After Freiheit, Der Sozialist.

After Freiheit, Der Sozialist.

[Liberty, April 28, 1888.]

The first criticism upon Libertas[18] came from the Communists by the pen of Herr Most. That I have answered, and Herr Most promises a rejoinder in Freiheit. Meanwhile there comes an attack from another quarter,—from the camp of the State Socialists. In their official organ, Der Sozialist, one of its regular writers, J. G., devotes two columns to comments upon my paper, State Socialism and Anarchism. Under the heading Consistent Anarchists he first institutes a contrast between the Anarchists and the Communists who call themselves Anarchists, which is complimentary to the former’s consistency, logic, and frankness, and then proceeds to demolish the logical Anarchists by charges of absurdity, nonsense, and ignorance, ringing about all the changes on these substantives and their kindred adjectives that the rich German vocabulary will allow. Now, I submit that, if the Anarchists are such ignoramuses, they do not deserve two columns of attention in Der Sozialist; on the other hand, if they merit a two-column examination, they merit it in the form of argument instead of contemptuous assertions coupled with a reference to Marx’s work which reminds one very much of the way in which Henry George refers his State Socialistic critics to Progress and Poverty. To tell the Anarchists that they do not know the meaning of the terms value, price, product, and capital, that economic conceptions find no lodgment in their brains, and that their statements of the position of the State Socialists are misrepresentations, is not to answer them. An answer involves analysis and comparison. To answer an argument is to separate it into its parts, to show the inconsistency between them, and the inconsistency between some or all of them and already established truths. But in J. G.’s article there is nothing of this, or next to nothing.(124 ¶ 1)

The nearest approach to a tangible criticism that I can find is the statement that I attribute to Marx a conception of the State entirely foreign to the sense in which he used the term; that he did not believe in the old patriarchal and absolute State, but looked upon State and society as one. Yes, he regarded them as one in the sense that the lamb and the lion are one after the lion has eaten the lamb. Marx’s unity of State and society resembles the unity of husband and wife in the eyes of the law. Husband and wife are one, and that one is the husband; so, in Marx’s view, State and society are one, but that one is the State. If Marx had made the State and society one and that one society, the Anarchists would have little or no quarrel with him. For to the Anarchists society simply means the sum total of those relations between individuals which grow up through natural processes unimpeded by external, constituted, authoritative power. That this is not what Marx meant by the State is evident from the fact that his plan involved the establishment and maintenance of Socialism—that is, the seizure of capital and its public administration—by authoritative power, no less authoritative because democratic instead of patriarchal. It is this dependence of Marx’s system upon authority that I insist upon in my paper, and if I misrepresent him in this I do so in common with all the State Socialistic journals and all the State Socialistic platforms. But it is no misrepresentation; otherwise, what is the significance of the sneers at individual sovereignty which J. G., a follower of Marx, indulges in near the end of his article? Has individual sovereignty any alternative but authority? If it has, what is it? If it has not, and if Marx and his followers are opposed to it, then they are necessarily champions of authority.(124 ¶ 2)

But we will glance at one more of J. G.’s answers. This individual sovereignty that you claim, he says, is what we already have, and is the cause of all our woe. Again assertion, without analysis or comparison, and put forward in total neglect of my argument. I started out with the proposition that what we already have is a mixture of individual sovereignty and authority, the former prevailing in some directions, the latter in others; and I argued that the cause of all our woe was not the individual sovereignty, but the authority. This I showed by specifying the most important barriers which authority had erected to prevent the free play of natural economic processes, and describing how these processes would abolish all forms of usury—that is, substantially all our woe—if these barriers should be removed. Is this argument met by argument? Not a bit of it. Humph! says J. G., that is nothing but Proudhonism chewed over, and Marx disposed of that long ago. To which I might reply that the contents of Der Sozialist are nothing but Marxism chewed over, and Proudhon disposed of that long ago. When I can see that this style of reply is effective in settling controversy, I will resort to it. Till then I prefer to see it monopolized by the State Socialists. This form of monopoly Anarchists would sooner permit than destroy.(124 ¶ 3)

124 n. 1. A German edition of Liberty that was published for a time under the Latin title, Libertas.