Ernest Alfred Vizetelly. The Anarchists: Their Faith and Their Record. Turnbull and Spears Printers, Edingurgh, 1911.
THEIR FAITH AND THEIR RECORD
CHAPTER I: INTRODUCTION
PRECURSORS AND THEORIES OF MODERN ANARCHISM
Traces of Anarchist Theories in Ancient Times--Zeno, the Gnostics, Joachim and Amaury of Chartres--Wat Tyler's Rebellion--John Ball and his Anarchist Principles--All Law to be Rejected and all Lawyers killed--The Adamites and the Anabaptists--Jean Meslier the Priest of the Ardennes--Anacharsis Clootz--Diderot and his famous Distich--Jean Jacques Rousseau, Hebert and Babeuf-- Claude Pelletier--The Seven Sages of Anarchism: Godwin, Proudhon, Stirner, Bakunin, Kropotkin, Tucker, Tolstoi--The Views of Jean Grave and Charles Malato--The Propaganda by Deed--Differentiation of Nihilism from Anarchism.
BROADLY speaking, the Anarchist is a man who claims to be a law unto himself, and doubtless there have been Anarchists ever since the world began. Those who accept the Mosaic account of the Creation may, perhaps, regard Adam as the first Anarchist, whilst scientists may be inclined to seek the latter, not in any Garden of Eden, but among the cave or lake dwellers of the prehistoric ages Coming, however, to historical antiquity, it is claimed that most of the ideas of the modern Anarchist schools figured among the theories expounded by one or another Greek philosopher, such for instance as Zeno of Cittium, the founder of the Stoic school. Again, among the ninety different sects into which, as St Augustine tells us, Christianity was divided already in the third century of our era, there were some holding views very similar to those which have been enunciated in our time by partisans of Anarchism. ID this connection, the Gnostics may be particularly mentioned. Much later, that is in the twelfth and the early part of the thirteenth century, one comes across a few scattered spiritualistic Anarchists, such as Joachim, the prophesying Abbot of Fiore in Calabria, and Amaury of Chartres, whose bones (after his death) were burnt together with his books, which had been adjudged heretical; whilst his more prominent disciples, nearly all of whom were priests, were committed alive to the flames.
In English history the first occasion, to our knowledge, on which Anarchist theories came prominently to the front was that of the great rising of 1381, commonly called Wat Tyler's Rebellion. It will be remembered that the more immediate cause of that insurrection was the levying of a poll-tax, but behind that impost there was the tyrannical Statute of Labourers, which had proceeded from the great ravages caused by the Black Death some years previously. Those ravages had created a shortage in the labour market, of which shortage the workers naturally desired to avail themselves in order to obtain better remuneration. But it had been enacted by the aforesaid statute that wages should remain precisely the same as they had been before the Black Death. Thus, it is not surprising that a popular outbreak should have ensued. Although the part played by Kent in the insurrection, under the leadership of Wat Tyler, is the best remembered (as is only natural, for it was the Kentish rebels who penetrated into London), the rising was also of a very threatening character in other counties, notably those of East Anglia. It spread not only through Norfolk and Suffolk, but through Cambridgeshire and Lincolnshire as well, and the south-east of Yorkshire was also affected. Two priests figured conspicuously in the rebellion. In East Anglia there was John Wraw of Ringsfield, near Beccles' and in Kent there was the famous John Ball who on account of his connection with that county has been sometimes called the "Mad Priest of Kent." It is not known, however, with any degree of certainty in what part of England he was born. He may have been a Yorkshireman, as the first mention of his name is in connection with the abbey of St Mary's at York, whence he removed into Essex. In Church doctrines he largely followed Wycliffe, to whose views, however, he added some of his own, which were often antagonistic to the secular as well as to the ecclesiastical authority. More than once Ball came into conflict with his bishops, and at the time of Wat Tyler's rising in 1381 he was a prisoner in Maidstone goal. The insurgents having released him, he became one of their leaders, and, as we know, his exhortations exercised a powerful influence on their minds.
In several respects Ball's teaching was distinctly of an Anarchist character. Preaching the establishment of a new order of things founded on social equality, he denounced and rejected all laws, and declared every person who upheld them to be a public enemy. In his opinion it was not sufficient for the rebels to kill the Lords of the kingdom, they must also kill all the lawyers --advice which the insurgents were quite willing to follow--and although the men of the law often managed to save themselves by flight, it is said that every time the rebels were able to identify a lawyer's house on their way towards London, they destroyed it.
With the connivance of Sibley, the alderman of the ward of Billingsgate, who opened to them the gate of London bridge, they entered the city, and before long hastened westward, where, whilst some were burning the Savoy palace, then the residence of John of Gaunt, whom they particularly hated, others invaded and fired the Temple, whence (Knighton, the chronicler, tells us) the terrified lawyers had scuttled away " with the agility of rats or evil spirits." One can understand their precipitation, for the insurgent leaders had issued express orders to kill them as well as all persons in any way connected with the Exchequer.
Wat Tyler's animosity against the men of the law was apparently as great as John Ball's, but at the famous; interview with Richard II, which ended so tragically for himself, Wat's demands were not quite so sweeping as some of the priest's. He did not insist on the abolition of all law, but only on that of all "vexatious" laws. In addition to that, however, signori and villenage were to be abolished, and, when some provision had been made for the clergy and the monks, all the property of the Church was to be distributed among the parishioners of the different localities.
There are many people, nowadays, who would be inclined to support Wat Tyler's chief demands--people who are in no degree Anarchists; but the views of John Ball went far beyond those of the principal insurgent leader, and as M. Andre Reville pointed out in his valuable study of this great English rebellion, there can be no doubt that Ball was a prototype of the modern Communist-Anarchist. Moreover, much the same views as Ball's appear to have been expounded by his fellow priest John Wraw in East Anglia, where Geoffroy Litster, a dyer, occupied virtually the same position as that held by Wat Tyler in regard to the Kentish part of the insurrection. This, as we know, was eventually suppressed, but it resulted says Professor Oman, in the "Political History of England," that the Lords were taught caution with respect to their manor rights, and that the bonds of villenage were in a measure relaxed.
The next historical outbreak in which one finds Anarchist theories conspicuous, was that of the Adamites, who appeared in Bohemia and Moravia late in the fifteenth century' and whom Ziska eventually attacked and almost annihilated. A more notable sect, however, was that of the German Anabaptists, who arose early in the sixteenth century. Apart from all religious questions such as that of re-baptism, various political and social matters were prominent features of the programme of the Anabaptist sect. When the peasantry of Franconia and Swabia rose in 1525, Munzer, Carlstadt, and in particular Nicholas Storck, a disciple of Luther's, preached not only the doctrine of absolute equality, but independence of all civil authority as well. Like John Ball, moreover they denounced all laws and all lawyers, whilst with respect to property their doctrine was simply Communism. At Munster, under Bockhold the Dutchman, better known as John of Leyden, they ultimately practiced polygamy and free-love. Virtually the only difference between the modern Anarchist and the German Anabaptist of those times, is that the former (unless he be of the Tolstoyan school) entirely rejects religion.
We now come to the eighteenth century when we again find a minister of worship, this time a French one, expounding Anarchist theories. This was Abbe Jean Meslier, whom some folk once imagined to be a mythical personage invented by Voltaire, but who, it appears, was the son of a serge-weaver, and was born in 1678, afterwards becoming parish priest of Etrepigny in the Ardennes Whilst leading a life of great personal austerity, Meslier showed himself extremely generous and kind-hearted, and was greatly beloved by his parishioners, who never imagined that Monsieur le Cur was in reality an infidel, one who discharged his dutie; in a mere mechanical fashion, and who after long reveries and repeated perusals of Bayle and Montaigne had ended by rejecting all the dogmas of Christianity. At Meslier's death, however, the discovery was made of three copies of a manuscript covering nearly four hundred sheets of paper, which the deceased entitled his will and testament. A copy of the document was shown to Voltaire, who, at the time, paid little attention to it; but thirty years later, at the height of his battle with the Roman Catholic Church, he bethought him of Mesler's testament and gave it to the world in an abridged form. "L'Extrait du Testament de Jean Meslier," which was divided into two parts--the first being an attack on all revealed religion and the second embracing codes of atheism and materialism--speedily leapt into fame, and circulated widely for several years, though the Paris Parliament ultimately ordered it to be burnt, and Rome included it in the "Index expurgatorius." Meantime, Baron d'Holbach, by his "Bon Sens du Cure Meslier," had also contributed to popularise many of the ideas of the renegade priest.
Apart from religious questions the "Testament" has been described as the greatest attack made on the social system since the time of the Anabaptists. During the French Revolution the utopian Baron von Clootz, who assumed the forename of Anacharsis (which was not an inappropriate one for a man whose ideas often bordered on Anarchism), endeavored to propagate Meslier's print cripples, and on one occasion asked the Convention to raise a statue to him, with the inscription: "To the first priest who had the courage and sense to abandon religious error."
In a good deal of the French philosophy of the eighteenth century one will find theories suggesting the Anarchist doctrines of to-day. Their essence is given in Diderot's often-quoted distich:
"La nature n'a fait ni serviteurs ni maitres, Je ne veux ni donner ni recevoir des lots."
Jean Jacques Rousseau also undoubtedly expounded certain Anarchist views whilst pleading for a return to an ideal state of nature. A little later, during the great Revolution, there was Anacharsis Clootz, whom we have already mentioned, and who after championing Mahommedanism in his earlier years, began to preach materialism with a quite apostolic zeal. He perished on the scaffold at the same time as his friend the Communist- Anarchist Jacques Rene Hebert, who, after beginning life as a thief (he robbed two employers in succession), became editor of that notorious journal " Le Pere Duchesne," and deputy-procuror of the Commune of Paris. As will be remembered, Danton and Robespierre combined to destroy him and his principal partisans, who were all sent to the guillotine.
At the same time there had arisen a certain Francois Noel Babeuf, who nicknamed himself "Gracchus " and who had begun life by committing forgery. Establishing a journal entitled "Le Tribim du Peuple," Babeuf alternately attacked and supported the Jacobins in its pages, his vagaries frequently leading to his arrest. Indeed, he sometimes found himself in great peril, yet contrived to keep his head throughout the Terror, only to lose it, however, under the ensuing regime of the Directory Babeuf, like Hebert, may be described as a Communist- Anarchist, though their views differed in several respects Here let us add that during the Revolutionary period in France a propounder of Anarchist theories raised his voice in England, this being William Godwin, the husband of Mary Wollstonecraft, that precursor of the twentieth century suffragette. Of Godwin's principal views we shall presently give some particulars.
Reverting to France, we know of no writer there of any note who expounded Anarchist theories under Napoleon or during the reactionary rule of Louis XVIII. and Charles X.; but in the last of those reigns the Saint Simonian Socialist school enunciated theories of which a few are included in the modern Anarchist creeds. Then in Louis Philippe's time, Anarchist ideas were broached by Claude Pelletier, who became a member of the Legislature under the Second Republic, but was expelled from France at Louis Napoleon's Coup d'Etat, and ended by dying in obscurity at New York. His views were somewhat similar to those of his friend Pierre Joseph Proudhon, of whom we shall soon have to speak.
A few years ago a German writer, Herr Paul Eltzbacher, produced an elaborate textbook. in which he reviewed and compared the principles laid down by seven prominent exponents of Anarchist theories.] We cannot be quite positive as to how it happened that he dealt with exactly seven writers, but we think he must have done so intentionally, having bethought him, not of the seven mortal sins or the seven sleepers, but of either the seven virtues or the seven wise men of Greece, and that the seven individuals figuring in his book are therefore to be regarded as the Seven Sages of Anarchism. Here are their names in the order in which they are given by Herr Eltzbacher: William Godwin, Pierre Joseph Proudhon, "Max Stirner," Michael Bakunin, Peter Kropotkin Benjamin R. Tucker, Lyof Tolstoi; that is: one Englishman, one Frenchman, one German, one American and three Russians.
The reader desirous of becoming fully acquainted with their views should consult Herr Eltzbacher's painstaking work. Here we will merely glance at a few essential points. In the first place, let us say that according to the systems of Bakunin, Kropotkin and Stirner the triumph of Anarchism will be brought about by insurrectionary means. Reformatory means, however, are advocated by Godwin and Proudhon; whilst Tucker and Tolstoi preach passive resistance to the existing order of society
Godwin's theories are set out in his " Enquiry concerning Political Justice," which was first issued in 1793, and in which he wrote that Anarchy " is unquestionably a dreadful remedy . . . but a sure one," afterwards describing law as "an institution of the most pernicious kind." Plato had declared that without law we should live like beasts, and Epicurus that men would devour one another. Nevertheless Godwin rejected it absolutely as well as both those institutions, the State and property He favored Communalism,1 but, apart from that, he desired the absolute dissolution of all government. Unfortunately, the profession of those principles did no prevent Godwin from sponging at all times and season on his son- in- law Shelley, and from living, in his last years, on an Exchequer sinecure.
Proudhon, who for his part frankly proclaimed himself an Anarchist-- in fact it was he who first familiarize French people with the term--declared justice to the supreme law, and rejected all State laws and legal rules excepting the one that " contracts must be lived up to." He also rejected the State, and simply advocated a " social human life," based on the aforementioned rule respecting contracts. The life in question would be Anarchy, which might, perhaps, be federated. With respect to property, Proudhon's views were summed up in his famous but scarcely original aphorism that it is theft 1 Therefore he entirely rejected the idea of it. As for the realization of his system he instructed those who recognized the truth to convince others how necessary the change was for the sake of justice. Then, when the idea had been sufficiently popularized by those who believed in it, the law was to transform itself spontaneously, the State and property were in like manner to drop away and the new condition would appear. Proudhon held no brief for physical force; his dictum was that the Social Revolution could come by enlightenment.
Nevertheless, he was regarded in his day as a terrible bugtear. Very different from his pacific programme was that of the Bavarian Anarchist, who wrote under the name of Max Stirner. For him "self-welfare" was the one supreme law, and he rejected all others without limitation. Such being the case, he naturally repudiated the State, for no State is possible without law. Social life--in his system--was to be an "union of egoists." Property was to be abolished and replaced by a distribution of commodities based on the principle of self-welfare. As soon as a sufficient number of men had recognized that their own welfare was the highest law, they were to bring about by force the abrogation of all other law, the State and property, and to introduce the never
Bakunin comes next in Herr Eltzbacher's list of sages. He is known to have enunciated more than one contradictory proposition, and in this respect it is urged that at certain times he propounded not his own views but those of others, such as Nechayoff, by whom he was temporarily influenced. We deal with him in detail in the second chapter of this work, and will only say here that, according to Herr Eltzbacher, Bakunin's chief theories were as follows: In the gradual progress of mankind from a bestial to a human existence, enacted law would disappear, so would the State, and so would property m its present form, particularly unlimited private property. Private property would be allowed in objects of consumption, but not in land, in instruments of labour, or any other forms of capital. These would be social property only. At the same time, there was to be no central authority, but a communal system, and the change was to be brought about by insurrectionary means.
Prince Kropotkin's principal views were that the supreme essential law resided in the evolutionary one of mankind's progress from a less happy existence to one as happy as possible, from which basis sprang the commandments of justice and energy. During the aforesaid progress of mankind, enacted law (not law itself) would disappear. Enacted law, according to Kropotkin, in a hindrance to mankind; and unwritten customs customary law the common law of England would suffice to maintain a good understanding. The State would disappear, and its place would be taken by a social human life based (as in Proudhon's theory) on the rule that " contracts must be lived up to." Private property in its present form would also disappear, and only social property exist. Future society would be communistic (as in Bakunin's system) and the change from the present to the new order of things would be effected by a Social Revolution--that is, by "a violent subversion of the old order, which will come to pass of itself, but for which it is the function of those who foresee the course of evolution to prepare men's minds." Destruction, we are told, will be the first act. There will not be a reign of terror, but there will be victims. Government having first been overthrown, property will be abolished by "forcible expropriation of the broadest kind." Afterwards will come "reshaping".
There is a great difference between many of the views held by Bakunin and Kropotkin, and those expressed by their compatriot, the late Count Tolstoi.2 For him the supreme law was love. He rejected legal enactments not unconditionally but as institutions for the more highly developed peoples of our time. He was opposed on principle to every rule based on human will and upheld by force. Love was to be the one law of man. The State was rejected, as State rule is based on physical force; and property was also condemned, as it s an institution upheld by the policeman and the soldier. A new condition, in which law, property and the State would be abolished, was to be brought about not by violence but by refusing obedience to the existing order of things, and by conforming one s life to one's increase of knowledge.
Tucker's Anarchist doctrine is based on the law of self interest, whence he derives a law of equal liberty. The Anarchist, says he, is at once both a utilitarian and an egoist in the fullest sense.
Under certain conditions, which he defines, Tucker has no objection to law; and he upholds the rule that contracts must be lived up to. Further, provided that everybody is guaranteed the product of his labour, he has no objection to property, but he absolutely rejects the State. One curious point of his system is that he advocates the issue of free money, that is of any money that is not fraudulent. This, says he, should be as free as the making of shoes. He follows Tolstoi n proposing that the new social condition should be brought about by passive resistance, holding that Force should only be used as a last resort. He formerly held that the days of armed Revolutions had altogether gone by 1 Terrorism and assassination might be necessary but would have to consist of "a series of acts of individual dynamiters"; and, in any case, the Social Revolution would be chiefly brought about by refusing obedience in to the existing order of things. Tucker particularly called attention to the wonderful success of the Irish Land League's "No rent" policy, and advised its general adoption. In his latest pronouncement one observes some mod) fiction of some of his earlier views.2 For instance, he now holds that monopoly has increased to such a degree that only political or revolutionary forces can contend with it, and that there must be a great leveling before the Anarchist economic solutions can be applied. Meantime, they should be taught to the smug generations; but, says Tucker, "education is a slow process, and for this reason we must hope that the day of readjustment may not come too quickly. Anarchists who endeavor to hasten it by joining in the propaganda of State Socialism or Revolution make a sad mistake indeed." Briefly, Tucker feels that if there is any undue haste the past will simply be repeated in the future, as people will not have had time to understand and appreciate the advantages of Anarchism.
We have now passed in review the chief principles of Herr Eltzbacher's "Seven Sages" and at the risk of a little repetition we will finish by summarizing the theories propounded by two other Anarchist leaders, who might well have figured in the Eltzbacher gallery that is Jean Grave and Charles Malato. Grave's principal work, "La Societe mourante et l'Anarchie," and Malato's "Philosophie de l'Anarchie" have, indeed, exercised great influence during recent years in France, Italy, Spain and Portugal. It is laid down in these treatises that each individual born into the world should be able to develop in accordance with his natural rights, and that all government and authority should be eliminated from the social system. Every human being, it is argued, has a right to the greatest possible sum of happiness, which right, however, cannot be exercised in the existing social system. Central or superior authority, religion, family ties, property-rights, militarism, patriotism, and other matters, have built up a regime which cannot be justified in logic, and which, in practice, is evil and criminal. This regime must be cast down, say Grave and Malato, and replaced by one of true liberty and fraternity, that is by a commonalty in which each will work according to his strength and receive according to his needs. An individual is held to be the best judge of his own capacity. Personal interest, rightly understood, tends to the increase of the general well-being. The individual has every reason to desire that there may be equity in all economic intercourse. Under the Anarchist dispensation all beings would be equal, and all unions1 would be free. It is urged that even if man is not naturally good and kindly he is at least capable of becoming so, and of realizing that his own interests are inseparable from those of mankind in general. It would be possible and right, we are told, to replace the present system of unjust and oppressive laws by a state of common brotherly customs which would be universally accepted and observed.
In this wise, then, does the Utopian dream run on, including within its scope at times certain features of the Socialist systems, such for instance as the collectivity of the means of production, but at other moments (as will have been already noticed) differing widely from Socialist doctrines, which embrace in various degrees the principles of authority and compulsion. Further, while both Socialists and Anarchists desire the overthrow of society as it is now constituted, the former (except in some extreme cases) seek to effect this object by exclusively lawful means--argument, persuasion, the power of the vote, and so forth. As we have seen, there are certain Anarchists such as the followers of Proudhon and Tolstoi, who also favour only pacific means; but these are distinctly in a minority. Most Anarchists, indeed, not only declare that laws are altogether wrong, and should not be obeyed but hold that the social change must be effected by revolutionary courses. In that respect the Anarchist is at least logical, for the employment of lawful means would be an acknowledgment of the authority of laws, an authority which almost every subdivision of the sect expressly denies.
If one accept the proposition that all laws and authority are wrong, one has to accept others. It becomes right to rise against laws and against all who are in authority, and to throw down the whole social fabric which law and authority have reared. In spite of the views of Tolstoi and Proudhon is there really the faintest chance of effecting such an overthrow by argument, persuasion or the power of the vote? No, reply eight out of every ten Anarchists. It follows then that violence is legitimate. It may, perhaps, seem foolish for anybody to suppose that violence could succeed unless there were wide- spread, concerted action, but in spite of such warnings as those which we have quoted from Tucker, many a militant Anarchist has reasoned: "There must be a beginning somewhere, and somehow. A signal must be given, an example must be set, which others will follow. Deeds are required for the propagation of our principles, and if we cannot as yet destroy society, at least we may shake it, pending the time when, having recruited adherents far and wide, there will be a general victorious assault on all that now exists, when our triumph Will enable us to establish the Millennium throughout the world."
We know only too well what has often ensued when a militant Anarchist's thoughts have taken that turn -- the knife has flashed, the bullet has sped, the bomb has exploded. Here and there a king, a president, or an empress has been killed. Many a lowly one, as well as Some of the highest, have been struck down in one or another country. What has that mattered to the Anarchist? He has been carrying into effect the Propaganda by Deed, spreading his principles, sending a message to inspirit every timid comrade and administering a shaming to society pending the time of the Great Assault of which he dreams.
One word more, Nihilism and Anarchism are often confounded. It is of course quite true that men like Bakunin influenced both movements, but there is a real difference between them. Briefly put, the Nihilist's object (in theory) is the complete destruction of existing social conditions without any thought of what should replace them. You destroy, regardless of what may happen afterwards, leaving the future, indeed, to take care of itself. The Anarchist, however, says: "Destroy, and let the future be exactly such as I define." On the other hand, in practice, Nihilism has mainly been a long Revolutionary movement against an extremely despotic Government, for which reason it has found many sympathizers. Now and again, in our pages we shall have to allude to the Nihilists and some of their doings, but Nihilism generally is outside the scope of this book, being, as already stated, distinct from Anarchism. Let us now see how the latter first intruded into the practical politics of our times. That will best be ascertained by following the career of one, who, although he may have been anticipated in theory by such men as Godwin, Proudhon and even Tucker's master, Warren, was practically the father of modern Anarchism.