Category Archives: anarchist individualism

William C. Owen, “What is Anarchism?” (1920)

We receive pleasure or suffer pain through our own individual organs, breathe with our own lungs, think with our own brains, and move about actively or are bed-ridden, according to the condition of our own muscles. From ourselves we never get away. We cannot. The basic law of our existence is that each of us is a kingdom in himself, and that beyond the limits of his individual kingdom none of us can stray.

Each one of us strives, instinctively and unceasingly, to protect and develop his own kingdom, because failure to do so is punished remorselessly. If my body lacks food or adequate protection against the cold, I suffer physically. If my intellectual wants go unsatisfied, it is I who fret. If my life is loveless, mine is the heart that aches. Of necessity, therefore, I struggle, consciously or unconsciously, to give my life the things it calls for; to satisfy its various appetites, to make the most of this, the one piece of real property I acquired with birth, and shall relinquish only with my death.

Men accumulate what they call “property” only because they find or think it necessary to the security and happiness of their own individual lives, encased in their own individual bodies. The saint may flatter himself that he is giving him- self to God; the revolutionist that he is sacrificing himself to his cause; the patriot that he is bleeding for his country. In reality, each is only striving to satisfy what happens to be, for him, his strongest appetite, which he must feed or suffer. Each’ is cultivating what seems to him the portion of his own kingdom it will pay him best to cultivate. Each, by life’s mysterious law, is seeking his own happiness in his own way. Do you condemn that law? I say it is the most glorious of laws, because under it every one of us struggles incessantly for happiness. Only out of that universal struggle can general happiness come.

Still under the influence of those cruel religions which teach that man was born in sin, we do not see, as yet, the beauty of that law. Instead of encouraging every individual to pursue happiness with every ounce of energy he can command; instead of urging him to develop his own kingdom to the utmost, and get out of it all the incalculable pleasures now lying dormant in it: instead of spurring him on to get, at any cost, all that his physical and intellectual and spiritual appetites demand, we seek to thwart and prevent him. If people would put into the development of their own kingdoms the energy they now devote to hindering others from developing, the world would be far happier than it is to-day.

The teaching of Anarchism is “Mind your own business, and leave me to look after mine!” “Do not hinder my development, and I will not hinder yours!” It is the best of teachings, because it makes for general development—physical, intellectual and spiritual—and development means happiness. We are all happier, physically, when we are better fed and clothed and housed. We are all happier intellectually when we have permitted our minds to grow and taught them to climb. We are all happier spiritually when we have given our natural affections their proper due. For myself, I have no wish to live in a community where the majority are starving, or among those who despise the things of the mind, or among those who look down on their fellow-creatures as inferiors. When I get into that sort of a bog, I myself am compelled to sink, and I do not like it. Precisely because I am an individualist, I am sociable, for I recognise that I rise with others, and that when they are drowning they pull me also down.

We are living at present, and suffering intensely, under the regime of Militarism: and against all I have written above Militarism is incessantly in arms. Militarism lives by invasion. Militarism seeks to crush and render helpless, that it may rule and impose its orders. We are to-day in the full tide of Militarism, and, as I think, it is sweeping the entire revolutionary movement off its feet. If it were not so, we, who have suffered so long and cruelly from despotism should not be chanting the praises of “Dictatorship by the Proletariat.” Was that the goal for which we started? Never. For the moment we have lost our way.

Militarism is necessarily stupid, because Militarism never argues. It does not believe in free speech, the unfettered inter- change of thought, or any of that nonsense. Its only logic is that of the bayonet and gun. And its stupidity is now paralysing the activity of all the world, and bringing it to ruin.

See how, for the moment, it has hypnotised society! It has driven even our hard-headed merchants into the lunacy of believing that they prosper when their markets are destroyed and their best customers—in this case the Germans—rendered bankrupt. It has filled millions with such delusions as that murder is a noble art; that there are too many people in the world; that “My country, right or wrong,” is the highest of all moralities; that it is the God-given duty of the chosen few to issue orders, and of the many to obey them; that the man born outside our own artificial borders is an enemy, against whom we must protect ourselves. Every one of these ideas is a reversion to barbarism.

All whose ignoble ambition is to govern others, instead of giving them full opportunity to govern themselves; all whose purpose is to live as parasites on the toil of others; all such dishonest natures eagerly champion military ideas.

By the assiduous inculcation of those ideas, they have poisoned all this age’s thought and corrupted incalculably those movements which had the overthrow of human slavery as their original aim. Hence it comes that Trade Unionists and Syndicalists are thinking only of how they will boss the show when they shall have climbed to power; that Socialists state openly their determination to make the minority toe the mark; that many who were good Anarchists ten years ago, to-day cheer wildly for Dictators. A pitiful collapse!

As I see it, the masses are robbed because, as individuals, they have been rendered helpless; and the remedy is to restore the individual to his original and natural strength. I have called myself an Anarchist because I supposed this to be Anarchism’s aim. If it is not, I am no Anarchist.

W. C. O.


William C. Owen, “What is Anarchism?” Freedom (London) 34 no. 371 (April, 1920): 21.

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Victor Yarros, “Anarchistic Socialism” (1889)

State Socialists are in the habit of charging the Anarchists with a partiality for middle-class ideas and institutions, and nothing is more common than the statement that we wish to retain the bourgeois arrangements, while endeavoring to give them an ideal flavor. Our teachings are taken to be identical with those of the individualistic economists of the Cobden-Bastiat school, and we are constantly told that the principles of individualism, inaugurated and embodied by the great revolution in France, have been tried and found wanting, have been condemned and utterly discredited by life itself. Our present social evils are alleged to be the best practical proof of the failure of liberty and the “let alone “ doctrine, which, though necessary for purposes of destruction of superannuated customs, are absolutely of no avail in constructive work. And hence it is urged upon us to abandon these idols and recognize the importance of the principle of association, cooperation, and collective effort, upon which the civilization of the near future is to be based.

A complete refutation of all these claims would be found in the simple fact that true, consistent individualism has never had a fair trial and consequently could never have been discredited. It is necessary to distinguish between pretence and reality. The middle class economists and champions have indeed talked about the beauties of individualism, and have pretended to uphold the existing regime on the ground of liberty and equality, but, whether from ignorance or class interests, they have steadily ignored the logic of their principle and have seen liberty violated and outraged in many ways without raising a voice in protest. The bourgeois economists have agitated for free trade (a very excellent thing so far as it goes), but have never shown a due appreciation of the other and greater denials of liberty of which the prevailing social system is guilty. England has now got what Cobden worked for; it enjoys free trade. Yet the labor question is as far from settlement as ever, and poverty, pauperism, inequality, and crime are on the increase. What are the modern bourgeois individualists doing to reform and remedy abuses? What are they suggesting as solutions of the burning problems of the day? Why, they are organizing “Liberty and Property Defence Leagues” to combat Socialism and to defend their privileges and monopolies. Their platforms contain not a single measure of positive reform. The true, consistent individualists, the Anarchists, on the other hand, speak in no uncertain tone of the reforms imperatively demanded by present circumstances, and accuse the economists of cowardice, disingenuousness, and superficiality. They point out that Individualism is impossible in the absence of perfect equality of opportunity, which equality is denied by the State-created monopolies of land and credit. A landless and moneyless laborer does not possess any liberty. The right to life and to seeking of happiness in one’s own way is meaningless without the access to the means of life. Now, land and capital are essential to him who would live independently and in a more or less civilized manner, and the Government deprives us of both. (It would be carrying coal to Newcastle to enlarge here on the subject of land monopoly, the evils of which, if anything, only are too strongly emphasized by the believers in the Single-tax, and of the money question I will at present say no more, referring the reader to Mr. Hugo Bilgram’s admirable letter on the matter in the issue of June 22, in which he says that “a new industrial era will dawn and the distribution of wealth will assume an equitable basis” as soon as the Government is forced to allow freedom in the issue of currency and organization of banking.

In our forecast of the results of freedom in money and land-occupation we may be altogether mistaken. Perhaps the laborer will be as much the slave of the owner of machinery then as he is now, and perhaps our economic views are false and unscientific. I am entirely willing to allow that this is not impossible. But at least let State Socialists and other critics understand our exact position, and, instead of fighting men of straw, let them examine our contentions and attempt to meet them. As long as this is not done, as long as the Socialists refrain from a careful analysis of our economic theories—and as one who has studied Marx, Lassalle, Hyndman, Hirkop, and Gronlund, I know that nowhere in the literature of “Scientific Socialism” is any attention bestowed on the subject—they have no right to invidiously characterize our conception of Individualism, our idea of free competition and our attitude toward the proletariat.

But this is not the only answer we have to make to the State Socialists. Though we favor the laissez-faire policy, we do not understand it in the sense in which the bourgeois economists have understood it. Their “let alone” principle was based on a false social philosophy, on a puerile theology and immature political economy. Their optimism was that of Dr. Pangloss, and they, believing that a beneficent providence directed everything to the best in this best of worlds, objected to any men-made laws, institutions, or organizations. They opposed combinations of capital. Their “code of nature “ taught them to leave everything to unconscious, spontaneous, automatic action and play. But this view does not bear looking into. The modern theory of evolution destroys the sense of such theological notions. Human opinion, conscious intelligent endeavor, is the agency by which social improvement is furthered, and to oppose conscious action and guidance is pure folly. The Anarchists are emphatically in favor of association and cooperation, and liberty, though a good end in itself, is from the economic standpoint only a means to an end, that end being combination and association. They are fully aware that most of the present blessings are due to cooperation, and the coming social system will have “ association “ for its watchword. What we protest against is the delusion that the element of compulsion is indispensable, that men must be driven by force to interest themselves in their own welfare, and that government, ever the tool of exploiters, can be converted into a useful instrument of reform. Power will always be abused, and the best man, when placed in unfavorable conditions, loses the distinguishing qualities of noble, refined, and dignified manhood. We do not believe in the government of man by man, and we do not conceive that self-respecting people will consent to be drilled, ordered about, and disciplined by anybody, whether the somebody is called master or public servant. Our ideal of the future is unity in freedom, not enforced uniformity.

A word, now, on the question: what to do in the meantime. It is evident that the efforts of all who hold our views must be devoted to the dissemination of true principles and ideas. The State exists because the people have faith in it. This faith must be shaken and dissolved. We must work to contract the sphere of authority, and to teach the advantages of free association. Buckle has said that the only services governments render to the people consist in the abolition of laws, not manufacture of them, and we must agitate for the abolition of objectionable laws, principally those that we hold responsible for the economic servitude of the laborers. It may be true that just at present the people are inclined to court governmental aid and to expect relief from the intervention of authority, but why he who clearly perceives the error of this method should lend a hand in this reactionary movement, is hard to comprehend. The greater the pressure, the more need of counter influence. The more widespread the error the more reason for vigorous advocacy of truth. The masses readily accept Socialism only because, as Grant Allen says, it is the first and easiest remedy they are ofiered. Should we not, then, invite them to take a second, sober thought, and examine more critically the philosophy which they have espoused? Of course we should. And those who refleet and analyze are apt to discover that State Socialism is as one-sided as the semi-individualism it was called to criticise. The latter laid stress on self-help; the former, in emphasizing the principle of cooperation, lost sight of liberty. Anarchistic Socialism appears to reconcile them by a new synthesis.

Boston, Mass.


“Anarchistic Socialism,” The Twentieth Century 3 no. 5 (Augest 10, 1889): 74-75

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Rosa Slobodinsky and Voltairine de Cleyre, “The Individualist and the Communist” (1891)

THE INDIVIDUALIST AND THE COMMUNIST.

A DIALOGUE.

INDIVIDUALIST: “Our host is engaged and requests that I introduce myself to—I beg your pardon, sir, but have I not the pleasure of meeting the Communist speaker who addressed the meeting on Blank street last evening?”

COMMUNIST: “Your face seems familiar to me, too.”

INDV.: “Doubtless you may have seen me there, or at some kindred place. I am glad at the opportunity to talk with you as your speech proved you to be somewhat of a thinker. Perhaps—”

COM.: “Ah, indeed, I recognize you now. You are the apostle of capitalistic Anarchism!”

INDV.: “ Capitalistic Anarchism ? Oh, yes, if you choose to call it so. Names are indifferent to me; I am not afraid of bugaboos. Let it be so, then, capitalistic Anarchism.”

COM: “Well, I will listen to you. I don’t think your arguments will have much effect, however. With which member of your Holy Trinity will you begin: free land, free money, or free competition?”

INDV.: “Whichever you prefer.”

COM.: “Then free competition. Why do you make that demand? Isn’t competition froe now?”

INDV.: “No. But one of the three factors in production is free. Laborers are free to compete among themselves, and so are capitalists to a certain extent. But between laborers and capitalists there is no competition whatever, because through governmental privilege granted to capital, whence the volume of the currency and the rate of interest is regulated, the owners of it are enabled to keep the laborers dependent on them for employment, so making the condition of wage-subjection perpetual. So long as one man, or class of men, are able to prevent others from working for themselves because they cannot obtain the means of production or capitalize their own products, so long those others are not free to compete freely with those to whom privilege gives the means. For instance, can you see any competition between the farmer and his hired man? Don’t you think he would prefer to work for himself? Why does the farmer employ him? Is it not to make some profit from his labor? And does the hired man give him that profit out of pure good nature? Would he not rather have the full product of his labor at his own disposal?”

COM.: “And what of that? What does that prove?”

INDV.: “I am coming to that directly. Now, does this relation between the farmer and his man in any way resemble a cooperative affair between equals, free to compete, but choosing to work together for mutual benefit? You know it does not. Can’t you see that since the hired man does not willingly resign a large share of his product to his employer (and it is out of human nature to say he does), there must be something which forces him to do it? Can’t you see that the necessity of an employer is forced upon him by his lack of ability to command the means of production? He cannot employ himself, therefore he must sell his labor at a disadvantage to him who controls the land and capital. Hence he is not free to compete with his employer any more than a prisoner is free to compete with his jailer for fresh air.

COM.: “Well, I admit that much. Certainly the employé cannot compete with his employer.”

INDV.: “Then you admit that there is not free competition in the present state of society. In other words, you admit that the laboring class are not free to compete with the holders of capital, because they have not, and cannot get, the means of production. Now for your ‘what of that?’ It follows that if they had access to land and opportunity to capitalize the product of their labor they would either employ themselves, or, if employed by others, their wages, or remuneration, would rise to the full product of their toil, since no one would work for another for less than he could obtain by working for himself.”

COM.: “But your object is identical with that of Communism! Why all this to convince me that the means of production must be taken from the hands of the few and given to all? Communists believe that; it is precisely what we are fighting for.”

INDV.: “You misunderstand me if you think we wish to take from or give to any one. We have no scheme for regulating distribution. We substitute nothing, make no plans. We trust to the unfailing balance of supply and demand. We say that with equal opportunity to produce, the division of product will necessarily approach equitable distribution, but we have no method of ‘enacting’ such equalization.”

Com.: ‘‘But will not some be strong and skillful, others weak and unskillful? Will not one-deprive the other because he is more shrewd?”

INDV.: “Impossible! Have I not just shown you that the reason one man controls another’s manner of living is because he controls the opportunities to produce? He does this through a special governmental privilege. Now, if this privilege is abolished, land becomes free, and ability to capitalize products removing interest, and one man is stronger or shrewder than another, he nevertheless can make no profit from that other’s labor, because he cannot stop him from employing himself The cause of subjection is removed.”

COM.: “YOU call that equality! That one man shall have more than others simply because he is stronger or smarter? Your system is no better than the present. What are we struggling against but that very inequality in people’s possessions?”

INDV.: “But what is equality? Does equality mean that I shall enjoy what you have produced? By no means. Equality simply means the freedom of every individual to develop all his being, without hindrance from another, be he stronger or weaker.”

COM.: “What! You will have the weak person suffer because he is weak? He may need as much, or more, than a strong one, but if he is not able to produce it what becomes of his equality?”

INDV.: “I have nothing against your dividing your product with the weaker man if you desire to do so.”

COM.: “There you are with charity again. Communism wants no charity.”

INDV.: I have often marveled on the singularity of Communistic mathematics. My act you call charity, our act is not charity. If one person does a kind act you stigmatize it; if one plus one, summed up and called a commune, does the same thing, you laud it By some species of alchemy akin to the transmutation of metals, the arsenic of charity becomes the gold of justice! Strange calculation! Can you not see that you are running from a bugaboo again? You change the name, but the character of an action is not altered by the number of people participating in it.”

COM.: “But it is not the same action. For me to assist you out of pity is the charity of superior possession to the inferior. But to base society upon the principle: ‘From each according to his capacity, and to each according to his needs’ is not charity in any sense.”

INDV.: “That is a finer discrimination than logic can find any basis for. But suppose that, for the present, we drop the discussion of charity, which is really a minor point, as a further discussion will show.”

COM.: “But I say it is very important. See! Here are two workmen. One can make five pair of shoes a day; the other, perhaps, not more than three. According to you, the less rapid workmen will be deprived of the enjoyments of life, or at any rate will not be able to get as much as the other, because of a natural inability, a thing not his fault, to produce as much as his competitor.”

INDV.: “It is true that under our present conditions, there are such differences in productive power. But these, to a large extent, would be annihilated by the development of machinery and the ability to use it in the absence of privilege. Today the majority of trade-people are working at uncongenial occupations. Why? Because they have neither the chance for finding out for what they are adapted, nor the opportunity of devoting themselves to it if they had. They would starve to death while searching; or, finding it, would only bear the disappointment of being kept outside the ranks of an already overcrowded pathway of life. Trades are, by force of circumstances, what formerly they were by law, matters of inheritance. I am a tailor because by father was a tailor, and it was easier for him to introduce me to that mode of making a living than any other, although I have no special adaptation for it. But postulating equal chances, that is free access and non-interest bearing capital, when a man finds himself unable to make shoes as well or as rapidly as his co-worker, he would speedily seek a more congenial occupation.”

COM.: “And he will be traveling from one trade to another like a tramp after lodgings!”

INDV: “Oh no; his lodgings will be secure! When you admitted that competition is not now free, did I not say to you that when it becomes so, one of two things must happen: either the laborer will employ himself, or the contractor must pay him the full value of his product. The result would be increased demand for labor. Able to employ himself, the producer will get the full measure of his production, whether working independently, by contract, or cooperatively, since the competition of opportunities, if I may so present it, would destroy the possibility of profits. With the reward of labor raised to its entire result, a higher standard of living will necessarily follow; people will want more in proportion to their intellectual development; with the gratification of desires come new wants, all of which guarantees constant labor-demand. Therefore, even your trades-tramp will be sure of his existence.

“But you must consider further that the business of changing trades is no longer the difficult affair it was formerly. Years ago, a mechanic, or laborer, was expected to serve from four to seven years’ apprenticeship. No one was a thorough workman until he knew all the various departments of his trade. Today the whole system of production is revolutionized. Men become specialists. A shoemaker, for instance, spends his days in sewing one particular seam. The result is great rapidity and proficiency in a comparatively short apace of time. No great amount of strength or skill is required; the machine furnishes both. Now, you will readily see that, even supposing an individual changes his vocation half a dozen times, he will not travel very long before he finds that to which he is adapted, and in which he can successfully compete with others.”

COM.: “But admitting this, don’t you believe there will always be some who can produce more than their brothers? What is to prevent their obtaining advantages over the less fortunate?”

INDV.: “Certainly I do believe there are such differences in ability, but that they will lead to the iniquity you fear I deny. Suppose A does produce more than B, does he in anyway injure the latter so long as he does not prevent B from applying his own labor to exploit nature, with equal facilities as himself, either by self-employment or by contract with others?”’

COM.: “Is that what you call right? Will that produce mutual fellowship among human beings? When I see that you are enjoying things which I cannot hope to get, what think you will be my feelings toward you? Shall I not envy and hate you, as the poor do the rich today.”

INDV.: “Why, will you hate a man because he has finer eyes or better health than you? Do you want to demolish a person’s manuscript because he excels you in penmanship? Would you cut the extra length from Samson’s hair, and divide it around equally among al short-haired people? Will you share a slice from the poet’s genius and put it in the common storehouse so everybody can go and take some? If there happened to be a handsome woman in your neighborhood who devotes her smiles to your brother, shall you get angry and insist that they be ‘distributed according to the needs’ of the Commune? The differences in natural ability are not, in freedom, great enough to injure any one or disturb the social equilibrium. No one man can produce more than three others; and even granting that much you can see that it would never create the chasm which lies between Vanderbilt and the switchman on his tracks.”

COM.: “But in establishing equal justice, Communism would prevent even the possibility of injustice.”

INDV,: “Is it justice to take from talent to reward incompetency? Is it justice to virtually say that the tool is not to the toiler, nor the product to the producer, but to others? Is it justice to rob toil of incentive? The justice you seek lies not in such injustice, where material equality could only be attained at the dead level of mediocrity. As freedom of contract enlarges, the nobler sentiments and sympathies invariably widen. With freedom of access to land and to capital, no glaring inequality in distribution could result. No workman rises far above or sinks much below the average day’s labor. Nothing but the power to enslave through controlling opportunity to utilize labor force could ever create such wide differences as we now witness.”

COM.: “Then you hold that your system will practically result in the same equality Communism demands. Yet, granting that, it will take a hundred years, or a thousand, perhaps, to bring it about. Meanwhile people are starving. Communism doesn’t propose to wait. It proposes to adjust things here and now; to arrange matters more equitably while we are here to see it, and not wait till the sweet impossible sometime that our great, great grand children may see the dawn of. Why can’t you join in with us and help us to do something?”

INDV.: “Yea, we hold that comparative equality will obtain, but pre-arrangement, institution, ‘direction’ can never bring the desired result—free society. Waving the point that any arrangement is a blow at progress, it really is an impossible thing to do. Thoughts, like things, grow. You cannot jump from the germ to perfect tree in a moment. No system of society can be instituted today which will apply to the demands of the future; that, under freedom will adjust itself. This is the essential difference between Communism and cooperation. The one fixes, adjusts, arranges things, and tends to the rigidity which characterizes the cast off shells of past societies; the other trusts to the unfailing survival of the fittest, and the broadening of human sympathies with freedom; the surety that that which is in the line of progress tending toward the industrial ideal, will, in a free field, obtain by force of its superior attraction. Now, you must admit, either that there will be under freedom, different social arrangements in different societies, some Communistic, others quite the reverse, and that competition will necessarily rise between them, leaving to results to determine which is the best, or you must crush competition, institute Communism, deny freedom, and fly in the face of progress. What the world needs, my friend, is not new methods of instituting things, but abolition of restrictions upon opportunity.”


The Twentieth Century 6 no 25 (June 18, 1891): 3-6.

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Benjamin R. Tucker, “Why I Am an Anarchist” (1892)

Why am I an Anarchist? That is the question which the editor of the Twentieth Century has requested me to answer for his readers. I comply; but, to be frank, I find it a difficult task. If the editor or one of his contributors had only suggested a reason why I should be anything other than an Anarchist, I am sure I should have no difficulty in disputing the argument. And does not this very fact, after all, furnish in itself the best of all reasons why I should be an Anarchist – namely, the impossibility of discovering any good reason for being anything else? To show the invalidity of the claims of State Socialism, Nationalism, Communism, Single-taxism, the prevailing capitalism, and all the numerous forms of Archism existing or proposed, is at the same blow to show the validity of the claims of Anarchism. Archism once denied, only Anarchism can be affirmed. That is a matter of logic.

But evidently the present demand upon me is not to be met satisfactorily in this way. The error and puerility of State Socialism and all the despotisms to which it is akin have been repeatedly and effectively shown in many ways and in many places. There is no reason why I should traverse this ground with the readers of the Twentieth Century, even though it is all sufficient for proof of Anarchism. Something positive is wanted, I suppose.

Well, then, to start with the broadest generalization. I am an Anarchist because Anarchism and the philosophy of Anarchism are conducive to my own happiness. “Oh, yes, if that were the case, of course we should all be Anarchists,” the Archists will shout with one voice – at least all that are emancipated from religious and ethical superstitions – “but you beg the question; we deny that Anarchism is conducive to our happiness.”

Do you, my friends? Really, I don’t believe you when you say so; or, to put it more courteously, I don’t believe you will say so when you once understand Anarchism.

For what are the conditions of happiness? Of perfect happiness, many. But the primal and main conditions are few and simple. Are they not liberty and material prosperity? Is it not essential to the happiness of every developed being that he and those around him should be free, and that he and those around him should know no anxiety regarding the satisfaction of their material needs? It seems idle to deny it, and, in the event of denial, it would seem equally idle to argue it. No amount of evidence that human happiness has increased with human liberty would convince a man incapable of appreciating the value of liberty without reinforcement by induction. And to all but such a man it is also self-evident that of these two conditions – liberty and wealth – the former takes precedence as a factor in the production of happiness. It would be but a poor apology for happiness that either factor alone could give, if it could not produce nor be accompanied by the other; but, on the whole, much liberty and little wealth would be preferable to much wealth and little liberty. The complaint of Archistic Socialists that the Anarchists are bourgeois is true to this extent and no further – that, great as is their detestation for a bourgeois society, they prefer its partial liberty to the complete slavery of State Socialism. For one, I certainly can look with more pleasure – no, less pain – upon the present seething, surging struggle, in which some are up and some are down, some falling and some rising, some rich and many poor, but none completely fettered or altogether hopeless of as better future, than I could upon Mr. Thaddeus Wakeman’s ideal, uniform, and miserable community of teamy, placid, and slavish oxen.

To repeat, then, I do not believe that many of the Archists can be brought to say in so many words that liberty is not the prime condition of happiness, and in that case they cannot deny that Anarchism, which is but another name for liberty, is conducive to happiness. This being true, I have not begged the question and I have already established my case. Nothing is more needed to justify my Anarchistic creed. Even if some form of Archism could be devised that would create infinite wealth, and distribute it with perfect equity (pardon the absurd hypothesis of a distribution of the infinite), still the fact that in itself it is a denial of the prime condition of happiness, would compel its rejection and the acceptance of its sole alternative, Anarchism.

But, though this is enough, it is not all. It is enough for justification, but not enough for inspiration. The happiness possible in any society that does not improve upon the present in the matter of the distribution of wealth, can hardly be described as beatific. No prospect can be positively alluring that does not promise both requisites of happiness – liberty and wealth. Now, Anarchism does promise both. In fact, it promises the second as the result of the first, and happiness as the result of both.

This brings us into the sphere of economics. Will liberty abundantly produce and equitably distribute wealth? That is the remaining question to consider. And certainly it cannot be adequately treated in a single article in the Twentieth Century. A few generalizations are permissible at most.

What causes the inequitable distribution of wealth? “Competition,” cry the State Socialists. And if they are right, then, indeed, we are in a bad box, for we shall, in that case, never be able to get wealth without sacrificing liberty, and liberty we must have, whether or no. But, luckily, they are not right. It is not competition, but monopoly, that deprives labor of its product. Wages, inheritance, gifts, and gambling aside, every process by which me acquire wealth, rests upon a monopoly, a prohibition, a denial of liberty. Interest and rent of buildings rest on the banking monopoly, the prohibition of competition in finance, the denial of the liberty to issue currency; ground rent rests on the land monopoly, the denial of the liberty to use vacant land; profits in excess of wages rest upon the tariff and patent monopolies, the prohibition or limitation of competition in the industries and arts. There is but one exception, and that a comparatively trivial one; I refer to economic rent as distinguished from monopolistic rent. This does not rest upon a denial of liberty; it is one of nature’s inequalities. It probably will remain with us always. Complete liberty will very much lessen it; of that I have no doubt. But I do not ever expect it to ever reach the vanishing point to which Mr. M’Cready looks forward so confidently. At the worst, however, it will be a small matter, no more worth consideration in comparison with liberty than the slight disparity that will always exist in consequence of inequalities of skill.

If, then, all these methods of extortion from labor rest upon denials of liberty, plainly the remedy consists in the realization of liberty. Destroy the banking monopoly, establish freedom in finance, and down will go interest on money through the beneficent influence of competition. Capital will be set free, business will flourish, new enterprises will start, labor will be in demand, and gradually the wages of labor will rise to a level with its product. And it is the same with the other monopolies. Abolish the tariffs, issue no patents[,] take down the bars from unoccupied land, and labor will straightway rush in and take possession of its own. Then mankind will live in freedom and in comfort.

That is what I want to see; that is what I love to think of. And because anarchism will give this state of things, I am an Anarchist. To assert that it will is not to prove it; that I know. But neither can it be disproved by mere denial. I am waiting for some one to show me by history, fact, or logic that men have social wants superior to liberty and wealth or that any form of Archism will secure them these wants. Until then the foundations of my political and economic creed will remain as I have outlined them in this brief article.

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Emile Armand, “A Little Manual for the Anarchist Individualist” (1911)

I

To be an anarchist is to deny authority and reject its economic corollary: exploitation—and to reject it in every domain of human activity. The anarchist wishes to live without gods or masters; without bosses or directors; a-legal, without laws and without prejudices; amoral, without obligations and without collective morality. He wants to live freely, to live his own idea of life. In his heart of hearts, he is always asocial, insubordinate, an outsider, marginal, an exception, a misfit. And obliged as he is to live in a society the constitution of which is repugnant to his temperament, he dwells there as a foreigner. If he makes unavoidable concessions to his environment—always with the intention of taking them back—in order to avoid risking or sacrificing his life foolishly or uselessly, it is because he considers these concessions weapons of personal defense in the struggle for existence. The anarchist wishes to live his life, as much as possible—morally, intellectually, and economically—without concerning himself with the rest of the world, exploiters or exploited, without wanting to dominate or to exploit others, but ready to respond by all means against whomever would interfere in his life or would prevent him from expressing his thought by the pen or by speech.

The anarchist’s enemies are the State and all its institutions, which tend to maintain or to perpetuate its stranglehold on the individual. There is no possibility of conciliation between the anarchist and any form whatever of society resting on authority, whether it emanates from an autocrat, from an aristocracy, or from a democracy. No common ground is possible between the anarchist and any environment regulated by the decisions of a majority or the wishes of an elite. The anarchist combats, for the same reasons, the teaching furnished by the State and that dispensed by the Church. He is the adversary of monopolies and of privileges, whether they are of the intellectual, moral or economic order. In a word, he is the irreconcilable antagonist of every regime, of every social system, of every state of things that involves the domination of other men or the environment over the individual, and of the exploitation of the individual by another or by the group.

The work of the anarchist is above all a work of critique. The anarchist goes, sowing revolt against that which oppresses, obstructs, or opposes itself to the free expansion of the individual being. It is proper first to rid brains of preconceived ideas, to put at liberty temperaments enchained by fear, to give rise to mindsets free from popular opinion and social conventions; it is thus that the anarchist will push all comers to go along with him to rebel practically against the determinism of the social environment, to affirm themselves individually, to sculpt their internal image, to render themselves, as much as possible, independent of the moral, intellectual and economic environment. He will urge the ignorant to instruct themselves, the nonchalant to react, the feeble to become strong, the bent to straighten. He will push the poorly endowed and less apt to draw from themselves all the resources they can and not to rely on others.

In these regards, an abyss separates anarchism from all forms of socialism, including syndicalism.

The anarchist places at the base of all his conceptions of life: the individual act. And that is why he willingly calls himself anarchist-individualist.

He does not believe that the evils men suffer come exclusively from capitalism or from private property. He believes that they are due above all to the defective mentality of men, taken as a bloc. There are only masters because there are slaves and the gods only remain because the faithful kneel. The individualist anarchist has little interest in a violent revolution, aiming for a transformation of the mode of distribution of products in the collectivist or communist sense, which would hardly bring about a change in the general mentality and which would not bring about the emancipation of the individual being at all. In a communist regime the individual would be as subordinate as he is presently to the good will of those surrounding him: he would find himself as poor, as miserable as he is now; instead of being under the thumb of the small capitalist minority of the present, he would be dominated by the whole of the economy. Nothing would properly belong to him. He would be a producer or a consumer, put a little or take a bit from the communal heap, but he would never be autonomous.

II

The individualist-anarchist differentiates himself from the anarchist-communist in the sense that he considers (apart from property in some objects of enjoyment extending from the personality) property in the means of production and the free disposition of products as essential guarantees of the autonomy of the person. It is understood that this property is limited by the possibility of putting to work (individually, by couples, by familial groups, etc.) the expanse of soil or the engines of production required to meet the necessities of the social unit; with the condition that the possessor not rent it to anyone or turn to someone in his service to put it into use.

The individualist-anarchist no more intends to live at any price—as an individualist exploiter, for example—than he would live under regulation, provided that he was assured a bowl of soup, and guaranteed a dwelling and some clothing.

The individualist-anarchist, moreover, does not claim any system which would bind future relations. He claims to place himself in a state of legitimate defense against every social atmosphere (State, society, milieu, grouping, etc.) which would allow, accept, perpetuate, sanction or render possible:

a) the subordination of the individual being to the environment, placing the individual in a state of obvious inferiority, since he cannot treat with the collective totality as equal to equal, and power to power;

b) the obligation (in whatever domain) of mutual aid, of solidarity, or of association;

c) the deprivation of the individual of the inalienable possession of the means of production and the complete and unrestricted disposition of the product of his labors;

d) the exploitation of anyone by any one of his fellows, who would make him labor on his account and for his profit;

e) monopolization, i.e. the possibility of an individual, a couple, a familial group possessing more than is necessary for its normal upkeep;

f) the monopoly of the State or of any executive form replacing it, i.e., its intervention—in its role as centralizer, administrator, director, or organizer—in the relations between individuals, in whatever domain;

g) the loan at interest, usury, agio, money-changing, inheritance, etc., etc.

III

The individualist-anarchist makes “propaganda” in order to highlight individualist-anarchist dispositions which have been ignore, or at the very least to bring about an intellectual atmosphere favorable to their appearance. Between individualist-anarchists relations are established on the basis of “reciprocity.” “Camaraderie” is essentially of the individual order[ it is never imposed. Those “comrade” whom it pleases him to associate with, will be those who make an appreciable effort to feel life in themselves, who share in his propaganda of educational critique and his choice of persons; who respect the mode of existence of each individual, and do not interfere with the development of those who march forward with him and who touch him the most closely.

The individualist-anarchist is never the slave of a formula-type or of a received text. He admits only opinions. He proposes only theses. He does not impose an end on himself. If he adopts one method of life on one point of detail, it is in order to assure himself more liberty, more happiness, more well-being, but certainly not order to sacrifice himself to it. And he modifies it, and transforms it when it appears to him that to continue to remain faithful to it would diminish his autonomy. He does not want to let himself be dominated by principles established a priori; it is a posteriori, on his experiences, that he bases his rule of conduct, never definitive, always subject to the modifications and to the transformations that new experiences can suggest, and to the necessity of acquiring new weapons in his struggle against the environment—without making an absolute of the a priori.

The individualist-anarchist is never accountable to anyone but himself for his acts and deeds.

The individualist-anarchist considers association only as an expedient, a makeshift. Thus, he wants to associate only in cases of urgency—and always voluntarily. And he only desires to contract, in general, for the short term, it being always understood that every contract can be voided as soon as it harms either one of the contracting parties.

The individualist-anarchist decrees no fixed sexual morality. It is up to each to determine his sexual, affective or sentimental life, as much for one sex as for the other. What is essential is that in intimate relations between anarchists of differing sexes neither violence nor constraint take place. He thinks that economic independence and the possibility of being a mother as she pleases are the initial conditions for the emancipation of woman.

The individualist-anarchist wants to live, wants to be able to appreciate life individually—life considered in all its manifestations. He remains meanwhile master of his will, considering his knowledge, his faculties, his senses, and the multiple organs of perception of his body as so many servitors put at the disposition of his self. He is not a coward, but he does not want to diminish himself. And he knows well that he who allows himself to be led by his passions or dominated by his penchants is a slave. He wants to maintain “the mastery of the self” in order to advance towards the adventures to which independent research and free study lead him. He will willingly advocate a simple life, the renunciation of false, enslaving, useless needs; avoidance of the large cities; a rational diet and bodily hygiene.

The individualist-anarchist will interest himself in the associations formed by certain comrades with an eye to ridding themselves of obsession with a milieu which disgusts them. The refusal of military service, or of paying taxes will have all his sympathy; free unions, single or plural, as a protestation against ordinary morals; illegalism as the violent rupture (and with certain reservations) of an economic contract imposed by force; abstention from every action, from every labor, from every function involving the maintenance or consolidation of the imposed intellectual, ethical or economic regime; the exchange of vital products between individualist-anarchist possessors of the necessary engines of production, apart from every capitalist intermediary; etc., are acts of revolt agreeing essentially with the character of individualist-anarchism.

[Revised translation by Shawn P. Wilbur]

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Max Nettlau, “Anarchism: Communist or Individualist? Both” (1914)

Anarchism is no longer young, and it may be time to ask ourselves why, with all the energy devoted to its propaganda, it does not spread more rapidly. For even where local activity is strongest, the results are limited, whilst immense spheres are as yet hardly touched by any propaganda at all. In discussing this question, I will not deal with the problem of Syndicalism, which, by absorbing so much of Anarchist activity and sympathies, cannot by that very fact be considered to advance the cause of Anarchism proper, whatever its other merits may be. I will also try not to repeat what I put forward in other articles in years gone by as possible means of increasing the activity of Anarchists. As my advice was not heeded, it cannot, in any case, be considered to have hampered the progress of our ideas.

I will consider the theories of Anarchism only; and here I have been struck for a long time by the contrast between the largeness of the aims of Anarchism — the greatest possible realization of freedom and well-being for all — and the narrowness, so to speak, of the economic program of Anarchism, be it Individualist or Communist. I am inclined to think that the feeling of the inadequacy of this economic basis — exclusive Communism or exclusive Individualism, according to the school — hinders people from acquiring practical confidence in Anarchism, the general aims of which appeal as a beautiful ideal to many. I feel myself that neither Communism nor Individualism, if it became the sole economic form, would realize freedom, which always demands a choice of ways, a plurality of possibilities. I know that Communists, when asked pointedly, will say that they should have no objection to Individualists who wished to live in their own way without creating new monopolies or authority, and vice versa. But this is seldom said in a really open and friendly way; both sections are far too much convinced that freedom is only possible if their particular scheme is carried out. I quite admit that there are Communists and Individualists to whom their respective doctrines, and these alone, give complete satisfaction and leave no problem unsolved (in their opinion); these would not be interfered with, in any case, in their lifelong constancy to one economic ideal. But they must not imagine that all people are constituted after their model and likely to come round to their views or remain “unreclaimed” adversaries on whom no sympathy is to be wasted. Let them but look on real life, which is bearable at all only by being varied and differentiated, in spite of all official uniformity. We all see the survivals of earlier Communism, the manifold workings of present-day solidarity, from which new forms of future Communism may develop — all this in the teeth of the cut-throat capitalist Individualism which predominates. But this miserable bourgeois Individualism, if it created a desire for solidarity, leading to Communism, certainly also created a desire for a genuine, free, unselfish Individualism, where freedom of action would no longer be misused to crush the weaker and to form monopolies, as to-day.

Neither Communism nor Individualism will ever disappear; and if by some mass action the foundations of some rough form of Communism were laid, Individualism would grow stronger than ever in opposition to this. Whenever a uniform system prevails, Anarchists, if they have their ideas at heart, will go ahead of it and never permit themselves to become fossilised upholders of a given system, be it that of the purest Communism.

Will they, then, be always dissatisfied, always struggling, never enjoying rest? They might feel at ease in a state of society where all economic possibilities had full scope, and then their energy might be applied to peaceful emulation and no longer to continuous struggle and demolition. This desirable state of things could be prepared from now, if it were once for all frankly understood among Anarchists that both Communism and Individualism are equally important, equally permanent; and that the exclusive predominance of either of them would be the greatest misfortune that could befall mankind. From isolation we take refuge in solidarity, from too much society we seek relief in isolation: both solidarity and isolation are, each at the right moment, freedom and help to us. All human life vibrates between these two poles in endless varieties of oscillations.

Let me imagine myself for a moment living in a free society. I should certainly have different occupations, manual and mental, requiring strength or skill. It would be very monotonous if the three or four groups with whom I would work (for I hope there will be no Syndicates then!) would be organized on exactly the same lines; I rather think that different degrees or forms of Communism will prevail in them. But might I not become tired of this, and wish for a spell of relative isolation, of Individualism? So I might turn to one of the many possible forms of “equal exchange” Individualism. Perhaps people will do one thing when they are young and another thing when they grow older. Those who are but indifferent workers may continue with their groups; those who are efficient will lose patience at always working with beginners and will go ahead by themselves, unless a very altruist disposition makes it a pleasure to them to act as teachers or advisers to younger people. I also think that at the beginning I should adopt Communism with friends and Individualism with strangers, and shape my future life according to experience. Thus, a free and easy change from one variety of Communism to another, thence to any variety of Individualism, and so on, would be the most obvious and elementary thing in a really free society; and if any group of people tried to check this, to make one system predominant, they would be as bitterly fought as revolutionists fight the present system.

Why, then, was Anarchism cut up into the two hostile sections of Communists and Individualists? I believe the ordinary factor of human shortcomings, from which nobody is exempt, accounts for this. It is quite natural that Communism should appeal more to some, Individualism to others. So each section would work out their economic hypothesis with full ardour and conviction, and by-and-by, strengthened in their belief by opposition, consider it the only solution, and remain faithful to it in the face of all. Hence the Individualist theories for about a century, the Collectivist and Communist theories for about fifty years, acquired a degree of settledness, certitude, apparent permanency, which they never ought to have assumed, for stagnation — this is the word — is the death of progress. Hardly any effort was made in favor of dropping the differences of schools; thus both had full freedom to grow, to become generalized, if they could. With what result?

Neither of them could vanquish the other. Wherever Communists are, Individualists will originate from their very midst; whilst no Individualist wave can overthrow the Communist strongholds. Whilst here aversion or enmity exists between people who are so near each other, we see Communist Anarchism almost effacing itself before Syndicalism, no longer scorning compromise by accepting more or less the Syndicalist solution as an inevitable stepping-stone. On the other hand, we see Individualists almost relapse into bourgeois fallacies — all this at a time when the misdeeds of authority, the growth of State encroachments, present a better occasion and a wider field than ever for real and outspoken Anarchist propaganda.

It has come to this, that at the French Communist Anarchist Congress held in Paris last year Individualism was regularly stigmatised and placed outside the pale of Anarchism by a formal resolution. If ever an international Anarchist Congress was held on these lines, endorsing a similar attitude, I should say good-bye to all hopes placed in this kind of sectarian Anarchism.

By this I intend neither to defend nor to combat Communism or Individualism. Personally, I see much good in Communism; but the idea of seeing it generalized makes me protest. I should not like to pledge my own future beforehand, much less that of anybody else. The Question remains entirely open for me; experience will show which of the extreme and of the many intermediate possibilities will be the best on each occasion, at each time. Anarchism is too dear to me that I should care to see it tied to an economic hypothesis, however plausible it may look to-day. Unique solutions will never do, and whilst everybody is free to believe in and to propagate his own cherished ideas, he ought not to feel it right to spread them except in the form of the merest hypothesis, and every one knows that the literature of Communist and Individualist Anarchism is far from keeping within these limits; we have all sinned in this respect.

In the above I have used the terms “Communist” and “Individualist” in a general way, wishing to show the useless and disastrous character of sectional exclusiveness among Anarchists. If any Individualists have said or done absurd things (are Communists impeccable?), to show these up would not mean to refute me. All I want is to see all those who revolt against authority work on lines of general solidarity instead of being divided into little chapels because each one is convinced he possesses a correct economic solution of the social problem. To fight authority in the capitalist system and in the coming system of State Socialism, or Syndicalism, or of both, or all the three combined, an immense wave of real Anarchist feeling is wanted, before ever the question of economic remedies comes in. Only recognize this, and a large sphere of solidarity will be created, which will make Communist Anarchism stand stronger and shine brighter before the world than it does now.

P. S. — Since writing the above I have found an early French Anarchist pamphlet, from which I translate the following:

“Thus, those who feel so inclined will unite for common life, duties, and work, whilst those to whom the slightest act of submission would give umbrage will remain individually independent. The real principle [of Anarchism] is this far from demanding integral Communism. But it is evident that for the benefit of certain kinds of work many producers will unite, enjoying the advantages of co-operation. But I say once more, Communism will never be a fundamental [meaning unique and obligatory] principle, on account of the diversity of our intellectual faculties, of our needs, and of our will.”

This quotation (the words in brackets are mine) is taken from p. 72 of what may be one of the scarcest Anarchist publications, on which my eye lit on a bookstall ten days after writing the above article: “Philosophie de l’lnsoumission ou Pardon a Cain,” par Felix P. (New York, 1854, iv. 74 pp., 12mo) — that is, “Philosophy of Non-Submission,” the author’s term for Anarchy. I do not know who Felix P. was; apparently one of the few French Socialists, like Dejacque, Bellegarrigue, Coeurderoy, and Claude Pelletier, whom the lessons of 1848 and other experiences caused to make a bold step forward and arrive at Anarchism by various ways and independent of Proudhon. In the passage quoted he put things into a nutshell, leaving an even balance between the claims of Communism and Individualism. This is exactly what I feel in 1914, sixty years after. The personal predilections of everybody would remain unchanged and unhurt, but exclusivism would be banished, the two vital principles of life allied instead of looking askance at each other.

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Renzo Novatore, “Anarchist Individualism in the Social Revolution” (1919)

1

Anarchist individualism as we understand it – and I say we because a substantial handful of friends think this like me – is hostile to every school and every party, every churchly and dogmatic moral, as well as every more or less academic imbecility. Every form of discipline, rule and pedantry is repulsive to the sincere nobility of our vagabond and rebellious restlessness!

Individualism is, for us, creative force, immortal youth, exalting beauty, redemptive and fruitful war. It is the marvelous apotheosis of the flesh and the tragic epic of the spirit. Our logic is that of not having any. Our ideal is the categorical negation of all other ideals for the greatest and supreme triumph of the actual, real, instinctive, reckless and merry life! For us perfection is not a dream, an ideal, a riddle, a mystery, a sphinx, but a vigorous and powerful, luminous and throbbing reality. All human beings are perfect in themselves. All they lack is the heroic courage of their perfection. Since the time that human beings first believed that life was a duty, a calling, a mission, it has meant shame for their power of being, and in following phantoms, they have denied themselves and distanced themselves from the real. When Christ said to human beings: “be yourselves, perfection is in you!” he launched a superb phrase that is the supreme synthesis of life.

It is useless that the bigots, theologians and philosophers do their utmost with deceitful and dialectical sophisms to give a false interpretation to Christ’s words. But when Christ speaks this way to human beings, he disavows his entire calling to renunciation, to a mission and to faith, and all the rest of his doctrine collapses miserably in the mud, knocked down by he himself. And here, and here alone, is Christ’s great tragedy. Let human beings open their misty eyes in the blinding sun of this truth, and they will find themselves face to face with their true and laughing redemption.

This is the ethical part individualism, neither romantically mystical, nor idealistically monastic, neither moral, nor immoral, but amoral, wild, furious and warlike, that keeps its luminous roots voluptuously rooted in the phosphorescent perianth of pagan nature, and its verdant foliage resting on the purple mouth of virgin life.

2

To every form of human Society that would try to impose renunciations and artificial sorrow on our anarchic and rebellious I, thirsting for free and exulting expansion, we will respond with a roaring and sacrilegious howl of dynamite.

To all those demagogues of politics and of philosophy that carry in their pockets a beautiful system made by mortgaging a corner of the future, we respond with Bakunin: Oafs and weaklings! Every duty that they would like to impose on us we will furiously trample under our sacrilegious feet. Every shady phantom that they would place before our eyes, greedy for light, we will angrily rip up with our daringly profaning hands. Christ was ashamed of his own doctrine and he broke it first. Friedrich Nietzsche was afraid of his overhuman and made it die in the midst of his agonizing animals, asking pity of the higher man. But we are neither afraid nor ashamed of the liberated Human Being.

We exalt Prometheus, the sacrilegious thief who stole the eternal spark from Jove’s heaven to animate the man of clay, and we glorify Hercules, the powerful, liberating hero.

3

Pagan nature has placed a Prometheus in the mind of every mortal human being, and a Hercules in the brain of every thinker. But morality, that disgusting enchantress of philosophers, peoples and humanity, has glorified and sanctified the vulture exalting it as divine justice, and divine justice, which Comte humanized, has condemned the Hero.

The Human Being of furrow and the thinker have trembled before this baleful phantom and courage has remained defeated under the enormous weight of fear.

But anarchist individualism is a brilliant and fatal torch that casts light into the darkness into the realm of fear and puts to flight the phantoms of Divine justice that Comte humanized.

Individualism is the free and unconstrained song that reconnects the individual to the eternal and universal pan-dynamism, that is neither moral nor immoral, but that is everything. Nature; and Life! What is Life? Depths and peaks, instinct and reason, light and darkness, mud and beauty, joy and sorrow. Disavowal of the past, domination of the present, longing and yearning for the future.

Life is all this. And all this is also individualism. Who seeks to escape Life? Who dares to deny it?

4

The Social Revolution is the sudden awakening of Prometheus after a fall into a faint of sorrow caused by the foul vulture that rips his heart to shreds. It is an attempt at self-liberation. But the chains with which the sinister god Jove had him chained on the Caucasus by the repugnant servant Vulcan cannot be broken except by the Titanic rebel Hero, son of Jove himself.

We rebel children of this putrid humanity that has chained human beings in the dogmatic mud of social superstitions will never miss bringing our tremendous axe blow down on the rusty links of this hateful chain.

Yes, we anarchist individualists are for Social Revolution, but in our way, it’s understood!

5

The revolt of the individual against society is not given by that of the masses against governments. Even when the masses submit to governments, living in the sacred and shameful peace of their resignation, the anarchist individual lives against society because he is in a never-ending and irreconcilable war with it, but when, at a historical turning point, he comes together with the masses in revolt, he raises his black flag with them and throws his dynamite with them.

The anarchist individualist is in the Social Revolution, not as a demagogue, but as a inciting element, not as an apostle, but as a living, effective, destructive force…

All past revolutions were in the end, bourgeois and conservative. That which flashes on the red horizon of our magnificently tragic time will have for its aim the fierce socialist humanism. We, anarchist individualists, will enter into the revolution for an exclusive need of our own to set fire to and incite spirits. To make sure that, as Stirner says, it is not a new revolution that approaches, but rather an immense, proud, reckless, shameless, conscienceless crime that rumbles with the lightning on the horizon, and beneath which the sky, swollen with foreboding, grows dark and silent. And Ibsen: “There’s only one revolution I recognize – that was truly, thoroughly radical – … I’m referring to the ancient Flood! That one alone was truly serious. But even then the devil lost his due: you know Noah took up the dictatorship. Let’s make this revolution again, but more thoroughly. It requires real men as well as orators. So you bring on the roaring waters, I’ll supply the powder keg to blow up the ark.”

Now since dictatorship will be – alas! – inevitable in the somber global revolution that sends its bleak glow from the east over our black cowardice, the ultimate task of we anarchist individualists will be that of blowing up the final ark with bomb explosions and the final dictator with Browning shots. The new society established, we will return to its margins to live our lives dangerously as noble criminals and audacious sinners! Because the anarchist individualist still means eternal renewal, in the field of art, thought and action.

Anarchist individualism still means eternal revolt against eternal sorrow, the eternal search for new springs of life, joy and beauty. And we will still be such in Anarchy.

– written under the name of Mario Ferrento

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