Individualists are those anarchists wlio fear the organised collective - Society - as much as the State and its institutions. Organised society,or governmental administration,are lor them equally noxious and restrictive ot' individual initiative, reducing those whom they govern to the same common denominator*
There are two ways of looking at human environment: either the individual exists for it,or it exists for the individual*
Individualists want an environment that is conceived I'or the individual, that is relative to the individual,that will neither exist nor function except by and for the individual.
One may criticise this egoistic conception of a human milieu. One may think it mad,prejudiced, not likely to endure. That may be the case,but anyone who lias not understood it,has understood" ik) thing of inoividualist-anarchist life and work.
Individualists are always on guard against the encroachments of Society which,under different aspects,considers the individual as nothing but "human material^and sees his welfare only in terms of his being a piece of machinery - economic , political,moral and so forth.Now,a piece of machinery is only servicable insofar as it fulfils the role given to it. A piece of machinery that gets out of order or stops,threatens the working of the whole mechanism. One cannot conceive of a spring,a fly-wheel,or an element of a battery, that would dispute its utility - that would be the erxi of the machine to which it belonged.
The individualist refuses to occupy the place of a cog in the social machine and struggles with all his forces to reduce its constraint,if not to nothing,then at least to a minimum. His great and supreme concern,is to defend himself against its attacks. He succeeds or he fails;but,conqueror or conquered,his state of mind,his way of acting remain the same. After all,he is never completely beaten - hie suffers,but he does not submit; his
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acquiescence is a pretence;he humbles himself only in appearance• He considers any compulsory contract as invalid,even making use of the law to render it "null and void". The individualist responds to the force of obligation with the strength of strategy,he opposes personal Intel-igence to collective violence- That is why,as long as he lives he ignores final defeat. Even when crushed, even when unable to move, the individualist does not cease to rebel inwardly.
Max Stimer has with good reason distinguished between revolution and rebellion. The revolutionary aims at a total change in society according to a plan defined in advance,or which can be defined later on. The rebel struggles to reduce or annihilate the oppression which weighs upon him. He fights in order not to be forbidden to be or to do,in order not to be forced to be or to do, so that he can maintain or affirm his autonomy. The individualist does not pretend to have a secret or a panacea tliat will make everyone happy. He rebels against everything that tends to restrain his power,that prevents his attaining personal well-being (this well-being being conceive of out. ' outside of the domination and exploitation of others) .
Wheal faced with a scientific or technological discovery,the individualist does not ask if this "progress" will,for example,shorten his hours of work - he asks first of all if it will make him more,or less,dependent upon the social whole.. That is his standard:greater or lesser dependence upon Society. It is in relation to himself that he judges the evolution of the forms of production or of administration. He says:"All very well your discoveries and their application;your bar-rack-like workshops,houses and schools; your ordered, rationalised and regimented production;your civic memoranda,your social control of the individual,your protection of the citizen - as far as I am concerned,as an individualist,will all this make me more,or less,dependent upon Society?"
The "union of egoists" is before all a defence association composed of individuals wanting to make themselves more independent of the organised collective.Inside these associations they Intend - no matter what end they pursue,or rules they willingly impose upon themselves - to escape from the confines of Society arxl to resist its encroachments.The more they can create these associations, the more Society loses its power. The more they can make free agreements,the more the compulsory social contract loses its importance. Voluntary association and free agreement demonstrate the uselessness of compulsory contracts and Society, since,with them,one obtains superior results as regards the autonomy and affirmation of the individual, to thoss offered by any social organisation, which inevitably sacrifices the individual to the efficacy of the machine. Divide and rule is also an individualist device.
Do not challenge the individualist with the existence of a heritage,fruit of the labours of former generations. Before examining what.this heritage is really worth to him,the individualist will answer that the fact of being thrust into a world to whose organisation he must submit,willy-nilly,amply compensates for the hypothetical advantages of this heritage.
l)o not demand that the individualist co-operate in a collective transformation of society which makes the ego more dependent upon the mentality of the social herd or majority - the producing and consuming agglomeration! The individualist will only co-operate in a transformation which implies a complete change of current values -that is to say,one which will place social responsibility upon the person,which will base the social upon the individual.
Do not speak to the individualist of forms of society which later on(when he will no longer be there to enjoy them) will relate human environment to the individual. He is neither an illuminati, nor a mystic:for 'him,a bird in the hand is worth
two in the bush. He does not mind being; calied short-sighted, or accused of having a narrow horizon* He speaks to the present. And he argues that.if the rational instinct of self-preservation had got the better of all other considerations,the world would not find itself in the impasse into which it has been driven. It is not the egoist, nor the union of egoists, that has led humanity to the brink of annihilation. It is the sacrifice of the ego to altruism - the altruism of the State, Society,Collectivity,Nation,Party,Religion,etc. On to the altar of forced solidarity has been tjirown the self,stubborn and bleeding. Today is being reaped what has been sown, The collective follows the individual into the grave, And this is, just.It lias not been understood that in eliminating the individual,one is preparing for the ruin of all.
No inventor has ever bothered about individual production - I mean to say,the application of scientific discoveries for the profit of the personal producer or maker. So we get crises,enforced idleness,customs barriers,menacing wars. Certainly there is mass production;but this is paralleled by mass destruction. A machine does not think,does not argue,does not dispute: it is a machine.The last war was an incomplete victory of collective altruism over personal egoism- the next will be a complete triumph.
The individualist is neither intolerant nor fanatical- he is not among those who have the Truth. He does not want to achieve by force the well-being of anyone. It may be.that,after all, the many are incapable of acting in any other way than altruistically - that the crowd, in general, cannot go beyond the* sacrifice of the Arena. It cannot be helped.
All that the individualist asks is to be able to live his own life;he affirms nothing but his right to exist. Is it because he wishes to be neither a cog in the social machine nor an instrument of Society, because he has no inclination
to become absorbed into the "collective soul". that his right to existence is not so obvious as the right to existence of those who neither share
nor adopt his conception of life?
Tliat is why one will always find the individualist - in association or alone - willing to make an agreement with any social grouping, according to the terms of which each party will live and organise himself as seems best for him,mutually guaranteeing security. That is why one will always find the individualist willing to renounce the "protection of the State","the benefits of Society",from the moment that they are left "free" to live their own lives,at their own risk and peril,without interfering in the t\inctioning of groups evolving outside of them.Against any collectivity which tries to force them to do any tiling against their consent,individualists will defend themselves, in a state of permanent rebellion,open or concealed according to circumstances.And what anti-authoritarian will blame them for it?
(Translated from the French)
Also by E.Armand:"Anarchism and Individualism".
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