Donnerstag, 28. Mai 2009

Anarchism: What It Is and What It Is Not

"The state, according to Herbert Spencer and others, originated in war, aggressive war, violence, and has always been maintained by violence. The function of the state has always been to govern - to make the non-ruling classes do what the ruling classes want done. The state is the king in a monarchy, the king and parliament in a limited monarchy, elected representatives in such a republic as exists in the United States, and the majority of the voters in a democracy as in Switzerland. History shows that the masses are always improved in mental, moral, and material conditions as the powers of the state over the individuals are reduced. As man becomes more enlightened regarding his interests, individual and collective, he insists that forcible authority over him and his conduct shall be abolished. He points to the fact that the church has improved in its material affairs, to say nothing of the spiritual, since the individual is not compelled to support it and accept its doctrines or be declared a heretic and burned at the stake or otherwise maltreated; to the fact that people are better dressed since the state has annulled the laws regulating dress; to the fact that people are happier married since each person can choose his own mate; to the fact that people are better in every way since the laws were abolished regulating the individual's hair-cut, his traveling, his trade, the number of window panes in his house, chewing tobacco or kissing on Sundays, and so on without number. In Russia and some other countries even now you would not be allowed to go into the country or come out of it without legal permission, to print or read books or papers except those permitted by law, to keep anyone in your house over night without notifying the police, and in a thousand ways the individual is hampered in his movements. Even in the freest countries the individual is robbed by the tax-collector, is beaten by the police, is fined and jailed by courts - is browbeated by the authority in many ways when his conduct is not aggressive or in violation of equal freedom.

It is a mistake often made, even by some Anarchists, to say that Anarchism aims to establish absolute freedom. Anarchism is a practical philosophy, and is not striving to do the impossible. What Anarchism aims to do, however, is to make equal freedom applicable to every human creature. The majority under this rule has no more rights than the minority, the millions no greater rights than one. It assumes that every human being should have equal rights to all the products of nature without money and without price; that what one produces would belong to himself, and that not individual or collection of persons, be they outlaw or state, should take any portion of it without his knowledge or consent; that every person should be allowed to exchange his own products wherever he wills; that he should be allowed to co-operate with his fellows if he chooses, or to compete against them in whatever field he elects; that no restrictions whatsoever should be put upon him in what he prints or reads or drinks or eats or does, so long as he does not invade the equal rights of his fellows.

It is often remarked that Anarchism is an impractical theory imported into the United States by a lot of ignorant foreigners. Of course, those who make this statement are as much mistaken as though they made it while conscious of its falsity. The doctrine of personal freedom is an American doctrine, in so far as the attempt to put it into practice is concerned, as Paine, Franklin, Jefferson and others understood it quite well. Even the Puritans had a faint idea of it, as they came here to exercise the right of private judgement in religious matters. The right to exercise private judgement in religion is Anarchy in religion. The first to formulate the doctrine of individual sovereignty was a blue-bellied Yankee, as Josiah Warren was a descendant of the Revolutionary General Warren. We have Anarchy in trade between the states in this country, as free trade is simply commercial Anarchy.

No one who commits crime can be an Anarchist, because crime is the doing of injury to another by aggression - the opposite of Anarchism."

- from Joseph Labadie

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