Anarchist Socialism by J.Wm. Lloyd


1845-1945, J. William Lloyd, Liberty / Monday, June 11th, 2018

This is a transcription of original source material from John William Lloyd. Lloyd was a frequent contributor to Benjamin Tucker’s individual anarchist periodical Liberty (1881) through most of its lifespan.

The following essay “Anarchist Socialism” by Lloyd is undated but it seems to be have been written in the 1920s or ’30s. The piece is unedited (by me) except for the deletion of passages with material that would confuse the reader: for example, the mention of Lloyd’s obscure acquaintances. The punctuation and grammar is sometimes antiquated and remains so due to my reluctance to edit the work of someone deceased.

Despite the word “Socialism” in its title, the essay should be of interest to libertarians. First, it includes a retrospective of Lloyd’s own experiences with the 19th century Anarchist movement, including memories of Tucker and commentary on luminaries such as Josiah Warren. Second, Lloyd was the author of several works, mostly of poetry, that were heavily promoted by Liberty; they included The Anarchists’ March, The Dwellers in Vale Sunrise, and The Red Heart in a White World. To the extent there is a poet laureate of individualist anarchism, it is surely John William Lloyd.

Third, the term “socialism” as used by the 19th century individualist radicals differed in meaning as dramatically as the word “liberal” today differs from its 18th century usage. As used by Lloyd and his contemporaries, socialism per se — as opposed to State Socialism — did not negate private property or the primacy of the individual but referred more to voluntary, co-operative ventures through which a just society could be achieved. Thus, many of the voluntary communities of early libertarianism could be viewed through either a socialist or individualist lens. To the extent that individualist anarchists who sometimes used the label “socialist” had a point of overlap with collectivist-socialists, it is: they agreed with the labor theory of value. Since individualist anarchists also insisted on the primacy of contract, however, their position devolved to the statement: interest and rent are invalid practices, nevertheless everyone has the right to make a foolish contract, and no third party has the right to interfere. –Wendy McElroy, http://www.wendymcelroy.com

Anarchist Socialism

By J.Wm [John William] Lloyd

As many of you, my comrades, may know me only as a Socialist, and may doubt my qualifications to explain Anarchism, I will say that for some 20 years or more I was a professed and active Anarchist, a constant contributor to Anarchist periodicals, and the personal friend and correspondent of many of the Anarchist leaders of the time. In 1884, when I first publicly announced myself a philosophical Anarchist, Liberty was the leading Anarchist paper in the United States and certainly the ablest one in the world and I became a steady contributor to its columns and the close friend of its editor and owner, Benj. R. Tucker. Mr. Tucker now lives in Europe, but his wife was one of the most intimate friends of my family and his only child is named Oriole, after my daughter. At one time I was the literary editor of Liberty. At another I myself edited an Anarchist periodical, The Free Comrade, which was suspended for while, and then revived for a short time by Leonard Abbott and myself, as an advocate of the juncture of the Anarchist and Socialist forces. I also wrote and published an Anarchist booklet, “The Red Heard in a White World”, and became the leader of an Anarchist group, which was known as “The Comradeship of Free Socialists”, and at one time had quite a membership, scattered all over the world. My books, “The Natural Man” and “Vale Sunrise”, were Anarchistic. During these years, tho I avoided the platform, I was almost constantly engaged in debate, defending and explaining the philosophy of Anarchism thru the press. I even wrote an “Anarchist’s March”, which was set to music. I mention all this simply to show you that when I speak of Anarchism, I am somewhat prepared to explain it and do it justice.

First, then, what is Anarchism? It is logical human liberty. It is the ideal of human life without a master. Tucker defined it as “Equal Liberty”. Another definition is, “Do as you please at your own expense”; another, “Mind your own business and let your neighbor’s alone”. The name was first used and applied by Pierre J. Proudhon, the French philosopher, who derived it from the Greek an, privitive, and archos, ruler, meaning life without a ruler or government. On this basis the Anarchist founds a whole system of ethics and politics. He identifies crime and government as the same in logical essence, for both are impositions of one man’s will on another without his consent. All Anarchists say that liberty and Anarchism are synonyms.

It was a common charge a few years ago, and probably still is, that Anarchism is an imported foreign product and un-American. On the contrary, Anarchism originated in the United States before the rest of the world had it, and is a logical consequence of fundamental American principles; also many prominent Americans have been Anarchists.

Thomas Jefferson, the author of the Declaration of Independence, was so nearly an Anarchist that he uttered the famous aphorism, “The best government is that which governs the least.” The Declaration is so nearly an Anarchist document that there is probably not an Anarchist in the world, except the few Nietzscheans, who would reject its fundamental logic. For example: That all men are equal in rights to life, liberty and pursuit of happiness; That governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed; That whenever any government becomes destructive to the above rights, it is the right and duty of those who have formed it, the people, to take whatever measures may be necessary to secure their own safety and happiness, even to its complete abolition. In other words, the logic of the Declaration is that the individual is sovereign and supreme where he has his true rights, and the government only his tool, which he has made and has a right, therefore, to unmake at his pleasure.

“Individual Sovereignty” was one of the fundamental American watchwords and the whole of Anarchism is logically included in it. So too, all Anarchism is logically contained in the doctrine that governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed. No Anarchist has any logical objection to a government to which all its members consent; only he carries the logic one step further and says that if the individual withdraws his consent, in that moment the just power of the government over him ceases. So too, all Anarchism is logically contained in the statement that the right of every man to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, in his own inoffensive way, is rightfully inalienable. Therefore the American principles are profoundly Anarchistic and the logic of Anarchism is absolutely American.

But the matter was not left simply to logic and doctrinaire deductions. Josiah Warren, direct descendant of that famous General Warren who fell at Bunker Hill, was the real founder of Anarchism and the first Anarchist author. In his work “True Civilization”, published, I believe in the thirties [1830s], he took the American principle of Individual Sovereignty and worked it out to its logical ultimates, making the first clear and definite presentation of Anarchist principles the world had ever seen. He also established the first Anarchist group at his colony of “Modern Times” on Long Island. However he did not use the word “Anarchism”, which had not then been adopted. At that time many prominent Americans accepted these ideas, either wholly or in part. Ralph Waldo Emerson was the most shining example. His writings are full of Anarchist statements of great force, much quoted by Anarchists to this day. His friend, Henry David Thoreau, was a scarcely less illustrious and more militant Anarchist. He went to jail rather than pay a poll-tax to a government that supported slavery. When Emerson heard of it and came to pay his tax to get him out, he said to Thoreau, in his cell, “What Henry, you here!” and Thoreau sarcastically replied, with his quaint Yankee humor, “What, Waldo, and you not here!”, implying that to be consistent Emerson would have done the same. And a New England woman, who knew him, told me two summers ago, that his townspeople actually never afterwards asked him to pay a tax. Most of the New England Transcendentalists were more or less Anarchist and so were all Abolitionists, some of whom were radically so, particularly William Lloyd Garrison and Stephen Pearl Andrews. It is noteworthy that the Civil War was more of less avowedly fought over two Anarchist principles, wrested from their context. Thus the North, so far as intentionally Abolitionist, was fighting for the restoration of individuality to the black man, and the South was fighting for the Anarchist principle of Free Secession from an undesired Union.

Warren’s most brilliant and influential disciple was Benj. R. Tucker, a man of old New England stock. He was at one time city editor of the Boston Globe. As a translator of French books, he translated some of the most important of Proudhon’s works and adopted Proudhon’s name, Anarchism, for the philosophy. Proudhon had developed his Anarchism separately, with no knowledge of Warren but probably derived it from the logic of the French Revolutionary slogan of “Liberty, Equality and Fraternity”, which perhaps the French had largely derived from the principles of the American Revolution with its Declaration of Independence. At any rate its logic was identical. But somewhere near this time, also independently, a Russian form of Anarchism was originated by Bakounine.

Now developed the first split in the Anarchist movement, which since then has broken up fundamentally into many sects and schools. Warren and Proudhon were intensely individualistic, and Proudhon and Tucker especially detested and fought communism, while the Russians made communism their main principle. Bakounine, Kropotkin, and Emma Goldman, all Russians, have been the great leaders of Communistic-Anarchism, which now has largely outgrown the Individualistic-Anarchistic division in numbers and political importance.

Another split grew up over the question of violence. The Individualist-Anarchists have always stood for an intellectual propaganda and for passive resistance, reserving violence only as a weapon of last and desperate resort.

The Russians have largely advocated, encouraged and winked at terrorism as a means of revolution — “propaganda by deed” they called it. A small group of Americans and foreigners combined, in Chicago, at one time and adopted the Russian communistic and terroristic principles, leading to the calamitous “Haymarket Riot”, and the hanging of several of their leaders. Among these was Samuel Parsons, also an American of Revolutionary ancestry. On the other hand, among the Russians, Tolstoy developed an entirely new variant of Anarchism — a Christian and non-resistant form, but still communistic. He declared all violence, even in self-defense, a violation of liberty; even to defend liberty, it was a violation of liberty.

Now another split came among the individualists. These had largely adopted the philosophy of Egoism of the German, Max Stirner, who declared all human life was moved simply by self-interest. Still the Americans did not think this conflicted with their principle of equal liberty, which they declared an enlightened egoism would make every man maintain for his own benefit. But Stirner’s most brilliant disciple was the German, Nietzsche, who declared that the law of Nature was that might was right, and that the true Anarchist was the individual who cared consciously only for himself and exploited the world to feed his own individuality – who pleased himself and had no law or limit but his own powers. Thru his brilliant and paradoxical genius, Nietzsche exerted a tremendously active influence in the German universities and over the dominating spirits of the world. Theodore Roosevelt is commonly considered among his disciples. So is the German Kaiser and the whole military caste of Germany, and the initiation of the present war is often laid to his door. Napoleon and John Pierpont Morgan could have called themselves Nietzschean Anarchists; or any other utterly unscrupulous exploiter and tyrant might have taken the name.

There was also a small American school whose watchword was “Do as you please and take the consequences!”, which they said contained all of Anarchism.

So now Anarchism, today, is curiously broken up into utterly opposing and contradictory schools. This arises from their failure to agree on a definition of liberty. Anarchism, they all say, is liberty, but what liberty is and how best to secure it are the points on which they divide. The Americans and French say that the liberty of the individual is only logically secured by equal liberty of each to be sovereign only over his own. The Russians say that equal liberty can only be secured by the equal sharing of communism – the individualists retorting that communism swallows up the individual and digests him into the community. Tolstoy says if you adopt altruism as your method and let your brother do what he pleases without resistance, he will let you do what you please and so equal liberty and harmony will come by the law of Christ. Neitzsche says he is Anti-Christ, ridicules and denounces Christianity, altruism, Socialism, equality, communism and social rights, as all equally the inventions of the weak to cheat the strong, declares there is no logical liberty but that of the individual to assert himself thru that struggle for existence and survival of the fittest which is Nature’s law, and everything but the law of might will fail.

I, in my writings, did not agree with any of these exactly, but endeavored to effect a reconciliation – a working combination of individualism and communism – the individual to possess and be master of his own personal belongings, but communistic in the larger and social relations.

Again the Anarchists split on the question of property in land. The Individualists held that the only valid title to anything was a labor-title, and as nobody’s labor had made the land, therefore it belonged to nobody, but would become the property of whoever occupied and used it just so long as he occupied and used it and no longer. The Communists held that everything belonged to all men equally, the land included. My own proposition was that each man should have a small piece of land, not larger than he could personally occupy and cultivate or use, and a communal right, with all others, in all land not thus individually occupied and used. The Single-Taxers, who, by the way, are largely Anarchistic in theory, agreed with the communists and offered the Single Tax as the best way of equalizing land values and opportunities.

Despite its differences, Anarchism has had a profound and far-reaching influence on human thought. For personal liberty appeals to every brave and original mind. It is to be noted that Anarchists, just as strongly as Marxians, claim to be scientific. Nay, they claim to be more scientific, because they say they would cut away all artificial supports and privileges and leave man absolutely to the natural laws on which alone science bases itself. All government, they say, are artificial and interfere with Nature. It must be remembered that in their younger days Proudhon and Karl Marx were friends and agreed up to a certain point, where Marx declared the remedy to be to put all social functions under the government, and Proudhon affirmed that government itself, with its privileges and monopolies and invasions of liberty, was the enemy. In those days both called themselves socialists and Marx called himself a Communist, as witness his famous “Manifesto”. Indeed Anarchists still claim to be socialists, a name which the Social-Democrats have no right, they say, to monopolize. All men are socialists, they claim, who are working for the world as it should be, against those who are contented or are contending for the world as it is. They call themselves, sometimes, Free-Socialists, as opposed to what they call State-Socialists – that is, those who would create socialism thru political action.

Now for a little personal history. Our secretary [of a local radical organization], Comrade Zeitelhack will remember that when I offered to join the Westfield Branch, I wrote him I was an Anarchist but as there was no Anarchist Group of Single-Tax party here, and as I believed in radicals working together, I wanted to help the Socialists. He met me on the street and told me he did not think there was much difference in the ultimate aims of Anarchism and Socialism and that he would be glad to have me join, and it was on these terms that I was admitted. I had no thought of becoming a real Socialist, but I studied the thought and the literature and in time came to feel that the Socialists had the best of the argument. Anarchist theories were fine and fascinating, but, as most Anarchists rejected voting, majority rule and even suspicioned organization, they were powerless against the growing evils of capitalism. They refused the ballot because they said the bullet was behind it, but as most of them justified the bullet, at least as a last resort, why not use the ballot? I came to see that government was a tool without which, in some form, cooperative action was impossible. Voting and majority rule were natural necessities of collective functioning, and men could act in no other way if they acted together, and I now saw why, in the twenty years I had been with them, the Anarchists had accomplished nothing except to modify the thought of some of the higher minds. I came to think too that there might be times and places where the rights or necessities of the collectivity might be greater than those of the individual. So I ceased to be an orthodox Anarchist. Nevertheless I have never lost my thirst for personal liberty, only I believe now, that if the Social-Democracy can win, it will give to all men greater practical equal-liberty and security than the vague faiths and method, or no-methods of the Anarchists could achieve.

But I believe that Anarchism and Socialism are both needed in human society – that they represent two strong trends in human psychology – the trend toward liberty and individual variation, and the trend toward cooperation, sympathy and solidarity, and that therefore they should work together. Socialism greatly needs Anarchism as a critic and to keep it from sacrificing the individual and his originality to the domination of the mass. And I have tried, tho I confess with no appreciable success, to effect a compromise, which would permit the essential Anarchist principles of Individual Secession and Autonomy of the Group to be guaranteed under Socialism, claiming that if this were done in the Socialistic Constitution and Platforms, the Anarchists would have no logical ground for keeping out of the Party, which would thus gain a multitude of votes – without sacrificing its own principles. Simply an alliance to win, with division of territory and autonomy of method after the conquest of government and the capitalist defeat.