, attained my end since, as an adult, the child to whose upbringing I have devoted myself is neither the reflection of a man nor the product of a formula.

[……………….]

Here are the aspects – and I have only sketched a few of them – under which it is necessary to consider, in its practice, the method of reciprocity, if we want it to be anything but conformity to a scale accepted on both sides, which would mean, for example, when I have exchanged a pair of boots for 40 or 50 kilos of meal, that I have received as much as I have given. That is the literal point of view, and we have long known that “the letter killeth.” If I am an artist in shoe-making, it may be that 35 or 40 kilos of bread will satisfy me and the joy I feel, knowing my work appreciated as I like it to be by my consumer, more than compensates for the 5 or 10 kilos of deficit. To receive as much as one has give is not then only, I repeat, to get the equivalent in weight, measure, quality, value, of what we have given or delivered, it is also, it is especially to be satisfied with the trade one has made, it is to have full consciousness that in the “business” dealt – intellectually, sentimentally, economically speaking – there has not been, on either side, deceiver or deceived, victimizer or victim; in other words that each, in the course of the agreement, has acted according to their déterminisme and shown themselves in their true colors.

Reciprocity is in this and not elsewhere. [……………….]

279) Liberty as the ultimate solution.

I write these lines in particularly somber circumstances.[i] I am not at all of the “future society” school. My opinion, however, is that after much flux and reflux—many painful attempts–humans will someday come to the conscientious practice of the method of equal liberty, to our “solution,” to our individualist, anti-authoritarian “directives”—to anarchism, if you wish. It matters little to me what name you give that opinion, of if you call it idealistic, prophetic, or utopian. It is my opinion. It gives me neither consolation nor resignation. I do not even consider the fulfillment of the individualist’s demands as the final step of a march or ascension towards progress. I look at it only from the practical point of view.

As an individualist, I do not desire suffering, either for myself or for others. Since neither the coercion, not the domination of the majority or of the elite, nor the dictatorship of an autocrat, a caste, or a social class has thus far been able to assure human happiness—its seems impossible to me that more enlightened, better educated, and more informed, humans will not finally themselves come to the only solution capable of always reducing the amount of inevitable suffering—wherein lies happiness—the individualist solution: the solution of liberty.

1923