Max Stirner And The German Followers Of Proudhon

The following excerpt taken from a book review, David G. Ritchie, “Anarchism: A Criticism and History of the Anarchist Theory. E. V. Zenker,” The International Journal of Ethics 9, no. 1 (Oct., 1898).

The “Egoism” of Max Stirner, according to which property is “that over which I can assert my power” (a principle widely accepted in practice), is a theory at least as old as the Callicles and the Thrasymachus of Plato’s Dialogues; and the philosophy of Proudhon, of Stirner and Bakunin, in spite of its use of Hegelian formula, is only a survival of the crude individualism of the Cynics and of the more audacious Greek Sophists.

The author, Ernst Viktor Zenker´s purpose with his book is to clear up the widely prevalent ignorance as to the real nature of Anarchism. Presented here is the entire chapter III. – Max Stirner and the German followers of Proudhon.


ANARCHISM
A Criticism and History of the Anarchist Theory
By E. V. ZENKER, 1897

Part I. Early Anarchism

Chapter III. MAX STIRNER AND THE GERMAN FOLLOWERS OF PROUDHON

Germany in 1830-40 and France — Stirner and Proudhon — Biography of Stirner — The Individual and his Property (Der Einzige und sein Eigenthum) — The Union of Egoists — The Philosophic Con-tradiction of the Einziger— Stirner’s Practical Error— Julius Faucher — Moses Hess — Karl Grün — Wilhelm Marr.

In the first half of the forties, almost about the same time, but completely independent one from another, there appeared, on each side of the Rhine, two men who preached a new revolution in a manner totally different from the ordinary revolutionist, and one from which at that time even, the most courageous hearts and firmest minds shrank back. Both were followers of the “royal Prussian Court philosopher” Hegel, and yet took an entirely different direction one from the other : but both met again at the end of their journey in their unanimous renunciation of all political and economic doctrines hitherto held; in their thorough opposition to every existing and imagined organization of society upon whatever compulsion of right it might be founded; and in their desire for free organization upon the simple foundation of rules made by convention or agreement — in their common desire for Anarchy.

The contemporaneous appearance of Proudhon and Stirner is of as much importance as their in many ways, fundamental difference. The first circumstance shows their appearance was symptomatic, and raises it above any supposed or probable out- come of chance; Stirner and Proudhon support each other mutually with all their independence, and with all their difference one from another. As to this, it cannot be denied that it is to be traced, first and foremost, to the totally different environment in which the two authors grew up.

Ludwig Pfau, in a talented essay, has sought to derive the literary peculiarities of Proudhon from the Gallic character and from his French milieu. But even besides the purely literary aspect, Proudhon shows all the gifts and all the weaknesses of his people and of his time; he shares with all Frenchmen their small inclination to real criticism, but also their faculty of never separating themselves from the stream of practical life; and thus, before everything, we perceive in Proudhon’s earlier works a strong tendency towards the part of an agitator. L. Pfau asserts that it is a specific peculiarity of the French nation, with all their notorious sentiment for freedom, “to discipline their own reluctant personality, and subject it to the common interest”; and therein lies, perhaps, the reason why Proudhon, although an enthusiastic advocate of personal freedom, never wished this to be driven to the point of the disintegration of collective unity and to the sacrifice of the idea of society.

Stirner is the German thinker who is carried away by the unchecked flow of his thoughts far from the path of the actual life into a misty region of “Cloud-cuckoo-land,” where he actually remains as the “only individual,” because no one can follow him. There is no trace in Stirner’s book of any intention of being an agitator. As far as political parties are mentioned in it, they do appear as such, but merely as corollaries of certain tendencies of philosophic thought. Stirner keeps himself even anxiously apart from politics, and a certain dislike to them is unmistakable in him. All parties have in his eyes only this in common, that they all strive to actualize conceptions and ideas which lie beyond them, whether these be called God, State, or humanity. Stirner stands in the same relation to the philosophic tendencies of his own and earlier times. He sees them all run into the great ocean of generality the absolute, nothingness. The distinction between Saint Augustine and L. Feuerbach is for him purely a superficial and not an essential one; for the “man” of the latter is as foreign to him as the “God” of the former. And so Stirner carries his disinclination to politics, as being inimical to the philosophy of his time, almost to disgust, being herein a genuine son of his country and of his period.

Upon the philosophic exaltation and the speculative “foundation period” of the beginning of the century there had followed a severe depression; to the over-eager expectations which had been placed in philosophy there followed just as severe a disappointment; to the metaphysical orgy there followed a moral headache, which might be designated not inaptly by the motto which Schopenhauer gave in mockery to Feuerbach’s philosophy, so well suited to his time —

“Edite, bibite, collegiales!
Post multa saecula
Pocula nulla.”

The political attitude of the forties was very much the same. The national enthusiasm, the wars of freedom, and the sanguine hopes which had at- tended the downfall of the Corsican, had, like the expectations aroused by the Revolutionists of the days of July, ended in miserable disaster. The touching confidence which a nation, all too naive in politics, had placed in its princes had been shamefully deceived and abused. All dreams of union and freedom seemed to be extinguished for a long time, and the flunkeyism which was unfortunately only too rampant in the nation, ran riot, while frank souls stood aside in disgust. The more eager the spiritual enthusiasm had been on the threshold of two centuries, the deeper now did apathy weigh upon men’s spirits in the period of the forties. The fuller men’s souls had been of surging and stormy ideals, and wishings and vague longings of all kinds, the emptier did they now become, and not only Stirner could with justice give to his “only individual” the motto, “I have placed my all on nothing,” but it was the motto of all Germany at that time. And yet in one thing Stirner is the type of his people as contrasted with Proudhon. He is the most complete example of the German who lacks that proud self-sacrificing view of the life of the community, that feeling of the inseparability of the individual from the mass of his people — which is the token of the French, — but who at all times has suffered from a separatism that destroys everything. He is the typical representative of that nation to whom its best sons have denied the capacity of being a nation, but which has therefore been able to produce more striking individualities than all other civilized nations of the time.


Caspar Schmidt — for this is Stirner’s real name  1)Stirner’s chief work, The Individual and his Property (Der Einzige und sein Eigenthum, Leipsic, 1845), has been reprinted by P. Reclam, at Leipsic, with a good introduction by Paul Lauterbach. The literature about Stirner is almost exclusively confined to a few- scattered remarks in larger works, which are not always very appropriate. J. H. Mackay is said to be working at a biography of Stirner. The monograph by Robert Schellwien, Max Stirner und Friedrich Nietzsche (Leipsic, 1892), is quite worthless for our purpose. — was born at Bayreuth on the 25th October, 1806, and, like Strauss, Feuerbach, Bruno Bauer, and other thinkers of the same kind, devoted his time to theological and philosophic studies. After completing these, he took the modest position of a teacher in a high school, and in a girls´ school in Berlin. In 1844 there appeared, under the pseudonym “Max Stirner,” a book called The Individual and his Property, with the dedication which, under these circumstances, is touching: “To my Darling, Marie Döhnhardt.” The book appeared like a meteor; it caused for a short time a great deal of talk, and then sank into oblivion for ten years, till the growing stream of Anarchist thought again came back to it in more recent times. A History of the Reaction, written after the year 1848, is esteemed as a good piece of historical work; and, besides this, Caspar Schmidt also produced translations of Say, Adam Smith, and other English economists. On the 26th of June, 1856, he ended his life, poor in external circumstances, rich in want and bitterness. That is all that we know of the personality of the man who has raised the idea of personality to a Titanic growth that has oppressed the world.

Stirner proceeds from the fact, the validity of which we have placed in the right light at the be- ginning of this book, that the development of man- kind and of human society has hitherto proceeded in a decidedly individualistic direction, and has consisted predominantly in the gradual emancipation of the individual from his subjection to general ideas and their corresponding correlatives in actual life, in the return of the Ego to itself. Starting from the school of Fichte and Hegel, he pursued this special individualistic tendency till close upon the limits of caricature; he formally founded a cultus of the Ego, all the while being anxious that it should not return again to the region of metaphysical soap-bubbles, and leave its psychological and practical sphere. On the contrary, Stirner appears to be rather inclined to Positivism, and to consider the details of life and of perception as real, and as the only ones whose existence is justified. All that is comprehensible and general is secondary, a product of the individual, the subject turned into an object, a creation that is looked upon and honored by the creator as the only actual reality, the highest end — indeed, as something sacred. In the origin of this generalization, as well as in emancipation from it, Stirner perceives the course of progressive culture.

The ancients only got so far as generalizations of the lower order; they lived in the feeling that the world and worldly relationships (for example, the natural bond of blood) were the only true things before which their powerless self must bow down. Man, in the view of life taken by the ancient world, lived entirely in the region of perception, and therefore all his general ideas, even the highest type of them, not excluding Plato’s, retained a strongly sensuous character.

Christianity only went a step higher with its generalizations out of the region of the senses; ideas became more spiritual and less corporeal in proportion as they became more general. Antiquity sought the true pleasure of life, enjoyment of life; Christianity sought the true life; antiquity sought complete sensuousness, Christianity complete morality and spirituality; the first a happy life here, the latter a happy life hereafter; antiquity postulated as the highest moral basis, the State, the laws of the world; Christianity postulated God, imperishable, everlasting Law. The ancient world did not get beyond the rule of formal reason, the Sophists; Christianity put the heart in the place of reason, and cultivation of sentiment in that of one-sided cultivation of the intellect. Nevertheless, this is, according to Stirner (as has already been mentioned), the same process, and the objectification of the Self, which comes out of itself, and considers itself as some foreign body striving upwards unconscious self-deification.

Even in the Reformation Stirner recognizes nothing more than the continuation of the same process. Up to the time of the period preceding the Reformation, reason that was condemned as heathenish lay under the dominion of dogma; shortly before the Reformation, however, it was said, “If only the heart remains Christianly minded, reason may after all have its way.” But the Reformation at last places the heart in a more serious position, and since then hearts have become visibly less Christian. When men began with Luther “to take the matter to heart,” this step of the Reformation led to the heart being lightened from the heavy burden of Christianity. The heart becomes from day to day less Christian; it loses the contents with which it occupies itself, until at last nothing remains to it but empty “heartiness,” general love of man, the love of humanity; the consciousness of freedom. It need hardly be mentioned that this view of history is quite arbitrary and distorted. Who requires to be told that the Reformation was, perhaps, the greatest historical act in favor of the individual, because it freed him from the most powerful of all authorities, from the omnipotence of the Roman dogma? With the Reformation the conscious movement for freedom received its first great impulse.

But Stirner places the reverence of the ancients for the State, the reverence of the Christian for God, and of modern times for humanity and freedom, all upon the same level, — they all seem to him ghosts, spectres, possession by spirits and hauntings, — and he seeks to establish the same conclusion as regards the ideas of truth, right, morality, property, and love, — the so-called sacred foundations of human society. They are all ghost-imaginations of our own mind, creations of our own Ego, before which the creator of them bows in the impotence of ignorance, considering them as something unalterable, eternal, and sacred, to which every activity of the creative idea is placed in contrast as Egoism.

“Men have got something into their heads which they think ought to be actualized. They have ideas of love, goodness, and so on, which they would like to see realized; and therefore they wish for a kingdom of love upon earth in which no one acts out of self-interest, but everyone from love. Love shall rule. But what they have placed in their heads, how can it be called other than ‘ a fixed idea ‘ (idée fixe)? Their heads are haunted by spectres. The most persistently haunting spectre is Man himself. Remember the proverb, ‘ The way to ruin is paved with good intentions. ‘ The proposal to actualize humanity in itself, to become wholly human, is of just the same disastrous character, and to it belong the intentions of becoming good, noble, loving, and so forth.”

The dominion of the idea, whether it is religious or humanitarian or moral, is for Stirner mere priest craft; philanthropy is merely a heavenly, spiritual, but priest-imagined love. Man must be restored, and in doing so we poor wretches have ruined ourselves. It is the same ecclesiastic principle as that celebrated motto, Fiat Justitia, pereat mundus; humanity and justice are ideas and ghosts to which everything is sacrificed. The enthusiast for humanity leaves out of consideration persons as far as his enthusiasm extends, and walks in a vague ideal of sacred interest. Humanity is not a person but an ideal — an imagination.

All progress of public opinion or emancipation of the human mind, as hitherto proceeding, is accordingly for Stirner worthless labor, a mere scene shifting. As Christianity not only did not free mankind from the power of ancient spectres, but rather strengthened and increased them, so too the Reformation did not remove the chains of mankind a hair’s-breadth. “Because Protestantism broke down the medieval hierarchy, the opinion gained ground that hierarchy in general had been broken down by it, while it was quite overlooked that the Reformation was even a restoration of a worn-out hierarchy. The hierarchy of the middle ages had been only a feeble one, since it had to allow all possible barbarity to persons to go on unchecked with it, and the Reformation first steeled the strength of the hierarchy. When Bruno Bauer said: As the Reformation was principally the abstract separation of the religious principle from art, government, and science, and thus was its liberation from those powers with which it had been connected in the antiquity of the Church and in the hierarchy of the middle ages, so also the theological and ecclesiastical movements that proceeded from the Reformation were only the logical carrying out of this abstraction or separation of the religious principle from other powers of humanity; and so I see on the contrary that which is right, and think that rule of the mind or mental freedom (which comes to the same thing) has never been before so comprehensive and powerful as at the present time, because now, instead of separating the religious principle from art, government, and science, it is rather raised entirely from the kingdom of this world into the realm of the spirit and made religious.”

From the same point of view he considers the whole of the mental attitude introduced by the Reformation.

“How can one,” he says, “maintain of modern philosophy and of the modern period that they have accomplished freedom when it has not freed us from the power of objectivity? Or am I free from despots when I no longer fear a personal tyrant, but am afraid of every outrage upon loyalty which I owe to him?”

This is just the case in the modern period. It only changes existing objects, the actual ruler and so on, to an imagined one, into ideas for which the old respect not only has not been lost but has increased in intensity. If a piece was taken off the idea of God and the devil in their former gross realism, nevertheless only so much the more attention has been devoted to our conceptions of them. “They are free from devils, but evil has remained.” To revolutionize the existing State, to upset the existing laws, was once thought little of, when it had once been determined to allow oneself to be no longer imposed upon by what was tangible and existing; but to sin against the conception of the State and not to submit to the conception of law — who has ventured to do that? So men remained “citizens” and “law-abiding, loyal men”; indeed, men thought themselves all the more law-abiding in proportion as they more rationalistically did away with the previous faulty law in order to do homage to the spirit of law. In all this it is only the objects that have changed but which have remained in their supremacy and authority; in short, men still followed obedience, lived in reflection, and had an object upon which they reflected, which they respected, and for which they felt awe and fear. Men have done nothing else but changed things into ideas of things, into thoughts and conceptions, and thus their dependence became all the more innate and irrevocable. It is, for example, not difficult to emancipate oneself from the commands of one’s parents, or to pay no heed to the warnings of an uncle or an aunt, or to refuse the request of a brother or a sister; but the obedience thus given up lies easily upon one’s conscience, and the less one I gives way to individual sentiments, because one recognizes them from a rational point of view, and from our own reason to be unreasonable, the more firmly does one cleave conscientiously to piety and family love, and with greater difficulty does one forgive an offence against the idea which one has conceived of family love and the duty of piety. Released from our dependence upon the existing family life, we fall into the more binding submission to the idea of the family; we are governed by family spirit. And the family, thus raised up to an idea or conception, is now regarded as something “sacred,” and its despotism is ten times worse, because its power lies in my conscience. This despotism is only broken when even the ideal conception of the family becomes nothing to me. And as it is with the family, so it is with morality. Many people free themselves from customs, but with difficulty do they get free from the idea of morality. Morality is the “idea” of custom, its spiritual power, and its power over the conscience; on the other hand, custom is something too material to have power over the spirit, and does not fetter a man who is independent, a “free spirit.”

Humanity strives for independence, and strives to overcome everything which is not a self, says Stirner; but how does this agree with the above-mentioned spread of the power of the mental conception and of the idea? To-day mankind is less free than before; so-called Liberalism only brings other conceptions forward; that is, instead of the divine, the human; instead of ecclesiastical ideas, those of the State; instead of those of faith, those Of science; or general statements, instead of the rough phrases and dogmas, actual ideas and everlasting laws.

In the movement for emancipation in modern times Stirner distinguishes three different varieties, the political, social, and humanitarian Liberalism. Political Liberalism, according to Stirner, culminates in the thought that the State is all in all, and is the true conception of humanity; and that the rights of man for the individual consist in being the citizen of the State. Political Liberalism did away with the inequality of rights of feudal times, and broke the chains of servitude which at that period one man had forced upon another, the privilege upon him who was less privileged. It did away with all special interests and privileges, but it by no means created freedom; it only made one independent of the other, but yet made all the most absolute slaves to the State. It gave all power of right to the State, the individual only becomes something as a citizen, and only has those rights which the State gives him. Political Liberalism, says Stirner, created a few people, but not one free individual. Absolute monarchy only, changed its name, being known formerly as “king,” now as “people,” “State,” or ”nation.”

“Political freedom says that the polis, the State, is free; and religious freedom says that religion is free, just as freedom of conscience means that the conscience is free ; but not that I am free from the State, from religion, or from conscience. It does not mean my freedom, but the freedom of some power which governs and compels me; it means that one of my masters, such as State, religion, or conscience, is free. State, religion, and conscience, these despots make me a slave, and their freedom is my slavery.” “If the principle is that only facts shall rule mankind, namely, the fact of morality or of legality, and so on, then no personal limitations of one individual by the other can be authorized — that is, there must be free competition. Only by actual fact can one person injure another, as the rich may injure the poor by money — that is, by a fact, but not as a person. There is henceforth only one authority, the authority of the State; personally no one is any longer lord over another. But to the State, all its children stand exactly in the same position; they possess ‘ civic or political equality, ‘ and how they get on one with another is their own affair; they must compete. Free competition means nothing else than that everyone may stand up against someone else, make himself felt, and fight against him.”

At this point (wherein Stirner by no means recognizes immediate or economic individualism) social Liberalism — that which we to-day call social Democracy or communal Socialism — separates from the political. With a cleverness which we cannot sufficiently admire, Stirner proceeds to show that these directions which are so totally opposed are – essentially the same, and regards the latter merely as the logical outcome from the former.

“The freedom of man is, in political Liberalism, the freedom from persons, from personal rule, from masters; security of any individual person, as regards other persons, is personal freedom. No one can give any commands; the law alone commands. But if persons have become equal, their positions certainly have not. And yet the poor man needs the rich, and the rich man needs the poor; the former needs the money of the rich, the latter the work of the poor. Thus no one needs anyone else as a person; but he needs him as a giver, or as one who has something to give, as a proprietor or possessor. Thus what he has, that makes a man. And in having or in possession people are unequal. Consequently, so social Liberalism concludes, no one must possess, just as, according to political Liberalism, no one must command — that is, as here the State alone has the power of command, so now society alone has the power of possessing.” As in political Liberalism, the State is the source of all right; the individual only enjoys so much of it as the State gives him, so the social State, now called society, is also the only master of all possessions, and the individual must only have so much as society lets him share in. “Before the highest Ruler,” says Stirner in his rough language, ” before the only Commander, we all become equal — equal persons, that is, nonentities. Before the highest owner of property we all become vagabonds alike. And now one person is, in the estimation of another, a vagabond, a ‘ havenought, ‘ but then this estimate of each other stops, we are all at once vagabonds, and we can only call the totality of communist society ‘ a conglomeration of vagabonds.’

That which Stirner, finally, under the name of humanitarian Liberalism, places side by side with the two tendencies just mentioned has nothing to do, generally speaking, with the political and material relations of mankind, and is the philosophical Liberalism of Feuerbach, who places freedom of thought in the same position as his predecessors put freedom of the person. ‘In the human society which humanitarianism promises,” says Stirner,” nothing can be recognized which any person has as something ‘special,’ nothing shall have any value which bears the mark of a ‘private ‘ individual. In this way the circle of Liberalism completes itself, having in humanity its good principle, in the egotist and every ‘private’ person its evil one; in the former its God, in the latter its devil. If the special or private person lost his value in the State, and if special or private property ceased to be recognized in the community of workers or vagabonds, then in human society everything special or private is left out of consideration, and when pure criticism shall have performed its difficult work, then we shall know what is private, and what one must leave alone in seines Nichts durchbohrendem Gefühle.” Political Liberalism regulated the relations of might and right, social Liberalism wishes to regulate those of property and labor, humanitarian Liberalism lays down the ethical principles of modern society.


As may be seen, Stirner does not recognize the efforts and endeavors of all these tendencies to which we ascribe the complete transformation of Europe in the last century, but, on the contrary, is prepared to perceive in them rather an intensification of the servitude in which the free Ego is held. The more spiritual, the more interesting, the more sublime and the more sacred ideas become for men, the greater becomes their respect for them, and the less becomes the freedom of the Ego as regards them. But as these ideas are merely creations of man’s own spirit, — fiction and unreal forms, — all the so-called progress made by Liberalism is regarded by Stirner as nothing else than increasing self-delusion and constant retrogression. True progress evidently lies for him only in the complete emancipation of the Ego from this dominion of ideas that is in the triumph of egotism. “For Individualism (egotism) is the creator of everything, just as already genius [a definite egotism] which is always originality, is regarded as the creator of new historical productions. Freedom teaches us: set yourselves free, get rid of everything burdensome; but it does not teach you who you yourselves are. Free! Free! So sounds its cry, and you eagerly follow it; become free from yourselves, and renounce yourselves. But Individualism calls you back to yourselves, and says: ‘ Come to yourself! ‘ Under the aegis of freedom you become free from many things, but become subject again to some new thing; you are free from the Evil One, but abstract evil still remains. As individuals you are really free from everything, and what clings to you, you have accepted. That is your choice and your wish. The individual is the one who is born free, the man who is free by birth. The ‘ free man,’ on the other hand, is he who only looks for freedom, the dreamer, the enthusiast.” Freedom is only possible together with the power to acquire it and to maintain it; but this power only resides in the individual. “My power is my property; my power gives me property; I am myself my own power, and am thereby my own property.” This is, in a nutshell, Stirner’s positive doctrine.

Right is power or might. “What you have the power to be, that you have the right to be. I derive all right and justification from myself alone; for I am entitled to everything which I have power to take or to do. I am entitled to overthrow Zeus, Jehovah or God, if I can; if I can not, these gods will always retain their rights and power over me; but I shall stand in awe of their rights and their power in impotent reverence, and shall keep their commands and believe I am doing right in everything that I do, according to their ideas of right, just as a Russian frontier sentry considers himself justified in shooting dead a suspicious person who runs away, because he relies upon a ‘ higher authority,’ in other words, commits murder legally. But I am justified in committing a murder by myself, if I do not forbid it to myself, if I am not afraid of murder in the abstract as of ‘ something wrong.’ I am only not justified in what I do not do of my own free will, that is, that which I do not give myself the right to do. I decide whether the right resides in me; for there is some right external to myself. If it is right to me, then it is right. It is possible that others may not regard it as right, but that is their affair, not mine, and they must take their own measures against it. And if something was in the eyes of the whole world not right, and yet seemed right to me, that is, if I wished it, even then I should

ask nothing from the world: thus does everyone who knows how to value himself, and each does it to the extent that he is an egotist, for might goes before right, and quite rightly too.”

All existing right is external to the Ego; no one can give me my right, neither God, nor reason, nor Nature, nor the State; as to whether I am right or not there is only one judge and that is myself; others at most can pass a judgment and decide whether they support my right and whether it also exists as a right for them. Law is the will of the dominating power in a community. Every State is a despotism, whether the dominant power belongs to one, to many, or to all. A despotism would re- main then, if, for example, in the national assembly the national will, that is to say, the individual wills of each person, really had overwhelmingly expressed itself, including also my own will; if then this wish becomes law I am bound to-morrow by what I wished yesterday, and then I thus become a servant, even though it be only the servant of myself. How can this be changed? “Only by my recognizing no duty, neither letting myself bind nor be bound. If I have no duty then I also know no law.” Wrong goes side by side with right, crime with legality. The unfettered Ego of Stirner is the never-ceasing criminal in the State; for only he who denies his “self,” and who practices self-denial is acceptable to the State. And thus with the disappearance of right comes also the disappearance of crime.

“The dispute about the right of property is violently waged. The Communists maintain that the earth belongs properly to him who cultivates it; and the products of the same to those who produce them. I maintain it belongs to him who knows how to take it, or who does not let it be taken from him or let himself be deprived of it; if he appropriates it, not merely the earth but also the right to it belongs , to him. This is the egotistical right, that is, it is right for me, and therefore it is right.” How far Stirner is separated from Proudhon is shown most clearly in the question of property. Proudhon denied property because it was incompatible with justice. Stirner denies justice, and maintains property upon the grounds of the right of occupation. Proudhon declared that property was theft, but Stirner entirely reverses the phrase, and answers to the question. What is my property? —”Nothing but what is in my power.” To what property am I entitled? — “To that which I entitle myself.” “I give myself the right to property by taking property, or by giving myself the power of the proprietor, a full power or title.”

The theory of occupation or seizure here appears to us in all its brutality. Nevertheless, even here Stirner is not frightened at the most extreme con- sequences of this theory, nor at the thought that one | would have to defend one’s property daily and hourly with a weapon in one’s hand; and he is therefore inclined to make some concession to a voluntary form of organization. “If men reach the point of losing respect for property, each will have property; just as all slaves become freemen as soon as they regard their master no longer as master. Union will then multiply the means of the individual, and secure for him the property he has acquired by fighting. In the opinion of the Communists the community should be the only proprietor. The converse of this is, I am the proprietor, and merely come to some agreement with others about my property. If the community does not do right by me, I revolt against it, and defend my property. I am an owner of property, but property is not sacred.” The regulation of society by itself is accepted by Stirner just as little as in the question of property, when it comes to the question of obtaining for the laborers a full reward of their labor. “They must rely upon themselves and ask nothing from the State,” he answers. Only to a third very difficult question does this thoroughgoing theorist fail in an answer. He declares pauperism to be “lack of value of myself, when I cannot make my value felt; and, therefore, I can only get free from pauperism if I make my value felt as an individual, if I give myself value, and put my own price upon myself. All attempts at making the masses happy, and philanthropic associations arising from the principle of love, must come to grief, for help can only come to the masses through egotism, and this help they must and will procure for themselves. The question of property cannot be solved in such a legal way as the Socialists, and even the Communists, imagine. It can only be solved by the war of all against all. The poor will only become free and be owners of property by revolting, rising, and raising themselves. However much is given them, they will always wish to have more; for they wish nothing less than that, at last, there shall remain nothing more to give. It will be asked: But what will happen then, when those who have nothing take courage and rise? What kind of equalization will be made? One might just as well ask me to determine a child’s nativity; what a slave will do when he has broken his chains one can only wait and see.”

Step by step Stirner departs from Proudhon; the latter demands, in order to create his paradise, a balance, the former lays down the principle of natural selection as the highest and only law in social matters. The fight, the struggle for existence, which Proudhon strove to recognize in economic life, here enters upon its rights in all its brutality. The realization of the self is, for Stirner, the key to the solution of the problems of work, property, and pauperism. He will have no division of goods, no organization of labor. For Proudhon every piece of work is the result of a collective force, for Stirner the most valuable works are those of “individual” artists, savants, and so on, and their value is always to be determined only from the egoist standpoint.

To the question whether money should be maintained or done away with among egoists, he answers: “If you know a better medium of exchange, all right; but it will always be ‘ money ‘ it is not money that does you harm, but your lack of power to take it. Let your power be felt, nerve yourselves, and you will not lack money — your money, the money of your own coining. But working I do not call letting your power be felt. Those who only ‘ seek for work, and are willing to work hard,’ prepare for themselves inextinguishable lack of work.” What we now-a-days call free competition, Stirner refuses to regard as free, since everyone has not the means for competing.  “To abolish competition only means to favor members of some craft. The distinction is this: in a craft, such as baking, baking is the business of the members of the craft; under a system of competition it is the business of anyone who likes to compete; but in societies it is the business of those who use what is baked; thus, my or your business, not the business of the members of the craft, nor of the baker who has a concession given him, but of those in the union or society.” Here for the second time we meet with the idea of a union, without Stirner expressing himself exactly about its character. Only in one other place does he happen to speak about the ideas of this union. He says the end of society is agreement or union. A society also certainly arises through union, but only in the same way as a fixed idea arises from a thought, namely, by the fact that the energy of the thought, thinking itself the restless absorption of all rising thoughts, disappears from thought. When a union has crystallized itself into a society, it has ceased to be an active union; for the act of union is a ceaseless uniting of individuals, it has become a united existence, has come to a standstill, has degenerated into a fixity; it is dead as a union; it is the corpse of union, and of the act of union; that is, it is a society or community. What is known as “party” is a striking example of this.

Stirner admits that union cannot exist without freedom, being limited in all manner of ways. But absolute freedom is merely an ideal, a spectre, and the object of the union is not freedom, which it, on the contrary, sacrifices to individualism, but its object is only individualism. “Union is my creation, my implement, sacred to me, but has no spiritual power over my mind, and does not make me bow down to it; but I make it bow down to me, and use it for my own purposes. As I may not be a slave of my maxims, but without any guarantee expose them to my own continual criticism, and give no guarantee of their continuance, so, still less, do I pledge myself to the union for my future, or bind my soul to it; but I am and remain to myself more than State or Church, and consequently infinitely more than the union.”

Just as we again recognize in this loose and always J breakable union (although Stirner does not say so) that union whose mission he had declared it to be “to render secure property gained by force,” to arrange the relations of production and consumption, and at the same time to create a certain unity of the means of payment; so, too, we have in this “union of egoists,” as its author called it, all the constructive thought that Stirner’s book either can or does , contain. For a man who only acknowledges one dimension, and only operates with one, considering everything not contained therein as non-existing, cannot form any of the combinations of which life consists, without coming into hopeless conflict with his principles. This Stirner has done, in spite of the vague and imaginary nature of his “union of egoists.”

As Stirner had to acknowledge that this union or society cannot exist without freedom being limited in every way, he declared — since after all he requires union for some things—”absolute freedom” a creature of the imagination, as the opposite to “individuality,” which is the main thing. But can it be believed that Stirner has set up an “absolute freedom” all of his own making, to place it in contrast with individuality. In other words, freedom is merely the possibility of living one’s individuality, of being an “individual” in Stirner’s sense. Freedom is the absence of every outside influence; it may be understood in an exoteric or esoteric sense; and throughout his whole book Stirner has done nothing but strip the “Ego” from every sign of outside compulsion; he has made it the “only one” by freeing it with relentless logic from everything external. He has depicted this act of liberation as the goal of all culture; and it finally emerges that all this story of the “only Ego” is a delusion, for “union” excludes “absolute individuality” as well as “absolute freedom” — because the two are identical.

Stirner, indeed, only spoke of an “absolute freedom” to represent it as a fiction of the imagination, and on the other hand only of an individuality. Now his union does not exclude individuality and freedom, but only absolute individuality. But this last Stirner cannot admit, because it also he regards merely as a “spectre,” an “obsession,” a “fixed idea.” But whether he admits it or not, what is Stirner’s “individual” but an idea, something absolute? Stirner had begun with the intention of slaying Feuerbach’s idea of “man” as a retrograde idealist fallacy, and of creating, like Prometheus, a new man, the Unmensch, in the Ego completed into a microcosm, and, as such, complete in itself, separate and independent. But that is, as a matter of fact, not the “no-man” but the superhuman Prometheus himself, the idea of Man which he attacked in Feuerbach. “Might,” he says in one part of his book, “goes before right, and rightly too.” This is exactly the logical scheme of the whole book. Away with everything absolute! Individuality goes before every idea, just because it is itself the absolute idea of the much-despised Hegel. But suppose we do not take into consideration this fundamental contradiction. Let us suppose there is none, and that all Stirner’s other assumptions are indisputable, that God, Humanity, Society, Right, the State, the Family are all classed in one category, as were abstractions and creations of my own “Ego,” what follows? That these ideas, now that they have lost their absolute character, are no longer to be reckoned as factors in the organization of life? It is so, if one regards only that which is absolute as entitled to exist; but Stirner would drive everything absolute from its very last positions. And does it follow further from the circumstance that one of these factors has lost its controlling influence over mankind that all the others, because they too are not absolute, should be denied all practical significance? Put in concrete form, the question stands thus: (1) has the idea of Deity lost its practical significance, because it has been divested of its absolute character, and its purely empiric origin has been recognized? And (2) if the idea of Right is no more an absolute one than the idea of Deity, does it follow that the influence of Right must be placed upon the same plane as the influence of conscience?

As to the first point, I am relieved from any answer in view of the thorough treatment of these questions by the light of modern investigation. The second question I prefer to leave to some professional jurist, who knows the nature of law, and at the same time has every intention of doing justice to Stirner.

Dr. Rudolf Stammler says,1 after showing that the necessity of the influence of Law for human society cannot be proved a priori: “It is the theory of Anarchism which must lead us with special force to a train of thought that has never yet appeared in the literature of legal philosophy, although it makes clear, in a manner universally valid, the necessity of legal compulsion in itself and justifies legal organization. For the antithesis of our present mode of social life, based on law and right, is, as conceived by Anarchism as its ideal and goal, the union and

1Stammler, Die Theorie des Anarchismus, Berlin, 1894, p. 42.

ordering of men in freely formed communities, and entirely under rules framed by convention. Though the individual Anarchist may regard a union of egoists as a postulate, or may desire fraternal Communism, yet each must determine for himself his connection with such a community. Let him enter freely into the supposed agreement and break it again as seems good to him, it is still the stipulations of the agreement that bind him as long as the agreement exist ; an agreement which he must first enter into and can at any time break regardless of conditions by a new expression of his will. From this it is that this kind of organization, which forms the core of the theory of Anarchism, is only possible for such of mankind as are actually qualified and capable of uniting with others in some form of agreement. Those who are not capable of acting for themselves, as we jurists say, such as the little child, those who are of unsound mind, incapacitated by illness and old age, all these would be entirely excluded from such an organization and from all social life. For as soon as, for example, an infant has been taken into this society and subjected to its rules, the compulsion of law would have been again introduced, and authority would have been exercised over a human being without the proper rules for his assent being observed. The Anarchist organization of man’s social life therefore fails, inasmuch as it is possible only for certain special persons, qualified empirically, and excludes others who lack these qualifications. I therefore conclude the necessity of legal compulsion, not from the fact that without it the small and weak would fare but badly; for I cannot know this for certain beforehand and as a general rule. Nor do I deduce the recognized and justified existence of legal arrangements from the fact that only by these can the ‘ true ‘ freedom of each individual be attained without the interference of any third person; for that would not be justified by the facts of history, and would certainly not follow from formal legal compulsion in itself. Rather, I base the lawfulness of law and the rightness of right, in its formal state, upon the consideration that a legal organization is the only one open to all human beings without distinction of special fortuitous qualifications. To organize means to unite under rules. Such a regulation of human relationships is a means to an end, an instrument serving the pursuit of the final end of the highest possible perfection of man. Hence only that regulation of, human society can be universally justified which can embrace universally all human beings without reference to their subjective or different peculiarities. Law alone can do this. So even under a bad law legal compulsion in itself retains its sound foundation. Its existence does not cease to be justified, nor is it, even touched, by any chance worthlessness of the concrete law in question: it is firmly founded, because it alone offers the possibility of a universally, valid, because universally human, organization. Therefore social progress can only be made by perfecting law as handed down by history, according to its content, and not by abolishing legal compulsion as such.”

These conclusions block the way for the mischievous misapplications of distorted expressions of an exact thinker such as Ihering. Ihering certainly took away ruthlessly the ideological basis of law, but he never denied or attacked necessity of legal compulsion as Stirner did. We might just as well ascribe to Darwin the intention of disowning man because he set forth man’s natural descent.

It is of just as little use to claim that past master of sociology, Herbert Spencer, in support of Stirner’s views, because Spencer too recognizes the purely egoistical origin of law and of social organization. Egoism and Anarchism are not so mutually interchangeable as Stirner thinks. The question is, first of all, whether egoism after all really finds its account in the “union of egoists.” It has been already more than once remarked that here too, as in the case of Proudhon, we only have to do, at bottom, with the logical extension of the present order of society that rests on free competition. “Make your value felt” is still to-day the highest economic principle; and he whose value, whose individuality consists in knowledge alone without an adequate admixture of worldly wisdom, would probably fare no better in the more perfect Anarchist world than the poor schoolmaster Caspar Schmidt in our bourgeois society, who suffered all the pangs of hunger and greeted Death as his redeemer.


Stirner did not form any school of followers in Germany in his own time, but Julius Faucher (1820-78) who was known as a publicist and a rabid Free-trader, represented his ideas in his newspaper Die Abendpost (The Evening Post), published in Berlin in 1850. This paper was, of course, soon sup- pressed, and the only apostle of Stirner’s gospel thereupon left the Continent and went to England, to turn to something more practical that Anarchism, or (to use Stirner’s own jargon) to realize his “Ego” more advantageously. How strange and anomalous Stirner’s individualism appeared even to the most advanced Radicals of Germany in that period appears very clearly from a conversation recorded by Max Wirth, 2)“Zur Geschicte des Anarchismus,” Neue Freie Press, 26th July 1894 (No. 10,748). which Faucher had with the stalwart Republican Schlöffel, in an inn frequented by the Left party in the Parliament of Frankfort. “Schlöffel loved to boast of his Radical opinions, just as at that time many men took a pride in being as extreme as possible among the members of the Left. He expressed his astonishment that Faucher held aloof from the current of politics. ‘ It is because you are too near the Right party for me,’ answered Faucher, who delighted in astonishing people with paradoxes. Schlöffel stroked his long beard proudly, and replied, ‘ Do you say that to me? ‘ Yes, ‘ continued Faucher, ‘ for you are a Republican incarnate; you still want a State. Now I do not want a State at all, and, consequently, I am a more extreme member of the Left than you.’ It was the first time Schlöffel had heard these paradoxes, and he replied: ‘ Nonsense; who can emancipate us from the State?’ ‘ Crime,’ was Faucher’s reply, uttered with an expression of pathos. Schlöffel turned away, and left the drinking party without saying a word more. The others broke out laughing at the proud demagogue being thus outdone: but no one seems to have suspected in the words of Faucher more than a joke in dialectics.” This anecdote is a good example of the way in which Stirner’s ideas were understood, and shows that Faucher was the only individual “individual” among the most Radical politicians of that time.  3)It is characteristic that even the German followers of Proudhon, as, e. g., Marr, Grün, and others, had a very poor opinion of Stirner, and never dreamed of any connection between his views and those of Proudhon. On the other hand, Proudhon’s doctrines, which in their native France could not find acceptance, gained a few proselytes among the Radical Democrats, and especially among the Communists of Switzerland and the Rhine.

Moses Hess was, among Germans, the first to seize hold upon the word “Anarchy” fearlessly and spread it abroad. This was in 1843, thus shortly after the appearance of Proudhon’s sensational book on property, where the word was first definitely adopted as the badge of a party. Hess was born at Bonn in 1812, and was meant for a merchant’s life, but turned his attention to studies picked up later, more especially to Hegelian philosophy, and entered upon the career of literature. In the beginning of the forties he propounded in his works on The Philosophy of Action and Socialism a confused programme, in which the Communism of Weitling was curiously intermingled with the views of Proudhon. In 1845 he expressed his views in a paper called The Mirror of Society (Gesell- schaftspiegel), that appeared later in 1846, under the title of The Social Conditions of the Civilized World, and represented the extreme views of Rhenish Socialism. Moses Hess died in obscurity in 1872.

Hess went farther than Proudhon, in that he differed from Proudhon ‘s carefully thought-out and measured organization of society by demanding, under Anarchy, the abolition of the influence, in social, mental, and moral life, not only of the State and the Church, but also in like manner of any or all external dominion. All action, he declared, must proceed exclusively from the internal decision of the individual acting upon the external world, and not vice versa. Action which did not proceed from internal impulse, but from external — whether from external compulsion, necessity, desire for gain, or enjoyment — was “not free,” and thus merely  “a burden or a vice.” This cannot be the case under Anarchy, for there every work will bring its own reward in itself. The manner and duration of a man’s work will depend entirely on his inclination, thus introducing an individual arbitrary will un- known as yet to Proudhon. Society will offer to each just as much as he “reasonably” needs for self-development and the satisfaction of his wants. As the means of introducing “Anarchism” Hess mentions the improvement of the system of education, the introduction of universal suffrage, and—a thing which Proudhon always opposed — the erection of national workshops.

Karl Grün, however, was not only in friendly personal relationship with Proudhon, but also perfectly imbued with his ideas. Born on September 30, 1817, at Ludenscheid, in Westphalia, he studied at Bonn and Berlin, and later became a teacher of German at the college of Colmar. Later he founded in Mannheim the radical newspaper, the Mannheimer Zeitung, and when expelled from Baden and Bavaria went to Cologne, where for some time he continued active as a lecturer and journalist. During the winter of 1844 and 1845 had made the acquaintance of Proudhon personally in Paris, and had inoculated him with Hegelian philosophy, and in return brought back Proudhon’s views with him to Germany. The result of this first visit to Paris was the work entitled, The Social Movement in France and Belgium,4) Grün wrote many works on literature and the history of art, and also Louis Napoleon Bonaparte, the Sphinx on the French Throne (3d ed., 1866); France before the Judgment Seat of Europe (1860); Italy (1861), etc. one of the most important works on advanced Socialism in Germany, which made known the Socialist views of Frenchmen, and especially of Proudhon, to the German public in an attractive form. In 1849 Grün made another stay in Paris. Returning thence to Germany, he was elected a member of the Prussian National Assembly; then, being arrested for alleged complicity in the Palatinate rising, was at length acquitted after eight months’ imprisonment. He then lived in Belgium and Italy, engaged actively in literary work; later on became a teacher at the School of Commerce in Frankfort, visited the Rhine towns on a lecturing tour from 1865 to ´68, and migrated in 1868 to Vienna, where he resided till his death in 1887.

Grün goes farther than his master Proudhon, and, like Hess, sowed the seed of the Communist Anarchy which has only attained its full growth as a doctrine in quite recent years. In this he totally rejected the principle of reward or wages maintained by Proudhon. ”Proudhon never got beyond this obstacle,” he says; ”he anticipates it, seeks it, he would like it, he introduces it: the farther association extends, the greater the number of workmen, the less becomes the work of each, the more distinction between them disappears. That is a mathematical proceeding, not social or human. What distinction is to disappear? The distinction among producers is to become progressively smaller. The natural distinction of capacity which society abolishes by the social equality of wages. Preach the social freedom of consumption, and then you have at once the true freedom of production. Reverse the case: are you so anxious about lack of production? Recent progress in science may assure you. Perhaps children up to fifteen years of age would be able to perform all necessary household duties mere guides of machinery — even in holiday attire, as a game of play! Everyone is paid according to what he produces, and the production of each is limited by the right of all. But no! No limitation! Let us have no right of all against the right of the individual. On the contrary, the consumption of each is guaranteed by the consumption of all. The production of one is not paid for by the product of another, but each pays out of the common product.”5)Die sociale Bewegung, p. 433. Darmstadt, 1845. We shall meet with the same ideas in Kropotkin, only more definite.

Proudhon found an ardent disciple in Wilhelm Marr, who at that time stood at the head of the German Democratic Union of manual workmen of “young Germany” in Switzerland. Born on May 6, 1819, at Magdeburg, Marr was originally intended for a merchant’s calling, but after his stay in Switzerland (1841) gave it up entirely, and turned his attention to a political and literary career. At first, attracted by Weitling’s Communism, he later on came into decided opposition to it from his accentuation of the individualist standpoint, which he, as an ardent follower of Feuerbach, pursued according to Proudhon’s rather than Stirner’s views. In conjunction with a certain Hermann Döleke, Marr endeavored to instill these views into the above-mentioned Swiss workmen’s unions. His programme was quite of a negative character; as he himself describes it: “The abolition of all prevailing ideas of Religion, State, and Society was the aim, which we followed with a full knowledge of its logical consequences.” Döleke called it the ”theory of no consolation”6)Wilhem Marr, Das junge Deutschland in der Schweis, p. 135. Leipsic, 1846. (Trostlosigkeits-theorie). In December, 1844, Marr published a journal in Lausanne called Pages of the Present for Social Life (Blätter der Gegenwart für sociales Leben), to pro- mote the literary acceptance of this theory. ”With remorseless logic,” says Marr himself (Das junge Deutschland, p. 271) ”we attacked not only existing institutions in State and Church, but State and Church themselves in general; and as a first attempt, which we in the second number made in the shape of an article upon the Tschech outrage, produced no ill consequences for us, our audacity grew to such a pitch that Döleke often preached Atheism, and the word ‘ Atheism ‘ was to be seen at the head of his articles. I did the same in the department of social criticism, while, following the example of Proudhon, I put before my readers at the very beginning the final consequences of my argument.” For a time the Government did not interfere with Marr’s propaganda, but in July, 1845, it stopped the publication of his journal, and Marr was soon after expelled from the country. This was the end of the results of his propaganda in Switzerland; for in the popular reflex of Marr’s doctrines we can hardly find more than the Radicalism of German Democrats, as preached by Börne, colored by a few traces of Proudhon’s teaching. This shade of opinion was then quite modern; we recognize it in Alfred Meisener, Ludwig Pfau, and the Vienna group, even in Börne, who died in the forties; the doctrine was part of the spirit of the age, and did not need to be derived from Proudhon.

Wilhelm Marr, after many and various political metamorphoses, took sides with the Anti-Semites, and acquired the unenviable reputation of being one of the literary fathers of this questionable movement. Recently he has again abandoned this movement, and living embittered in retirement in Hamburg, has once more devoted the flabby sympathies of his old age to the Anarchist ideals of his youth.

Marr forms the link between the pure theory of Anarchism and active Anarchist agitation, between the older generation who laid down the principles and the modern Anarchists. The acute reaction following upon the years 1848 and ’49 extinguished the scanty growth that had sprung from the seed sown by Proudhon and Stirner. Only when in the sixties, with the reviving Social-Democratic movement there naturally arose also its opposite, the “Anti-Authoritative Socialism,” did men proceed to complete the work begun by Proudhon and Stirner. Recent proceedings in this direction have, however, not only not added any essential feature to the theory of Anarchism, but rather have obscured the former sharp outlines of its ideas, and introduced into its theory elements which are really quite foreign and contradictory to it, and have prevented that peaceful discussion of it which might be advantageous to all parties. This distinction between the older and the more modern theorists of Anarchism is most clearly marked in Bakunin y with his introduction of “Russian influence”; with Bakunin begins the theory of active agitation.

 

 

References   [ + ]

1. Stirner’s chief work, The Individual and his Property (Der Einzige und sein Eigenthum, Leipsic, 1845), has been reprinted by P. Reclam, at Leipsic, with a good introduction by Paul Lauterbach. The literature about Stirner is almost exclusively confined to a few- scattered remarks in larger works, which are not always very appropriate. J. H. Mackay is said to be working at a biography of Stirner. The monograph by Robert Schellwien, Max Stirner und Friedrich Nietzsche (Leipsic, 1892), is quite worthless for our purpose.
2. “Zur Geschicte des Anarchismus,” Neue Freie Press, 26th July 1894 (No. 10,748).
3. It is characteristic that even the German followers of Proudhon, as, e. g., Marr, Grün, and others, had a very poor opinion of Stirner, and never dreamed of any connection between his views and those of Proudhon.
4.  Grün wrote many works on literature and the history of art, and also Louis Napoleon Bonaparte, the Sphinx on the French Throne (3d ed., 1866); France before the Judgment Seat of Europe (1860); Italy (1861), etc.
5. Die sociale Bewegung, p. 433. Darmstadt, 1845.
6. Wilhem Marr, Das junge Deutschland in der Schweis, p. 135. Leipsic, 1846.