A 1919 translation of Stirner: “The Worker and the Government”

 Byington’s 1907 English translation of Einzige… is  fairly universal, and has been (until the near future) the only complete translation of Stirner’s opus.

There have been a couple of excerpts that appear to be freshly translated, and when Trevor Blake shared a link from the Kate Sharpley Library, I knew we’d “discovered” a new one, but it’s not clear who actually performed the translation. Marcus Graham, who you may know from Man! Journal, was the editor of the journal, so it’s possible he did it. We posted a bit of background on him from a Sidney E. Parker interview. The title “The Worker and the Government” reminds me of the Simpsons episode “Krusty Gets Kancelled”, where Krusty shows the “Eastern Europe version” of Itchy and Scratchy called “Worker and Parasite.”

From: Anarchist Soviet Bulletin, December 1919 (edited by Marcus Graham) .


The Worker and the Government

Governments do not let me come to my value, and continue to exist only through my valuelessness: they are forever intent of getting benefits from me, that is exploiting me, turning me to account, using me up, even the use they get from me consists only in my supplying a proletariat; they want me to be “their creature”.

Pauperism can only be removed when I as ego realize value from myself, when I give my own self value. I must rise in revolt to rise in the world.

What I produce, flour, linen, or iron and coal, which I toilsomely win from the earth, etc, is my work that I want to realize value from. But then I may long complain that I am not paid for my work according to its value: the payer will not listen to me, and the governments likewise will maintain an apathetic attitude so long as it does not think that they must “appease” me that I may not break out with my dreaded might. But this “appeasing” will be all, and, if it comes in to my head to ask for more, the Governments turn against me with all force of their lion-paws and eagle-claws: for they are king and beast, they are lion and eagle. If I refuse to be content with the price that they fix for my ware and labor, if I rather aspire to determine the price of my ware myself, that is “to pay myself” in the first place I come into conflict with the buyers of the ware. If this were stilled by mutual understanding the Governments would not readily make objections; for how individuals get along with each other troubles them little, so long as therein they do not get in their way. Their damage and danger begins only when they do not agree, but, in the absense of a settlement, take each other by the hair. The Governments can not endure that man stand in a direct relation to man; it must step between as mediator, must intervene. What Christ was, what the saints, the church were, the Governments have become – to wit, “mediator”. It tears man from man to put itself between them as a “spirit”. The workers who ask for higher pay are treated as criminals as soon as they want to compel it. What are they to do? Without comp-ulsion they don’t get it, and in compulsion the Governments see a self-help, a determination of price by the ego, a genuine, free realization from its property, which they can not admit of. What then are the workers to do? Look to themselves and ask nothing about the Governments.

But as is the situation with regards to my material work, so it is with my intellectual too. The governments allow me to realize value from all my thoughts and to find customers for them (I do not realize value from them, that is, in the very fact that they bring me honor from listeners, and the like); but only so long as my thoughts are their thoughts. If, on the other hand, I harbour thoughts that they do not approve (make its own), then they do not allow me at all to realize value from them, to bring them into exchange, into commerce. My thoughts are free only if they are granted to me by the Government’s grace, if they are by the Government’s grace, the they are the Governments thoughts. They let me philosophize free only so far as I prove myself “philosopher of the Governments”; against the Government I must not philosophise, gladly as they tolerate my helping them out of their “deficiencies”, “furthering” them. Therefore as I may have only as an ego most graciously permitted by Governments, provided with their testimonial of legitimacy and police pass, so too it is not granted to me to realize value from what is mine, unless this proves to be theirs, which they enthrusted me with. My ways must be their ways, else they destrain me; my thoughts their thoughts, else they stop my mouth.

The Governments have nothing to be more afraid of than the value of me, and in nothing must they be more carefully guarded against than on every occasion that offers itself to me for realizing value from myself. I am the deadly enemy of the Governments, which always hovers between the alternatives, they or I.


Byington’s translation from The Ego and His Own (1907) is as follows, with non-excerpted text from the same paragraph in gray:

Pauperism is the valuelessness of me, the phenomenon that I cannot realize value from myself. For this reason State and pauperism are one and the same. The State does not let me come to my value, and continues in existence only through my valuelessness: it is forever intent on getting benefit from me, i.e. exploiting me, turning me to account, using me up, even if the use it gets from me consists only in my supplying a proles (proletariat); it wants me to be “its creature.”

Pauperism can be removed only when I as ego realize value from myself, when I give my own self value, and make my price myself. I must rise in revolt to rise in the world.

What I produce, flour, linen, or iron and coal, which I toilsomely win from the earth, is my work that I want to realize value from. But then I may long complain that I am not paid for my work according to its value: the payer will not listen to me, and the State likewise will maintain an apathetic attitude so long as it does not think it must “appease” me that I may not break out with my dreaded might. But this “appeasing” will be all, and, if it comes into my head to ask for more, the State turns against me with all the force of its lion-paws and eagle-claws: for it is the king of beasts, it is lion and eagle. If I refuse to be content with the price that it fixes for my ware and labor, if I rather aspire to determine the price of my ware myself, e.g., “to pay myself,” in the first place I come into a conflict with the buyers of the ware. If this were stilled by a mutual understanding, the State would not readily make objections; for how individuals get along with each other troubles it little, so long as therein they do not get in its way. Its damage and its danger begin only when they do not agree, but, in the absence of a settlement, take each other by the hair. The State cannot endure that man stand in a direct relation to man; it must step between as —mediator, must — intervene. What Christ was, what the saints, the Church were, the State has become — to wit, “mediator.” It tears man from man to put itself between them as “spirit.” The laborers who ask for higher pay are treated as criminals as soon as they want to compel it. What are they to do? Without compulsion they don’t get it, and in compulsion the State sees a self-help, a determination of price by the ego, a genuine, free realization of value from his property, which it cannot admit of. What then are the laborers to do? Look to themselves and ask nothing about the State?

But, as is the situation with regard to my material work, so it is with my intellectual too. The State allows me to realize value from all my thoughts and to find customers for them (I do realize value from them, e.g. in the very fact that they bring me honor from the listeners, etc.); but only so long as my thoughts are —its thoughts. If, on the other hand, I harbor thoughts that it cannot approve (i.e. make its own), then it does not allow me at all to realize value from them, to bring them into exchange into commerce. My thoughts are free only if they are granted to me by the State’s grace, i.e. if they are the State’s thoughts. It lets me philosophize freely only so far as I approve myself a “philosopher of State”; against the State I must not philosophize, gladly as it tolerates my helping it out of its “deficiencies,” “furthering” it. — Therefore, as I may behave only as an ego most graciously permitted by the State, provided with its testimonial of legitimacy and police pass, so too it is not granted me to realize value from what is mine, unless this proves to be its, which I hold as fief from it. My ways must be its ways, else it distrains me; my thoughts its thoughts, else it stops my mouth.

The State has nothing to be more afraid of than the value of me, and nothing must it more carefully guard against than every occasion that offers itself to me for realizing value from myself. I am the deadly enemy of the State, which always hovers between the alternatives, it or I. Therefore it strictly insists not only on not letting me have a standing, but also on keeping down what is mine. In the State there is no property, i.e. no property of the individual, but only State property. Only through the State have I what I have, as I am only through it what I am. My private property is only that which the State leaves to me of its, cutting off others from it (depriving them, making it private); it is State property.

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