Anarchism and Expediency.
The late lecture of Dr. Gertrude B. Kelly in New Era Hall in this city was a phenomenal treat, such as has rarely gladdened those who were fortunate enough to hear her. Whether the subtlety of the young lady's intellect or her personal loveliness be the more captivating it would be difficult to say. That her effort was a magnificent one need not be repeated to any of her fascinated auditors.
But since no human judgment is final, and
truth's a gem that fears no light, I wish to register a few points touching her subject,
Anarchism and Expediency. I confess to being far looser in my notions on this topic than people organized so severely on the plumb-line principle as Miss Kelly and Brother Tucker; and, lest I should gradually drift into a laxity which might imperil my mental integrity and moral soundness, wish to set myself aright, or else be set aright.
She further argued that the Knights of Labor were organized on essentially the same evil basis of force of which they complained in capital, and that their main drift was squarely against liberty. she was right.
Again she showed that coöperation organized upon a concession and utilization of the present prerogatives of capital is only an enlargement and popularization of the very curse that enslaves labor. She was right.
So the fair speaker went through a lengthy programme of social remedies now being put forth to heal social wrongs and make us industrially whole, and with masterly power avowed that they were all quack remedies. She was right.
Well, then, what? What's to be done? What is my business as an Anarchist? Miss Kelly and Brother Tucker say it is my business as an honest man to keep away from these movements and to discourage and denounce them with the keenest and most merciless weapons of argument and satire. I say it is my business as an anti-bigot and broad, rounded philanthropist to affiliate with them all they will let me—to speak upon their platforms—write for them—work for them—love them. If this be expediency, then make the most of it! I had rather err on a broad-gauge love of all who struggle for liberty than be a logical Pharisee.
Miss Kelly pays me the high compliment of having done more to open the eyes of her countrymen through my
Honorius letters in the Irish World than any other man in this country. Yet all the time that I was writing those letters I was an Anarchist, and knew that there was no final settlement for Ireland's woes but to pitch popes, priests, and statesmen down the back stairs. Had I said so, Patrick Ford would have pitched me down the back stairs upon the first attempt at displaying the true remedy. But instead of this I
compromised, by quietly fishing out whatever I could find of Anarchistic method in the Irish movement, calling it by some other name than Anarchism, and by a dexterous handling of my readers gradually working the choice material among them up to a point where all they needed was simply the finishing label,—Anarchist. I point with pride to several staunch Irish supporters of Liberty whom I thus served up on the expediency plan. the loveliest, the brightest, and the most promising of them all is Gertrude B. Kelly. But for my expediency tactics she would not have been at New Era Hall on Sunday, March 28, to prove that the method that saved her for liberty is false, pernicious, and dishonest.
On that occasion Mr. McKenzie, with far-seeing sagacity, pointed out that there is a very strong nucleus of Anarchism in the methods of the Knights of Labor. There is indeed far more of the Anarchistic method in the Knights of Labor than was afforded
Honorius as a basis for making an Anarchist of Miss Kelly. Shall
X of Liberty retrieve
Honorius of the Irish World by denouncing the Knights of Labor, or shall he get upon their platforms, win the hearts of poor children of toil and sorrow who are not gifted with so much brains as Miss Kelly and Brother Tucker through kindly words, emphasize the Anarchistic points where they will do the most good, and thus save more precious souls like theirs for Anarchism?
I never can forget the sublime response ascribed to Thomas Paine, whose rugged soul crowned the bombastic toast:
Where liberty is, there is my country! by that grand aphorism,
Where liberty is not, there is my country! So, in humble imitation of that great man, I saw: Where Anarchism is not, there ism y place. I hate this I-am-brainier-than-thou spirit. It would have told Christ to have stuck to the Pharisees. It would have told Socrates to have kept out of the slums. It tells me to keep out of the eight-hour meetings, off of the Knights of Labor platforms, and to turn my back upon Miss Kelly's poor ignorant countrymen because their methods are not up to the level of her and Brother Tucker's brains. I decline to do so, in the sight of human misery, and of ignorance which should be met with love and charity, rather than the haughty relentlessness of big heads of ice, stuck up on dyspeptic poles. I had rather my heart would warm the brain into inconsistency than that the brain should freeze the heart and make me a bigot.
Possibly Brother Tucker has yet to learn that compromise is a true scientific principle under Anarchism, and that in its proper sense it is logically enjoined upon the faithful. I have never found a final settlement of any problem yet, save that of my own ignorance: therefore do I rise for prayers, and ask Sister Kelly and Brother Tucker to keep me from going astray.
This article is part of a debate: Plumb-Line or Cork-Screw.
- This is the first instalment.
- T., Plumb-Line or Cork-Screw, Which? (April 17, 1886) »