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A Paper on Communism and Anarchism,

By John Most

New York, Bernhard & Schenck, 167 William Street, 1890.

A DAGGER in one hand, a torch in the other, and all his pockets brimful with dynamite-bombs -- that is the picture of the anarchist, such as it has been drawn by his enemies. They look at him simply as a mixture of a fool and a knave, whose able, purpose is universal topsy-turvy, and whose only means to that purpose is to slay anyone and everyone who differs from him.

The picture is an ugly carricature, but its general acceptance is not to be wondered at, since, for years all non-anarchistic papers have been busy in circulating it. Even in certain labor-organs one may find the anarchist represented as merely a man of violence, destitute of all noble aspirations, and the most absurd views of the principles of anarchism occur in those very papers.

As for the violence, which people take as the characteristic mark of the anarchist, it cannot and it shall not be denied, that most anarchists feel convinced that the development of the present social order cannot be brought upon its right track by peacable proceedings only. But that is a question of tactics which has nothing to do with principles.

Anarchism means itself a new social order, and anyone who knows human life from its depths to its heights, and has the courage to fling aside all patching up and smoothing down, all bargaining and compromising, and draw the necessary conclusions from past evolution, must arrive at the very principle on which this new order shall be built up. Our principle is: to prevent all command over man by his fellowmen, to, make state, government, laws, or whatsoever form of compulsion existing, a thing of the past, to establish full freedom for all. Anarchism means first and foremost freedom from all government.

But--is really such a state of affairs desirable? Of course, those in command will answer: no. But those under compulsion? Nearly fifty years ago Marx demonstrated, how all political contests which have taken place during the, whole course of history, were class-contests. The class which reigned strove to maintain their government (archy), because they grew fat on it, and the class which thralled strove to break up the government (anarchy), because it impelled them towards starvation.

The name was different in each case, but the principle was always the same: anarchy against archy. And then again--if this be so, why is anarchism still an idea grossly missunderstood instead of having become, long ago, an idea completely realized? There can and some day there shall be given full answer to this question.

At present it will be sufficient to remind the reader of the fact, that an idea may miscarry without getting lost. Look down this long series of contests. The results are palpable. The popular demand for freedom is stronger and clearer than it has ever been before, and the conditions far reaching the goal are more favorable, We are apparently nearer to anarchism at this moment than any one could have dreamt of a century ago. It is evident, that through the whole course of history runs an evolution before which slavery of any kind, compulsion under any form, government of any description (archy) must break down, and from which freedom, full and unlimited, freedom for all and from all (anarchy) must come. For anarchism is not a fanciful idea, some kind of Utopia:

Not, by any means. It is a natural and necessary issue of the progress of civilization itself. The goal towards which all human aspirations logically bend. And, of course, when a certain stage of social development thus at once defines itself not only as desirable but also as the logically necessarry result of hart evolution the question of its possibility, often raised by political philosophers who were weak rather than cautious, becomes of very slight consequence.

From this also follows, that anarchism cannot be a retrograde movement, as has been maliciously insinuated that the anarchists march in the front and not in the rear of the army of freedom and that the supposed opposition between socialists and anarchists, asserted over and over again, is an open absurdity.

Socialism, in the broadest sense of the word, encompasses every doctrine or tendency, which applies to human society. In its narrower sense the word means some special, more or less clearly defined system of social order.

But even of the latter description there are many kinds of socialists, for in our days nearly everyone deals or dapples in social reforms. There are royal, aristocratic, christian, etc., socialists. William I. preached social reforms at every occasion, such as he understood them. Bismarck sometimes calls himself a socialist. Stoecker, the pastor, has propounded numerous conundrums of the kind. The company is certainly somewhat mixed. For this very reason many serious socialists have long ago felt it necessary to point out some mark which allowed of no doubt with respect to the fundamental character of their intentions. They called themselves communists, thereby indicating that they intended to make the soil and all, that is in and on it, common property. They were not led on by pious wishes or fanciful speculations, but by sober observation of the present state of society, which necessarily provokes and absolutely demands a transformation in that direction.

The class, that now reigns, the bourgeoisie, has completely reconstructed the whole mechanism of production and exchange.

First the capitalist drove away the independent master-mechanic. Then, in their turn, the capitalists were driven away by stock-companies. But even the stock-companies could not hold stand against monopolies, trusts, pools, etc., and at this moment there is seriously spoken of, how to give not only certain branches of industry, but whole groups of enterprises a still more general form.

The avowed purpose of this movement was to produce the greatest possible quantity of goods by the least possible exertion of human labor; and to a certain extent the purpose was reached.

But another experience followed in the wake. The mass of the people fell from insufficiency into poverty, and from poverty into misery, and now it comes upon us, that if this movement is allowed to go on for any length of time, the human race, morally degraded, will die out from physical want in the midst of a world of plenty.

But such a state is downright insanity, and demands peremptorily a thorough reorganization of the social order. The establishment of an entirely new social system.

To go back to the small industry of former days is not possible, however. The advantages of the mass-production and the organization of labor are too apparent ever to be given up.

Consequently, nothing else is left but to make common property out of all that, which forms the fundamental conditions of production and exchange: to introduce communism.

In this point all agree who are dissatisfied with the existing order, and want another which can make all men free; and equal and happy. It is therefore simply a bad piece of malice or a big piece of stupidity, when some people say of the anarchists, that in this very point they have taken up an adverse position.

No! The anarchists are socialists, because they too want a radical social reform; and they are communists, because: they too feel convinced that community of property must form the only basis of such a reform. But there are something more. They have also a characteristic mark of their own, and neither socialism nor communism will ever fully satisfy them until thoroughly pervaded by the spirit of anarchism and, stamped with its mark.

Meanwhile it is so much the more necessary for the anarchists to keep the character-mark of their stand point indicated by their very name, as there is quite a number of communists who -- singularly enough -- designate the future social order as a ,,State," the ,,State of the Future," the ,,State of the People," etc., and provide this state with the most, monstrous. governmental machinery and laws by the bushel, as if the communistic society should be nothing but a mass of idiots taken care of by a number of mandarins.

Of course, no consistent socialist or communist will have anything to do with such an idea. They know too well that the state is and always was a mere instrument of suppression and that the reigning class always has used and still uses this instrument to protect their privileges and force the mass of the people to submit. But what meaning could such an instrument of suppression have in a free country? There are no privileges to protect and no unprivileged to keep in awe.

The establishment of communism is unthinkable until the present slavery has been abolished. Or is there some other kind of slavery to be established? If not, then any kind of government is useless, for a government which governs nobody is only a knife without a blade, and such a thing is not worth much. But if communism, in order to establish true liberty and equality, must free itself from any kind of government, then we have anarchism.

When state and government have gone, laws must go. People who speak of "laws" in a communistic society, think perhaps only of those general rules of sensible and noble conduct which every good man finds it easy to observe. But in that case they use a wrong word. A law is a rule connected with an apparatus to compel obedience. Behind the law stand the court, the sheriff, the police, the hangman, etc., and who wants them? None, we guess.

Morally, the state, the government and the laws are the principal causes of vice and crime. But with the cause the effect will disappear.

Industrially, they are the principal hindrances to success and plenty, for, experience, with respect to what is necessary and useful, teaches better what to do and how to do it, than any bureaucracy hovering above in the blind.

If, indeed, anyone should think that, in the communistic society, man must still remain under some form of compulsion in order to, do what is right, and leave off what is wrong, he had better give up communism at once and abandon all hope for the human race.

But fortunately the idea is a mistake. Mankind of to-day is not what mankind of tomorrow will be. Then is no necessity to seek refuge in dreams and speak to later generations.

Sober experience has something to say in this case. Whenever some grand and magnificent event takes place, all who are connected with it, closely or distantly, undergo some change, from a slight modification to a complete transformation. With irresistible power it loosens something in them all and binds other things.

Now, take the yoke of slavery from off the shoulders of man and place him in a sphere of full liberty and you shall see how naturally it comes to him to act towards his fellow-men as a brother towards brethren. For man is not bad by nature. Only as member of a society in which each looks to himself only and no one cares for the rest, has he become what to-day he is.

From the institution of private property arose envy, avarice, graspiness, insolent haughtiness, courage tot defraud, lust in crushing, in short, the whole gang of the most common and the most dastardly vices, and with that institution they will also fall, giving room for brotherly love, a strong feeling of common responsibility and eagerness for everything conductive of general good.

But life of such a character will never fit into the frame-work of a state, and when the communists shrink back from anarchism, -- it is the name, not the principle they fear. It is only a ghost that has frightened them.

Nor is there any good reason why the other communists should stand aloof from the anarchists on account of their tactics.

Anyone who is radically opposed to the present social order and works for a reform on the basis of community of property, must in the heart be a revolutionist.

The difference between the anarchists and those among their co-workers who feel a little shy, is simply that the latter practice a kind of opportunist policy.

But what is the use of it? The anarchists are no blood-hounds. They have no lust for murder and incendiarism. But they carry on a revolutionary agitation, because they know that the power of a privileged class has never yet been broken by peaceable means, and because they feel convinced that the bourgeoisie will also be removed by force only.

Therefore they consider it absolutely necessary that the mass of the people never for a moment forgets the gigantic contest which must come before their ideas can be realized, and therefore they use every means at their disposal - the speech, the press, the deed -- to hasten the revolutionary development.

But who can take the matter seriously and blame them for that?

Settled, once for all, it is, that the weal of mankind, as the future will and must bring it, depends upon communism; that the system of communism; logically, excludes any and ever relation between master and servant, and means really anarchism; and that the way to the goal leads through a social revolution.

We understand very well, why capitalists, wire-politicians, press- and pulpit-bablers, philestines and old-foggies hate us from the bottom of their heart and we have more than once had an opportunity to show these social, political and heavenly priests, how well we comprehend their feelings.

But we do not understand at all why attacks should be directed against us from the very labor-agitators, attacks, sometimes of incredible malice, often of petrified fanaticism, and generally of piteous lack of appreciation. --- As often as we have tried to set forth our views of modern, that is, communistic anarchism, we have been contradicted at the same time from two opposite directions.

From one side we have been told, that we went too far, that we overlooked the necessary transition-forms of the social evolution, that the subreptitiously substituted anarchism for socialism, and when we tried to explain that anarchism is simply a social order without government, such as it must present itself to the eyes of every consistent socialist, who fights for true liberty and equality, our explanation, was suppressed and the old assertion re-iterated, that socialism and anarchism are direct contradictions.

From the other side we have quite recently been told that our tendencies are of completely reactionary character, that we run after the fala morgana of a by-gone individualism of mall-industry, etc.

But how could we or anybody else perform the ledgerdemain: at the same time to pursue the ideal, of an ante-deluvian small-industry and yet make propaganda for some altogether too distant ideas of the future? Verily, we want some "scientific" Count Oerindur to tell us which is which!

In reality the case stands thus: when our adversaries tell their followers that we deal in the ideas of an antiquated small-industry, they simply tell a lie, and when for the sake of argument they point to Benjamin Tucker, the black of their lie does not become whiter.

Mr. Tucker is a pupil of the Manchester school, who has come too late into the market. He stands outside of the modern class-movement of the great mass knows not the laws according to which social development nowadays proceeds.

He is ignorant both of the tendencies and the technical achievements of our industrial life, and when he speaks of anarchism, he represents no known social order at all, but simply paints out an illusion fostered by his own brain.

In Europe he is nobody, and in America he is somebody only in certain literary circles which, without any real understanding of the matter, follow a loose, sentimental longing to reform the world.

To use that man as an argument against us, is simply a trick, but tricks are not legitimate weapons in a serious discussion.

Sometimes also Krapotkin [sic] is quoted against us as a "true" anarchist and, of course, always on the supposition that he, like Tucker, rejects communism.

But that is a grievous mistake. Krapotkin is namely the most decided communist who ever existed. It is due to him that in certain countries: France, Italy, Spain and Belgium, the anarchists emphasize their communistic Standpoint at every opportunity and in a some-what ostentatious manner.

To him, as to us, communism is the main point, and anarchism merely the finishing touch. About tell years ago, at the anarchist congress of the Jura-Federation at St. Imier, he moved that a sacrifice should be made to the ruling prejudice by cancelling the name "anarchist" and adopting that of "free communist." The proposition was not carried but it showed, nevertheless, that Krapotkin first and foremost is a communist. Indeed, he is so far from being in opposition to communistic anarchism that, on the contrary, he may be considered its father.

In all this there is nothing but malice or ignorance. But the attacks of our adversaries often present n new hue, no less detrimental to the cause, it is personal Squabbles, which have no other reason than personal rivalry and party-maneouvring, may, find, if not a true justification, at least a natural excuse, as long as they are confined to the native soil from which they sprang, to Europe.

But to carry them over to a foreign country and continue them here in America is utterly absurd. What interest could the Americans take in such futilitities?

One should think, that the emigrant socialist would like to leave nil that stuff behind when crossing the ocean rind that, after arriving here, he at least would try to fit himself for the exigencies of the American propaganda

But no! he seems to [unreadable] bound to haul along his fatherland by his boot-soles. Conscienciously he takes up here every thread he left off there.

With the most minute exactness he imitates on American ground ail the movements of the social-democracy in Germany, undisturbed by the fact that the ground is another. But that is waste, if nothing worse.

Overlooking the fact, that in principles there is hardly any difference at nil between the various groups of the movement, and' flint even the difference of opinion with respect to tactics seems not to be altogether irremediable, he floes to work and creates splits in the ranches, which have no natural excuse and still less any true justification.

Much has been lost in that way and, curious to say, then he turns round upon us and reproaches us, that our method is "un-American."

It has occurred to us, that no country in the world is to-day so well prepared for anarchist agitation as America.

In the monarchical countries of Europe people ,are still very enthusiastic for what they call the state of the people -- the republic-- and dream of the establishment of such an it institution as a means to solve the social difficulties which press upon them. .

That enthusiasm must be spent, that illusion must burst before time- comes s far a really effective anarchist agitation, and such an opportunity will hardly present itself until a practical experiment with the dream has been made.

In France the laboring man had a taste of what the state of the people can and will do for him, already in 1848, but the taste was not sweet. In 1871 he proved to have made some progress. He tried to establish the independent commune in opposition to the state. But the attempt failed and the plan is insufficient.

After that time the "republican" government has taken good care to extinguish every spark of faith in the idea of a state of the people from, his breast. Still, France is not through with the experiment.

In America, on the contrary, the state in which everything is done "by the people and for the people," has existed since more than a century; and who does not see that the true historical significance of this huge experiment is the terrible warning, it gives all future statesmen?

To the government-cars are harnessed corruption, egotism, intrigue, that mean submissiveness which is the piteous inheritance of suppression through generations, and nothing else. All noble hearts, all intellectual heads have long ago turned away from the whole government-machinery with [unreadable] disgust, and the poll they hate as the plague.

Now, does anybody suppose that such men are not, somehow or other, perhaps unconsciously, tolerably well prepared for the ideas of anarchism?

They are! Their faith in the goodness and power and wisdom and justice of the state they have given up long ago as a frivolous superstition, and now they have only left a choice between that pessimism which gives up humanity in despair and --- anarchism.

That is the true reason for the terrible hatred which the conservative or reactionary party here bears to the anarchists, and which, in Chicago, led them to commit one of the meanest political crimes on record.

It is observations of this kind, which: have dictated us our method of agitation, and our adversaries among our brethren had better examine the former before they condemn the latter-- as un-American.

Probably the result would be, that they immediately join us in our battle against the church, the state and the bourse, that “holy trinity," which must be dethroned if room shall be made for liberty, equality and brotherly love.


The principal objection which non-anarchistic socialists prefer against anarchism is its doctrine of "free contracts."

While the anarchists push on and proclaim, that, in a free society, all its members must form all their relations on a basis of free agreements, the non-anarchistic socialists look on with a smile of doubt and remain in the field of social compulsion.

But it is of no use to them to argue that a system of compulsion, which presses equally on all in general, is not felt by any single individual in particular. The argument is nonsense.

All people are not alike, nor do they feel the same thing in the same manner: And even if it were true, it would only argue in behalf of a milder form of the existing system of compulsion and not in behalf of a social order in which freedom itself is the only regulator. Nor is there any escape to be found in their reference to an almost everlasting voting by the whole people. Either the whole people is shrewd enough, to find what is' right at every point, and then any kind of political government or social guardianship is' entirely superfluous; or the whole people is not shrewd enough to prevent the formation of a well-drilled aristocracy of demagogues, and then we have the old story over again.

It is, however, by no means necessary to launch out into an unknown world [unreadable] to form a well defined idea of how free contracts work.

There is for instance the world's postal-union. Each individual postal organization enters the general combination on a simple agreement, concerning the services to be rendered and to be received.

There is no international court with power to summon and compel him who breaks the agreement; there are only conferences to mediate when irregularities or misunderstandings occur.

Nevertheless, the agreement is never broken, for the simple reason that the party which did so, would hurt itself.

And this institution, which can serve as a model for a multitude of similar free combinations in the most different spheres of human life, is by no means unique. There are the trusts, the pools, etc., formed by people who, as a rule, are not very sharp-sighted, so far as the general good is concerned.

In most countries combinations of this character are illegal, and there is no law which can compel the parties to keep the contract. Nevertheless, it is seldom broken-- for the very same reason as above: self-interest.

Then there are hundreds and hundreds of combinations, which now work with great success and perfectly harmoniously without any other kind of compulsion than the individual moral feeling, singing-societies, turner-associations, sporting-clubs, societies for political, literary, scientific, or artistic purposes, etc; and here it should not be overlooked that, whenever the government has interfered with the working of such associations, its interference has always proved a hindrance, never an aid.

But when so much has been achieved by the free contract in a society like the present, in a world full of egotists, where are the limits for what it can do in a social order such as the one we intend to establish, in 'a social order founded upon communism, in which the institution of private property is left out and thereby heat and water taken from every germ of egotism? At all events, in a society, all of whose members are free, and equal in the true sense of the words, there is no other means than free contracts, by which to form combinations or build up relations of any kind. Compulsion by laws of any kind or in any form is absolutely excluded by the very orders of liberty and equality.

We have sometimes heard the argument preferred that in the economical sphere in which freedom rules, at least to a certain extent, as the government never directly interferes with the business of production and exchange, this very freedom has led to the direct results.

The argument is, however, of a somewhat peculiar description; it has a wooden leg which we propose to cut off.

When namely,iIn the present society, the free movements of the economical world have brought us face to face with social questions of the greatest magnitude and most pressing urgency; the true cause "of this perilous situation is not the application of the principle of freedom, but, the institution of property, behind which the government itself stands guard.

It is this institution, which has made the poor slaves of the rich, and it is the power of the state which keeps them in bondage.

Nowhere in the problem is the economical freedom involved, but everywhere the institution of private property, which must be abolished, and the power of the state, which must be broken.

Of the part which laws and law-making will have to act in the coming social order, no sharp disagreement is necessary or even possible. The one fact, that each generation invariably considers the laws of its predecessor as gross mistakes, not to use any harder expression, throws a peculiar light on the subject. Indeed, the history of legislation must be defined as the history of the queerest errors possible.

Or do not laws against magic, heresy, and innumerable other things, which at one time were punished with barbarous cruelty while now they pass by entirely unnoticed, impress us as a sort of mental aberrations? Was it not downright insanity to use the stake, the sack, or other instruments of cruelty as means by which to find out the guilt or innocence of a man?

But can we be sure that a later generation will look with milder eyes upon our laws with their gallows and hangmen, their cells and chains? No! Buckle was right when he declared those laws the best which simply abolish former laws.

There is, however, one more point in the dispute between us and our adversaries which needs a little further elucidation, the question namely whether those organizations which in the communistic society will be formed by free contracts, are likely to assume the character of centralization and federation.

We think, in accordance with what experiences has proved, that earlier or later, but under whatsoever circumstances, centralization always must lay a large amount of power in a very few hands, which circumstance again must create a kind of domination on the one side and cause a lack of liberty on the other. And we believe that once, when the social problem has been solved on the plan of communism all the world over, the idea of centralization shall present itself to the eyes of mankind as a monstrosity. Imagine a central-committee of a baker-generals sitting in Washington and prescribing to the baker-boys of Pekin and Melbourne they form and the taste of their rolls. That would be a slavery so complete as no mandarine ever dreamt of. No, all relations will regulate themselves according to practice and experience such as the no-government principle of anarchism demands it.

And here we may stop having gone over the whole ground of our dispute with those other groups of the labor-party which incline more to the right and cling more closely to tradition. One by one we have taken up the various questions of principle and tactics which form the subject of the debate, also touching upon the unfortunate character of personality which the discussion incidentally has assumed.

One by one we have demonstrated the true relation between anarchism and communism, between state and free contract, between centralization and federation, setting aright what a willful and inconsistent criticism has done wrong. Of course, our purpose in doing this has not been to make a split between us and our adversaries still wider; on the contrary, we have hoped to bridge it over. An immediate and complete unison we shall not expect, but it seems to us that with sufficient good will on both sides it should be possible to gather all the diverging groups into closed ranks and the immense importance of such a maneouvre with respect to the final issue of the contest must be evident to all.

Unfortunate in this respect is the subscription to some sharply defined platform which generally is demanded by all parties for admission. Doctrine is not life. There is something above the dogma and it is a pity, that the world has not seen it before. Words, even good words, have caused more discord in human life than perhaps anything else. Nevertheless, referring to the distinction we have made above between centralization and federation, it does not seem impossible to us to find some short formulas which covered the whole in a general way and yet left the details to the decision of each party-organization.

There is, for instance, the Pittsburgh Proclamation, the declaration of the principles of the communistic anarchists of America. A recapitulation of its whole contents is found at the end. The two first paragraphs contain, approximately at least, all that is common to all communists. They read thus:

First:-- Destruction of [unreadable] class rule, by all means, i.e. by energetic, relentless, revolutionary and international action.

Second:-- Establishment of a free society based upon co-operative organization of production.

This, or something similar, could be used as the general watchword, under which the socialists and the anarchists formed in line for battle. The rest could be left for those to settle who, having triumphed, must devote their energies to the development of a free community, -- a community in which each and every form of slavery is definitely abolished.


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