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THE ROAD TO FRBKDOll P.O.Box 486. Mad. S<J. 3ta. Sew York, N. Y.
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THE LIBERTARIAN GROUP of Detroit, Mich.
ANARCHISM—The philosophy of a new social order based on liberty unrestricted by man-made laws; the theory that all forma of government rest on violence« and are therefore wrong and harmful, as well as unnecessary.— Tftnma Goldman in the FUNK ajid
WAGNALL'S STANDARD DICTIONARY.
In these answers to Objections, an instalment of his writings which are "being posthumously published, George Barrett produced a propagandist work of very great value to the cause of Anarchism, and one which we may be assured will occupy an important place in its literature. The form itself is fortunate: the method of debate, the swift encounter of v/its in the antagonism of question and answer, is an .advantage vivitf in ita effect, rousing in some degree even to the apathetic; and few with these examples before them will lightly attempt to gainsay the extraordinary power, directness, and logic of Barrett in the field of controversy. The reader, friend and opponent alike, will "be interested to note not only .that each objection ir> fairly and squarely met, but that out of a variety of possible answers only the line ox argument most vital to the issue is here put forward, briefly yet comprehensively, and with all the mathematical rigour of demonstration the author's mind required. We are left in no doubt as to where the weight of the answer lies, counter it if we can.
Barrett, however, is more than a clear and vogorous propagandist and disputant. His writings, while they teach and uniquely emphasise the teaching, are unceasingly a vibrant call to thought, they promote thought• Argumentatively none can be more finely satisfying, more conclusive than he. Nevertheless the thought somehow does not finally rest on that. By its aid we free ourselves possibly from a misapprehension or a prejudice, in itself a notable experience, a means of growth. Yet, exceeding this achievement, on which alone he is intent, the tremendous energy of Barrett's thought imparts its thrill, its Impulse; there appears even to be something causative in it; it is as though a vista opens rather than that a scene closes, and a new world swims into our ken, amazing in its possibilities, We are stimulated not only to think along the same lines but to think for ourselves creatively, as with quickened insight we begin to realise the solvent- greatness of the principle of Freedom from which we perceive his reasoning derives, and to what simplicity and harmony of result it leads us. He has come closer to the fact of things "b y the more than moral sincerity of his thought; and that high beeuty which Emerson says is ever proportionate to the depth of thought adds its influence to the message, so that the very expression which conveys the thought is liberative and inspiring. ' Beauty is Truth, Truth Beauty, and in Barrett mathematician and poet unite to establish the maxim. Skilled engineer, born journalist to whom the columns of the best technical journalsjn England were alv/ays open, practical designer, mathematician familiar with the deepest intricacies of the Calculus, he was yet poet, orator, dreamer (one supposes)—and Anarchist. And his finest integration, the important thing he would have us understand in all its bearings, that "one thought, one grace, one wonder at the least11 which it is his virtue to have envisaged and inspired, is the practicality, the sufficiency, the splendour, and the entire reasonableness of Liberty. .
A few years of rough and tumble of propaganda in the Anarchist movement leaves a strange impression of crowds on the speaker's mind. His answers to questions and opposition form much the most satisfactory part of his * work after he has sufficient experience to be able to deal with them adequately, and it is just from them he gets to understand his crowd. One of the strangest things that experience at such work reveals is the similarity of the crowd's mind (if one may use such an expression) wherever it may be found.
Let the speaker choose his pitch in the middle of Londcn, or let him go to the strange mining villages north of the Forth, and in both cases he will get the same questions in almost the same words. If he is able to understand his crowd, he will find it suffering from the same difficulties, and making the same weary and half-hearted struggle to break the bonds of the old superstitions that still bind it. It is passing strange that amid the theatres,' the picture galleries, and museums of London—so suggestive of the fulness and richness of life; among the great engineering works and structures of Manchester and the Clyde, which speak so eloquently of the power man has of producing wealth; in the midst of the fruitful valleys of England, or among the vast Scotch mountains—it matters not where— there is the same lack of vision, the same sad, kind-hearted men willing to hear the new gospel, but alas! the same despair. This hopelessness on the "laces of men who are all-powerful is the moot exasperating and the most tragic thing in all human existence.
-4-"Your strength lies no nearer and no further off than your own limbs. The world grows rich "by your strength, no more surely than you grow poor by the same power. It were easier for you to make yourselves great than to make others so while you bring misery on yourselves.n Such is the message of the revolutionist, and the mute answer might be expressed in the tragic words of Goethe:—
"Hush! Leave us where we are, resigned, Wake not ambitions longings in the mind. Born of the night, akin with night alone, Scarce to ourselves, and to none others
But I write so far of crowds, and crowds after all do not count. He who speaks merely to his crowd will become an orator, a success, and probably a Member of Parliament; but he who sees in each face confronting him a potential individual will have an experience as dear to him as it is painful. He will never grow to the sizq of an M. P. He will not set out to teach the ignorant people, for they will teach him. Above all, he will not sacrifice his pleasure for the movement, for in it he will find all the meaning of his life, and with the unshakeable confidence of the great Titan he will say: "I know but this, that it mu3t come.11 But I fear I grow too sensible, and must apologise to my reader for thus wasting his time.
The questiorfiwhich I have set myself to answer are not arranged to give an exhibition of skill in dealing with them. Everyone of them is an old friend. They have turned up persistently and cheerfully in all sorts of halls, and at any street corner. Be they crushed with the greatest severity, th<?y, boldly and serenely, come tumbling up to the platform on the very next occasion, until one cornea to
-5-know them, and to love them for their very stupidity—for there is no denying that some of them are stupid in the extreme.
It is strange indeed to wonder how some of these questions have been born; who originated them, and why they have become so widespread.
Thus, for example, No. 2 (which implies that the House of Commons can be used to obtain our ends because it has been successfully used by the capitalists to obtain theirs) is a question as common as any, and is, as its nature implies, usually put by a Parliamentary Socialist. Now, is it not a strange problem whence this question can have come, and why it should be so persistent? It is surely certain that the man who originated it must have had intelligence enough to see that the thing is absurd on the face of it. I am perfectly sure that the men who generally ask it would be quite capable of thinking out the answer to it if they devoted two minutes to the attempt. Yet that question has been created by someone, and either re-created or repeated endlessly throughout the whole country. It forms a good example of the blindness with v/hich people fight for their political party. This party blindness and deafness (a pity it were not dumbness also) is one of the greatest difficulties to be overcome. Against it our weapons are useless. Let our arguments be of the boldest or most subtle type, they can make no headway against him whose faith is in his party.
This is indeed a subject fit for the introduction to not merely a little pamphlet, but to the. whole world's literature, for it is difficult to realise hew mny books are sealed, how many libraries are closed to that great crowd who remain loyal to their party,
and consequently regardless of the truth. If it is necessary to take an example we may always find one near at hand. The Socialist politicians are as good as any. For years their energies have been expended in advocating State control and guardianship in all things. To-day we have Old-Age Pensions, Insurance Acts, and Mr. Lloyd George's plans for "Socialisation," as he terras it, ji. e.., Government control of the munition works, and some prospect of compulsory military service; but though these things work towards the universal State, the average party Socialist quarrels with'them all—and why?
They are not perfect from his point of view, it may be admitted; but who can deny that they are steps in the direction he has been advocating? Why then does he not hail them with delight? They have not been introduced by his party.
For such men the arguments in this little .book are not written. They lie under a heavy curse, which no wit of mine can lessen. Their lives in their own small way are like that of Ibsen's Emperor Julian, and with him, on the eve of battle, they cry with their petty voices: "I must call upon something without and above me... I will sacrifice to this god and to that. I will sacrifice to many. One or the other must surely hear me.,f
Our advanced men have ceased to pray and sacrifice to the gods in the hour of need, but still at every little difficulty they feel the necessity of some power outside themselves. Almost every objection given here is prompted by this modern form of superstition, and almost every answer may be put in the words of the philosopher Maximus, who tries in vain to stimulate . self-reliance in his friend Julian: "To what gods, oh fool? Where are they...and what are they?... I believe in yrof
No. 1*—WHAT WIIL YOU DO WITH THE MAN WHO WILL NOT WORK?
First of all, let us notioe that this question belongs to a class to which many others belong. All social theories must obviously be based on the assumption that men are social: that is, that they will live and work together naturally, because by so doing they can individually better enjoy their lives. Therefore all such difficulties, which are really based on the supposition that men are not social, can be raised not against Anarchism alone, but against any system of society that one chooses to suggest.
Questions 11, 12, 13 and 15 belong to this class, which are merely based on supposition. My opponents will realise how futile they are if I use a similar kind of argument against their system of government. Suppose, I argue, that having sent your representatives into the House of Commons they will not sit down and legislate, but that they will just play the fool, or, perhaps, vote themselves comfortable incomes, instead of looking after your welfare. It will be answered to this that they are sent there to legislate, and that in all human probability they will do so. Quite so; but we may still say "Yes, but s u p p o s e they don't?" and whatever arguments are brought forward in favour of government they can always, by simply supposing, be rendered quite useless, since those who oppose us would never be able t o actually guarantee that our governors would govern. Such an argument would be absurd, it is quite true; for though it may happen that occasionally legislators will sit down and vote themselves incomes instead of attending to the affairs of the nation, yet we could
-8-not use this as a logical argument against the government system.
Similarly, when we are putting forward our ideas of free co-operation or Anarchism, it iasrotngood enough to argue, "Yes, but suppose your co-operators will not co-operate?" for that is what questions of this cla ss amount to.
It is because we claim to be able to show that it is wrong in principle that we, as Anarchists, are against government. In the same way, then, those who oppose Anarchism ought not to do so by simply supposing that a man will do this, or won't do that, but they ought to 3et themselves to show that Anarchism is in principle opposed to the welfare of mankind.
The second interesting point to notice about the question is that it is generally asked by a Socialist. Behind the question there is obviously the implication that ha who asks it has in his. mind some way of forcing men to woik. Now the most obvious of all those who will not work is the man who is on strike, and if you have a method of dealing with the man who will not work it simply means that you are going to organise a system of society where the government will be so . all-powerful that the rebel and the striker will be completely crushed out. You will have a government class dictating to a working class the conditions under which it must labour, which is exactly what both Anarchists and Socialists are supposed to be struggling against to-day.
In a free society the man who will not work, if he should exist at all, is at least brought on equal terras with the man who will. He is not placed in a position of privilege so that he need not work, but on the contrary that argument which is so often used against Anarchism comes very neatly into play here in its favour. It is often urged that it is necessary to organise in order to live. Quite so, and for this reason the struggle for life compels us to organise, and there is no need for any further compulsion on the part of the government. Since to organise in society is really to work in society, it is the law of life which constantly tends to make men work, whilst it is the artificial laws of privilege which put men in such a position that they need not work. Anarchism would do away with these artificial laws, and thus it is the only system which constantly tends to eliminate the man who will not work.
We might perhaps here quote John Stuart Mill's answer to this objection:—
"The objection ordinarily made to a system of community of property and equal distribution of produce—'that each person would be incessantly occupied in evading his share of the work'—is, I think, in general, considerably overstated... Neither in a ruie nor in a civilized society has the supposed difficulty been experienced. In no community has idleness ever been a cause of failure." —J.S.Mill.
("Political Economy," Vol. I., p.251.)
No. 2.—THE House of Commons AND THE Law HAVE BEEN USED BY THE PRESENT DOMINANT CLASS TO GAIN THEIR ENDS; WHY CANNOT THEY BE USED BY US TO GAIN OURS?
This question is based upon an extraordinary misunderstanding. It seems to be taken for granted that Capitalism and the workers' movement both have the same end in view. If this were so, they might perhaps use the same
means; but: as the capitalist is out to perfect his system of exploitation and government, whilst the worker is out for emancipation and liberty, naturally the same means cannot be employed for both purposes. This surely answers the question sufficiently so far as it is a definite question. In so far, however, as it contains the vague suggestion that government is the agent of reform, progress,-and revolution, it touches the very \ point upon which Anarchists differ from all j political parties. It is worth while, then; to ; examine the suggestion a little more" closely. \
It is thought by the enthusiastic poli- j ticians that once they can capture government, then from their position of power they would be able very quickly to mould society into the desired shape. Pass ideal lav/a, they think, i and the ideal society would be the result. Hov/ simple, is it not? We should thus get the ! Revolution on the terms promised us by the wonderful Blatchford—"without bloodshed, and without losing a day's work." But, alas! the short cut to the Golden Age is an illusion. In the first place, any form of society shaped by law is not ideal. In the second place, law cannot shape society; indeed, rather the reverse is true. It is this second point which is all-important. Those who understand the forces behind progress will see the law limping along in the rear, • and never succeeding in keeping up with the progress made by the people; always, in fact, resisting any advance, always trying to start reaction, but in the long run always having to give way and allow more and more liberty. Even the champions of government recognise this when they want to make a drastic change, and then they throw aside the pretence of the law and turn to revolutionary methods. The'present ruling class, who are supposed to be a living proof that the Government can do anything, are in them-
selves quite candid in the admission that it can do very little. Whoever will study their rise to power will find that to get there they preach in theory, and establish in fact, tho principle of resistance to the law. Indeed, curious as it may seem, it is a fact that immediately after the Revolution it v/a;> declared seditious to preach against resistance to law, just as to-day it is sedition to spaak in favour of it.
To sum up, then, if there was any logic in the question, which there is not, we might restate it thus: "Since the present dominant class were unable to gain their ends by use of the House of Commons and the Law, why should we hope to gain ours by them?"
No. 3.—ALL CHASSB IS SL0-.7 BY Involution, AND NOT SUDDEN, AS THE Anarchists WISH TO MAKE IT BY Revolution.
* It is quite true that every great change is slowly prepared by a process of evolution almost imperceptible. Sometimes changes are carried right through from beginning to end by this slow process, but on the other hand it is quite quite clear that very often e-volution leads slowly up to a climax, and then there is a sudden change in the condition of things. This is so obvious that it seems scarcely worth while to elaborate the point. Almost anywhere in Nature we can see the double process: the plant which slowly, very slowly, ripens its germs of new life, quite suddenly exposes these to new conditions, and when they enter these new conditions they slowly begin to change again. An almost laughably good example of this, amongst many others, is furnished by a little fungus called the pilo bolus. This, which very slowly and innocently ripens its scores liko any other ordinary
-12-little plant, will, v/hen the moment comes suddenly shoot out a jet of water in which the spores are carried, ' and which it throws to a distance of sometimes as much as three feet, although the plant itself is very small. Now it is perfectly true that in this case the necessary pr3ssure is slowly evolved; it has taken long for all the conditions to imperceptibly ripen, and as the pressure has increased the cell wall has been giving way. There comes a time, however,, when that wall can stretch no further—and then it has suddenly burst asunder, and the new germs of life have been thrown violently into their new conditions, and according to these new conditions so do they develop.
So is it with the conditions of society. There is always amongst the people the spirit of freedom slowly developing, and tyranny is slov/ly receding or stepping back to make room for this development. But there comes a time when the governmental or tyrannical part has not enough elasticity to stretch so far as the pressure of Liberty, .developing within, would make it. When this point is reached the pressure of the new development bursts the bonds that bind it, and a revolution takes place. In the actual case in point the change proposed is so radical that it would mean the entire extinction of the governmental element in society. It is certain, then, that it will not gently stretch itself to thi3 point, especially as it ., shows us on every possible occasion that it is. ready to use violence in its most brutal fo£»s. #or this reason most Anarchists believe that the change will be sudden, and therefore we use the t e rm "revolution," recognising that it does not replace the term "evolution," but accompanies it.
No, 4. —IT' IS NECESSARY TO ORGANISE IN OPDEH TO LIVE, AND TO ORGANISE MEANS Government;
THEREFORE Anarchism IS IMPOSSIBLE.
It is true that it is necessary to organise in order to live f and since wr wish to live we shall all of our own frse v/ill organise, and do not need the com^ul^iJn of government to make us do so. Organisation does not mean government. All through our ordinary daily work we are organising without government. If two of us lift a table from one side of the room to the other, we naturally take hold one at each end, and wo need no Government to tell us that we must not overbalance it by both rushing to the same end; the reason why wo agree silently, and organise ourselves to the correct positions, is because we both have a common purpose: we both wish to see the table moved. " In more complex organisations the same thing takes place. So long as organisations are held together only by a common purpose they will automatically do their work smoothly. But when, in spite of conflicting interests, you have people held together in a common organisation, internal conflict results, and some outside force becomes necessary to preserve order; you have, in fact governmental society. It is the Anarchist's purpose to so organise society that the conflict of interests will cease, and men will co-operate and work together simply because they have interests in common. In such a society the organisations or institutions which they will form will be exactly in accordance with their needs; in fact, it will be a representative society.
Free organisation is more fully discussed, in answer to Questions 6 and 23.
Ho. 5,—HOW WOULD YOU HiCGULATE THE TRAFFIC?
We should not regulate it. It would be eft to those whose business it was to concern, riornselves in the matter. It would pay those /ho used the roads (and therefore had, in the ".a:n, interests in common in the matter) to ;ome together and discuss and make agreements .is to the rules of the road. Such rules in fact which at present exist have been esta-olished by custom and not by law, though the law may sometimes take it on itself to enforce them.
This question we see very practically answered to-day by the great motor clubs, which are entered voluntarily, and which study the interest of this portion of the traffic. At dangerous or busy comers a sentry is stationed who with a wave of the hand signals if the coast is clear, or if it is necessary to go slowly. First-aid boxes and repair shops are~ established all along the road, and arrangements are made for conveying home motorists whose cars are broken down.
A very different section of road users, the carters, have found an equally praotical answer to the question. There are, even today, all kinds of understandings and agreements amongst these men as to whiohgoes first, and as to the position they shall eaoh take up in the yards and buildings where they work. Amongst the cabmen and taxi-drivers the same written and unwritten agreements exist, which are as rigidly maintained by free understandings as they would be by the penalties of law.
Suppose now the influence of government were withdrawn from our drivers. Does anyone believe that the result would be chaos? Is it not infinitely more likely that tfhe free
agreements at present existing would extend to cover the whole necessary field? And those few useful duties now undertaken by the Government in the matter: would they not be much more effectively carried out by free organisation among the drivers?
This question has been much more fully answered by Kropotkin in "The Conquest of Bread." In this he shows how on the canals in Holland the traffic (so vital to the life of that nation) is controlled by free agreements, to the perfect satisfaction of all concerned. The railways of liar ope, he points out, also, are brought into co-operation with one anl organism,* see