L’État, C’Est L’Ennemi.

L’État, C’Est L’Ennemi.

Dear Tucker:(28 ¶ 1)

Since the occasion when you so arbitrarily side-tracked me in the editorial columns of Liberty,[7] certain notions of self-respect in connection with your attitude towards me have bid me pause whenever I attempted to state my present position, and wherein I feel that I have outgrown the partial methods by which you seek to deal with existing social maladjustments. I did send a communication to the Truth Seeker, but Macdonald, though he had just published your communication, chose to even out-do your side-tracking method of discipline by dumping me out of his columns altogether. But, lest I should be suspected of sneaking out of the ranks through cowardice, policy, or some other unworthy consideration, I will waive my own personality in behalf of right thinking, and state my case as fully as space and the magnitude of the subject will permit.(28 ¶ 2)

Every subject dealing with radical reform has two main terms,—viz., its basic philosophic statement and its resultant protest. The basic statement, or affirmation, of our propaganda is the Sovereignty of the Individual, around which the whole science of Individualism is built,—conditioned by liberty and the cost principle. (1) Its protest is aimed at arbitrary force which ignores individual consent, and the label which you borrowed from Proudhon by which to designate it is Anarchism.(28 ¶ 3)

Fully at one with Josiah Warren’s grand affirmation, I was as fully at one with the righteousness of your protest, and, paying little regard as to whether you grabbed the beast of authority by the head or the tail, pulled off my coat and went in with you to haul him out of his hole. Whether this business was called Anarchy or not was to me, for the time being, of little account, being sure that it was righteous and telling business.(28 ¶ 4)

But few numbers of Liberty had appeared, when the esteemed personal friends whom I had induced to subscribe for it all had me by the collar with this one question: Well, allowing that your protest is all right, what have you to substitute for the existing order?(28 ¶ 5)

Why, I replied, the order contemplated grows out of the science of Individualism, the corner-stone of which is our basic philosophic affirmation.(28 ¶ 6)

Oh, yes, I see, replied a Judge of the United States Circuit Court; then you and Tucker belong to an order of social scientists who put their protest ahead of their affirmation, and thus propose to move society tail-end-to. Where is your constructive side? Give us that, and the protest, which is simply its logical deduction, will take care of itself.(28 ¶ 7)

I replied to him and others that the paper was small and new, but that the constructive end would certainly be held up on a level with the protesting. So I set to work, and for a long time was bent upon making every article of mine bear upon our philosophy. I think a review of the first volume of Liberty will show that nearly every article explaining its philosophy and method was from my pen. (2)(28 ¶ 8)

But the temptation to fight and kick and scratch and bite, instead of educate and construct, was constantly after me. Many a resolve did I make to leave the fighting department to you, and attend strictly to the educational, but, alas! proved too weak, till finally a well-developed habit of personal sparring, countering, dropping to avoid punishment, etc., resulted in something akin to outright slugging, when the proprietor of the ring put me outside the ropes, while Sister Kelly flung after me the taunt of compromise, and Brother Lloyd cried out: Is this a free fight? (3)(28 ¶ 9)

Now, friend Tucker, these not very enviable experiences were the result of one fatal mistake in the beginning of your work,—and one which a truly scientific propagandist should never fall victim to. It is that you projected your propaganda from the protest rather than from the basic affirmation of Liberty. The affirmation is primary, the protest is secondary. Though the protest logically leads back to the affirmation, the process is always the unnatural one of walking backwards. If you develop your propaganda logically from step to step, as projected from your affirmation, the protests go along with it and are always fortified in the accompanying philosophical base of supplies. Meanwhile education and construction are the natural work in hand. But if you start out by deploying recklessly ahead with your protest, the process of walking backwards to your base of supplies is so unnatural, and the temptation to fight instead of construct so great, that you soon fight yourself so far away from your supplies that the objector naturally cries out on every side: Well, what have you behind you, whither would you lead us, and what shall protect us when you get there? You must therefore take every individual recruit back to your philosophical commissary department, where you do not take it with you. (4)(28 ¶ 10)

As to the term Anarchism, I have grown to be convinced that it is partial, vague, misleading, and not a comprehensive scientific complement of Individualism. If it means a protest against the existing political State, then I am, of course, an Anarchist. You say that it means more, and includes a protest against every invasion of individual right. But this is merely a convenient assumption, not warranted by its etymology, which is purely of political origin. Proudhon, from whom you borrowed it, used it only when speaking of political application of government. Most, Parsons, and Seymour base their protest against the existing political State on Communism, their model of social order. You base yours on voluntary co-operation of individual sovereigns,—your model. Now, if Anarchism is merely a protest against the existing State, then, as friend Morse truly says, you have no more right to say that they are not Anarchists than they have to say that you are not one. If you are all Anarchists, and become such from principles in direct antagonism to each other, then who is an Anarchist and who is not, and what reliability attaches to it as a scientific protest? (5)(28 ¶ 11)

Moreover, every man has the right to be understood. If you stretch the scope of Anarchy beyond the political sphere, then it plainly comes to mean without guiding principle,—the very opposite of what Individualism logically leads to. Anarchy means opposed to the archos, or political leader, because the motive principle of politics is force. If you take the archos out of politics, he becomes the very thing you want as an Individualist, since he is a leader by voluntary selection. It will not do, then, to stretch the scope of Anarchism beyond political government, else you defeat your own purpose. It must, therefore, stay within the boundaries of politics, and, staying there, it is only a partial and quite unscientific term to cover the whole protest which complements Individualism. (6)(28 ¶ 12)

When I am asked if I am an Anarchist, the person who asks it wants to know if I am the kind of person he thinks I am,—one believing in no guiding principle of social administration. In duty to myself I am obliged to say no. This is the eternal mischief which follows from defining one’s self through his protest, rather than his affirmation. It is a position which everyone owes to himself to keep out of, where the protest is deduced from a philosophical system. All the Protestant sects define themselves by their affirmations and not by their protests, and so should all scientific systems of sociology. The protest is none the less strong—yes, far stronger—when carried along as a complement to the principles which create it, rather than as a main term,—the creature usurping the domain of its creator. (7)(28 ¶ 13)

As an Individualist, I find the political State a consequent rather than an antecedent. By making your protest your main term, the State must be made antecedent, which it is not. If you think the State the efficient cause of tyranny over individuals, I take it you are beclouded in a most radical delusion, into which I could easily turn a flood of light, had I not already encroached too much on your space. The State is a variable quantity,—expanding just in proportion as previous surrenders of individual sovereignty give it material. The initial cause is, however, the surrendering individual, the State being only possible after the surrender. Hence the individual is the proper objective point of reform. As he is reformed the State disappears of itself. (8)(28 ¶ 14)

This subject is so rich in thought that I could fill the whole edition of Liberty, and then not have said half that is still pertinent to what I have begun. Having already spent too much of my life in fighting and trying to pull things around by the tail rather than by the head and heart, I propose to spend the remainder of it in constructive educational work. Fighting with tongue and pen is simply a process of spiritual killing, differing from other killing only in method. While there is so much pressing constructive work to be done, I prefer to leave the fighting line of propaganda to those whose temperament and constitution make them better fighters than builders. So go on kicking up the Anarchistic dust at the tail end of the beast of despotism, but pardon me if, having been a reform tail-twister all my life, I am trying to get a little nearer the head and horns of the beast and finish up my work on that end.(28 ¶ 15)

Unnatural government inevitably follows unnatural conditions, and mere scolding and kicking and protesting to all eternity will never change this stern law of nature by which she secures self-preservation. That diseased form of social administration known as the State belongs in nature to that diseased condition known as centralization, in place of localization. New York and other cities, the places where the State chiefly draws its material for rent, usury, and individual slavery in general, are ulcers on the face of this planet. Localize their population over the soil, with individuals not only claiming, but utilizing, their right to the soil and other means of sovereignty, and nineteen twentieths of the State in this country would cease to be. Yet thousands of miserable servile wretches in New York will go to labor meetings and shout, The land belongs to the people! while they cannot be coaxed or whipped out of this stinking nest of usury and political corruption, though you should offer them plenty of good land for nothing. In fact, large tracts across the river in New Jersey can be had for next to nothing, the young men of those sections preferring to let their fathers’ homes and lands rot and run to waste in order to crowd into New York with the rest of the vulgar herd, with future visions of duplicated Jay Goulds in mind. I say that, until we can get more manly and sober incentive into individuals, the New Yorks and Chicagos will press and stink themselves into such intolerable political corruption and general demoralization that the merciful torch alone can rid humanity of them. To cry Anarchy in such communities is futile, unless you cry it in its worst sense, and that is already well-nigh realized.(28 ¶ 16)

Yes, friend Tucker, you have always treated with contempt my proposal to warn individuals to get out of these cities and colonize on the soil, under conditions that alone make voluntary government possible. You say great cities are blessings, and that the proper thing for those low-motived, noisy wretches who cry in labor meetings, The land for the people! is to stay right here and fight it out. You seem possessed with the unfortunate delusion that natural government is possible in this crowded hole, where even the rich sleep in brown-stone stalls, and the surroundings of great masses of the people are more than beastly. So long as industry, commerce, and domicile are centralized, the necessary conditions of individual sovereignty are physically impossible, while usury is invited, and the patched up fraud which goes by the name of government becomes the necessary arrangement for holding the diseased conditions together, pending the inevitable day when fire and dynamite will come to remove these social ulcers, in order that the general body social may survive. I sincerely hope you will look into these matters more seriously, and insist on localization, the social expression of Individualism. (9)(28 ¶ 17)

The name Liberty, so artistically inscribed on your editorial shingle, expresses neither the affirmation nor the protest of our system, but is simply an auxiliary term between them. I think it unfortunate that your paper was not named The Individualist, and I have in mind a name even nearer the centre than that. Had our propaganda been started on the centre from the first, we should probably have been far along in the constructive educational work, rather than come to whipping about in the tangle-brush of misunderstanding. But it is probably all for the best, and, whatever may be the mistakes of its pioneers, the new structure is bound by and by to take definite shape and avert the social suicide which the existing order is so rapidly precipitating. (10)(28 ¶ 18)

Henry Appleton.

The foregoing article has been in my hands for some time, the pressure on these columns having compelled its postponement. To this delay of several weeks in publication, however, I am the more easily reconciled by the fact that its writer had himself affected its timeliness, nearly as much as was possible, by a delay of several months in preparation. The arbitrary side-tracking of which he complains, and out of which it grows, occurred last August, and, if his defensive protest seems at all stale in February, it should be remembered that it would not have charmed by its freshness in January. But principles never grow old, and, looked at in their light, Mr. Appleton’s words are as wise or as foolish to-day as they ever were or ever will be.(28 ¶ 19)

Speaking exactly, all voluntary acts are arbitrary, inasmuch as they are performed in the exercise of will, and in that sense of course the side-tracking of Mr. Appleton was an arbitrary act. But in no objectionable sense was it arbitrary, in no sense was it despotic. Mr. Appleton having announced that the principal object for which he and I had so long editorially co-operated had become to him a secondary and comparatively trivial object, it should have been evident to him, as it was to me and to nearly everybody else, that our co-operation in future could not be what it had been. After such a declaration, my act became a matter of course. Instead of being despotic, it was almost perfunctory. He took the side track himself; I but officially registered his course.(28 ¶ 20)

I appreciate the spirit of condescension and self-abasement which has finally permitted Mr. Appleton to continue controversy with so unworthy an antagonist as myself and to place himself on a level with that inferior race of beings who write for Liberty non-editorially, and in this obliteration of self I feebly emulate him by consenting to let him fill these columns with his defence or explanation after he had ignored the invitation which I had extended him to do so long enough to ascertain that he could not procure its publication elsewhere.(28 ¶ 21)

After these preliminaries, I may proceed to consider Mr. Appleton’s arguments, numbering the points as I deal with them, to avoid the necessity of repeating the statements criticized.(28 ¶ 22)

(1) I do not admit anything, except the existence of the individual, as a condition of his sovereignty. To say that the sovereignty of the individual is conditioned by Liberty is simply another way of saying that it is conditioned by itself. To condition it by the cost principle is equivalent to instituting the cost principle by authority,—an attempted fusion of Anarchism with State Socialism which I have always understood Mr. Appleton to rebel against.(28 ¶ 23)

(2) To bear out this statement Mr. Appleton would have to prove himself the author of nearly every article that appeared in the first volume of Liberty, whereas, as a general thing, he wrote but one article for each number. Nine tenths of the editorial matter printed in Liberty has been written to explain its philosophy and method. It is true that Mr. Appleton has used the words philosophy and method oftener than any other writer, but mere repetition of the words is neither philosophical nor rationally methodical. I am far from saying here that Mr. Appleton’s articles were not philosophical; I am only insisting that their philosophical character was not due to the use of the word philosophy, and that others which used the word less frequently or not at all were quite as philosophical as his.(28 ¶ 24)

(3) Whatever fighting Mr. Appleton has done in Liberty, he has done of his own motion. It has always been his privilege to use these columns as freely as he chose (within certain limits of space) for constructive educational work on the basis of individual sovereignty. He has written as he pleased on what subjects he pleased, with seldom even a suggestion from me. In any conflict with me he has always been the attacking party.(28 ¶ 25)

(4) It is true that the affirmation of individual sovereignty is logically precedent to protest against authority as such. But in practice they are inseparable. To protest against the invasion of individual sovereignty is necessarily to affirm individual sovereignty. The Anarchist always carries his base of supplies with him. He cannot fight away from it. The moment he does so he becomes an Archist. This protest contains all the affirmation that there is. As I have pointed out to Comrade Lloyd, Anarchy has no side that is affirmative in the sense of constructive. Neither as Anarchists nor—what is practically the same thing—as individual sovereigns have we any constructive work to do, though as progressive beings we have plenty of it. But, if we had perfect liberty, we might, if we chose, remain utterly inactive and still be individual sovereigns. Mr. Appleton’s unenviable experiences are due to no mistake of mine, but to his own folly in acknowledging the pertinence of the hackneyed cry for construction, which loses none of its nonsense on the lips of a Circuit Court Judge.(28 ¶ 26)

(5) I have asked friend Morse whether he ever made the statement here attributed to him, and he says that he never did. But I scarcely needed to ask him. He and I have not kept intellectual company these fifteen years to the end that he should so misunderstand me. He knows perfectly well that I base my assertion that the Chicago Communists are not Anarchists entirely on the ground that Anarchism means a protest against every form of invasion. (Whether this definition is etymologically correct I will show in the next paragraph.) Those who protest against the existing political State, with emphasis on the existing, are not Anarchists, but Archists. In objecting to a special form or method of invasion, they tacitly acknowledge the rightfulness of some other form or method of invasion. Proudhon never fought any particular State; he fought the institution itself, as necessarily negative of individual sovereignty, whatever form it may take. His use of the word Anarchism shows that he considered it coextensive with individual sovereignty. If his applications of it were directed against political government, it was because he considered political government the only invader of individual sovereignty worth talking about, having no knowledge of Mr. Appleton’s comprehensive philosophy, which thinks it takes cognizance of a vast mountain of government outside of the organized State. The reason why Most and Parsons are not Anarchists, while I am one, is because their Communism is another State, while my voluntary co-operation is not a State at all. It is a very easy matter to tell who is an Anarchist and who is not. One question will always readily decide it. Do you believe in any form of imposition upon the human will by force? If you do, you are not an Anarchist. If you do not, you are an Anarchist. What can any one ask more reliable, more scientific, than this?(28 ¶ 27)

(6) Anarchy does not mean simply opposed to the archos, or political leader. It means opposed to arche. Now, archē, in the first instance, means beginning, origin. From this it comes to mean a first principle, an element; then first place, supreme power, sovereignty, dominion, command, authority; and finally a sovereignty, an empire, a realm, a magistracy, a governmental office. Etymologically, then, the word anarchy may have several meanings, among them, as Mr. Appleton says, without guiding principle, and to this use of the word I have never objected, always arriving, on the contrary, to interpret in accordance with their definition the thought of those who so use it. But the word Anarchy as a philosophical term and the word Anarchist as the name of a philosophical sect were first appropriated in the sense of opposition to dominion, to authority, and are so held by right of occupancy, which fact makes any other philosophical use of them improper and confusing. Therefore, as Mr. Appleton does not make the political sphere coextensive with dominion or authority, he cannot claim that Anarchy, when extended beyond the political sphere, necessarily comes to mean without guiding principle, for it may mean, and by appropriation does mean, without dominion, without authority. Consequently it is a term which completely and scientifically covers the individualistic protest.(28 ¶ 28)

(7) The misunderstandings of which Mr. Appleton has been a victim are not the result of his defining himself through his protest, for he would not have avoided them had he defined himself through his affirmation and called himself an Individualist. I could scarcely name a word that has been more abused, misunderstood, and misinterpreted than Individualism. Mr. Appleton makes so palpable a point against himself in instancing the Protestant sects that it is really laughable to see him try to use it against me. However it may be with the Protestant sects, the one great Protestant body itself was born of protest, suckled by protest, named after protest, and lived on protest until the days of its usefulness were over. If such instances proved anything, plenty of them might be cited against Mr. Appleton. For example, taking one of more recent date, I might pertinently inquire which contributed most to the freedom of the negro,—those who defined themselves through their affirmations as the Liberty Party or as Colonizationists, or those who defined themselves through their protests as the Anti-Slavery Society or as Abolitionists. Unquestionably the latter. And when human slavery in all its forms shall have disappeared, I fancy that the credit of the victory will be given quite as exclusively to the Anarchists, and that these latter-day Colonizationists, of whom Mr. Appleton has suddenly become so enamored, will be held as innocent of its overthrow as are their predecessors and namesakes of the overthrow of chattel slavery.(28 ¶ 29)

(8) It is to be regretted that Mr. Appleton took up so much space with other matters that he could not turn his flood of light into my delusion that the State is the efficient cause of tyranny over individuals; for the question whether this is a delusion or not is the very heart of the issue between us. He has asserted that there is a vast mountain of government outside of the organized State, and that our chief battle is with that; I, on the contrary, have maintained that practically almost all the authority against which we have to contend is exercised by the State, and that, when we have abolished the State, the struggle for individual sovereignty will be well-nigh over. I have shown that Mr. Appleton, to maintain his position, must point out this vast mountain of government and tell us definitely what it is and how it acts, and this is what the readers of Liberty have been waiting to see him do. But he no more does it in his last article than in his first. And his only attempt to dispute my statement that the State is the efficient cause of tyranny over individuals is confined to two or three sentences which culminate in the conclusion that the initial cause is the surrendering individual. I have never denied it, and am charmed by the air of innocence with which this substitution of initial for efficient is effected. Of initial causes finite intelligence knows nothing; it can only know causes as more or less remote. But using the word initial in the sense of remoter, I am willing to admit, for the sake of the argument (though it is not a settled matter), that the initial cause was the surrendering individual. Mr. Appleton doubtless means voluntarily surrendering individual, for compulsory surrender would imply the prior existence of a power to exact it, or a primitive form of State. But the State, having come into existence through such voluntary surrender, becomes a positive, strong, growing, encroaching institution, which expands, not by further voluntary surrenders, but by exacting surrenders from its individual subjects, and which contracts only as they successfully rebel. That, at any rate, is what it is to-day, and hence it is the efficient cause of tyranny. The only sense, then, in which it is true that the individual is the proper objective point of reform is this,—that he must be penetrated with the Anarchistic idea and taught to rebel. But this is not what Mr. Appleton means. If it were, his criticism would not be pertinent, for I have never advocated any other method of abolishing the State. The logic of his position compels another interpretation of his words,—namely, that the State cannot disappear until the individual is perfected. In saying which, Mr. Appleton joins hands with those wise persons who admit that Anarchy will be practicable when the millennium arrives. It is an utter abandonment of Anarchistic Socialism. No doubt it is true that, if the individual could perfect himself while the barriers to his perfection are standing, the State would afterwards disappear. Perhaps, too, he could go to heaven, if he could lift himself by his boot-straps.(28 ¶ 30)

(9) If one must favor colonization, or localization, as Mr. Appleton calls it, as a result of looking seriously into these matters, then he must have been trifling with them for a long time. He has combatted colonization in these columns more vigorously than ever I did or can, and not until comparatively lately did he write anything seeming to favor it. Even then he declared that he was not given over to the idea, and seemed only to be making a tentative venture into a region which he had not before explored. If he has since become a settler, it only indicates to my mind that he has not yet fathomed the real cause of the people’s wretchedness. That cause is State interference with natural economic processes. The people are poor and robbed and enslaved, not because industry, commerce, and domicile are centralized,—in fact, such centralization has, on the whole, greatly benefited them,—but because the control of the conditions under which industry, commerce, and domicile are exercised and enjoyed is centralized. The localization needed is not the localization of persons in space, but of powers in persons,—that is, the restriction of power to self and the abolition of power over others. Government makes itself felt alike in country and in city, capital has its usurious grip on the farm as surely as on the workshop, and the oppressions and exactions of neither government nor capital can be avoided by migration. L’État, c’est l’ennemi. The State is the enemy, and the best means of fighting it can only be found in communities already existing. If there were no other reason for opposing colonization, this in itself would be sufficient.(28 ¶ 31)

(10) I do not know what Mr. Appleton means when he calls Liberty an auxiliary term between the affirmation and the protest of our system, and I doubt if he knows himself. That it expresses practically the same idea as The Individualist and is a much better name for a paper I think most persons will agree. If, had our propaganda been started on the centre from the first, we should probably have been far along in constructive educational work, and if, assuming, that we are not far along in it, it is probably all for the best, then it is probably all for the best that our propaganda was not started on the centre, assuming that it was not so started; and in that case what is all this fuss about? Optimists should never complain.(28 ¶ 32)

28 n. 1. The writer of this letter, Mr. Henry Appleton, was one of Liberty’s original editorial contributors, and remained such for five years. At the end of that time he publicly took a position not in harmony with that of the paper, on a point of great importance, and it became necessary that his editorial contributions should cease. At the same time he was cordially invited to freely make use of the other departments of the paper for the expression of his views. He never availed himself of this invitation further than to write the above letter, which, with the editor’s reply, is included in this volume because, in spite of the personal nature of the controversy, important questions of principle are also dealt with.