From The New Freewoman, November 15th, 1913
Lego et Penso.
PROUDHON’S STYLE AND SANITY.
Miss MARSDEN, in her rejoinder to my challenge, speaks less respectfully of Americans and their ideas than she did in the extravagant remarks which called the challenge forth. That is a point gained. If, having over-rated Americans, she now under-rates them, the injustice serves at least to restore the balance.
Her criticism of the passage which I quoted from Proudhon seems to be directed in part at that author s style and in part at his sanity. So far as it is directed at his style, it interests me little. True, I
might urge that the competent of France generally class Proudhon with Michelet and Balzac as prominent among those whom the Academy ignored to its own disgrace. Or I might contrast with Miss Marsden’s opinion my own that Proudhon is a master stylist, little dreaming that it convicts me of a fondness for ” bombast and fustian. ” But I will not insist. I content myself with pointing out that the passage in question, far from ” showing Proudhon at his worst, ” was written at the zenith of his career, after the ” Property ” and the ” Contradictions, ” those powerful works of his immaturity, and before the “Justice, ” that product of wonderful, but uneven, excellence wherein the grip so well sustained in his prime was occasionally relaxed. The value of Miss Marsden’s estimate of the passage in comparison with the other writings will be enhanced (or the opposite) if she will state precisely which of Proudhon’s works she has read. It is the fashion to talk of Proudhon without reading him. But I do not suspect Miss Marsden of being a fashionable woman.
Of greater interest and importance would be her contention that it is insane to suppose that people can associate for mutual protection on the basis of a contract defining the protective sphere if it were supported by any reasons. But I find none in her paragraphs. Instead, I find only a wild onslaught on all ideas whatsoever˜an onslaught whch I take the liberty of characterizing as pure nonsense, unanswerable because intangible. The phrase is impolite, but Miss Marsden’s own language is hardly Chesterfieldian.
I surmise that the thought of our evolution into a society founded on contract involves, in Miss Marsden’s mind, the necessity of erecting a new social structure separate from that which now exists. In that case, I call attention to her error. The passage from Proudhon stated simply his ideal, not the means of attaining it. His conception of the means he phrased elsewhere as ” a dissolution of government in the economic organism, ” meaning thereby the gradual and successive lopping-off of the functions of the State, and the assumption of these, so far as useful and non-invasive, by voluntary associations of workers. In view of this, one sees how wide of the mark is Miss Marsden’s analogy, ” a scheme for building a block of flats as high as St. Paul’s with lily-stalks for materials. ”
ANARCHISM AND PROPERTY.
I learn in a roundabout way that the quality of my Anarchism has been questioned lately in the English press. The news comes to me through ” Regenera-çion, ” an interesting journal published in California, partly in Spanish, partly in English, the English section being edited by Mr. W. C. Owen, from whom I quote as follows:
” The editor of the ` Herald of Revolt ‘ has been called sharply to account for his endeavour to read Benjamin R. Tucker out of the ranks of Anarchism, and we are glad to see that he has had the fairness to open his columns to a full discussion of the question. We have expressed ourselves already on the subject, and need only repeat here that Anarchism means exactly what its name expresses, ` Without Rule, ‘ and does not chain humanity to the wheel of any economic dogma. Indeed, it is negative, declaring simply that no economic arrangement can be satisfactory which places one man in the power and at the mercy of another man. If Communism, for example, should result in that, Communism would stand condemned by Anarchism. ”
I do not suppose that the Editor of the “Herald of Revolt” has gone farther than to express the opinion that I am not an Anarchist, and it is perfectly proper that he should do so. It is a liberty that I have taken repeatedly with reference to John Most, Kropotkine, Emma Goldman, and numerous other so-called
Anarchists, and there is no reason why their sympathizers should not retaliate in kind. I do not agree with Mr. Owen that Anarchism does not commit its adherents to any economic dogma. Anarchism is a word without meaning, unless it includes the liberty of the individual to control his product or whatever his product has brought him through exchange in a free market˜that is, private property. Whoever denies private property is of necessity an Archist. This excludes from Anarchism all believers in compulsory Communism. As for the believers in voluntary Communism (of whom there are precious few), they are of necessity believers in the liberty to hold private property, for to pool one’s possessions with those of others is nothing more or less than an exercise of proprietorship.
May I note that Mr. Swartz’s preference of frankness to hypocrisy does not prevent him from carefully avoiding my question whether he would organize the sex-workingmen as well as the sex-workingwomen ?
BENJAMIN R. TUCKER.
From The New Freewoman, December 1st, 1913
Lego et Penso.
A REBEL AGAINST WAR.
ON the death of Louis Nazzi at the age of twenty-eight, France has lost one of the most promising of her younger writers, and one whose promise had already resulted in a considerable performance. I shall venture to offer THE NEW FREEWOMAN a sample of his quality, though I do so With some foreboding, lest this offering also may appear, to the editorial eye, or ear, as mere “bombast and fustian. ” Writing of armed peace and compulsory military service, he says:
” I hate war, violently, with all my filial and fierce love of life. From the day when I understood the work of faith, ardour, and suffering that is summed up in the single word, life, I have refused my consent to war, which at school I was taught to venerate. When one thinks of the amount of goodwill, tenderness, devotion, fruitless effort, anxious and vigilant thought, toilsome deeds, and tiresome marches, requisite to the filling of a man’s existence from the cradle to the grave, one cannot admit its criminal destruction in the name of an interest declared superior. No reason can triumph over it. Nothing can make me deny the individual; I am for him, against sanguinary czars and republics. Man is his own country, and the vastest of all. All that 1 know, feel, and am, my entire being, rises and refuses its complicity for the day of the next butchery. I need my arms and my brain, my heat and my thought, for my own, my work, and myself. My country is what I love and understand; it overruns four frontiers. If you wish me to kill, efface from my soul my dreams of happiness, efface the words of peace and love, efface everything. Drive from my vision all the images of earth, expel all light ! Burn my deepest recollections, my dearest associations, my reasons to hope and smile again ! Devastate my past, all that has been and all that means to be˜the uncertain future that I have prepared by the painful labour of my loyal and trusting hands ! Break the embrace of the mother, the wife, and the child ! If you wish me to kill, kill first the man that is in me; perhaps then the beast will obey you. ”
§ § §
A REPORT OF PROGRESS.
If a first point was gained, in my little tilt with Miss Marsden, in causing her to offset her too flattering remarks about Americans by an estimate of them apparently belittling, a second point now is gained in causing her to express contrition for having momentarily abandoned her Stirnerism to the extent of bunching individuals according to their nationality and ancestry. And I may claim even a third advance in having elicited from her a new appreciation of Proudhon, which, if still inadequate, is at least more generously specific in its allotments to the credit side of that author’s long account. But, as to the main contention, ˜whether it is crazy to think of voluntary co-operation for defence, in conformity with a voluntary contract fixting the limis of such co-operation, as a possibility of the future, ˜we are no farther forward than before; for Miss Marsden still neglects to supply a reason why a person who pursues that ideal will find his proper environment within the confines of a mad-house. Until such is forthcoming, the discussion cannot proceed. But incidentally I had better correct the statement, unhappily erroneous, that I have published ” most of Proudhon’s works, ” one or two being much the lesser part of forty or fifty; and I will venture to express my surprise at hearing that THE NEW FREEWOMAN ” stands for nothing. ” May I ask for an explanation of the subtitle: “An Individualist Review”? And what did
Miss Marsden mean when she said that the paper was ” not for the advancement of woman, but for the empowering of individuals”? My interest in the paper grows out of my belief that it ” stands for ” such empowering. And I am persuaded that Miss Marsden’s declaration to the contrary is nothing more than one of those buzzing intervals which she finds in Proudhon’s communications and which I find in hers. If I am wrong; if, in truth, THE NEW FREE-WOMAN is not, or is no longer, a co-ordinate effort toward a definite end, but has become, instead, a mere dumping-ground for miscellaneous wits, ˜then, even though the dumping be effected through an editorial sieve of a mesh most rare and fine, my interest will diminish materially and speedily.[We have not been in the habit of accustoming our readers to over-modest statements, and lest Mr. Tucker’s modesty should be misunderstood, we are impelled to say that in an advertisement appearing as late as 1907 Mr. Tucker offers to mail˜for the due consideration˜close upon 40 works in various languages, by or about P. J. Proudhon: and we will leave the matter at that. To the remaining criticism of THE NEW FREE-WOMAN in the above paragraph we reply elsewhere. -ED. ]
§ § §
IS THE STATE WORTH WHILE?
Of late there is much talk in France of the desirability of offering one of the vacant chairs of the Academy to a journalist, and in this connection the name of Henry Moret is among those most frequently mentioned. The Immortals, however, will hardly be tempted to welcome him to their company, if they are readers of his articles in ” L’Intransigeant. ” I quote the following from one of them:
” An academy might well address itself to the problem whether the sum of the benefits obtained by the taxes that we accord to the State really exceeds that which we should enjoy if we paid no taxes. One might ask at the same time whether the sum of the evils occasioned by the established powers˜courts, administration, police, etc. ˜is not much more considerable than that to which we should be exposed if we had not all this lumber. I have always been of those who believe, with the infamous Anarchists, that we spend much more to avoid being robbed than it would cost us to suffer ourselves to be robbed with tranquillity.
” Just as the State sacrifices a large number of our corns to discover an error of a centime, so we hand over a hundred sous to be sure of keeping two francs. Such is the splendour of our advanced civilisation.
” And the beauty of this proceeding will increase continually, until, by an inevitably logical consequence, the State shall take everything and leave us nothing. Then we shall be perfectly happy. I am, in fact, the first to admit that we shall have less care.
” Pending our entry into this paradise, we have already reached the point where one half of the French people pay the other half to annoy them. It is the same with other nations. And there you have the best definition that can be given of a normal society.
” There is a Hindoo proverb which says that the human comedy is one of the seventy-five pieces with which the Eternal amuses himself. It certainly furnishes food for laughter. And the gravity with which we pay for the rods that are to be laid upon our backs must seem comical in a high degree to the dwellers in the Empyrean. ”
BENJ. R. TUCKER.