The ANARCHIST INDIVIDUALIST INITIATION
Some lines of introduction
In 1908, I published, through the group of “Causeries Populaires,” then under the influence of comrade Libertad, a study entitled What is an Anarchist? In it, I tried to situate “the anarchist” in relation to their ambiance and to their own milieu.
Since then, events have advanced. Faced with misunderstandings and confusions, the idea came to me, in the course of the war which ravaged Europe, to locate not the “anarchist”—a term then rather vague and lending itself to ambiguity—but the anarchist individualist, in relation to the social milieu in general and to the individualist theory in particular. The detention to which I was then subject did not permit me to complete my project. However, it was realized in part by the publication, in Spanish, of a revision of my first work under the title El Anarquismo individualista, lo que es, puede y vale.
The crisis ended, the same ambiguities remain. Many of the best among us do not have the time to look back on the controversies to which “anarchist individualism” have given rise. They lack some elements, some necessary references to free that aspect of individualism from the dross, the muck, and the compromises under which one has water to tarnish it, cloak it, if not make it disappear. In the first place, this work aims to furnish an idea, a representation and a perspective on anarchist individualism–of its essence and its demands–as clear as my own knowledge of the subject allows. Although after much thought I have seen fit to retain a certain number of pages from “What is an Anarchist?” the reader will quickly see that it is anything but a simple overhaul of that work. It has, however, in common with that volume that several of its chapters have been written in prison–at the cost of some difficulties, alas !
The distinct character of this volume, what distinguishes is not only from “What is an Anarchist?” but also from all which has been published to date on individualism envisioned from the anti-authoritarian point of view, is its lack of unilateralism, to say nothing of homogeneity. The pages which follow do not develop a single conception: they outline, describe, or at least examine the different manifestations of anti-authoritarian individualist thought and aspirations, from simple anti-statism to pure the negation of society. The tendency which wants the “self” to express itself in a reasonable restriction of needs and a rational simplification of its existence occupies a place in it analogous to that which believes that the flowering the of the “self” is only possible through the intensification of the desires, the Dionysian enjoyment of the pleasures of life. These diverse manifestations respond to, compensate for, and compete with one another. They give to the individualist idea, in the sense in which we mean it, a character of extraordinary grace and flexibility. They differ so much that they appear contradictory. They almost seem mutually exclusive. All things considered, the contradictions and oppositions are only apparent. A common bond keeps them cemented together: the negation, rejection, and hatred of domination and exploitation; the absence of obligation, sanction, and encroachment in every domain; the abolition of the constraint of the herd on individual initiative and impulse.
You will understand the reasons that this attempt to reveal the multiple facets of the anarchist individualist thesis has been given the significant title of Initiation: a name that would have been meaningless if it had only been a question of explaining a single aspect of that individualism. That has naturally not prevented me from peppering this volume with very individual interpretations and commentaries on the individualist “way of life.”
But, in my thought, the Individualist Initiation is not simply an acknowledgment, or a briefing, on anarchist individualist thoughts, deeds, and will. This work is an instrument of labor, a tool of propaganda, and a weapon of combat. This explains the frequent repetitions, the numerous retellings, and the repeated demonstrations. I have not wanted to end a paragraph, to pass to a new chapter without striving to say all that could be said on the subject, even at the expense of “style.”
Doubtless, of the opinions expressed, the propositions set down, and the points of view explained, some are hardly outlined, while others are too developed; however, such as it is, I am convinced that this work could lead many to develop their own idea of anarchist individualism, or in any case to meditate seriously on the problems which are posed or considered here.
October 1, 1923.
 The Individualist Anarchist Initiation is divided into two parts, each printed in slightly different characters. The first treats the theoretical bases, and the second some practical theses of anarchist individualism. Let us be quick to note that this classification is somewhat arbitrary; in reality–because they are the result of reflection or individual experience–practice and theory constantly aim to find agreement.
 One will find at the end of the volume and alphabetical index of references and connections, the compilation of which has been entrusted to the care of comrade Germaine P... It is conceived in a manner to effectively aid in their research, those of the readers of this work who consider it more particularly as an instrument of study.
 It goes without saying that the term individualist, used alone, indicates exclusively the anti-authoritarian or anarchist individualist; explicit mention is made where this is not the case.
THE THEORETICAL BASES OF ANARCHIST INDIVIDUALISM
A chaos of beings, facts and ideas; a harsh, disorderly struggle, without mercy; a perpetual lie; a wheel which turns blindly, one day lifting one to the pinnacle and the next crushing one ruthlessly.
A mass, rich and poor, slaves of age-old, inherited prejudices, the first because they find their interests there, and the others because they are immersed in an ignorance from which one does not want they leave; a multitude whose religion is money and whose culmination is the rich man; a mob brutalized by prejudices, the educational system, a superficial existence, the abuse of alcohol or the consumption of adulterated foods; the rabble of degenerates in high places and low, without deep aspirations, without any aim but that of “succeeding” or “taking it easy.” Something temporary which constantly threatens to transform itself into something permanent, and something permanent which threatens to never be anything but temporary. Some lives which belie their stated convictions, and some convictions which serve as springboards to dubious ambitions. Some free-thinkers who reveal themselves to be more clerical than the clergy, and some devout souls who show themselves crude materialists. Something superficial which wants to pass for profound, some profundity which cannot manage to make itself be taken seriously.
A tableau vivant of Society, yet a thousand times below the reality! Why? Because on each face a mask is place; because no one is concerned with being, because they all only aspire to appear. To appear, that is the highest ideal, and, if we are so greedy for ease or riches, it is in order to be able to appear, since in our times, money alone allows one to cut a real figure!
That mania, that passion, that race for appearance, or for the thing which can procure it, devours the richest like the vagabond, the best educated like the unlettered. The worker who bad-mouths the foreman wants to become him in his turn; the merchant who estimates his commercial honor so high does not consider passing by some rather dishonorable sales; the small shopkeeper, member of the patriotic and nationalist electoral committees, hastens to transmit his orders to foreign manufacturers, as soon as he finds his profit there; the socialist deputy, advocate of the destitute proletariat, packed in the foul-smelling parts of the town, vacations in a château or lives in the well-heeled quarters of the city, where the air spreads, abundant and pure; the revolutionaries, who cry against persecution and who strive to stir the tender hearts when the bourgeoisie, holding in its hands the helm of State, hounds them, imprisons them, denying them the liberty to speak and write, we find them, once they have seized power and perched on the dictatorial seat, as meddlesome, as inquisitive, as intolerant, as cruel–more sometimes–as those whose place they have taken. The free-thinker is still willingly married in the church and often has his children baptized there. It is only when the government is well disposed that the religious dare display their ideas, and are still silent where it is customary to ridicule religion. Where, then, is sincerity to be found? The gangrene spreads everywhere. We come across it in the heart of the family where father, mother, and children hate each other, and all deceive one another by saying that they love each other, while pretending that they are particularly fond of each other. We see it in the couple where husband and wife, poorly matched, betray each other without daring to break the link which enchains them, or at the very least without explaining themselves frankly. It spreads in the group where each seeks to supplant their neighbor in the esteem of the president, secretary, or treasurer, before pulling themselves up in their place when they no longer have anything gain from them. It abounds in the acts of devotion, in the brilliant actions, in the private conversations, in the official harangues. To appear! appear! appear: pure, impartial, generous–when we consider purity, impartiality, generosity as tall tales;–moral, honest, virtuous, when probity, virtue, and morality are the least concern of those who profess them.
Where will we find someone who escapes the contagion?
It will be objected that this is to treat the question from too great a height, or from a metaphysical point of view, and that we must descend to the terrain of realities; that the reality is this: that the present Society is the human result of a long historical evolution, perhaps in its infancy, that humanity or the different humanities are all simply seeking it or preparing their way, that they grope, stumble, lose their road, find it again, progress, reverse, – that they are sometimes shaken to their roots by certain crises, carried away, launched on the road of destiny, to then slacken their advance or beat time in place; that by scraping a bit at the polish, the varnish, the surface of contemporary civilizations, on bares the stammering, the childishness, and the superstitions of the prehistoric peoples, even of the pre-prehistoric.
Posed from a purely objective point of view, it will be said that “actually” the “Society” encompasses all the beings, all the aspirations, all the activities, – all the pain and suffering as well. It includes the productive and the idle, the disinherited and the privileged, the healthy and the ailing, the sober and the drunk, the believers and the miscreants, the worst reactionaries and the sectarians of the most improbably doctrines. It modifies, evolves, and transforms itself. It destroys itself at certain points, and regenerates itself at others. Here, it is chaotic; there, it is orderly; over there, it is both at the same time. It glorifies self-sacrifice, but exalts self-interest. It is for peace, but it suffers war. It is against disorder, but welcomes revolutions. It clings to established facts, but constantly acquires new knowledge. It hates anything that disturbs its peace, but follows willingly those of its children who know how to dispel its mistrust, or awaken its curiosity with promises of one sort or another, or allay its fears anew by means of a mirage. It grumbles about the powerful, but ultimately it falls in behind them, adopts their customs, and rules its opinions by theirs. Roused by crisis and carried to the worst excesses, it naturally finds itself a vassal and serves as soon as the smoke of the fires is clear. It is impulsive as a child, sentimental as a young girl, hesitant as an old man. It obeys primordial instincts, instincts which guided the distant ancestors when there was no social milieu, – but it submits to strict disciplines and stern rules. It demands that those who lead it sacrifice themselves for it, but does not balk when they exploit it. it is generous and miserly. The rigidity of manners is unbearable, but it displays decency. It is for the least effort, but adapts to overwork. It flees from suffering, but dances on volcanoes. It is majoritarian, but concedes to minorities. It bows before dictators, but raise statues to those who stab them to death. A sad song drives it to tears, but the beating of a drum awakens in the depths of its being all that has lain dormant for generations, desires to massacre, to pillage, to plunder in bands. It is cruel and tender, avaricious and prodigal, cowardly and heroic. It is a crucible in which the most disparate elements, the least similar characters, and the most conflicting energies meet and join together. It is a furnace that consumes the corporeal and cerebral activities of its members for the pure pleasure of destruction. It is a field always fertilized with the knowledge and experiences of past generations. It is like a woman continuously in a state of pregnancy, who does not know who or what she will deliver. It is Society.
It will be conceded willingly that all is not perfect in Society, but isn’t it proper for that which is actual to be imperfect? It is by authority that it maintains the links of solidarity which unite individuals to one another – links which are sometimes very loose, but it has still not been demonstrated that without authority human societies will remain. Hypocrisy reigns as mistress over the relations of person with person, milieu with milieu, race with race; but it has still not been proven that it does not constitute an inevitability desired by the multiplicity of human temperaments, – an instinctive expedient destined to absorb the shocks and to reduce somewhat the harshness of the struggle for life. The conditions of the production and distribution of products favor the privileged and maintain the exploitation of the unprivileged, but it remains to examine if in the present circumstances of industrial production, one could, without exploitation, obtain from the producer the output necessary to the economic functioning of human societies; – 2° if all the unprivileged are not would-be privileged, who aspire to supplant the latter in their privileges.
It will still be objected that it is folly to seek to discover, to establish the responsibility of the individual, that it is drowned, absorbed in its environment, that its thoughts reflect the thoughts, and its deeds the deeds of those who surround it, – that it cannot be otherwise and that if, from the top to the bottom of the social ladder, the aspiration is to appear and not to be, the fault is with the present phase of the general evolution and not in the individual element of the social environment, a tiny atom lost, dissolved, in an enormous aggregate.
We do not deny it. We are willing to agree that these finding render the human problem singularly complex, strangely complicated. One could conclude that there is nothing to do but to let the “inevitable evolution” continue slowly, to bow tamely before circumstances, to witness, passively, the march of events to accept that, until a better one comes along, all is good in the best of societies. Our theses, opinions, and propositions will not interest those who see things in that way.
Thus, we address ourselves here to “those who think” or are “on the road to thought”–to those who do not accommodate themselves to appearances and whom the present phase of general evolution does not satisfy. To those who are conscious of the domination which suppresses them, and the exploitation which crushes them. Thus, we writer for the curious, the thinkers, and critics,–those not content with prescriptions which brook no debate or with stop-gap solutions.
Thus we do not address ourselves to those who are satisfied, nor to those who have faith. We address the unsatisfied and those who doubt. To those dissatisfied with themselves, to those who feel the burden of hundreds and hundreds of centuries of conventions and ancestral prejudices weigh on them. To those who thirst for true life, for freedom of action, and for real activity, and who encounter around them only insincerity, rubbish, conformity and servility. To those who want to know themselves more, and more intimately. To the uneasy, to the tormented, to the seekers of new sensations, to experimenters with unknown formulas of individual happiness. To those who believe nothing of what is shown to them. To the troubled; yes, to the troubled, for I prefer the seething wave to stagnant water. The others have no need of this book; Society has a high regard for them, everyone speaks well of them: they are the “satisfied.” It could be said of us that we let ourselves be carried away by our indignation, that in the end nothing proves that our anger and our invectives are not also a way of appearing. Attention: what you will find in this book are observations, opinions, arguments, and indications. It remains up to the reader to determine what they are worth. Our design is only to lead those who read it to think more deeply.
6) Our position
All the objections having been heard, we propose as thesis, that whoever reflects, and attentively considers people and things, encounters, in the ensemble of the social manifestations gathered under the name of “Society,” a nearly insurmountable barrier to the true, free, individual life, a barrier based on a patent, undeniable fact: the exercise of authority. That is enough to consider the present society defective and to wish for its disappearance.
Those who, from the height of a blissful optimism, proclaim that Society is perfect are rare. As a result reformers, improvers and transformers of Society are legion. It is so far from the case that individuals are contents with their condition, that everyone complains about their lot in life, even those best provided for. Without seeking the degree of sincerity that these lamentations contain, the fact is patent and the sorrow is proclaimed as “universal.”
It is a commonplace to write that contemporary civilization has failed. That the previous civilizations did not succeed any better, no one will deny. They have all run aground on this: they have never been able to insure for the human beings that they gather under their aegis a sum of happiness sufficient that life–the individual life and the collective life–should be found good and pleasant to live. It is true that the civilizations which have followed one another have not always set themselves this goal, or that they have only proposed it in a very imperfect manner, and it is obvious that they have often excluded from participation in that happiness, such as they imagine it, a considerable share of sub-humans: outcasts of all categories, slaves, serfs and others. However, more or less completely, with more or less exceptions, the great civilizations which have shone on the planet had in view, in a general fashion, the happiness of the people for or among with they flourished.
I claim that they have failed, and failed miserably. I readily concede that the conductors who directed them in the most glorious, remarkable, and prosperous epochs of their history, have contributed all the effort of which they were capable. I nonetheless maintain that the “civilized” life, the “social” life, formerly and today, is a load, a burden, even a constant sorrow for the majority of the living—and this to such an extent that one wonders if life "in society" and woe are not synonymous terms. No doubt there are exceptions, but they are so few, and they are the prerogative of such a limited number of privileged persons, that they do little more than confirm the thesis of universal suffering.
It would be tedious to enumerate all the classes and sub-classes in the catalog of reformers and transformers of the social environment. A thick volume would not be sufficient and it is not the aim of our book. Three large divisions will suffice to cover them all. The most ancient are the religious reformers.
For sophisticated minds, their theories present no more than a retrospective interest. Their fantasies were valuable in the time–not always very remote–when individuals, even the most gifted, fearful in the face of poorly explained phenomena or of accidental incidents of existence, sought a recourse, a support, a response to their questions in an extra-human intervention. For it is an extra-human, extra-natural, intervention, will of the divinity or revelation of his will that the religious reformers always return to. The member of Society, or rather the creature, is a plaything in the hands of the creator; the great drama of the historical evolution of human groupings, the inequality of births or aptitudes, the control of the powerful and arrogant over the rest of humanity, all of that arises from the good will of the divinity – it is the tangible expression of its work. “Let the divine will be done!”—that is the last word of the most spiritual souls, the most frantically religious, even when that so-called will implies annihilation of the individual personality, passive acceptance of all that which suppress the growth and blossoming of the individual life.
But there is another point of view that must be studied in order to consider the religious problem in its full extent and to understand well the “state of the religious soul.” The deeply, sincerely religious being is devoured by an unquenchable, insatiable need for atonement. Even when irreproachable from the moral and social point of view, it feels an almost irresistible desire to renounce its faculties of reflection in order to find a bitter, nagging joy in a keen feeling of regret and remorse for not finding itself in conformity to a certain ideal of value or moral level, whether it has drawn that ideal itself, or if it has been recommended to it by dogma or shown by the priest. The sincerely religious being places in an absolute of purity and sanctity that it calls God the sum of all the spiritual values that it is capable of conceiving or imagining. It always feels that it is powerless and miserable in relation to that spiritual absolute, with regard to which it is conscious of being morally responsible.
It establishes such a difference between the being preyed on by sensual passions that it is and the extra-natural phantom that is has created, that it constantly feels itself in a more or less heightened state of disobedience. What indeed is “sin,” if not having yielded to the pull of the passions, having preferred tangible enjoyments and the stimulations they bring, to the denials and annihilations of “the flesh,” or to the observation of certain rites and ceremonies? The fundamentally religious being is a tormented soul, who goes through life always asking itself how it will go about atoning for its shortcomings, redeeming its sin. It goes without saying that the sacrifice of a heifer or a goat, or even of a mournful turtle dove, symbolic as it is, will not satisfy the delicacy of conscience of an eminently spiritual being. Blood alone, life, redeems sin. To atone, the man in a religious state of mind will sacrifice himself, consecrate himself, renounce himself. He will give his life: of his flesh and his blood, he will mortify his flesh by imposing silence on the bouillonnement of his blood, even to the point of inflicting bodily suffering on himself. He will consecrate himself to the service of the divinity, he will impose all sorts of privations on himself, he will abstain—despite the desire that devours him—from tasting the joys of existence, anxious until the hour of death with a poignant doubt, not knowing if he has accomplished enough, or in the right way, to calm the anger of God, of that jealous Absolute who demands of his faithful, his creatures, a complete submission and devotion.
Religious reformers have always achieved one of two results: either, under the pretext of reform, to plunge their followers into an abyss of resignation and atrophy even more profound than the chasm from which they pretend to pull them, or, if they show some sincerity, lead their partisans to surpass them, to become no longer modifiers of religious forms, but critics of the religious basis itself. Such was the case with the Reformation which led far from the aim that its originators assigned it: first to the free-thinker of the eighteenth century; to the diffusion of the contemporary critical spirit, to anarchism, finally, which we can consider as its culmination, standard and logic of the evolution of free-thought. We will return there.
What reforms, what transformations have the religious reformers proposed to us? Generally, to a religious idea of the past, abandoned or distorted by corrupt zealots or attiédis. What ideals have they presented? A divinity, single of divided, a pantheon of gods or demi-gods endowed or afflicted with all the attributes, with all the qualities, with all the faults, with all the follies with which mortals are adorned or marred. They all come down to this: some working gods, slaving away like men so that the men become gods. The great hobby horse of the religious reformers is to push humans to become like God or to or to annihilate themselves in him, if not in this world below, at least in the other, since—safety-valve and encouragement to resignation—will shine one day after death, when the elect creature will contemplate the creator “face à face,” when the soul will bask in eternal beatitude, when the spirit will return to the spirit. What does it matter the name of this place of delights, varied according to races or climates. Call it the Champs-Élysées, Valhalla or Nirvana, Paradise is always realized on the other side of the tomb.
We hear the objections: we are too exclusive, we ride roughshod over revelation, where the theological metaphysics soar, and of the great mystery which lies at the root of the religions, the struggle between good and evil, the beautiful and the ugly, the great and the base, the pure and the impure! The religions will speak the language of their times, that is understood—nous fait-on remarquer—but their last vision was the triumph of the fair and the good that they symbolized in some images striking the imagination. We do not deny the importance of the religions in the history of the development of men: it is a stage through which it must pass.
Do no forget that, in practice, the aim of the priests, is above all the triumph of dogma over free research, of the tyrant over the rebel, of obedience to the mystery over the revelation of the initiation. For the individualist, it is Prometheus who was in the right against Jupiter, Satan against Jehovah, Eblis against Allah, Ahriman against Ormuzd.
The grandeur of theology, if you look at it closely, vanishes into casuistry. If the religious nuances have never reached the degree of elevation that one claims, there remains only on conclusion to draw from it: the regret of knowing that some well endowed brains are given to such mental games. Finally, no one dreams of denying the selflessness, the sincerity, the pure enthusiasm of many religious reformers whose ideas can surpass the common conceptions. That have a right to our impartial estimation, and to nothing else.
Let us summarize: the religious reformers have:
a) for human ideal: the believer. It is impossible for them to give an education other than one based on faith, that “undemonstrable” virtue; the believer, “the man who has faith”–whatever may be his education or aptitude–will never cross certain frontiers, will not dare to taste the fruits produced by “the tree of good and evil,” will not experiment with all things; he is faint-hearted: he fears finding himself face to face with a fact which destroys his faith;
b) for moral ideal: God, a fictive entity, not demonstrable by science, allegedly extra-human and in reality created by humans, a product of their imagination;
c) for social ideal: the reign of God on the earth, or in other words, a society no longer inhabited by anyone but priests charged with explaining and interpreting the will of the divinity, and believers constrained to accomplish it. In short, a society based on the “divine fact.”
If those who propose a religious reform of Society lose ground every day, it is not the same for the legalistic reformers, those who only know how to think of Society as based on the code of regulations and ordinances designated abstractly as the Law. The legalistic reformers admitting that the present Society is not perfect, that it is far from being so, concede that it is perfectible, eminently, infinitely perfectible; they claim at the same time that the imperfections of Society arise from defects in the laws, insufficiently or unjustly applied, but they add that if these laws were modified, redrafted in a more general, more equitable sense, applied more humanely, that same Society, without becoming perfect, would transform itself into an abode more and more bearable and pleasant to inhabit.
No agglomeration of people, they say, can subsist without written law, regulating the rights and duties of the “good citizen:” each setting the infractions and determining their punishment. To the laws, or to the law, their ideal expression, the citizens owe obedience, as the believer must obey the divinity. They owe the same respectful deference to the commentators of the law as they faithful owe to the interpreters of the divine will. It is by their conformity of their outward acts to the law that we recognize the model citizens. The ideal of the legalists, the ideal type, is the “good citizen” who by obeying the law, out of love for it, sacrifices his independence, even his most legitimate personal aspirations, and his affections, if necessary,—sacrificing himself and, if need be, those who are most dear to him. Dura lex, sed lex.
21) Importance of socialism.
It would be childish to deny the influence that socialism has acquired. It has aroused in the deep layers of the proletariat, in many a generous soul, the enthusiasm and hopes raised among the slaves of the Roman Empire by Christianity. In superstitious times, which the prestige of the gods crumbled, Christianity proclaimed, through apostles at first passionate and selfless, that before God, creator of the heavens and the earth, all human beings were equal, a song sweet to the ears of the disinherited.
In our time, when Christianity has gone bankrupt, the French Revolution has promulgated, if not realized, political equality, and education spreads as respect for the past diminishes; in our time, socialism appeals to immediate necessities: to those which fall under the senses. The social question, it proclaims, is a question of the belly, Magerfrage, a question of the stomach! In a Society where new needs are constantly asserted, – sometimes artificial, it is understood, but which demand satisfaction no less imperiously, – how will that appeal not encounter an echo, especially as socialism lacks neither talents, nor dedication to spread and interpret itself?
25) The socialist ideal.
Let us summarize: The socialists offer:
a) A human ideal: the perfect producer and perfect consumer, the human being whose entire life will consist of adapting itself to an organization of productive activity that will provide for its consumption. Socialist education aims to relate to the economic fact all aspect of the development of human societies: political and ethical, as well as economic;
b) A moral ideal: the right of all to consumption, to economic life and, with some nuances, the disappearance of social inequalities, which are presented as the fruits of capitalism, and the abolition of property, which is presented as the fruit of exploitation;
c) A social ideal: the collectivist State or communist Society. A Society based on the economic fact; in other words, a Society where, the relations between individuals being determined by the mathematical or scientific regulation of the satisfaction of the needs of each, one can encounter neither economic “competition,” nor the “struggle for life.”
It would seem that after having spoken of the reformers or transformers of Society, considered from the triple point of view—religious, legalistic, and economic—the list would be completed. Not at all. Examining the foundations of the proposed projects, we very quickly discover a gap: the religious reformers consider the individual as an occasion for the divinity to manifest its designs; the legalists consider it a function of the law; the socialists regard it as a constituent-functionary, a tool, a sort of machine to produce and consume; the revolutionaries as a soldier of the revolution. They all neglect the individual considered separate from authority; they known nothing about is as an individual unity apart from some domination, from a constraint of one sort or another. Now, it is that gap that anarchism fills.
There has been much quibbling and debate about the role, value and present meaning of the anarchist movement.
We will attempt to throw some light on that confusion, which is desired by some, and exploited by many.
31) Anarchist individualism.
Anarchism, we have just seen, is the philosophy of anti-authoritarianism. Anarchist individualism is a practical conception of that philosophy, postulating that it is up to each human unity, taken individually, to translate in their daily life and for themselves, that theory into acts and deeds.
33) The domain of the “Self.”
We can make human unity synonymous with “Self.” Now, the individualist does not posit any boundary to the self-development of the “self,” no limit no limit to the movement of its personality on the social plane, save for this one: not to invade the domain where its comrade develops. Individualism, the “domain of the self,” asserts this conception of the relations between the “self” and the “non-self:”
A human, however small or insignificant they may be, cannot be sacrificed to any other of their fellow, however great they may be; nor to a group of people, nor to the majority in the midst of which they develop, nor even to the totality of that milieu.
16. Solidarity. Sociability. Camaraderie.
165) Obligatory solidarity.
Mystics, legalists, socialists, and communists, write and hold forth about a solidarity which would link all people: these because they accept the unwarranted affirmation that “God” is the father of the human race, those because the law is the bond which unites men since it allows them to live in society, and others because production and consumption are so inextricably linked that the producer is indispensable to the consumer and vice-versa. “God”, the law or economic fact, it is always necessary to bow and obey.
166) The individualists and imposed solidarity.
The individualist anarchist does not bow and, coldly, faithfully, they submit this formidable argument to critique: compulsory solidarity amounts to no solidarity at all.
“I have discovered," he says, "that, come through the play of a natural phenomena, in the society of men, I found myself, from the beginning, faced with moral, intellectual, and economic conditions to which I had to submit without being able to dispute them. I did not ask to be born, which did not prevent that from my most tender infancy, institutions and persons, everything has been in league to condition me to be a resigned and solidary component of the social environment. In the family, at school, in the barracks and the factory, everyone told me that I should be in solidarity with my fellows. In solidarity with my parents, even when they prevented me by force from going to meet the girl towards whom I felt myself attracted; in solidarity with the school teacher who held me in the classroom for long hours in the summer, while outside the flowers bloomed and the birds twittered; in solidarity with the corporal or sergeant who imposed on me painful drudgery, repulsive exercises; in solidarity with the boss for whom each our of my labor increases the income along with the well-being... Thus I understand that “solidarity” means “slavery”.
“Later, a little more reflection taught me that I was as much a slave to those that chance had placed in circumstances better than mine as I was to those whose conditions we worse. The penniless person who cheers the passing regiment, the guard who keeps the unfortunate in prison, the worker who informs on his comrades in order to make foreman, the police officer who uses all sorts of ruses to deprive his fellows of freedom, the peasant who eyes me with contempt because I prefer to stroll along the byways rather than breathe the stinking air of the factories, the syndicalist who would willingly expel me from my work because I refuse to register with the workerist association to which he belongs – all these beings maintained that I was solidary with them, that it is for them and with them that I should think, work, produce, that is to say, devote the best of my faculties.
“I have reacted. To that terrifying determinism of the social environment, I have opposed my personal determinism. I refuse to accept gladly a solidarity of which it would be impossible for me to feel the bases, to negotiate the conditions or to foresee the consequences. I maintain that where solidarity is imposed on me, it is null, and that I am not required to observe it. In vain the "excessive" solidarists will object to me that the devout peasant, the radical tailor, the socialist postal employee, the bonapartist baker, the communist laborer, the jingoistic sailor are are necessary to my life: that they contribute, anonymously or not, directly or not, to furnish me the utilities without which I could not subsist. I respond to them that in the conditions under which society currently evolves, these different members of the social milieu social are not only producers, they are voters or members of political parties, sometimes members of juries, often progenitors of magistrates, and officials; of exploiters each time that they can; they are partisans of authority who employ their own moral or intellectual authority to maintain or cause to be maintained, by delegation, the regime of forced solidarity.
“I do not feel myself at all in solidarity with those who contribute to maintain domination and exploitation, I am not more in solidarity with whoever perpetuates the survival of prejudices which hinder individual development; I am not in solidarity with the harmful consumers nor useless producers; I am presently in solidarity with them only because I have been forced to be and each time that I find the occasion to escape from that constraint, take advantage of it.
“No, I am not in solidarity with those who, by their approval, silence or resignation, continues to maintain conditions of being or doing involving coercion or exploitation, little matter in what form. Those who differ from me in this regard are not individualists.
“I do not reject all solidarity a priori and stubbornly. I simply refuse solidarity with those whose efforts run counter to my plan: to live the present moment in full liberty, without infringing on the liberty of others. I would reject a priori solidarity even even with those of my dearest friends accomplishing deeds about which they have not consulted me and results of which I have had no part. It is a posteriori – having all the background information in hand – that I want to declare myself in solidarity with beings who do not live by my side or acts which are committed without my participation, near or far.
“That does not mean that I do not feel myself generally in solidarity with all the deniers of authority, with all the rebels, against exploitation, with all the critics of established facts and res judicata: with the individualist anarchists, finally. Where I will separate myself from them, is if they want to compel me to accept responsibility for forms of struggle or propaganda which are not my own. Of solidarity, I only know what I have accepted, debated, and consented to, having first examined it consciously. I am in solidarity only with those who think about solidarity as I do.”
History shows us that the concept of imposed “solidarity” has particularly served to create dogmas or to give rise to despots. To render solidarity concrete and effective between beings that are not associated by temperament, or interest, requires Religion or Law; in order that the relations that they determine between persons do not remain a dead letter, there must be executives of religion of of law, priests or magistrates. Whoever voluntarily accepts the obligation of solidarity or the constraint of mutual aid belongs to the world of authority.
167) Voluntary Solidarity.
In summary, the individualists tend to accept no solidarity but what they have weighed, desired, examined, discussed. They will attempt to make it so that the solidarity that they accept never binds them. And free themselves from it as soon as they perceive that its practice leads them to accomplish acts which do not suit them, or to take on responsibilities for which they have no taste. In all domains, a single preoccupation dominates their thought: will I personally gain, from the path on which I am engaged, more liberty to be and to do, without depriving another of their liberty to think or act? The manner in which they will tend to determine their lives, and all the acts existence, will depend on the answer to this question.
168) Imposed solidarity.
The human is a sociable being and the individualist, who is part of the human race, is no exception. The human being is not sociable by accident, since its physiological organization constrains it to seek, in order to complete itself, to reproduce, one of its fellows of a different sex. In a general manner, we can however state that humans practice sociability without reflection or under duress: at school, in the barracks, and later at the factory, they live a large part of their existence in common with individuals towards whom no affinity attracts them, beside whom no sympathy holds them. In the cities, they gîtent in immense edifices, another sort of barracks, door to door with neighbors to whom no intellectual or moral tie links them. We even marry without knowing one another, without any knowledge of our respective needs.
169) The individualist anarchists considered as a "species."
Now, that is not what the individualist anarchists want. They no more intend to be slaves of imposed sociability than they do of placing themselves under the yoke of forced solidarity. They can associate with their comrades, with the individualists, with those of their world, of their “species.” "With those of their species" is certainly the appropriate expression, for we would not deny that the individualists form a species within the human race recognizable by well determined psychological traits. The individuals who, consciously, reject domination and exploitation of all sorts, live or tend to live without gods or masters, seeking to reproduce themselves in other beings in order to perpetuate their species and continue their intellectual or practical labor, their work of simultaneous emancipation and destruction; these individuals form a separate species, in the human race, a species as different from the other human species as, in the canine tribe, the Newfoundland is from the pug.
Listen to us well, it is not a question of making the individualist anarchist a “superman” among humans, any more than it is a question of making the Newfoundland a “superdog” among dogs. There is a difference, however: the Newfoundland is a fixed type which will not evolve; the individualist type will evolve: it fulfills, in the human race, the role that the prophetic species have played in the evolution of living beings. We can compare it to those more gifted and vigorous types, more fit for the struggle for life, that appear at a certain moment within a species and end up determining the future of that species. With their imperfections, their shortcomings, their errors, the individualist anarchists constitute, we believe, in the latent state, the type of the future human: the individual of free spirit, sound body, educated will, ready for adventure, inclined to experiment, living life fully, but not wanting to be either dominated or a dominator.
170) Mutual aid within the species. Camaraderie.
The individualist is not then isolated within his species. Among themselves, the individualists practice “camaraderie;” like all species in constant peril of being attacked, they tend instinctively to the practice of “mutual aid within the species.” We will return later to certain of the forms that this "mutual aid" can assume. The tendency is toward the disappearance of avoidable suffering within the species: there is not any comrade who, on the contrary, would tend to prolong or increase the suffering among their fellows.
The individualists urge whoever will to go along with them to rebel practically against the determinism of the social environment, to assert themselves individually, to sculpt their internal statue, to render themselves as independent of the moral, intellectual and economic environment as possible. They will press the ignorant to educate themselves, the apathetic to respond, the weak to become strong, the bent to raise themselves up. They will push the poorly endowed and less able to draw to themselves all possible resources and not to relay on others.
Individualists may have to use animals to help them in the course of their investigations, experiments, and accomplishments. The protests against domination and exploitation would ring false if they considered them purely as living instruments. As assistants, collaborators, "comrades" with a psychological constitution not inferior to their own, but different, that is how they would consider their cow, horse, donkey, the guests of their barnyards, and not just as slaves, or productive machines. They would not be able to forget that these beings are gifted with cerebral and sentimental faculties, which, if they are perhaps not equivalent to those of which humans boast, are as susceptible as those to being perfected, developed, and carried to a maximum of fulfillment. They could not fail to recall that these so-called "inferior" brethren are endowed with a complete nervous system, and that in certain manifestations of their instinct, they happen to be far superior to them. They could not be mean or cruel towards animals which extend them. They would remember that if they are not susceptible to initiation, they can at least be educated. If he does not feel the necessary aptitudes to be "an educator of animals," he will not tolerate anyone in his circles who mistreats them, torments them, or makes them suffer. And it is not only the problem of animal exploitation which will present itself to individualists, but they will wonder at the very least whether or not it is consistent with their professed opinions to domestic animals for their sustenance.
178) Citizen of “my” world.
I am not a citizen of the world. I am the citizen of my world.
First, because there is no world but “my” world. The most specious arguments will not prevail against this observation. The world only exists for me because I exist, because I sense my existence, because I perceive the effects of it. When I sleep beneath the tombstone, when I no longer assimilate or eliminate, when my useless organs have ceased to function and my flesh decays, gnawed by worms – there will no longer be for me either past, present, or future – or energy, or matter – or humans, or world. When I have ceased to exist, the world, for me, will have ceased to exist. The world is not an absolute to me; it is a relativity. Thus it is only the world because it is my world.
My world, as one can foresee, is far from being the narrow domain that the possessive “my” would seem to indicated. It is everything that I – an organism conscious of my existence – sense, feel, experience, perceive, and distinguish within and outside of myself. My world, it is my heart which beats and my brain which quivers – it is the starry night that extends above my head and it is the wind that hinders my walk on the road – it is the waves which brings wreckage to the beach that I wander with slow steps and it is the stacks of wheat silhouetted like immense beehives on the horizon of the plains – it is the paper where my pen walks and it is the dictionary where I seek the meaning of a term the sense of which appears uncertain to me. My world is the books that it interests me to leaf through, the opinions that it pleases me to express, the arguments it suits me to discuss, the beings with whom it is agreeable for me to keep company more or less of the time. What’s more, my world is not only made up of pleasurable events or spectacles. I shall not forget the office or factory where I have had to go so often – in winter, when I would have liked to remain at home; in summer, when blooming, sunbathed nature invited me to gambol on the thick lawns or to frolic along shaded streams. I am the involuntary witness of sufferings that wound my sensibility. I sometimes hear cries of pain ring out which freeze me with fear. For I am neither deaf nor indifferent. I no longer accomplish all the labor that I have laid out for myself. Or I do not perform it as I would like. My world is not only “pleasure;” it is also “pain.” But such as it is, it perfectly fills my life.
My world is not a desert. It includes all those who sense, feel, experience, perceive, and distinguish in the way that I do. Those of today and those of long ago. All those, as well, who have dared what I could not or would not dare. All those who have accomplished what I have not wanted or been able to accomplish. All those who have practiced what I have still only devised in theory. I do not know them, the majority of them. But I know that they exist. And sometimes it seems to me that I see them rise from the dust of the past – my past – a veritable legion. They are those who have reacted against the environment and never allowed it to have the last word. They are those who have never let the collectivity to rattle their individuality. They have not yielded. The lure of money, that of security, the attraction of a home – nothing has done it. Society, sometimes, has promised popularity if they consent to accommodate themselves. To play the puppets – to drag the populace around by their chausses – « la faire » aux chefs de file – never! They have suffered in their body and mind. They have wept, but they have hated. They have lived who knows where – where they are too well known. They have known the heights and depths of existence. They have been fugitives, tracked, denounced, condemned, and walled up. Because they have neither respectable manners, nor stable situation, nor respectable relations, society has scorned, maligned, and rejected them, expelled them from its midst. But they have not let go. They have been silent, or they have said what they had to say. As they wanted to say it, without pandering to the elites, without toadying to the masses. Without prostituting themselves, without consenting to sleazy contracts. If they perished, they were undefeated. On a pallet, in the promiscuity of a flophouse, on the edge of a ditch, in the penal colony, under the guillotine blade. In their bed, perhaps, sated by experience, – or still devoured by resentment, assailed by doubt. But going on regardless.
Those people are “mine,” the citizens of my world.
179) Search for an individualist anarchist basis for relations and agreements between persons.
On what basis shall we establish relations between humans when we have excluded obligation and sanction? What method will serve to achieve relations and agreements between the constituents any human milieu – those relations and agreements which increase in complexity as intelligence is refined and as the acquisition of human knowledge becomes more considerable, as the range of their applications is amplified? What principle shall we posit as foundation, as norm for the accords and contracts of every species that human beings can be brought to consider and to strike among themselves in order to allow them to behave with regard to one another according to their needs, their desires, and their aspirations – whether it is a question of isolated or associated units?
A first consideration presents itself. Since we intend to exclude coercion in all its forms – legal regulation, or penal or disciplinary sanctions, it is absolutely necessary that the method that will be used to establish relationships and agreements between persons implies "equity" in itself; it must be the case – whatever the object and nature of these relations and agreements – that no one, on any side, is harmed, duped, or mislead.
Everyone knows that the presumed object of the law is to render efficacious the conditions which determine or are supposed to determine the relations between the inhabitants of a given territory. That efficacy is obtained by the application of certain punishments to those who disobey the law. We understand that the law is required, since the conditions which, in human societies, preside over the relations and accords between their members are established without their unanimous consent, often even despite the protests of imposing minorities, in any case without ever taking account of the advise or opinion of the transgressors and the disobedient. It is not difficult to recognize that it is is the fear suffering these sanctions which keeps a large number of persons from transgressing the law – at least overtly; besides, whatever the threats – and certain of the punishments to fear are very serious – there are individuals who prefer to court the risk of a punishment rather than observe the terms of a contract which has been imposed on them, or of an agreement which disturbs or disgusts them, for whatever reason. Naturally, it is not a question here of wondering if we should hold responsible for the attitude of these pig-headed types the arbitrariness which currently presides over the establishment of the conventions of which societies rest. Or up to what point the practice of these conventions is responsible for it. We make an observation. nothing more.
One method exists of which the absolute application would guarantee, to those who would choose them as the basis of their relations and accords, that they will not be harmed, duped, or mislead – materially speaking; that they would be weakened or even wounded from the point of view of their dignity: it is reciprocity. Faithfully practiced, whatever the domain or branch of human activity where it is applied, the method of reciprocity implies, in itself, equity, as much is the economic sphere as in that of morals, in the intellectual as well as that of sentiment. Indeed, there is nothing which could escape the reach of reciprocity. It is a method of behaving towards others with a truly universal influence. It is very simple to explain: since it comes down to and consists in receiving as much as we have given, as much in that which concerns the isolated as the associated.
181) To give and to receive. Aspects of their equivalence.
But what those anti-authoritarian individualists mean by reciprocity is another thing entirely fro the arid functioning of a system of exchange, consisting of receiving the exact equivalent in weight, measure and value of what we have given. Or vice versa. It is no longer, from the ethical point of view, the inexorable application of the law of the jungle. Yes, if you will, reciprocity is that, exactly that, but it is also much more. I view it, for my own part, from a point of view so individual, so plastic and subject to the variations of personal evaluation that it is absolutely necessary for me, in order to explain the practical reach, to situate myself far outside the idea of a mathematical evaluation or unwavering standard. I posit then in the first place that each person has the conception of reciprocity furnished to them by their determinism: temperament or nature, reasoning or feeling. It is then understood in my relations with others, in the agreements that I can conclude with them that I do not want to be harmed; and I sense and know myself to be harmed as soon as I receive less than I give. And I harm others as soon as I give less than I receive. But to give and receive are two relations, two values, two terms of which the meaning and sense are uniquely relative to the one who gives and the one who receives.
For example, I have spent some years dedicating myself to the education of a child, to do all that was in my power in order that he formed, that he sculpted, that he became "himself," that he freed himself from the much of prejudices and traditions detrimental to the evolution and constitution of an original personality. That was my gift. I considered myself amply paid, in return, by assisting in the spectacle of the gradual development of this young being, asserting himself bit by bit, borrowing less and less, as he grows, from routine and the conventions of the social atmosphere. I recognized that he had certain dispositions for letters or the sciences – for music – for voyages. And there he is, grown to the stature of a man, an accomplished writer, an eminent chemist, a successful musician, an intrepid explorer. Not a servile imitator of those who have preceded him on the path where he is engaged, but by assimilating to himself the efforts of his predecessors so as to carry his own to the highest possible degree of originality. Perhaps it is in an entirely different sense than I would have hoped, that the dispositions that I had distinguished have developed or that his possible originality has been demonstrated. I have, however, attained my end since, as an adult, the child to whose upbringing I have devoted myself is neither the reflection of a man nor the product of a formula.
Here are the aspects – and I have only sketched a few of them – under which it is necessary to consider, in its practice, the method of reciprocity, if we want it to be anything but conformity to a scale accepted on both sides, which would mean, for example, when I have exchanged a pair of boots for 40 or 50 kilos of meal, that I have received as much as I have given. That is the literal point of view, and we have long known that "the letter killeth." If I am an artist in shoe-making, it may be that 35 or 40 kilos of bread will satisfy me and the joy I feel, knowing my work appreciated as I like it to be by my consumer, more than compensates for the 5 or 10 kilos of deficit. To receive as much as one has give is not then only, I repeat, to get the equivalent in weight, measure, quality, value, of what we have given or delivered, it is also, it is especially to be satisfied with the trade one has made, it is to have full consciousness that in the "business" dealt – intellectually, sentimentally, economically speaking – there has not been, on either side, deceiver or deceived, victimizer or victim; in other words that each, in the course of the agreement, has acted according to their déterminisme and shown themselves in their true colors.
Reciprocity is there and not elsewhere.
279) Liberty as the ultimate solution.
I write these lines in particularly somber circumstances.[i] I am not at all of the “future society” school. My opinion, however, is that after much flux and reflux—many painful attempts--humans will someday come to the conscientious practice of the method of equal liberty, to our “solution,” to our individualist, anti-authoritarian “directives”—to anarchism, if you wish. It matters little to me what name you give that opinion, of if you call it idealistic, prophetic, or utopian. It is my opinion. It gives me neither consolation nor resignation. I do not even consider the fulfillment of the individualist’s demands as the final step of a march or ascension towards progress. I look at it only from the practical point of view.
As an individualist, I do not desire suffering, either for myself or for others. Since neither the coercion, not the domination of the majority or of the elite, nor the dictatorship of an autocrat, a caste, or a social class has thus far been able to assure human happiness—its seems impossible to me that more enlightened, better educated, and more informed, humans will not finally themselves come to the only solution capable of always reducing the amount of inevitable suffering—wherein lies happiness—the individualist solution: the solution of liberty.