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The Knickerbocker Press 1897

Copyright, 1897
The Knickerbocker Press, New York



"A hundred fanatics are found to support a theological or metaphysical statement, but not one for a geometric theorem."




Forerunners and Early History -- Definitions -- Is Anarchism a Pathological Phenomenon? -- Anarchism considered Sociologically -- Anarchist Movements in the Middle Ages -- The Theory of the Social Contract with reference to Anarchism -- Anarchist Movements during the French Revolution -- The Philosophic Premises of the Anarchist Theory -- The Political and Economic Assumptions of Anarchism.

"Die Welt wird alt und wird wieder Jung,
Doch der Mensch hofft immer auf Besserung."

ANARCHY means, in its ideal sense, the perfect, unfettered self-government of the individual, and, consequently, the absence of any kind of external government. This fundamental formula, which in its essence is common to all actual and real Theoretical Anarchists, contains all that is necessary as a guide to the distinguishing features of this remarkable movement. It demands the unconditional realisation of freedom, both subjectively and objectively, equally in political and in economic life. In this, Anarchism is distinct from Liberalism, which, even in its most radical representatives, only allows unlimited freedom in economic affairs, but has never questioned the necessity of some compulsory organisation in the social relationships of individuals; whereas Anarchism would extend the Liberal doctrine of laissez faire to all human actions, and would recognise nothing but a free convention or agreement as the only permissible form of human society. But the formula stated above distinguishes Anarchism much more strongly (because the distinction is fundamental) from its antithesis, Socialism, which, out of the celebrated trinity of the French Revolution, has placed the figure of Equality upon a pedestal as its only deity. Anarchism and Socialism, in spite of the fact that they are so often confused, both intentionally and unintentionally, have only one thing in common, namely, that both are forms of idolatry, though they have different idols; both are religions and not sciences, dogmas and not speculations. Each of them is a kind of honestly meant social mysticism, which, partly anticipating the possible and perhaps even probable results of yet unborn centuries, urges upon mankind the establishment of a terrestrial Eden, of a land of the absolute Ideal, whether it be Freedom or Equality. It is only natural, in view of the difficulty of creating new thoughts, that our modern seekers after the Millennium should look for their Eden by going backwards, and should shape it on the lines of stages of social progress that have long since been passed by; and in this is seen the irremediable internal contradiction of both movements: they intend an advance, but only result in retrogression.

Are we then to take Anarchism seriously, or shall we pass it by merely with a smile of superiority and a deprecating wave of the hand? Shall we declare war to the knife against Anarchists, or have they a claim to have their opinions discussed and respected as much as those of the Liberals or Social Democrats, or as those of religious or ecclesiastical bodies? These questions we can only answer at the conclusion of this book; but at this point I should like to do away with one conception of Anarchism which is frequently urged against it.

Those who wish nowadays to seem particularly enlightened and tolerant as regards this dangerous movement, describe it as a "pathological phenomenon." We have done our best to make some sense of this mischievous, though modern, analogy, but have never succeeded, in spite of Lombroso, Krafft-Ebing and others undeniably capable in their own department. The former, in his clever book on this subject,1 has confused individual with social pathology. When Lombroso completely identified the Anarchist theory and idea -- with which he is by no means familiar -- with the persons engaged in Anarchist actions, and made an attempt (which is certainly successful) to trace the political methods of thought and action of a great many of them to pathological premises, he reached the false conclusion that Anarchism itself was a pathological phenomenon. But in reality the only conclusion from his demonstration is that many unhealthy and criminal characters adopt Anarchism, a conclusion which he himself admits in the remark, that " Criminals take part specially in the beginnings of insurrections and revolutions in large numbers, for, at a time when the weak and undecided are still hesitating, the impulsive activity of abnormal and unhealthy characters preponderates, and their example then produces epidemics of excesses." This fact we fearlessly admit; and it gains a special significance for us in that the Anarchists themselves base their system of " propaganda by action " upon this knowledge. But if we are therefore to regard this phenomenon as a symptom that Anarchism itself is a pathological phenomenon, to what revolutionary movement might we not then apply this criterion, and what would it imply if we did ?

I have stated, and (I hope) have shown elsewhere, 2 what may be understood by "pathological" social phenomena, namely, an abnormal, unhealthy condition of the popular mind in the sense of a general aberration of the intellect of the masses, as is possibly the case in what is known as Anti-Semitism. But even in this limited sense it appears quite inadmissible and incorrect to call Anarchism a pathological phenomenon. Let us be fair and straightforward, if we wish to learn; let us be just, even if we are to benefit our most dangerous enemies; for in the end we shall benefit ourselves. With Anarchism it is not a question of transitory anomalies of the public mind, but of a well defined condition which is visibly increasing and which is necessarily connected with all previous and accompanying conditions; it is a question of ideas and opinions which are the logical, even if in practice inadmissible, development of views that have long been well known and recognised by the majority of civilised men. A further test of every unhealthy phenomenon, namely, its local character, is entirely lacking in Anarchism; for we meet with it to-day extending all over the world, wherever society has developed in a manner similar to our own; we meet it not merely in one class, but see members of all classes, and especially members of the upper classes, attach themselves to it. The fathers, as we may call them, of the Anarchist theory are almost entirely men of great natural gifts, who rank high both intellectually and morally, whose influence has been felt for half a century, who have been born in Russia, Germany, France, Italy, England and America, men who are as different one from another as are the circumstances and environment of their respective countries, but who are all of one mind as regards the theory which we mentioned at the beginning of this chapter.

And that is what Anarchism undoubtedly is: a theory, an idea, with all the failings and dangers, but also with all the advantages which a theory always possesses; with just as much, and only as much, validity as a theory can demand as its due, but at any rate a theory which is as old as human civilisation, because it goes back to the most powerful civilising factor in humanity.

.          .          .          .          .

The care for the bare necessities of life, the inexorable struggle for existence, has aroused in mankind the desire for fellow-strugglers, for companions. In the tribe man's power of resistance was increased, and his prospect of self-support grew, in proportion as he developed together with his fellows into a new collective existence. But the fact that, notwithstanding this, he did not grow up like a mere animal in a flock, but in such a way that he always -- even if often only after long and bitter experience -- found his proper development in the tribe -- this has made him a man and his tribe a society. Which is the more ancient and more sacred, the unfettered rights of the individual or the welfare of the community? Can anyone take this question seriously who is accustomed to look at the life and development of Society in the light of facts? Individualism and Altruism are as inseparably connected as light and darkness, as day and night. The individualistic and the social sense in human society correspond to the centrifugal and centripetal forces in the universe, or to the forces of attraction and repulsion that govern molecular activity. Their movements must be regarded simply as manifestations of forces in the direction of the resultants, whose components are Individualism and Altruism. If, to use a metaphor from physics, one of these forces was excluded, the body would either remain stock still, or would fly far away into infinity. But such a case is, in society as in physics, only possible in imagination, because the distinction between the two forces is itself only a purely mental separation of one and the same thing.

This is all that can be said either for or against the exclusive accentuation of any one single social force. All the endeavours to create a realm of unlimited and absolute freedom have only as much value as the assumption, in physics, of space absolutely void of air, or of a direction of motion absolutely uninfluenced by the force of gravity. The force which sets a bullet in motion is certainly something actual and real; but the influence which would correspond to this force, this direction in the sense in which the physicist distinguishes it, exists only in theory, because the bullet will, as far as all actual experience goes, only move in the direction of a resultant, in which the impetus given to it and the force of gravity are inseparably united and appear as one. If, therefore, it is clear that the endeavour to obtain a realm of unconditional freedom contradicts ipso facto the conception of life, yet all such endeavours are by no means valueless for our knowledge of human society, and consequently for society itself; and even if social life is always only the resultant of different forces, yet these forces themselves remain something real and actual, and are no mere fiction or hypothesis; while the growing differentiation of society shows how freedom, conceived as a force, is something actual, although as an ideal it may never attain full realisation. The development of society has proceeded hand in hand with a conscious or more often unconscious assertion of the individual, and the philosopher Hegel could rightly say that the history of the world is progress in the consciousness of freedom. Nevertheless, it might be added, the statement that the history of the world is progress in the consciousness of the universal interdependence of mankind would have quite as much justification, and practically also just the same meaning.

The circumstance that, apart from the events of what is comparatively a modern period, the great social upheavals of history have not taken place expressly in the name of freedom, although they have indisputably implied it, only proves that as a matter of fact we have to deal not with a mere word or idea, but with a real force which has acted and is acting, without reference to our general or specific knowledge or consciousness of it. The recognition of individual freedom, and much more the endeavour to make it the only object of our life, are certainly of quite recent date. But these presuppose an amount of progress in the actual process of setting the individual free in his moral and political relationships, which is not to be found in the whole of antiquity, and still less in the middle ages.

.          .          .          .          .

It is not possible to point to clear traces of Anarchist influences in the numberless social-religious revolutions of the close of the middle ages, without doing violence to history, although, as in all critical periods, even in that of the Reformation -- which certainly implied a serious revolt against authority -- there was no lack of isolated attempts to make the revolt against authority universal, and to abolish authority of every kind. We find, for instance, in the thirteenth century, a degenerate sect of the " Beghards," who called themselves " brothers and sisters of the Free Spirit," and were also called " Amalrikites," after the name of their founder.3 They preached not only community of goods but also of women, a perfect equality, and rejected every form of authority. Their Anarchist doctrines were, curiously enough, a consequence of their Pantheism. Since God is everything and everywhere, even in mankind, it follows that the will of man is also the will of God; therefore every limitation of man is objectionable, and every person has the right, indeed it is his duty, to obey his own impulses. These views are said to have spread rather widely over the east of France and part of Germany, and especially among the Beghards on the Rhine.4 The "brothers and sisters of the Free Spirit" also appear during the Hussite wars, under the name of "Adamites"; this name being given them because they declared the condition of Adam to be that of sinless innocence. Their enthusiasm for this happy state of nature went so far that they appeared in their assemblies, called " Paradises," literally in Adamite costume, that is, quite naked.

But that, in spite of all this, the real Communism of this sect went no further than a kind of patriarchal Republicanism, certainly not as far as actual Anarchy, is proved by the information given by Æneas Sylvius: that they certainly had community of women, but that it was nevertheless forbidden to them to have knowledge of any woman without the permission of their leader.

There is one other sect met with during the Hussite Wars in Bohemia, which bears some similarity to the Anarchical Communism of the present day, that of the Chelcicians.5 Peter of Chelcic, a peaceful Taborite, preached equality and Communism; but this universal equality should not (he said) be imposed upon society by the compulsion of the State, but should be realised without its intervention. The State is sinful, and an outcome of the Evil One, since it has created the inequalities of property, rank and place. Therefore the State must disappear; and the means of doing away with it consist not in making war upon it, but in simply ignoring it. The true follower of this theory is thus neither allowed to take any office under the State or to call in its help; for the true Christian strives after good of his own accord, and must not compel us to follow it, since God desires good to be done voluntarily. All compulsion is from the Evil One; all dignities or distinctions of classes offend against the law of brotherly love and equality. This pious enthusiast easily found a small body of followers in a time when men were weary of war after the cruelties of the Hussite conflicts; but here, too, his theory developed in practice into a kind of Quietism under priestly control, an austere Puritanism, which is the very opposite of the personal freedom of Anarchism.

Once more the Anarchist views of Amalrikites appear at the beginning of the sixteenth century among the Anabaptists in the sect of the "Free Brothers," who considered themselves set free from all laws by Christ, had wives and property in common, and refused to pay either taxes or tithes, or to perform the duties of service or serfdom.6 The "Free Brothers" had a following in the Zurich Highlands, but they were of no more importance than the other sects we have mentioned; utterly incomprehensible to their contemporaries, they formed the extreme wings of the widespread Communist movement which, coming at the same time as the Reformation in the Church, separates the (so-called) Middle Ages from modern times like a boundary line. We observe in it nothing but the naively logical development of a belief that is common to most religions: the assumption of a happy age in the childhood of mankind (Golden Age, Paradise, and so on), when men followed merely the laws of reason (Morality, God, or Nature, or whatever else it is called), and needed no laws or punishments to tell them to do right and avoid wrong, when mankind, as every schoolboy knows from his Ovid: --

"Vindice nullo Sponte sua sine lege fidem rectumque colebat;
Poena metusque aberant, nee verba minacia fixo
Acre legebantur, nex supplex turba timebat
Judicis ora sui, sed erant sine judice tuti."

The transition from this primeval Anarchy to the present condition of society has been presented by religion, both Graeco-Roman and Judaeo-Christian, as the consequence of a deterioration of mankind (" the Fall ") and as a condition of punishment, which is to be followed, in a better world and after the work of life has been well performed, by another life as Eden- like as the first state of man, but eternal. But it must not be forgotten that Christianity was at first a proletarian movement, and that a great part of its adherents certainly did not join it merely with the hope of a return to the original state of Paradise in a future world. Perhaps (thought they) this Paradise might be attainable in this world. It can be seen that the Church had originally nothing to lose by at least not opposing this hope of a millennium;7 and hence we see not only heretics like Kerinthos, but also pillars of orthodoxy, like Papias of Hieropolis, Irenasus, Justin Martyr, and others, preaching the doctrine of the millennium. In later times, indeed, when the Church had long since ceased to be a mainly proletarian movement, and when Christianity had risen from the Catacombs to the palace and the throne, the hopes of the poor and oppressed for an approaching millennial reign lost their harmless character, and "millennialism" became ipso facto heresy. But this heresy was, as may be understood, not so easy to eradicate; and when in the closing centuries of the middle ages, the material position of large classes of people had again become in spite of Christianity, most serious and comfortless, Millennialism awoke again actively in men's minds, and formed the prelude, as well as the Socialist undercurrent, of the Reformation. Slome Radical offshoots of this medieval Millennialism we have already noticed in the "Brothers and Sisters of the Free Spirit," the Adamites, Chelcicians, and "Free Brothers."

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The presuppositions of this flattering superstition are so deeply founded in the optimism of mankind, that it remained the same even when divested of its religious, or rather its confessional, garment; and could be no more eradicated by the Rationalistic tendency that arose after the Reformation than by the interdict of Rome or the brutal cruelties of ecclesiastical justice.

If we look more closely into the doctrine of the so-called contrat social, which was destined to form the programme of the French Revolution, we again recognise without much difficulty the fundamental ideas of the Millennialists, hardly altered at all. A Paradise without laws, existing before civilisation, which is considered as a curse, and another like unto it, when "this cursed civilisation" is abolished, is what a modern Anarchist would say. The names only are different, and are taken from the vocabulary of Rationalism, instead of from that of religious mythology. Instead of divine rights men spoke now of the everlasting and unalterable rights of man; instead of Paradise, of a happy state of nature, in which there is, however, an exact resemblance to Ovid's golden age, the transition into the present form of society was represented to be due to a social contract or agreement, occasioned, however, by a certain moral degeneracy in mankind, only differing in name from the "Fall." In this case, also, Anarchy is regarded as underlying society as the ideal state of nature; every form of society is only the consequence of the degeneration of mankind, a pis aller, or, at any rate, only a voluntary renunciation of the original, inalienable, and unalterable rights of man and nature, the chief of which is Freedom.

In the further development of this main idea the believers in the contrat social have been divided. While some, foremost among whom is Hobbes, declared the contract thus formed once and for all as permanent and unbreakable, and hence that the authority of the sovereign was irrevocable and without appeal, and thus arrived at Monarchism pure and simple; others, and these the great majority, regarded the contract merely as provisional, and the powers of the sovereign as therefore limited. In this case everyone is not only free to annul the contract at any time and place himself outside the limits of society,8 but the contract is also regarded as broken if the sovereign—whether a person or a body corporate—oversteps his authority. Here the return to the primeval state of Anarchy not only shines, as it were, afar off as a future ideal, but appears as the permanently normal state of mankind, only occasionally disturbed by some transitory form of social life. This idea cannot be more clearly expressed than in the words which the poet Schiller—certainly not an advocate of bombs—puts into the mouth of Stauffacher in William Tell:

"When the oppressed . . .
. . . makes appeal to Heaven
And thence brings down his everlasting rights,
Which there abide, inalienably his,
And indestructible as are the stars,
Nature's primeval state returns again,
Where man stands hostile to his fellow-man."

How nearly the doctrine of the "social contract" corresponds to the idea of Anarchy is shown by the circumstance that one of the first (and what is more, one of the ecclesiastical) representatives of this doctrine, Hooker, declared, that "it was in the nature of things not absolutely impossible that men could live without any public form of government." Elsewhere he says that for men it is foolish to let themselves be guided, by authority, like animals; it would be a kind of fettering of the judgment, though there were reasons to the contrary, not to pay heed to them, but, like sheep, to follow the leader of the flock, without knowing or caring whither. On the other hand, it is no part of our belief that the authority of man over men shall be recognised against or beyond reason. Assemblies of learned men, however great or honourable they may be, must be subject to reason. This refers, of course, only to spiritual and ecclesiastical authority; but Locke, who followed Hooker most closely, discovered only too clearly what the immediate consequences of such assumptions would be, and tried to avoid them by affirming that the power of the sovereign, being merely a power entrusted to him, could be taken away as soon as it became forfeited by misuse, but that the break-up of a government was not a break-up of society. In France, on the other hand, Étienne de la Bo&eauml;tie had already written, when oppressed by the tyranny of Henry II., a Discours de la Servitude Volontaire, ou Contr'un (in 1546), containing a glowing defence of Freedom, which goes so far that the sense of the necessity of authority disappears entirely. The opinion of La Bo&eauml;tie is that mankind does not need government; it is only necessary that it should really wish it, and it would find itself happy and free again, as if by magic.

So we see how the upholders of the social contract are separated into a Right, Central, and Left party. At the extreme right stands Hobbes, whom the defenders of Absolutism follow; in the centre is Locke, with the Republican Liberals; and on the extreme left stand the pioneers of Anarchism, with Hooker the ecclesiastic at their head. But of all the theoretical defenders of the "social contract," only one has really worked out its ultimate consequences. William Godwin, in his Inquiry concerning Political Justice,9 demanded the abolition of every form of government, community of goods, the abolition of marriage, and self-government of mankind according to the laws of justice. Godwin's book attracted remarkable attention, from the novelty and audacity of his point of view. "Soon after his book on political justice appeared," writes a young contemporary, "workmen were observed to be collecting their savings together, in order to buy it, and to read it under a tree or in a tavern. It had so much influence that Godwin said it must contain something wrong, and therefore made important alterations in it before he allowed a new edition to appear. There can be no doubt that both Government and society in England have derived great advantage from the keenness and audacity, the truth and error, the depth and shallowness, the magnanimity and injustice of Godwin, as revealed in his inquiry concerning political justice."

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Our next business is to turn from theoretical considerations of the contrat social to the practice based upon this catchword; and to look for traces of Anarchist thought upon the blood-stained path of the great French Revolution—that typical struggle of the modern spirit of freedom against ancient society. We are the more desirous to do this, because of the frequent and repeated application of the word Anarchist to the most radical leaders of the democracy by the contemporaries, supporters, and opponents of the Revolution. As far as we in the present day are able to judge the various parties from the history of that period--and we certainly do not know too much about it--here were not apparently any real Anarchists10 either in the Convention of the Commune of Paris. If we want to find them, we must being with the Girondists and not with the Jacobins, for the Anarchists of to-day recognise--and rightly so--sharper contrast to their doctrine than Jacobinism; while the Anarchism of Proudhon is connected in two essential points with its Girondist precursors--namely, in its protest against the sanction of property and in its federal principle. But, nevertheless, neither Vergniaud nor Brissot was an Anarchist, even though the latter, in his Philosophical Examination of Property and Theft (1780), uttered a catchword, afterwards taken up by Proudhon. At the same time they had no cause and no right to reproach "the Mountain" with Anarchist tendencies.

Neither Danton nor Robespierre, the two great lights of the "Mountain," dreamed of making a leap into the void of a society without government. Their ideal was rather the omnipotence of society, the all-powerful State, before which the interests of the individual were scatter like the spray before the storm; and the great Maximilian, the "Chief Rabbi" of this deification of the State, accordingly called himself "a slave of freedom." Robespierre and Danton, on their side, called the Hebertists Anarchists. If one can speak of a principle at all among these people, who placed all power in the hands of the masses who had no votes, and the whole art of politics in majorities and brute force, it was certainly not directed against the abolition of authority. Their maxims were chaos and the right of the strongest. Marat, the party saint, had certainly, on occasion, inveighed against the laws as such, and desired to set them aside; but Marat all the time wanted the Dictatorship, and for a time actually held it. The Marat of after Thermidor was the infamous Caius Gracchus Babœuf, who is now usually regarded as the characteristic representative of Anarchism during the French Revolution--and regarded so just as rightly, or rather as wrongly, as those mentioned above. Babœuf was a more thorough-going Socialist than Robespierre; indeed he was a Radical Communist, but no more. In the proclamation issued by Babceuf for the 22nd of Floreal, the day of the insurrection against the Directoire, he says:--"The revolutionary authority of the people will announce the destruction of every other existing authority." But that means nothing more than the dictatorship of the mob; which is rejected in theory by Anarchists of all types, just as much as any other kind of authority. That the followers of Babœuf had nothing else in view is shown by the two placards prepared for this day, one of which said: "Those who usurp the sovereignty ought to be put to death by free men," while the other, explaining and limiting the first, demanded the "Constitution of 1793, liberty, equality, and universal happiness." This constitution of 1793 was, however, Robespierre's work, and certainly did not mean the introduction of Anarchy.

Echoes and traditions of Babœuf's views, often passing through intermediaries like Buonarotti, are found in the Carbonari of the first thirty years of our own century, and they gained for this (as for so many other popular movements) the epithet " Anarchical," so glibly uttered by the lips of the people. But among the chiefs, at least, of that secret society which was once so powerful, we find no trace of it; on the contrary they declared absolute freedom to be a delusion which could never be realised. Yet even here, though the fundamental dogma of Anarchism is rejected, we notice a step forward in the extension of the Anarchist idea. It was indeed rejected by the members of that society, but it was known to them, and what is more, they take account of it, and support every effort which, by encouraging individualism to an unlimited extent, is hostile to the union of society as such. Thus we even find individual Carbonari with pronounced Anarchist views and tendencies. Malegari, for instance, in 1835, described the raison d'etre of the organisation in these words:11 "We form a union of brothers in all parts of the earth; we all strive for the freedom of mankind; we wish to break every kind of yoke.

Between the time when these words were spoken and the appearance of the famous What is property? and the Individual and his Property, there elapsed only about ten years. How much since then had been changed, whether for better or worse, how much had been cleared up and confused, in the life and thought of the nations!

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Feuerbach described the development which he had passed through as a thinker in the words: "God was my first thought, Reason my second, Man my third and last" Not only Feuerbach, but all modern philosophy, has gone through these stages; and Feuerbach is only different from other philosophers, in having himself assisted men to reach the third and final stage. The epoch of philosophy that was made illustrious by the brilliant trinity of Descartes, Spinoza, and Leibnitz, however far it may have departed or emancipated itself from the traditions of religion, not only never deposed the idea of God, but actually for the first time made the conception of the Deity the starting-point of all Thought and Existence. The philosophy which abolished this, whether we consider the realists Locke and Hume, or the idealists Kant and Hegel, is the philosophy of reason; absolute reason has taken the place of an absolute God, criticism and dialectics the place of ontology and theocracy. But in philosophy we find the very opposite of the mythological legend, for in it Chronos instead of devouring his children is devoured by them. The critical school turned against its masters, who were already sinking into speculative theology again, quite forgetting that its great leader had introduced a new epoch with a struggle against ontology, and losing themselves in the heights of non-existence just as if they had never taken their start from the thesis, that no created mind can comprehend the nature of the Being that is behind all phenomena. From such heights a descent had to be made to our earth; instead of immortal individuals, as conceived by Fichte, Hegel and Schelling, the school of Feuerbach, Strauss and Bauer postulated "human beings sound in mind and body, for whom health is of more importance than immortality." Concentration upon this life took the place of vague transcendentalism, and anthropology the place of theology, ontology, and cosmology. Idealism became bankrupt; God was regarded no longer as the creator of man but man as the creator of God. Humanity now took the place of the Godhead.

The new principle was now an universal or absolute one; but, as with Hegel, universal or absolute only in words, for to sense it is extremely real, just as Art in a certain swense is more real than the individual. It was the "generic conception of humanity, not something impersonal and univesal but forming persons, inasmuch as only in persons have we reality." (D.F. Strauss.)

If philosophic criticism were to go still farther than this, there remained nothing more for it than to destroy this generalisation, and instead of Humanity to make the individual, the person, the centre of thought. A strong individualistic and subjective feature, peculiar to the Kantian and post-Kantian philosophy, favoured such a process. Although in the case of Fichte, Hegel, and Schelling this feature had never outstepped the limits of the purely comprehensible, yet such a trait makes philosophy infer a similarly strongly developed feature of individualism in the people, especially as at that time it was so closely connected with popular life. Moreover, at that period there was a great desire (as we see in Fichte and his influence on the nation) to translate philosophy at once into action; and so it was not remarkable that a thinker regardless of consequences should introduce the idea of individualism into the field of action, and regard this also as suitable for "concentration of thought upon this present life." Herewith began a new epoch; just as formerly human thought had proceeded from the individual up to the universal, so now it descended from the highest generalisation down again to the individual; to the process of getting free from self followed the regaining of self.

Here was the point at which an Anarchist philosophy could intervene, and, as a matter of fact did intervene, in Stirner.

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In another direction also, and about the same time, the critical philosophy had reached a point beyond which it could not go without attacking not only the changing forms, but also the very foundations of all organisations of society which were then possible. However far the Aufklärer, the Encyclopædists, the heedless fighters in the political revolution, and the leading personages in the spiritual revolution, had gone in their unsparing criticism of all institutions and relationships of life, they had not as yet, except in a few isolated cases, attacked Religion, the State, and Property, as such in the abstract.

However manifold and transitory their various forms might be, these three things themselves still seemed to be the incontrovertible and necessary conditions of spiritual, political, and social life, merely the different concrete formulæ for the one absolute idea which could not be banished from the thought of that age.

But if we approach these three fundamental ideas with the probe of scientific criticism, and resolutely tear away the halo of the absolute, it does not on that account seem necessary for us to declare that they are valueless or even harmful in life. We read Strauss's Life of Jesus, and put it down perhaps with the conviction that the usually recognised sources of inspired information as to revealed religion and the divine mission of Christianity are an unskilful compilation of purely apocryphal documents; but are we on that account to deny the importance of Judaism and Christianity in social progress and ethics? Or again, I may read E. B. Tyler's Primitive Culture and see the ideas of the soul and God arise from purely natural and (for the most part) physiological origins, just as we can trace the development of the skilful hand of Raphael or Liszt from the fore-limbs of an ape; but am I from that to conclude that the idea of religion is harmful to society? It is just the same with the ideas of the State and Property. Modern science has shown us beyond dispute the purely historical origin of both these forms of social life; and both are, at least as we find them to-day, comparatively recent features of human society. This, of course, settles the question as to the State and Property being inviolable, or being necessary features of human society from everlasting to everlasting; but the further question as to how far these forms are advantages and relatively necessary for society in general, or for a certain society, has nothing to do with the above, and cannot be answered by the help of a simple logical formula. But though this fact seems so clear to us, it is even to-day not by any means clear to a great portion of mankind. And how much less clear it must have been to thinkers at the beginning of this century when thought was still firmly moulded upon the conception of the Absolute. To them there could only be either absolute Being or absolute Not-Being; and as soon as ever critical philosophy destroyed the idea of the "sacredness" of the institutions referred to (Property and the State), it was almost unavoidable that it should declare them to be "unholy," i. e., radically bad and harmful. The logic which underlies this process of thought is similar to that which concludes that if a thing is not white it must be black. But it cannot be denied that just at this time—during the celebrated dix ans after the Revolution of July—many circumstances seemed positively to favour such an inference.

Not only were economic conditions unsatisfactory (though pauperism alone will never produce Anarchism), but even hope and faith had gone. Idealism was bankrupt, not only in the political but also in the economic world. Full of the noblest animation, and with the most joyous confidence, the French nation had entered upon the great Revolution, and all Europe had looked full of hope towards France, whence they expected to see the end of all tyranny and—since such things at that time were not well understood—the end of all misery. We may be spared the detailed description of the transition by which this hope and these childish expectations, this Millennialism, were bitterly disillusioned, and how the excitement of 1789 to 1791 ended in a great wail of woe; and that too not only in France, where absolute monarchy post tot discrimina verum had merely changed into an absolute empire, but also in Germany, whose princes hastened to recall the concessions made under the pressure of the Revolution. The monarchs of Europe then celebrated an orgie of promise-breaking, from which even to-day the simple mind of the people revolts with deep disgust. It need only be remembered how in the Napoleonic wars of Germany noble princes exploited the flaming enthusiasm and the naïve confidence of their people for their own dynastic purposes, and then, after the downfall of the Corsican, drove them back again through the old Caudine yoke. If, after such unfortunate experiences, the people, and especially the insatiate elements amongst them, had retained any remains of confidence in help from above, it must have perished in the sea of disgust and bitterness at the Revolution of July.

In a struggle for a free form of the State, which lasted almost half a century, the proletariat and its misery had grown without cessation. They had fought for constitutional monarchy, for the Republic, and for the Empire; they had tried Bourbons and Bonapartes and Orleanists; they had gone to the barricades and to the field of battle for Robespierre, Napoleon, and finally for Thiers; but of course their success was always the same: not only their economic position, but also the social condition of the lower masses of the people had remained unchanged. It was recognised more and more that between the proletariate and the upper classes there was something more than a separation of mere constitutional rights; in fact, that the privileges of wealth had taken the place of the privileges of birth; and the more the masses recognised this the more did their interest in purely political questions, and, above all, the question as to the form of the State, sink into the background, while it became more and more clearly seen that the equality of constitutional rights was no longer real equality, and that the attainment of equality necessitated the abolition of all privileges, including also the privilege of free possession or of property. Henceforth, therefore, every revolutionary power attacks no longer political points but the question of property, and even though all movements did not proceed so far as to open Communism, yet they were animated by the main idea that the question of human poverty was to be solved only by limitation of the right of free acquisition, possession, and disposal of property.

The dogma of the sanctity of property was in any case gone for ever. But still the last dogma, that of the inviolability of the State, remained. The Franco-German Socialists of the third and fourth decades of our century, Saint-Simon, Cabet, Weitling, Rodbertus, down to Louis Blanc himself, did not think of denying the State as such, but had thought of it as playing the principal part in the execution of their new scheme of organisation of industry and society. But the very character of the new reforming tendencies necessitated an unlimited preponderance of State authority which would crush out the freedom of decision in the individual. And a directly opposite tendency, opposed to all authority, could appear, therefore,—though certainly from the nature of the case necessary,—at first only as a very feeble opposition.

The principle of equality was not disputed, but the use of brute force through the power of the State was regarded with horror in the form in which the followers of Babœuf, the enthusiasts for Utopianism, preached it. The necessity for an organisation of industry was not denied, but men began to ask the question whether this organisation could not proceed from below upwards till it reached freedom? Already Fourier's phalanxes might be regarded as such an attempt to organise industry through the formation of free groups from below upwards; an attempt to which the Monarchists and Omniarchists are merely an exterior addition. If we leave out of consideration the rapid failure of the various Socialistic attempts at institutions based upon the foundation of authority, yet the sad experiences of half a century filled with continual constitutional changes would have sufficed to undermine the respect for authority as such. Absolute monarchy as well as constitutional, the Republic just as much as Imperialism, the dictatorship of an individual just as much as that of the mob, had all alike failed to remove pauperism, misery, and crime, or even to alleviate them; was it not then natural for superficial minds to conclude that the radical fault lay in the authoritative form of society in the State as such? did not the thought at once suggest itself that a further extension of Fourier's system of the formation of groups on the basis of the free initiative of the individual might be attempted without taking the State into account at all? But here was a further point at which a system of social and political Anarchism might begin with some hope of success, and here it actually did begin with Proudhon.


1 Cesare Lombroso, The Anarchists, a Study in Criminal Psychology and Sociology. (German translation by Dr Hans Kurella, after the 2nd edition of the original. Hamburg, 1895.)

2 Mysticism, Pietism, and Anti-Semitism at the close of the nineteenth century, a study in social history. Vienna, 1894.

3 Amalrich of Bena, near Chartres, was, about 1200 A.D., a professor of theology at Paris, He had to defend himself before Pope Innocent III. on a charge of pantheistic teaching, and then recanted. His follower, David of Dinant, however, continued his work after his master's death (in 1206 or 1207), and this caused a condemnation of Amalrich's teaching by the Synod of Paris in 1210, and by the Lateran Council in I2I3 and also led to a severe persecution of the Amalrikites.

4 E. Bernstein and K. Kautsky, Die Vorlaufer dts Neueren Socialismus. Stuttgart, 1895. Part I. pp. 169 and 216.

5 Vorlaufer des Neueren Socialismus, Pt. I. p. 230.

6 Der Widertdufferen vrisprung, fiirgang, Sectcn v.s.w. . , . beschriben durch Heinerrychen Bullingern. Zurich, 1561. Fol. 32.

7 Or, from the Greek, Chiliad; and hence the word Chiliasm, expressing the belief in a millennium.

8"Cette liberté commun est une consequence de la nature de l'home. Sa première loi est de veiller à sa propre conservation, ses premiers soins sont ceuz qu'il se doit à lui-m&ecap;me:et sit&ocap;t qu'il est en &acap;ge de raison, lui seul étant juge des moyens propres à le conserver, devient par là son propre maitre." — ROSSEAU.

9London, 1795, 2 vols.

10. Jean Grave says in his book La Socifti mourante, p. 21 :-- "In the year 1793 one talked of Anarchists. Jacques Roux and the 'surages' appear to have been only those who saw the Revolution most clearly, and wished to turn it to the benefit of the people; and, therefore, the bourgeois historian has left them in the background; their history has still to be written; the documents buried in archives and libraries are waiting for one who shall have time and courage to exhume them, and bring to light the secrets of events that are to us almost incomprehensible. Meanwhile we can pass no judgment on their programme." Of course we can do so still less.

11 J. A. M. Brühle: Die Geheimbunde gegen Rom. Zur Genesis der italien. Revolution. Prague, 1860.




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