“Stirner!” by Laurance Labadie

The following essay was originally published in December, 1966, and is available in the essential book Anarcho-Pessimism: The Collected Writings of Laurance Labadie (Ardent Press, 2014).


There are not very many people who can intelligently understand Stirner. The reason is the “Judeo-Christian ethic” which dominates the viewpoints of people in the western hemisphere. They are nothing if not moralists. Whereas Stirner is primarily an amoralist. The basic thesis of his viewpoint on the motivation of humans is self-interest. And self-interest is for the most part an amoral impulse. It is intrinsically a philosophy of expedience—one does what the circumstances call for in the enhancement of one’s will-to-live. This may or may not conform to some moral abjurgation. And no amount of moral indoctrination is going to deter the individual from taking advantage of the circumstances which confront him. Let others do likewise.

It is only on the idealistic plane that “Society’s” interest coincides with the respective interests of the individuals who compose it. Elemental use of one’s intelligence suggests that on no other grounds can the course of history be understood. Nor can any of the common crimes be explained by any other criterion. Deception, bluff, coercion, robbery, and murder—either on a small or large scale—are always motivated by the impulse to better one’s self. And the physical, mental, and “spiritual” incompetent is the first one to look for some transcendent power to take care of him (the God ideal). And while common sense should suggest to anyone that if power be given to some “authority” to take care of one’s self, it is a foregone conclusion that such power will be used in the first instance to aggrandize the well-being of the power-holder.

We believe that man is evil, and yet elect some to rule over others. Who other than an indoctrinated boob will subscribe to such a scheme? And yet we find the practice a virtual world-wide phenomenon!

In the face of this almost universal superstition, the voice of Stirner comes like a breath of fresh air. It is because this admonition to take care of one’s self infuriates the superstitious hopes of such herd viewpoints as communism, socialism, and collectivism in general, including the pious frauds who claim to believe in “free enterprise”—moralists all. How could these pathetic creatures stomach or even understand Stirner? The rationale for the herd or collective impulse must be searched for on other grounds than individual self-interest. For there is a rationale.

Notwithstanding that Stirner stressed the fact that the “ego” was not an abstract generality, that there were as many “egos” as there were individuals, and that each ego was different—socialists even of the Marxian variety had to insist otherwise in order to dismiss Stirner as a metaphysician. Marx, who was a theologian if ever there was one, had the disreputable knack of pretending to hold the ideas of his opponents, and then to use these ideas to confute them—thereby imputing to his opponents the exact opposite of what they believed. This is the role of the ideological trickster, often unbeknownst to himself.

What goes into one man’s stomach does not nourish another man, and in a circumstance of absolute scarcity morality goes by the board. Men’s interests conflict and a scramble results. It is inherent in the situation, and Christians and communists, moralists both, are confronted with a situation wherein their nicely-spun “commandments” go fluttering in the breeze. And they are just as much victims of a situation as anyone else. As a matter of fact the greatest amount of wholesale slaughter has been committed by Christians and communists. What communist didn’t believe his idealistic utopia didn’t have to come about after a revolutionary holocaust in which the bad guys had to be eliminated by the good guys? It is in this context that the present violent confrontations and impending mutual slaughter find their rationale. Man is a victim of habit and institutionalism.