Anarchism and the State

Excerpted from the book;

Individual Liberty
Selections From the Writings of Benjamin R. Tucker
Vanguard Press, New York, 1926
Kraus Reprint Co., Millwood, NY, 1973.


Mr. Henry Appleton, one of Liberty's original editorial contributors, was obliged to cease to act in that capacity when he took a position not in harmony with that of the editor on a point of great importance, whereat he later complained, and tried to explain his view of the controversy. In answering him, Mr. Tucker dealt with some essential questions of principle:

I do not admit anything except the existence of the individual, as a condition of his sovereignty. To say that the sovereignty of the individual is conditioned by Liberty is simply another way of saying that it is conditioned by itself. To condition it by the cost principle is equivalent to instituting the cost principle by authority, - an attempted fusion of Anarchism with State Socialism which I have always understood Mr. Appleton to rebel against.

It is true that the affirmation of individual sovereignty is logically precedent to protest against authority as such. But in practice they are inseparable. To protest against the invasion of individual sovereignty is necessarily to affirm individual sovereignty. The Anarchist always carries his base of supplies with him. He cannot fight away from it. The moment he does so he becomes an Archist. This protest contains all the affirmation that there is. As I have pointed out to Comrade Lloyd, Anarchy has no side that is affirmative in the sense of constructive. Neither as Anarchists nor - what is practically the same thing - as individual sovereigns have we any constructive work to do, though as progressive beings we have plenty of it. But, if we had perfect liberty, we might, if we chose, remain utterly inactive and still be individual sovereigns. Mr. Appleton's unenviable experiences are due to no mistake of mine, but to his own folly in acknowledging the pertinence of the hackneyed cry for construction, which loses none of its nonsense on the lips of a Circuit Court Judge.

I base my assertion that the Chicago Communists are not Anarchists entirely on the ground that Anarchism means a protest against every form of invasion. (Whether this definition is etymologically correct I will show in the next paragraph.) Those who protest against the existing political State, with emphasis on the existing, are not Anarchists, but Archists. In objecting to a special form or method of invasion, they tacitly acknowledge the rightfulness of some other form or method of invasion. Proudhon never fought any particular State; he fought the institution itself, as necessarily negative to individual sovereignty, whatever form it may take. His use of the word Anarchism shows that he considered it coextensive with individual sovereignty. If his applications of it were directed against political government, it was because he considered political government the only invader of individual sovereignty worth talking about, having no knowledge of Mr. Appleton's "comprehensive philosophy," which thinks it takes cognizance of a "vast mountain of government outside of the organized State." The reason why Most and Parsons are not Anarchists, while I am one, is because their Communism is another State, while my voluntary cooperation is not a State at all. It is a very easy matter to tell who is an Anarchist and who is not. One question will always readily decide it. Do you believe in any form of imposition upon the human will by force? If you do, you are not an Anarchist. If you do not, you are an Anarchist. What can any one ask more reliable, more scientific, than this?

Anarchy does not mean simply opposed to the archos, or political leader. It means opposed to the arche. Now, arche in the first instance, means beginning, origin. From this it comes to mean a first principle, an element; then first place, supreme power, sovereignty, dominion, command, authority; and finally a sovereignty, an empire, a realm, a magistracy, a governmental office. Etymologically, then, the word anarchy may have several meanings, among them, as Mr. Apppleton says, without guiding principle, and to this use of the word I have never objected, always striving, on the contrary, to interpret in accordance with their definition the thought of those who so use it. But the word Anarchy as a philosophical term and the word Anarchists as the name of a philosophical sect were first appropriated in the sense of opposition to dominion, to authority, and are so held by right of occupance, which fact makes any other philosophical use of them improper and confusing. Therefore, as Mr. Appleton does not make the political sphere coextensive with dominion or authority, he cannot claim that Anarchy, when extended beyond the political sphere, necessarily comes to mean without guiding principle, for it may mean, and by appropriation does mean, without dominion, without authority. Consequently it is a term which completely and scientifically covers the individualistic protest.

I could scarcely name a word that has been more abused, misunderstood, and misinterpreted than Individualism. Mr. Appleton makes so palpable a point against himself in instancing the Protestant sects that it is really laughable to see him try to use it against me. However it may be with the Protestant sects, the one great Protestant body itself was born of protest, suckled by protest, named after protest, and lived on protest until the days of its usefulness were over. If such instances proved anything, plenty of them might be cited against Mr. Appleton. For example, taking one of more recent date, I might pertinently inquire which contributed most through their affirmations as the Liberty Party or as Colonizationists, or those who defined themselves through their protests as the Anti-Slavery Society or as Abolitionists. Unquestionably the latter. And when human slavery in all its forms shall have disappeared, I fancy that the credit of this victory will be given quite as exclusively to the Anarchists and that these latter-day Colonizationists, of whom Mr. Appleton has suddenly become so enamored, will be held as innocent of its overthrow as are their predecessors and namesakes of the overthrow of chattel slavery.

It is to be regretted that Mr. Appleton took up so much space with other matters that he could not turn his "flood of light" into my "delusion" that the State is the efficient cause of tyranny over individuals; for the question whether this is a delusion or not is the very heart of the issue between us. He has asserted that there is a vast mountain of government outside of the organized State, and that our chief battle is with that; I, on the contrary, have maintained that practically almost all the authority against which we have to contend is exercised by the State, and that, when we have abolished the State, the struggle for individual sovereignty will be well-nigh over. I have shown that Mr. Appleton, to maintain his position, must point out this vast mountain of government and tell us definitely what it is and how it acts, and this is what the readers of Liberty have been waiting to see him do. But he no more does it in his last article than in his first. And his only attempt to dispute my statement that the State is the efficient cause of tyranny over individuals is confined to two or three sentences which culminate in the conclusion that the initial cause is the surrendering individual. I have never denied it, and am charmed by the air of innocence with which this substitution of initial for efficient is effected. Of initial causes finite intelligence knows nothing; it can only know causes as more or less remote. But using the word initial in the sense of remoter, I am willing to admit, for the sake of the argument (though it is not a settled matter), that the initial cause was the surrendering individual. Mr. Appleton doubtless means voluntarily surrendering individual, for compulsory surrender would imply the prior existence of a power to exact it, or a primitive form of State. But the State, having come into existence through such voluntary surrender, becomes a positive, strong, growing, encroaching institution, which expands, not by further voluntary surrenders, but by exacting surrenders from its individual subjects, and which contracts only as they successfully rebel. That, at any rate, is what it is today and hence it is the efficient cause of tyranny. The only sense, then, in which it is true that "the individual is the proper objective point of reform" is this, - that he must be penetrated with the Anarchistic idea and taught to rebel. But this is not what Mr. Appleton means. If it were, his criticism would not be pertinent, for I have never advocated any other method of abolishing the State. The logic of his position compels another interpretation of his words, - namely that the State cannot disappear until the individual is perfected. In saying which, Mr. Appleton joins hands with those wise persons who admit that Anarchy will be practicable when the millennium arrives. It is an utter abandonment of Anarchistic Socialism. no doubt it is true that, if the individual could perfect himself while the barriers to his perfection are standing, the State would afterwards disappear. Perhaps, too, he could go to heaven, if he could lift himself by his boot-straps.

If one must favor colonization, or localization, as Mr. Appleton calls it, as a result of looking "seriously" into these matters, then he must have been trifling with them for a long time. He has combatted colonization in these columns more vigorously than ever I did or can, and not until comparatively lately did he write anything seeming to favor it. Even then he declared that he was not given over to the idea, and seemed only to be making a tentative venture into a region which he had not before explored. If he has since become a settler, it only indicates to my mind that he has not yet fathomed the real cause of the people's wretchedness. That cause is State interference with natural economic processes. The people are poor and robbed and enslaved, not because "industry, commerce, and domicile are centralized," - in fact, such centralization has, on the whole, greatly benefited them, - but because the control of the conditions under which industry, commerce, and domicile are exercised and enjoyed is centralized. The localization needed is not the localization of persons in space, but of powers in persons, - that is, the restriction of power to self and the abolition of power over others. Government makes itself felt alike in country and in city, capital has it usurious grip on the farm as surely as on the workshop, and the oppressions and exactions of neither government nor capital can be avoided by migration. The State is the enemy, and the best means of fighting it can only be found in communities already existing. If there were no other reason for opposing colonization, this in itself would be sufficient.


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