Anarchism: It's Aims and Purposes
By Rudolf Rocker
Chapter 1, from Anarcho-syndicalism
1. Anarchism: Its Aims and Purposes
Anarchism versus economic monopoly and state power; Forerunners of modern Anarchism; William Godwin and his work on Political Justice; P.J. Proudhon and his ideas of political and economic decentralisation; Max Stirner's work, The Ego and Its Own; M. Bakunin the Collectivist and founder of the Anarchist movement; P. Kropotkin the exponent of Anarchist Communism and the philosophy of Mutual Aid; Anarchism and revolution; Anarchism a synthesis of Socialism and Liberalism; Anarchism versus economic materialism and Dictatorship; Anarchism and the state; Anarchism a tendency of history; Freedom and culture.
Anarchism is a definite intellectual current in the life of our times, whose adherents advocate the abolition of economic monopolies and of all political and social coercive institutions within society. In place of the present capitalistic economic order Anarchists would have a free association of all productive forces based upon co-operative labour, which would have as its sole purpose the satisfying of the necessary requirements of every member of society, and would no longer have in view the special interest of privileged minorities within the social union.
In place of the present state organisation with their lifeless machinery of political and bureaucratic institutions Anarchists desire a federation of free communities which shall be bound to one another by their common economic and social interest and shall arrange their affairs by mutual agreement and free contract.
Anyone who studies at all profoundly the economic and social development of the present social system will easily recognise that these objectives do not spring from the Utopian ideas of a few imaginative innovators, but that they are the logical outcome of a thorough examination of the present-day social maladjustments, which with every new phase of the existing social conditions manifest themselves more plainly and more unwholesomely. Modern onopoly, capitalism and the totalitarian state are merely the last terms in a development which could culminate in no other results.
The portentous development of our present economic system, leading to a mighty accumulation of social wealth in the hands of privileged minorities and to a continuous impoverishment of the great masses of the people, prepared the way for the present political and social reaction and befriended it in every way. It sacrificed the general interest of human society to the private interest of individuals, and thus systematically undermined the relationship between man and man. People forgot that industry is not an end in itself, but should only be a means to ensure to man his material subsistence and to make accessible to him the blessings of a higher intellectual culture. Where industry is everything and man is nothing begins the realm of a ruthless economic despotism whose workings are no less disastrous than those of any political despotism. The two mutually augment one another, and they are fed from the same source.
The economic dictatorship of the monopolies and the political dictatorship of the totalitarian state are the outgrowth of the same political objectives, and the directors of both have the presumption to try to reduce all the countless expressions of social life to the mechanical tempo of the machine and to tune everything organic to the lifeless machine of the political apparatus. Our modern social system has split the social organism in every country into hostile classes internally, and externally it has broken the common cultural circle up into hostile nations; and both classes and nations confront one another with open antagonism and by their ceaseless warfare keep the communal social life in continual convulsions. The late World War and its terrible after effects, which are themselves only the results of the present struggles for economic and political power, are only the logical consequences of this unendurable condition, which will inevitably lead us to a universal catastrophe if social development does not take a new course soon enough. The mere fact that most states are obliged today to spend from fifty to seventy percent of their annual income for so-called national defence and the liquidation of old war debts is proof of the untenability of the present status, and should make clear to everybody that the alleged protection which the state affords the individual is certainly purchased too dearly.
The ever growing power of a soulless political bureaucracy which supervises and safeguards the life of man from the cradle to the grave is putting ever greater obstacles in the way of the solidaric co-operation of human beings and crushing out every possibility of new development. A system which in every act of its life sacrifices the welfare of large sections of the people, yes, of whole nations, to the selfish lust for power and the economic interests of small minorities must of necessity dissolve all social ties and lead to a constant war of all against all. This system has been merely the pacemaker for the great intellectual and social reaction which finds its expression today in modern Fascism, far surpassing the obsession for power of the absolute monarchy of past centuries and seeking to bring every sphere of human activity under the control of the state. Just as for the various systems of religious theology, God is everything and man nothing, so for this modern political theology, the state is everything and the man nothing. And just as behind the "will of God" there always lay hidden the will of privileged minorities, so today there hides behind the "will of the state" only the selfish interest of those who feel called to interpret this will in their own sense and to force it upon the people.
Anarchist ideas are to be found in every period of known history, although there still remains a good deal of work for historical work in this field. We encounter them in the Chinese sage, Lao-Tse (The Course and The Right Way) and in the later Greek philosophers, the Hedonists and Cynics and other advocates of so-called "natural right," and in particular in Zeno who, at the opposite pole from Plato, founded the Stoic school. They found expression in the teaching of the Gnostic, Karpocrates, in Alexandria, and had an unmistakable influence on certain Christian sects of the Middle Ages in France, Germany and Holland, almost all of which fell victims to the most savage persecutions. In the history of the Bohemian reformation they found a powerful champion in Peter Chelcicky, who in his work, "The Net of Faith," passed the same judgement on the church and the state as Tolstoy did later. Among the great humanists there was Rabelais, who in his description of the happy Abbey of Thélème (Gargantua) presented a picture of life freed from all authoritarian restraints. Of other pioneers of libertarian thinking we will mention here only La Boétie, Sylvan Maréchal, and, above all, Diderot, in whose voluminous writings one finds thickly strewn the utterances of a truly great mind which had rid itself of every authoritarian prejudice.
Meanwhile, it was reserved for more recent history to give clear form to the anarchist perception of life and to connect it with the immediate processes of social evolution. This was done for the first time in William Godwin's splendidly conceived work, Concerning Political Justice and its Influence upon General Virtue and Happiness, London, 1793. Godwin's work was, we might say, the ripened fruit of that long evolution of the concepts of political and social radicalism in England which proceeds in a continuous line from George Buchanan through Richard Hooker, Gerard Winstanley, Algernon Sidney, John Locke, Robert Wallace and John Bellers to Jeremy Bentham, Joseph Priestley, Richard Price and Thomas Paine.
Godwin recognised very clearly that the cause of social evils is to be sought, not in the form of the state, but in its very existence. Just as the state presents only a caricature of a genuine society, so also it makes of human beings who are held under its eternal guardianship merely caricatures of their real selves by constantly compelling them to repress their natural inclinations and holding them to things that are repugnant to their inner impulses. Only in this way is it possible to mould human beings to the established form of good subjects. A normal human being who was not interfered with in his natural development would of himself shape the environment that suits his inborn demand for peace and freedom.
But Godwin also recognised that human beings can only live together naturally and freely when the proper economic conditions for this are given, and when the individual is no longer subject to exploitation by another, a consideration which the representatives of mere political radicalism almost completely overlooked, hence they were later compelled to make consistently greater concessions to that power of the state which they had wished to restrict to a minimum. Godwin's idea of a stateless society assumed the social ownership of all natural and social wealth, and the carrying on of economic life by the free co-operation of the producers; in this sense he was really the founder of the later communist Anarchism.
Godwin's work had a very strong influence on advanced circles of the English workers and the more enlightened sections of the liberal intelligentsia. Most important of all, he contributed to give to the young socialist movement in England, which found its maturest exponents in Robert Owen, John Gray and William Thompson, that unmistakable libertarian character which it had for a long time, and which it never assumed in Germany and many other countries.
But a far greater influence on the development of Anarchist theory was that of Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, one of the most intellectually gifted and certainly the most many-sided writer of whom modern socialism can boast. Proudhon was completely rooted in the intellectual and social life of his period, and these inspired his attitude upon every question he dealt with. Therefore, he is not to be judged, as he has been by even by many of his later followers, by his special practical proposals, which were born of the needs of the hour. Amongst the numerous socialist thinkers of his time he was the one who understood most profoundly the cause of social maladjustment, and possessed, besides, the greatest breadth of vision. He was the outspoken opponent of all systems, and saw in social evolution the eternal urge to new and higher forms of intellectual and social life, and it was his conviction that this evolution could not be bound by any abstract general formulas.
Proudhon opposed the influence of the Jacobin tradition, which dominated the thinking of the French democrats and of most of the Socialists of that period with the same determination as the interference of the central state and economic policy in the natural processes of social advance. To rid society of these two cancerous growths was for him the great task of the nineteenth-century revolution. Proudhon was no communist. He condemned property as merely the privilege of exploitation, but he recognised the ownership of the instruments of production by all, made effective by industrial groups bound to one another by free contract, so long as this right was not made to serve the exploitation of others and as long as the full product of his individual labour was assured to every human being. This organisation based on reciprocity (mutualité) guarantees the enjoyment of equal rights by each in exchange for equal services. The average working time required for the completion of any product becomes the measure of its value and is the basis of mutual exchange. In this way capital is deprived of its usurial power and is completely bound up with the performance of work. By being made available to all it ceases to be an instrument for exploitation.
Such a form of economy makes an political coercive apparatus superfluous. Society becomes a league of free communities which arrange their affairs according to need, by themselves or in association with others, and in which man's freedom finds in the freedom of others not its limitation, but its security and confirmation. "The freer, the more independent and enterprising the individual is in a society, the better for the society." This organisation of Federalism in which Proudhon saw the immediate future sets no definite limitations on further possibilities of development, and offers the widest scope to every individual and social activity. Starting out from this point of view of the federation, Proudhon combated likewise the aspirations for political activity of the awakening nationalism of the time, and in particular that nationalism which found in Mazzini, Garibaldi, Lelewel, and others, such strong advocates. In this respect also he saw more clearly than most of his contemporaries. Proudhon exerted a strong influence on the development of socialism, which made itself felt especially in the Latin countries. But the so-called individual Anarchism, which found able exponents in America in such men as Josiah Warren, Stephen Pearl Andrews, William B. Greene, Lysander Spooner, Francis D. Tandy, and most notably in Benjamin R. Tucker ran in similar lines, though none of its representatives could approach Proudhon's breadth of view.
Anarchism found a unique expression in Max Stirner's (Johann Kaspar Schmidt's) book, Der Einzige und sein Eigentum (The Ego and His Own), which, it is true, quickly passed into oblivion and had no influence at all on the Anarchist movement as such--though it was to experience an unexpected resurrection fifty years later. Stirner's book is pre-eminently a philosophical work which traces man's dependence on so-called higher powers through all its devious ways, and is not timid about drawing inferences from the knowledge gained by the survey. It is the book of a conscious and deliberate insurgent, which reveals no reverence for any authority, however exalted, and therefore impels powerfully to independent thinking.
Anarchism found a virile champion of vigorous revolutionary energy in Michael Bakunin, who took his stand upon the teachings of Proudhon, but extended them on the economic side when he, along with the collectivist wing of the First International, came out for the collective ownership of the land and of all other means of production, and wished to restrict the right of private ownership to the full product of individual labour. Bakunin also was an opponent of Communism, which in his time had a thoroughly authoritarian character, like that which it has again assumed today in Bolshevism. In one of his four speeches at the Congress of the League of Peace and Freedom in Bern (1868), he said: "I am not a Communist because Communism unites all forces of society in the state and becomes absorbed in it; because it inevitably leads to the concentration of all property in the hands of the state, while I seek the abolition of the state--the complete elimination of the principle of authority and governmental guardianship, which under the pretence of making men moral and civilising them, has up to now always enslaved, oppressed, exploited and ruined them."
Bakunin was a determined revolutionary and did not believe in an amicable adjustment of the existing class conflict. He recognised that the ruling classes blindly and stubbornly opposed even the slightest social reform, and accordingly saw the only salvation in an international social revolution, which should abolish all the ecclestical, political, military, bureaucratic and judicial institutions of the existing social system and introduce in their stead a federation of free workers' associations to provide for the requirements of daily life. Since he, like so many of his contemporaries, believed in the close proximity of the revolution, he directed all his vast energy to combine all the genuinely revolutionary and libertarian elements within and without the International to safeguard the coming revolution against any dictatorship or retrogression to the old conditions. Thus he became in a very special sense the creator of the modern Anarchist movement.
Anarchism found a valuable advocate in Peter Kropotkin, who set himself the task of making the achievements of modern natural science available for the development of the sociological concepts of Anarchism. In his ingenious book Mutual Aid--a Factor of Evolution, he entered the lists against so-called Social Darwinism, whose exponents tried to prove the inevitability of the existing social conditions from the Darwinian theory of the struggle for existence by raising the struggle of the strong against the weak to the status of an iron law for all natural processes, to which even man is subject. In reality this conception was strongly influenced by the Malthusian doctrine that life's table is not spread for all, and that the unneeded will just have to reconcile themselves to this fact.
Kropotkin showed that this conception of nature as a field of unrestricted warfare is only a caricature of real life, and that along with the brutal struggle for existence, which is fought out with tooth and claw, there exists in nature another principle which is expressed in the social combination of the weaker species and the maintenance of races by the evolution of social instincts and mutual aid.
In this sense man is not the creator of society, but society is the creator of man, for he inherited from the that preceded him the social instinct which alone enabled him to maintain himself in his first environment against the physical superiority of other species, and to make sure of an undreamed-of height of development. This second tendency in the struggle for existence is far superior to the first, as is shown by the steady retrogression of those species which have no social life and are dependent merely upon their physical strength. This view, which today is meeting with consistently wider acceptance in the natural sciences and in social research, opened wholly new vistas to speculation concerning human evolution.
The fact is that even under the worst despotism most of man's personal relations with his fellows are arranged by free agreement and solidaric co-operations, without which social life would not be possible at all. If this were not the case even the strongest coercive arrangements of the state would not be able to maintain the social order for a single day. However, these natural forms of behaviour, which arise from man's inmost nature, are today constantly interfered with and crippled by the effects of economic exploitation and governmental guardianship, which represents in human society the brutal form of the struggle for existence, which has to be overcome by the other form of mutual aid and free co-operation. The consciousness of personal responsibility and that other precious good that has come down to man by inheritance from remote antiquity: that capacity for sympathy with others in which all social ethics, all ideas of social justice, have their origin, develop best in freedom.
Like Bakunin, Kropotkin too was a revolutionary. But he, like Élisée Reclus and others, saw in revolution only a special phase of the evolutionary process, which appears when new social aspirations are so restricted in their natural development by authority that they have to shatter the old shell by violence before they can function as new factors in human life. In contrast to Proudhon and Bakunin, Kropotkin advocated community ownership, not only of the means of production, but of the products of labour as well, as it was his opinion that in the present status of technique no exact measure of the value of individual labour is possible, but that, on the other hand, by a rational direction of our modern methods of labour it will be possible to assure comparative abundance to every human being. Communist Anarchism, which before him had already been urged by Joseph Dejacque, Élisée Reclus, Errico Malatesta, Carlo Cafiero, and others, and which is advocated by the great majority of Anarchists today, found in him one of its most brilliant exponents.
Mention must also be made here of Leo Tolstoy, who took from primitive Christianity and, on the basis of the ethical principles laid down in the gospels, arrived at the idea of a society without rulership.
Common to all Anarchists is the desire to free society of all political and social coercive institutions which stand in the way of development of a free humanity. In this sense Mutualism, Collectivism and Communism are not to be regarded as closed systems permitting no further development, but merely as economic assumptions as to the means of safeguarding a free community. There will even probably be in society of the future different forms of economic co-operation operating side by side, since any social progress must be associated with that free experiment and practical testing out for which in a society of free communities there will be afforded every opportunity.
The same holds true for the various methods of Anarchism. Most Anarchists of our time are convinced that a social transformation of society cannot be brought about without violent revolutionary convulsions. The violence of these convulsions, of course, depends upon the strength of the resistance which the ruling classes will be able to oppose to the realisation of the new ideas. The wider the circles which are inspired with the idea of a reorganisation of society in the spirit of freedom and Socialism, the easier will be the birth pains of the coming social revolution.
In modern anarchism we have the confluence of the two great currents which during and since the French Revolution have found such characteristic expression in the intellectual life of Europe: Socialism and Liberalism. Modern Socialism developed when profound observers in social life came to see more and more clearly that political constitutions and changes in the form of government could never get to the bottom of that great problem that we call "the social question." Its supporters recognised that a social equalising of human beings , despite the loveliest of theoretical assumptions, is not possible so long as people are separated into classes on the basis of their owning or not owning property, classes whose mere existence excludes in advance any thought of a genuine community. And so there developed the recognition that only by elimination of economic monopolies and common ownership of the means of production, in a word, by a complete transformation of all economic conditions and social institutions associated with them, does a condition of social justice become thinkable, a status in which society shall become a genuine community, and human labour shall no longer serve the ends of exploitation, but shall serve to assure abundance to everyone. But as soon as Socialism began to assemble its forces and became a movement, there at once came to light certain differences of opinion due to the influence of the social environment in different countries. It is a fact that every political concept from theocracy to Caesarism and dictatorship have affected certain factions in the Socialist movement. Meanwhile, there have been two great currents in political thought which have been of decisive significance for the development of Socialistic ideals: Liberalism, which powerfully stimulated advanced minds in the Anglo-Saxon countries and Spain, in particular, and Democracy in the later sense to which Rousseau gave expression in his Social Contract, and which found its most influential representatives in French Jacobinism. While liberation in its social theorising started off from the individual and wished to limit the state's activities to a minimum, Democracy took its stand on an abstract collective concept, Rousseau's "general will," which it sought to fix in the national state.
Liberalism and Democracy were preeminently political concepts, and since the great majority of the original adherents of both maintained the right of ownership in the old sense, these had to renounce them both when economic development took a course which could not be practically reconciled with the original principles of Democracy, and still less with those of Liberalism. Democracy, with its motto of "all citizens equal before the law," and Liberalism with its "right of man over his own person," both shipwrecked on the realities of the capitalist economic form. So long as millions of human beings in every country had to sell their labour-power to a small minority of owners, and to sink into the most wretched misery if they could find no buyers, the so-called "equality before the law" remains merely a pious fraud, since the laws are made by those who find themselves in possession of the social wealth. But in the same way there can also be no talk of a "right over one's own person," for that right ends when one is compelled to submit to the economic dictation of another if he does not want to starve.
Anarchism has in common with Liberalism the idea that the happiness and prosperity of the individual must be the standard of all social matters. And, in common with the great representatives of Liberal thought, it has also the idea of limiting the functions of government to a minimum. Its supporters have followed this thought to its ultimate logical consequences, and wish to eliminate every institution of political power from the life of society. When Jefferson clothes the basic concept of Liberalism in the words: "that government is best which governs least," then Anarchists say with Thoreau: "That government is best which governs not at all."
In common with the founders of socialism, Anarchists demand the abolition of all economic monopolies and the common ownership of the soil and all other means of production, the use of which must be available for all without distinction; for personal and social freedom is conceivable only on the basis of equal economic advantages for everybody. Within the socialist movement itself the Anarchists represent the viewpoint that the war against capitalism must be at the same time a war against all institutions of political power, for in history economic exploitation has always gone hand in hand with political and social oppression. The exploitation of man by man and the dominion of man over man are inseparable, and each is the condition of the other.
As long as within society a possessing and a non-possessing group of human beings face one another in enmity, the state will be indispensable to the possessing minority for the protection of its privileges. When this condition of social injustice vanishes to give place to a higher order of things, which shall recognise no special rights and shall have as its basic assumption the community of social interests, government over men must yield the field to the to the administration of economic and social affairs, or to speak with Saint-Simon: "The time will come when the art of governing man will disappear. A new art will take its place, the art of administering things."
And this disposes of the theory maintained by Marx and his followers that the state, in the form of a proletarian dictatorship, is a necessary transitional stage to a classless society, in which the state after the elimination of all class conflicts and then of classes themselves, will dissolve itself and vanish from the canvas. This concept, which completely mistakes the real nature of the state and the significance in history of the factor of political power, is only the logical outcome of so-called economic materialism, which sees in all the phenomena of history merely the inevitable effects of the methods of production of the time. Under the influence of this theory people came to regard the different forms of the state and all other social institutions as a "juridical and political superstructure" on the "economic edifice" of society, and thought that they had found in that theory the key to every historical process. In reality every section of history affords us thousands of examples of the way in which the economic development of a country has been set back for centuries and forced into prescribed forms by particular struggles for political power.
Before the rise of the ecclesiastical monarchy Spain was industrially the most advanced country in Europe and held the first place in economic production in almost every field. But a century after the triumph of the Christian monarchy most of its industries had disappeared. What was left of then survived only in the most wretched conditions. In most industries they had reverted to the most primitive methods of production. Agriculture collapsed, canals and waterways fell into ruin, and vast stretches of country were transformed into deserts. Down to this day Spain has never recovered from that setback. The aspirations of a particular caste for political power had laid economic development fallow for centuries.
Princely absolutism in Europe, with its silly "economic ordinances" and "industrial legislation," which punished severely any deviation from the prescribed methods of production and permitted no new inventions, blocked industrial progress in European countries for centuries, and prevented its natural development. And were there not considerations of political power which after the World War constantly balked any escape from the universal economic crisis and delivered the future of whole countries to politics-playing generals and political adventurers? Who will assert that modern Fascism was an inevitable result of economic development?
In Russia, however, where the so-called "proletarian dictatorship" has ripened into reality, the aspirations of a particular party for political power have prevented any truly socialistic reconstruction of economy and have forced the country into the slavery of a grinding state-capitalism. The "dictatorship of the proletariat," in which naive souls wish to see merely a passing, but inevitable, transition stage to real Socialism, has today grown into a frightful despotism, which lags behind the tyranny of the Fascist states in nothing.
The assertion that the state must continue to exist until class conflicts, and classes with them, disappear, sounds, in the light of all historical experience, almost like a bad joke. Every type of political power presupposes some particular form of human slavery, for the maintenance of which it is called into being. Just as outwardly, that is, in relation to other states, the state has to create certain artificial antagonisms in order to justify its existence, so also internally the cleavage of society into castes, ranks, and classes is an essential condition of its continuance. The state is capable only of protecting old privileges and creating new ones; in that its whole significance is exhausted.
A new state which has been brought into existence by a social revolution can put an end to the privileges of the old ruling classes, but it can do this only by immediately setting up a new privileged class, which it will require for the maintenance of its rulership. The development of the Bolshevist bureaucracy in Russia under the alleged dictatorship of the proletariat--which has never been anything but the dictatorship of a small clique over the proletariat and the entire Russian people--is merely a new instance of an old historical experience which has repeated itself uncountable times. This new ruling class, which today is rapidly growing into a new aristocracy, is set apart from the great masses of Russian peasants and workers just as clearly as are the privileged castes and classes in other countries from the mass of their peoples.
It could perhaps be objected that the new Russian commisar-ocracy cannot be put up on the same footing as the powerful financial and industrial oligarchies of capitalist states. But the objection will not hold. It is not the size or the extent of the privilege that matters, but its immediate effect on the daily life of the average human being. An American working man who, under moderately decent working conditions, earns enough to feed, clothe and house himself humanely and has enough left over to provide himself with some cultured enjoyments, feels the possession of millions by the Mellons and Morgans less than a man who earns hardly enough to satisfy his most urgent necessities [and who] feels the privileges of a little caste of bureaucrats, even if these are not millionaires. People who can scarcely get enough dry bread to satisfy their hunger, who live in squalid rooms which they are often obliged to share with strangers, and who, on top of this, are compelled to work under an intensified speed-up system which raises their productive capacity to the utmost, can but feel the privileges of an upper class which lacks nothing, much more keenly than their class comrades in capitalist countries. And this situation becomes still more unbearable when a despotic state denies to the lower classes the right to complain of existing conditions, so that any protest is made at the risk of their lives.
But even a far greater degree of economic equality than exists in Russia would still be no guarantee against political and social oppression. It is just this which Marxism and all the other schools of authoritarian Socialism have never understood. Even in prison, in the cloister or in the barracks one finds a fairly high degree of economic equality, as all the inmates are provided with the same dwelling, the same food, the same uniform and the same tasks. The ancient Inca state in Peru and the Jesuit state in Paraguay had brought equal economic provision for every inhabitant to a fixed system, but in spite of this the vilest despotism prevailed there, and the human being was merely the automaton of a higher will, on whose decisions he had not the slightest influence. It was not without reason that Proudhon saw in a "Socialism" without freedom the worst from of slavery. The urge for social justice can only develop properly and be effective when it grows out of man's sense of personal freedom and is based on that. In other words Socialism will be free or it will not be at all. In its recognition of this lies the genuine and profound justification for the existence of Anarchism.
Institutions serve the same purpose in the life of society as bodily organs do in plants or animals: they are the organs of the social body. Organs do not rise arbitrarily, but because of the definite necessities of the physical and social environment. The eye of a deep-sea fish is formed very differently from that of an animal that lives on land, because it has to satisfy quite different demands. Changed conditions of life produce changed organs, but the organ always performs the function it was evolved to perform, or a related one. And it gradually disappears or becomes rudimentary as soon as its function is no longer necessary to the organism. But an organ never takes on a function that does not accord with its proper purpose.
The same is true of social institutions. They, too, do not rise arbitrarily, but are called into being by special social needs to serve definite purposes. In this way this modern state was evolved after monopoly economy, and the class divisions associated with them had begun to make themselves more and more conspicuous in the framework of the old social order. The newly arise possessing classes had need of a political instrument of power to maintain their economic and social privileges over the masses of their own people, and to impose them from without on other groups of human beings. Thus arose the appropriate social conditions for the evolution of the modern state, as the organ of political power of privileged castes and classes for the forcible subjugation and oppression of the non-possessing classes. This task is the political lifework of the state, the essential reason for it existing at all. And to this task it has always remained faithful, must remain faithful, for it cannot escape from its skin.
Its external forms have altered in the course of its historical development, but its functions have always remained the same. They have even been constantly broadened in just the measure in which its supporters have succeeded in making further fields of social activity subservient to their needs. Whether the state be monarchy or republic, whether historically it is anchored to autocracy or in a national constitution, its function remains always the same. And just as the functions of the bodily organs of plants and animals cannot be arbitrarily altered, so that, for example, one cannot at will hear with his eyes and see with his ears, so also one cannot at pleasure transform an organ of social oppression into an instrument for the liberation of the oppressed. The state can only be what it is: the defender of mass exploitation and social privileges, the creator of privileged classes and castes and of new monopolies. Who fails to recognise this function of the state does not understand the real nature of the present social order at all, and is incapable of pointing out to humanity new outlooks for its social evolution.
Anarchism is no patent solution for all human problems, no Utopia of a perfect social order, as it has so often been called, since on principle it rejects all absolute schemes and concepts. It does not believe in any absolute truth, or in definite final goals for human development, but in an unlimited perfectibility of social arrangements and human living conditions, which are always straining after higher forms of expression, and to which for this reason one can assign no definite terminus nor set any fixed goal. The worst crime of any type of state is just that it always tries to force the rich diversity of social life into definite forms and adjust it to one particular form, which allows for no wider outlook and regards the previously exciting status as finished. The stronger its supporters feel themselves, the more completely they succeed in bringing every field of social life into their service, the more crippling is their influence on the operation of all creative cultural forces, the more unwholesomely does it affect the intellectual and social development of any particular epoch.
The so-called totalitarian state, which now rests like a mountain-weight upon whole peoples and tries to mould every expression of their intellectual and social life to the lifeless pattern set by a political providence, suppresses with ruthless and brutal force every effort at alteration of the existing conditions. The totalitarian state is a dire omen for our time, and shows with frightful clarity whither such a return to the barbarity of past centuries must lead. It is the triumph of the political machine over mind, the rationalising of human thought, feeling and behaviour according to the established rules of the officials. It is consequently the end of all intellectual culture.
Anarchism recognises only the relative significance of ideas, institutions and social forms. It is therefore not a fixed, self-enclosed social system, but rather a definite trend in the historic development of mankind, which, in contrast with the intellectual guardianship of all clerical and governmental institutions, strives for the free unhindered unfolding of all the individual and social forces in life. Even freedom is only a relative, not an absolute concept, since it tends constantly to become broader and affect wider circles in more manifold ways. For the Anarchist, freedom is not an abstract philosophical concept, but the vital concrete possibility for every human being to bring to full development all the powers, capacities and talents with which nature has endowed him, and turn them to social account. The less this natural development of man is influenced by ecclesiastical or political guardianship, the more efficient and harmonious will human personality become, the more will it become the measure of the society in which it has grown.
This is the reason why all great culture periods in history have been periods of political weakness. And that is quite natural, for political systems are always set upon the mechanising and not upon the organic development of social forces. State and culture are in the depth of their being irreconcilable opposites. Nietzsche recognised this very clearly when he wrote:
- "No one can finally spend more than he has. That holds good for individuals; it holds good for peoples. If one spends oneself for power, for high politics, for husbandry, for commerce, parliamentarism, military interests--if one gives away that amount of reason, earnestness, will, self-mastery, which constitutes one's real self for one thing, he will not have it for the other. Culture and the state--let no one be deceived about this--are antagonists: the 'Culture State' is merely a modern idea. The one lives on the other, the one prospers at the expense of the other. All great periods of culture are periods of political decline. Whatever is great in a cultured sense is non political, is even anti-political."
A powerful state mechanism is the greatest hindrance to any higher cultural development. Where the state has been attacked by internal decay, where the influence of political power on the creative forces of society is reduced to a minimum, there culture thrives best, for political rulership always strives for uniformity and tends to subject every aspect of social life to its guardianship. And in this it finds itself in inescapable contradiction to the creative aspirations of cultural development, which is always on the quest after new forms and fields of social activity, and for which freedom of expression, the manysidedness and the kaleidoscopic changes of things, are just as vitally necessary as rigid forms, dead rules and the forcible suppression of every manifestation of social life which are in contradiction to it.
Every culture, if its natural development is not too much affected by political restrictions, experiences a perpetual renewal of the formative urge, and out of that comes an ever growing diversity of creative activity. Every successful piece of work stirs the desire for greater perfection and deeper inspiration; each new form becomes the herald of new possibilities of development. But the state creates no culture, as is so often thoughtlessly asserted; it only tries to keep things as they are, safely anchored to stereotypes. That has been the reason for all revolutions in history.
Power operates only destructively, bent always on forcing every manifestation of life into the straitjacket of its laws. Its intellectual form of expression is dead dogma, its physical form brute force. And this unintelligence of its objectives sets its stamp on its supporters also and renders them stupid and brutal, even when they were originally endowed with the best of talents. One who is constantly striving to force everything into a mechanical order at last becomes a machine himself and loses all human feeling.
It was from the understanding of this that modern Anarchism was born and now draws its moral force. Only freedom can inspire men to great things and bring about social and political transformations. The art of ruling men has never been the art of educating men and inspiring them to a new shaping of their lives. Dreary compulsion has at its command only lifeless drill, which smothers any vital initiative at its birth and can bring forth only subjects, not free men. Freedom is the very essence of life, the impelling force in all intellectual and social development, the creator of every new outlook for the future of mankind. The liberation of man from economic exploitation and from intellectual and political oppression, which finds its finest expression in the world-philosophy of Anarchism, is the first prerequisite for the evolution of a higher social culture and a new humanity.
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