What is Anarchism?
By Albert R. Parsons
Anarchy is anti-government, anti-rulers, anti-dictators, anti-bosses. . . .Anarchy is the negation of
force; the elimination of all authority in social affairs; it is the denial of the right of domination of
one man over another. It is the diffusion of rights, of power, of duties, equally and freely among
all the people.
But Anarchy, like many other words, is defined in Webster's dictionary as having two meanings.
In one place it is defined to mean "without rulers or governors." In another place it is defined to
mean, "disorder and confusion." This latter meaning is what we call "capitalistic anarchy," such as
is now witnessed in all portions of the world and especially in this courtroom; the former, which
means without rulers, is what we denominate communistic anarchy, which will be ushered in with
the social revolution.
Socialism is a term which covers the whole range of human progress and advancement.... I think I
have a right to speak of this matter, because I am tried here as a socialist. I am condemned as a
socialist.... If you are going to put me to death, then let the people know what it is for. Socialism
is defined by Webster as "a theory of society which advocates a more precise, more orderly, and
more harmonious arrangement of the social relations of mankind than has hitherto prevailed."
Therefore everything in the line of progress, in civilization in fact, is socialistic.
There are two distinct phases of socialism in the labor movement throughout the world today.
One is known as anarchism, without political government or authority; the other is known as state
socialism or paternalism, or governmental control of everything. The state socialist seeks to
ameliorate and emancipate the wage laborers by means of law, by legislative enactments. The
state socialists demand the right to choose their own rulers. Anarchists would have neither rulers
nor lawmakers of any kind. The anarchists seek the same ends--the abolition of wage-slavery by
the abrogation of law, by the abolition of all government, leaving the people free to unite or
disunite as fancy or interest may dictate, coercing no one....
We are charged with being the enemies of "Law and order," as breeders of strife and confusion.
Every conceivable bad name and evil design was imputed to us by the lovers of power and haters
of freedom and equality. Even the workingmen in some instances caught the infection, and many
of them joined in the capitalistic hue and cry against the anarchists. Being satisfied of ourselves
that our purpose was a just one, we worked on undismayed, willing to labor and to wait for time
and events to justify our cause. We began to allude to ourselves as anarchists and that name,
which was at first imputed to us as a dishonor, we came to cherish and defend with pride. What's
in a name? But names sometimes express ideas, and ideas are everything.
What, then, is our offense, being anarchists? The word anarchy is derived from the two Greek
words an, signifying no, or without, and arche, government; hence anarchy means no
government. Consequently anarchy means a condition of society which has no king, emperor,
president or ruler of any kind. In other words, anarchy is the social administration of all affairs by
the people themselves; that is to say, self-government, individual liberty. Such a condition of
society denies the right of majorities to rule over or dictate to minorities. Though every person in
the world agree upon a certain plan and only one objects thereto, the objector would, under
anarchy, be respected in his natural right to go his own way....
The great natural law of power derived alone from association and cooperation will of necessity
and from selfishness be applied by the people in the production and distribution of wealth, and
what the trades unions and labor organizations seek now to do, but are prevented from doing
because of obstructions and coercions, will under perfect liberty - anarchy - come easiest to hand.
Anarchy is the extension of the boundaries of liberty until it covers the whole range of the
wants and aspirations of man....
The anarchists are the advance-guard in the impending social revolution. They have discovered
the cause of the worldwide discontent which is felt but not yet understood by the toiling millions
as a whole. The effort now being made by organized and unorganized labor in all countries to
participate in the making of laws which they are forced to obey will lay bare to them the the secret
source of their enslavement to capital. Capital is a thing - it is property. Capital is the stored up,
accumulated savings of past labor...the resources of life, the means of subsistence. These things
are, in a natural state, the common heritage of all for the free use of all, and they were so held
until their forcible seizure and appropriation by a few. Thus the common heritage of all, seized by
violence and fraud, was atterwards made the property - capital - of the usurpers, who erected a
government and enacted laws to perpetuate and maitain their special privileges. The function, the
only function of capital is to confiscate the labor-product of the propertyless, non-possessing
class, the wage-workers. The origin of government was in violence and murder. Government
disinherits and enslaves the governed. Government is for slaves; free men govern themselves...
.The right to live, to equality of opportunity, to liberty and the pursuit of happiness, is yet to be
acquired by the producers of all wealth.... Legalized capital and the state stand or fall together.
They are twins. The liberty of labor makes the state not only unnecessary, but impossible. When
the people - the whole people - become the state, that is, participate equally in governing
themselves, the state of necessity ceases to exist....
Anarchy, therefore, is liberty; is the negation of force, or compulsion, or violence. It is the precise
reverse of that which those who hold and love power would have their oppressed victims believe
it is....The great class conflict now gathering throughout the world is created by our social system
of industrial slavery. Capitalists could not if they would, and would not if they could, change it.
This alone is to be the work of the proletariat, the disinherited, the wage-slave, the sufferer. Nor
can the wage class avoid this conflict. Neither religion nor politics can solve it or prevent it. It
comes as a human, an imperative necessity. Anarchists do not make the social revolution; they
prophesy its coming. Shall we then stone the prophets?....
In the line of evolution and historical development, anarchy - liberty - is next in order. With the
destruction of the feudal system, and the birth of commercialism and manufactories in the
sixteenth century, a contest long and bitter and bloody, lasting over a hundred years, was waged
for mental and religious liberty. The seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, with their sanguinary
conflicts, gave to man political equality and civil liberty, based on the monopolization of the
resources of life...
All over the world the fact stands undisputed that the political is based upon, and is but the reflex
of the economic system, and hence we find that whatever the political form of the government,
whether monarchical or republican, the average social status of the wage-workers is in every
country identical. The class struggle of the past century is history repeating itself; it is the
evolutionary growth preceding the revolutionary denouement. Though liberty is a growth, it is
also a birth, and while it is yet to be, it is also about to be born. Its birth will come through travail
and pain, through bloodshed and violence. It cannot be prevented....
An anarchist is a believer in liberty, and as I would control no man against his will, neither shall
anyone rule over me with my consent. Government is compulsion; no one freely consents to be
governed by another - therefore, there can be no just power of government. Anarchy is perfect
liberty, is absolute freedom of the individual. Anarchy has no schemes, no programmes, no
systems to offer or to substitute for the existing order of things. Anarchy would strike from
humanity every chain that binds it, and say to mankind: ~ forth! you are free! Have all, enjoy all!"
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