To adequately understand any movement requires a clear conception of its fundamental idea; and, therefore, I shall begin with the basic idea of Anarchy. In the search of mankind after truth on which to found happiness, the question naturally arose, "What is happiness?" And while many strange speculations were being made on the subject, someone looking nearer home for a solution than the rest, discovered the very simple fact that "happiness" is a synonym for doing and being just as one likes, and not otherwise. It also occurred to some such inquirer that while others may very well suggest, the only person competent to decide as to what one really likes is oneself. These truisms being now brought to mind, it was an obvious inference that general happiness meant a condition in which each person should do and be as he or she liked and not otherwise. And, therefore, among the numerous searchers for a road to such happiness as social conditions may ensure, some presently conceived that the way was simply and purely the liberty of each to shape the course of his or her life, from event to event, and from moment to moment, as his or her nature would, under all circumstances, prompt.
It was also seen that the differences in rank, position, wealth, etc., observed in the existing world, were all effectual restrictions upon such freedom of some for the benefit of others, and, therefore, as an essential corollary of liberty, was formulated equality.
It was furthermore apparent, on the one hand, that the full and equal liberty of each in the initiative could only be preserved in the result by harmony between respective individual inclinations; and, on the other hand, that sympathy, peace, and harmony were the general ideals of humanity's desire, and liked as blessings, while enmity, strife, and discord were disliked by mankind in common as evils, and, therefore, a further corollary was fraternity.
But as some natures were so ill-balanced as to prefer such immediate personal advantages as they might be able to obtain at the sacrifice of fraternity, at the abandonment of equality, and even at the destruction of other people's liberty, it was evident that under the circumstances those others would - whenever the limit of fraternal forbearance was reached - like to resist or even to retaliate; hence the liberty of those who were fit for the general liberty demanded not submission, but struggle.
That whereas it had previously been sought to cope with the matter by placing all under restraint from certain acts conventionally accepted as breaches by some of the liberty of others, this policy had only resulted in enabling the crafty to evade its purpose, and, by the very restraints imposed to prevent individual tyranny, to bind the good and law-abiding under their sway.
That on the contrary the liberty of the good demanded the liberty of the bad to begin a quarrel, and the liberty of the good to resist individually as they saw fit and when they saw fit.
That liberty could only be conserved by liberty and might, not by law.
That liberty was not conferred, but adopted; not given, but taken.
That equality was denied by the creation of any position of rule.
That equality was denied by any rule that affected unequally persons of different inclinations, and that called upon society to support or repress the act for the rule's sake instead of leaving each equally free to do so according to his inclination for the action's sake.
That this was also an invasion of liberty, and of fraternity.
That fraternity was invaded by the mistrust that placed all in subjection from the dread of a few; by the mistrust that deprived the many of dealing with their own grievances at their discretion; and by the resulting conversion of the rule (inevitable from its nature as a rule) into an engine for the perpetuation of the evils it had failed to cope with or had indeed fostered; and also by the accordance to rulers and persons privileged through any rule, of powers thereby essentially forbidden to the remainder.
That common sense was violated by the folly which - mistrusting all, though they should be neither privileged nor goaded by restriction - dreamed of security by reposing confidence in some whom, by these privileges and restrictions and inequalities, it had placed in a better position to abuse that confidence; while others, by the same means, were placed in a worse position to withstand such abuse than anyone would have been in simple liberty.
Those who recognised these facts called themselves Anarchists.
This was nearly 200 years ago. The ideas were summarised in the encyclopaedias of the time, and then dropped out of general notice; but they were really never extinguished. When Proudhon brought them into publicity in the earlier half of the present century, they were held in a more advanced form than that ingenious philosopher presented them in by men whose names the researches of Anarchist historians are gradually bringing to light, such as Desjacques. But they were first extensively promulgated in a crude and undeveloped shape, it is true, shortly after the birth of the "International." It was not till about 1883 that they were largely popularised in the form of a scientifically elaborated theory. Most of the progress in extension among the public, and a good deal of that in the development of the ideas, have been effected since that year.
No great movement ever sprang up without a variety of offshoots, and those of Anarchism were numerous, the most important being the Collectivists, the Individualists, and the Communists. The latter, of whom I am one, repudiates ownership in any shape or form, and, as will hereafter appear, thereby necessarily repudiate all authority and government. The original "Collectivists" are, except in Spain, almost merged in the Communist party, which has become definitely the main shoot. The "Individualists", or, more strictly, "Proprietists", believe in ownership as essential, in their view, to liberty, but repudiate rent, interest, and profit. They are divided into the two Boston schools, believing in ownership defined as an exclusive right of each producer to the products of his labour, based on his productivity; and the second, or Anglo- Australian school, who base this estimate on the duration of labour.
This I discovered to afford something like a positive summary of my negative conclusions, and I joined the movement. A paper, Honesty, was commenced in 1887 at Melbourne, with Andrade as editor, and soon afterwards the Australian Radical, at Hamilton, N.S.W., adopted the principles. In 1888 Andrade and a majority of the club discarded their Boston economics, and advocated instead the time basis for the reward of labour, which, being regarded by the Bostonites as a "Socialistic" attack upon the sacredness of ownership in one's products, led to a warm controversy. I therefore resolved to make an exhaustive logical analysis of the subject from several starting points, and at the end of the process perceived the scientific basis and definition of communism, which I thereafter advocated. I also became a revolutionist, and half a dozen of us started our propaganda at once, all being public speakers and three active writers. Since then we have had exciting times, dull times, anxious times, too, when the country quivered on the verge of a revolution that we should have had to support while thinking it premature on account of the small diffusion of Anarchism, or do violence to our sympathies - while we should have been but as a drop in the bucket; and, after all, probably been suppressed for our name and views, with a bloody hand by the Socialist and ready-to-be Socialist would-be rulers, who were waiting for such a contingency to gratify their ambition. But through all we have gone, steadily increasing, and there are now numerous Communist-Anarchists in all the colonies, and at least a dozen Barnes propagandists at work far and wide.
A little space for personal correction. I know nothing of the present Smithfield group, and some of the literature circulated was written and produced by the primitive processes mentioned, altogether independently of me. My only connection with any other Anarchists is that of friendly correspondence and such co-operation in the propaganda as is occasionally practicable. We are all acting individually, on our separate convictions, which some of us have helped each other to develop, or to elaborate, but which each of u~ would have had in the main if the others had never existed. Even were it otherwise, to truly grasp an idea requires the exercise of a capacity equal and akin to that used in its first conception, all that stands to the credit of the discoverer being a certain amount of energy which inclination or accident directed upon the preliminary search. The feeling that actuates a true comprehended is, when analysed, really joy that the circumstances occasioning the discovery have revealed to him, in the discoverer, someone in certain respects equal to him, the comprehender. Nor can any higher compliment be paid by man to man, for to no greater extent can one appreciate another than he is equal to that other, and to assert one's own inferiority is to damn the hopes latent in any idea that equals to equals can communicate. He who is looked on as a Messiah may well despair. His thoughts and aims will only be misconstrued and perverted. Buddha and Jesus had great thoughts and noble aims, but, unfortunately, they were Messiahs, and the Buddhism and Christianity that came from their work they would turn from in mingled horror and contempt. Anarchy has no Messiahs, for it comes not to death but to life.
All authority is slave owning, all subordination is slavery. The absolute monarch and the absolute slave-owner are to their underlings one and the same. The owner is king of his slave, the monarch owner of his subject. The constituting privilege of each is that of commanding the actions of his victims as he, the ruler, chooses, and quite irrespectively of the desire or needs of those whom he oppresses. And it does not matter if this privilege is vested in one man or in a multitude, nor how it becomes conferred.
When England sold Heligoland to Germany the Heligolanders were sold as readily as the slaves on a transferred cotton plantation. The buyer of a factory buys as really, to the extent of the owner's authority, the operatives. Nor does it matter how the privilege is limited or conditioned. Being one and the same under either name, when you subtract an equal amount of ownership and from rule, the remainder is equally rule and equally ownership in both cases.
And as to the ownership of things, it is nothing but the authority of the owner over all who do not own what he owns, to dictate as to whether and why they may use it. Liberty gives no privilege, either to one side or the other. Were the State non-existent, and ownership remained, each owner would evidently possess - as does the State for its own property - all the privileges which Government arrogates to itself for the conservation of ownership. And it is enough to look at the power of the propertied class to know that the privilege over the thing owned is also a despotic privilege over one's fellow-beings. Communism (or the abolition of ownership and all its derivatives of prices, wages, money, and the enforced prostitution of brain and muscle known as professional or wage service, piecework, contract, etc.) is therefore essential to Anarchy (the abolition of authority) and Anarchy to Communism. The processes of making the change to these principles as the groundwork of society we know as the Revolution.
Freedom is inseparable from truth. If the master of a negro gang, accustomed to their bondage from their birth, and utterly untaught, should tell them "You are free", should explain to them that they were to do as they liked and only as they liked, the poor fellows would not know enough of their own natures to make any notable difference except by indulgence in mere brute revelry; if he gave a command it would probably be obeyed, at least, if addressed to the crowd, or at most they would drift into barbaric servitude to the black chiefs. If carefully tutored in the idea of duty, which masters wish slaves to have, and conscientious, they would continue in effect his slaves unless he himself by escape, or forcible rebellion, could prevent them. It follows, therefore, as a corollary that freedom, even if given, must be taken, or it is a gift of pearls to swine; it is created by taking it and, save by chance, must be known before it can be taken. Hence the first essential to Anarchy is Anarchism; the second, the will; and the third, the strength, to be free whether helped or oppressed. The will exists, but depending primarily on the conjunction of intensity of perception with the faculty of desire, can be cultivated to a far higher degree by knowledge. The strength also exists, and it depends on knowledge and enlightened will to be available. The Anarchist movement is, therefore, primarily for the purpose of exposing all forms of subjection and all things that tend to the defeasance of individuality. But as it is not to be supposed that people who know the truth are going to remain in subjection if they can avoid it, and habituate themselves to passive submission while waiting for their masters to take the initiative in offering freedom - what we have to do is forcibly cease being coerced - that is to say, ignore the system altogether, and act as if Anarchy existed. At first this can only be done in small matters but as our strength increases we shall find that by each doing as he likes as much as he can, he soon can as much as he likes. Our aim is not to coerce those who disagree with us, but by a sufficient number of the people ceasing to be coerced, to reduce the former to the necessity of either dropping naturally into the new conditions, or consciously attempting to make others work for them by main force, which very few of them would do if they could. In order to effect this we desire, not a military revolution, but an industrial disorganisation ......
Certain cases will arise where human sympathy is outraged beyond the power of endurance, and vengeance will result. But we consider that when this occurs on the part of men with average sympathies, everyone on even the other side will be able to see that there was blame where the vengeance fell. It must be remembered in palliation of excesses that are almost inseparable from a revolutionary period, that suffering breeds exasperation, and as we recognise this fact, it prompts us to a policy of the utmost consideration for the individuals at the same time as we exercise the utmost defiance to every feature of the system they wish (to our injury) to conserve.
The decentralisation of industry, the direction of invention to facilitate production in general by individuals or small groups, either for their needs of consumption or for pleasure, the amateur system of production for exchange, etc., whereby the lie may be given to the current idea that "to produce is to suffer, to consume is to enjoy" (which seemingly actuates the Socialists), and each may be enabled in all things to do as he likes and because he likes, from the outline of our constructive aspirations in an economic direction. Anything different would contain the germs of new inequality and rule. Friendship and alliance of tastes and of needs will produce just the right sort and amount of co-operation where it 1S required.
Such are the principles, methods and aims of the Anarchist movement, not only in Australia, but everywhere. If they are true, if they are desirable, it only needs their acceptance by the people to make them practicable.
in (Sydney) Truth, 10 July, 1892.