Labor’s New Fetich.

Labor’s New Fetich.

[Liberty, August 23, 1884.]

General Butler’s long-expected letter [in acceptance of the nomination for the presidency given him by the labor party] is out at last. The question now is how many it will hoodwink. Among these at least will not be Liberty. Would that as much could be asserted of all who think they believe in Liberty. But the political habit is a clinging one; the fascinations of political warfare seldom altogether lose their charm over those who have once been under its influence; traces of faith in its efficacy still linger in the minds of those who suppose themselves emancipated; the old majority superstition yet taints the reformer’s blood, and, in face of the evils that threaten society’s life, he appeals to its saving grace with the same curious mixture of doubt and confidence that sometimes leads a wavering and timorous Infidel, when brought face to face with the fancied terrors of death, to re-embrace the theological superstition from which his good sense has once revolted and to declare his belief on the Lord Jesus, lest, as one of them is said to have profanely put it, there may be, after all, a God, or a Christ, or a Hell, or some damned thing or other. To such as these, then, Butler will look for some of his strength, and not be disappointed.(142 ¶ 1)

The audacity of this demagogue’s utterances, the fearlessness with which he exposes such shams and frauds and tyrannies as he does not himself champion, the fury of his onslaught on those hypocrites in high places to dislodge whom for his own benefit and glory he himself hypocritically espouses the cause of the people, all tend to fire such radical hearts as have no radical heads to guide them, and accordingly we see on every hand reformers of every stripe, through their press and on their platforms, enlisting in the service of this incarnation of reaction, this personification of absolutism, this total stranger to the principle of Liberty, this unscrupulous plunderer of labor, this servant of the fearful trinity of the people’s enemies, being at once an insincere devotee of the Church, a steadfast lover of a mammoth and omnipotent State, and a bloated beneficiary of the exactions of Capital.(142 ¶ 2)

The platform announced in his letter is a ridiculous tissue of contradictions and absurdities. Anti-monopoly only in name, it sanctions innumerable monopolies and privileges, and avowedly favors class legislation. As far as it is not nondescript, it is the beginning of State Socialism,—that is, a long step towards the realization of the most gigantic and appalling monopoly ever conceived by the mind of man. One sentence in it, however, commands my approbation: The laboring man votes for his Fetich, the Democratic party, and the farmer votes for his Fetich, the Republican party, and the result is that both are handed over as captives to the corruptionists and monopolists, whichever side wins. Mark this: the laborers and the people never win! True, every word of it! But why not go a little farther? Suppose both laborer and farmer vote for their new Fetich, Ben Butler and his party of State Socialism, what will be the result then? Will not both be handed over as captives to a band of corruptionists as much larger and greedier as the reach and resources of the government are made vaster, all in the service and pay, not of a number of distinct and relatively weak monopolies, but of one consolidated monopoly whose rapacity will know no bounds? No doubt about it whatever. Let those who will, then, bow before this idol,—no Anarchistic knee shall bend. We Anarchists have not come for that. We come to shatter Fetiches, not to kneel before them,—no more Fetich Butler than Fetich Blaine or Fetich Cleveland or Fetich St. John. We are here to let in the light of Liberty upon political superstition, and from that policy can result no captivity to corruption, no subserviency to monopoly, only a world of free laborers controlling the products of their labor and growing richer every day.(142 ¶ 3)

If Liberty has a weak-kneed friend who is contemplating a violation of his Anarchistic principles by voting just for once, may these golden words from John Morley’s work on Compromise recall him to his better self:(142 ¶ 4)

A principle, if it be sound, represents one of the larger expediencies. To abandon that for the sake of some seeming expediency of the hour is to sacrifice the greater good for the less on no more creditable ground than that the less is nearer. It is better to wait, and to defer the realization of our ideas until we can realize them fully, than to defraud the future by truncating them, if truncate them we must, in order to secure a partial triumph for them in the immediate present. It is better to bear the burden of impracticableness than to stifle conviction and to pare away principle until it becomes mere hollowness and triviality. What is the sense and what is the morality of postponing the wider utility to the narrower? Nothing is so sure to impoverish an epoch, to deprive conduct of nobleness and character of elevation.(142 ¶ 5)