April Carter, The Political Theory of Anarchism, 1971.

4 Anarchism and the Individual

In the Introduction to this book a brief sketch of some better known anarchist thinkers and movements indicated the extreme diversity of the anarchist tradition. In the succeeding three chapters anarchist ideas have been contrasted with the individualist contract theory emanating from Hobbes; with the constitutional liberalism which finds an important interpreter in De Tocqueville; and with the Marxist movement in socialist thought. These traditions are in themselves complex, but anarchism is in many respects much less coherent. Godwin's brand of anarchism can be seen as a logical extension of laissez-faire liberalism. But modern anarchists have frequently claimed to be the true heirs of the idealism and libertarianism of the Utopian socialists and the early socialist movement; Bakunin and Malatesta, for example, are indisputably important figures in socialist history. And while at some levels anarchism seems further removed from constitutionalism, at others, as Proudhon in particular illustrates, there are common values and a common adherence to the republican heritage of political ideas.

In all these guises anarchism is a political doctrine -- if one that displays a tendency to logical extremes and Utopian commitment alien to the usual concept of what 'politics' is all about. There are, however, within the spectrum of anarchism elements which appear to stand right outside the normal political sphere and assert the primacy of non-political values -- individualism, artistic creativity, moral commitment, romanticism, or simply the common pleasures of everyday living. But on examination these approaches all have relevance to any attempt to define the sphere of politics and the nature of political activity. In this chapter they are explored in relation to Hannah Arendt's attempt to set limits to the political realm; and their relevance for an anarchist theory of politics.

The Egoist

One thinker who has a recognized place in the evolution of anarchist ideas and attitudes, but who has so far scarcely been mentioned, is Max Stirner. He is perhaps the hardest thinker to understand, writing as he does in the context of Hegelianism in Germany in the 1840s; and the easiest to dismiss, since he leaves behind him no political [90] movement, career as an activist, or independent claim to fame. Moreover, in summary (even by anarchists) his ideas can easily sound ridiculous, unattractive, or both. But Stirner, who can be seen as a forerunner of existentialism, does have certain very important things to say.

The central contention of The Ego and His Own is that for each individual the only universe that either does or can genuinely matter is his own. The individual's own life experience comprises all aspects of his being and personality -- his sensuousness, his natural affections, his will to assert his own identity. This concrete individual is, however, always being sacrificed, and sacrificing himself, to abstractions and entities outside of himself. Most often the individual is sacrificed to the dictates of orthodox religion, or to that Moloch, the State. But Stirner is even more interested in exposing the abstractions of contemporary radicals, who also oppose Church and State, but seek to constrain the individual with the principles of liberalism or morality. He attacks too his contemporaries who have sought to end that form of alienation which arises when men deny their own highest attributes, and embody them in a God whom they worship, but have only succeeded in abasing the real individual before a new idol, the abstract essence of Man or Humanity (see Ludwig Feuerbach, The Essence of Christianity). This criticism is pertinent to that Marxist vision whose full richness is to be realized in the future, but which is often in danger of sacrificing to this end those men living and suffering here and now.

Stirner is precluded by his commitment to the pre-eminence of the individual self, distrust of intellectual abstractions, and belief that the future cannot be predicted in advance of experience, from systematic generalization of the social implications of his position. He is also perhaps more excited by iconoclasm. But he throws out certain illuminating ideas which have direct social relevance. He notices that fanaticism for an ideal for which a man is prepared to sacrifice himself may lead him to immolate others on the altar of this virtue -- Stirner cites Robespierre. Secondly Stirner's 'egoism' does not exclude relationships with other people -- it would indeed be an attenuated individuality which attempted to do so -- but posits a spontaneous union between individuals, which is the antithesis of the formally imposed ties of 'society' (for Stirner 'society' has connotations of artificiality not, as for Kropotkin, of naturalness). This union is potentially subversive of a social order enforced by discipline. Stirner illustrates his point by looking at prisons:

That we jointly execute a job, run a machine, effectuate anything in general -- for this a prison will indeed provide; but that I [91]

forget that I am a prisoner, and engage in intercourse with you who likewise disregard it, brings danger to the prison, and not only cannot be caused by it, but must not even be permitted. For this reason the saintly and moral-minded French chamber decides to introduce solitary confinement, and other saints will do the like in order to cut off 'demoralizing intercourse' (The Ego and His Own, 218-9).

This passage is reminiscent of De Tocqueville's comments on how a few warders could control all the prisoners in Sing Sing jail by the device of isolating them from each other, and the implications of this device for imposing political despotism. Stirner also has an almost republican belief in the role of courage and sense of freedom. 'A Nero is a "bad" man only in the eyes of the "good" ... In old Rome they would have put him to death instantly, would never have been his slaves. But the contemporary "good" among the Romans opposed to him only moral demands, not their will' (54). And so for Stirner true 'freedom' cannot be given to a slave, but can only be won through his own actions. Finally, he makes a distinction, which Herbert Read takes up, between 'revolution' -- which is an organized political act; and 'insurrection' -- which has political consequences but is primarily 'a rising of individuals, a getting up without regard for the arrangements that spring from it'. Insurrection is inspired by 'egoism', the desire to rise and exalt oneself.

The Artist

Herbert Read adopts this idea of spontaneous uprising because he sees it as a way of escaping from the revolutionary trap -- overthrowing one power structure in order to replace it with another. But insurrection may alter social attitudes, by 'creating a new morality or new metaphysical values'. Read quotes Camus on the idea of 'rebellion' (which is close to Stirner's insurrection). Rebellion is for Camus 'the refusal to be treated as an object and to be reduced to simple historical terms. It is the affirmation of a nature common to all men, which eludes the world of power' (The Rebel, 216). Read goes on to argue that 'a power structure is the form taken by the inhibition of creativity: the exercise of power is the denial of spontaneity' (Anarchy and Order, 17). Read then translates Stirner's insurrection into terms more social -- he sees rebellion as an expression of unity and solidarity -- and more ideahstic: 'The slave is not a man without possessions . . . but a man without qualities, a man without ideals for which he is willing to die' (Anarchy and Order, 18). [92]

It is the nature of ideals which especially interests Read. Ideals provide a Utopian consciousness which may enable men to transcend the barriers of their existing social reality and promote historical change. Ideals may be dangerous partly because the imaginative conception of a Utopia which is a totality may lead to authoritarian blueprints in which individuality is subordinated to the requirements of symmetry and order. But such ideals are necessarily creative constructs, and Read sees this elaboration of symbols as a primarily aesthetic activity, and 'the concretization and vitalization of ideals is one of the main tasks of the aesthetic activity in man' (20).

Therefore, the imaginative expression of social ideals is peculiarly the role of the artist. But it is far from being his exclusive role -- the artist creates symbols which are 'as multiform as the feelings that motivate man', while social ideals only represent collective feelings. Where society is perverted by power the social ideals are also perverted, and the conditions for creating freedom eroded if not extinguished. In a corrupted society the artist faces an agonizing dilemma. He is cut off from the public he needs for his own creative work; and at the same time has a special and often dangerous responsibility to provide the creative impetus which may break down the barriers hemming in his society. In a very personal statement of why he had chosen to be an anarchist at a time, 1938, when the criterion of political responsibility might suggest the need for unconditional support of the democratic front against fascism, Herbert Read examines the possible ways in which artists may respond to the tensions of their position.

He cites Gauguin, who tried to escape from the commercialism of bourgeois society by going to Tahiti, only to discover that this paradise had been corrupted by particularly degraded representatives of bourgeois 'civilization'. In the extreme, an artist may escape by resorting to suicide, like the poet of the Russian Revolution, Vladimir Mayakovsky. In April 1930 Mayakovsky killed himself -- Read quotes (62) the poem which Mayakovsky left behind him:

As they say
'the incident is closed*.
Love boat
smashed against mores.
I'm quits with life.
No need itemizing
mutual griefs,
Good luck and good-bye.

Read sees only one alternative to escape -- he labels as escape retreat into isolation and private phantasy, which is destructive of art and of oneself -- and that is: 'To reduce beliefs to fundamentals, to shed everything temporal and opportunist, and then to stay where you are and suffer if you must' (61).

The Moralist

Artists in Russia have frequently felt a social responsibility to rebel -- among them Tolstoy, who also turned to anarchism. But Tolstoy found little social relevance in his art -- except as a form of moral parable -- and was prepared to renounce art in general together with all the other privileges and pastimes of aristocratic society. Tolstoy rejected culture in part as an emanation of a society founded on exploitation, and so inherently 'false*. He was also aware of alternative values embedded in the peasants' own culture. Tolstoy's position as an artist and intellectual was naturally not as simple as this interpretation suggests, and was linked to his general ascetism and moral theory (for an interesting critical discussion, see George Orwell, 'Lear, Tolstoy and the Fool'). But his answer to his dilemma was a little like Gauguin's, in the sense that it was a flight towards simplicity, though in pohtical terms Tolstoy stayed in Russia and defied both the censor and the police. To the degree that he was trying to escape he was doomed to failure. Georg Lukacs has suggested that the best novelists transcend their own explicit social doctrines because of their artistic commitment to reproduce the detail of social reality. As a result nowhere is 'Tolstoy's Christian plebeian dream of brotherhood with the peasants more powerfully refuted than in . . . Resurrection' (Essays on Thomas Mann, 16).

Tolstoy's attempt to identify with popular culture is, however, easier to grasp sympathetically than his pursuit of a moral purity based on a literal interpretation of the Christian gospels. Indeed, Tolstoy stands in opposition to many elements in the anarchist tradition. His emphasis on the need for sexual purity is from a Stirner-ite standpoint a form of self-castration. Janko Lavrin suggests, in a generally critical assessment of Tolstoy's ideas, (Tolstoy: an Approach), that his efforts to achieve a generalized love of man purged of all sexuality may result in a form of peculiarly selfish domination, sacrificing others to one's own spiritual welfare. Lavrin refers to Prince Nekhlyudov in Resurrection, who is overcome by remorse when he recognizes, while sitting on a jury, that the defendant is a servant girl he once seduced. The Prince then tries to save her, and offers to marry her. Though Maslova is still attractive [94] enough to turn every male head in the courtroom, the Prince now feels no flicker of sexual attraction, and, says Lavrin, no trace of spontaneous tenderness and generosity (Chapter IX, 'A Puritan's Progress'). The general point is implicit in Stirner, and can be elaborated from modern psychology. But Tolstoy's approach, which includes recognition of the inadequacy of the Prince's conversion, is as it is worked out in the novel both psychologically subtle and socially aware. It is clear from reading Tolstoy -- even the contorted Kreutzer Sonata -- that he rejects sex in part because of its degrading social usages (for a sympathetic defence of Tolstoy's general position, see R. V. Sampson, Equality and Power). He sees aristocratic young men taking peasant women out of momentary lust, or because it is the fashionable thing to do; powerful men displaying their ownership of beautiful women; mothers displaying their daughters in an attempt to make a good catch; women desperately cultivating the charms they know are their main weapon in establishing power over men. In Resurrection the Prince's realization that he has casually ruined Maslova's life is the first step in his progressive discovery of the realities of Russian society.

Most important of all, Tolstoy turns to the Gospels because he is, like Read, looking for a Utopian vision and commitment, one which will shatter Tsarism and avoid the dangers of organized and violent revolution. In an essay discussing other anarchists, 'An Appeal to Social Reformers', Tolstoy comments that while they recognize the importance of spiritual weapons in abolishing power, they fail to provide the religious basis which is necessary to create this spiritual force. Nor do they realize that only a religious life-conception will enable men to live in an anarchist society and to co-operate without violence. This view has been largely borne out by experiments in 'community' living; Read notes after reading Infield's historical study of Co-operative Communism at Work that the most successful communities were religious or -- as in the case of non-religious cooperative settlements in Palestine -- drawn together by 'some central emotional impulse, comparable to the religious motive' (Anarchy and Order, 170). Berdyaev in a perceptive critique of Tolstoy recognizes the full significance of this religious element:

The principle of non-resistance advocated by him aims at remaining within the realm of divinely created nature prior to, and independently of, any relations that might exist between the citizens of a state. It draws its force from those dimensions where the Law of God operates ever against the Law of the World, and it presents a challenge to man to return to those dimensions (Introduction to Essays from Tula).

Tolstoy sees his gospel as one which has to be lived here and now. The answer to war is not peace conferences, but individual refusal to be conscripted or to co-operate with the war machine. The way to create anarchist society is not to await 'the revolution', but to start living it. That Tolstoy seriously tried to live up to this conception js a measure of his honesty. That the attempt could not fail to be incomplete and slightly absurd is due not only to the inherent difficulty of adopting a Utopian stance in a 'realistic' and cynical world -- a dilemma Read wryly accepts in calling himself an anarchist -- but to the fact that Tolstoy, sophisticated in every sense of that word, chose as his ideal a peasant simplicity.

His instinct in linking his search for moral purity, asceticism, a sense of brotherhood and messianic vision to a peasant outlook was, however, in a way sound. Peasant societies may be able to fuse an idealistic and simple programme with religious fervour and pure faith. Gerald Brenan writes on rural anarchism in Andalusia in the late nineteenth century:

'The idea', as it was called, was carried from village to village by Anarchist 'apostles'. In the farm labourers' gananias or barracks ... the apostles spoke on liberty and equality and justice to rapt listeners ... many learned to read, carried on anti-religious propaganda and often practised vegetarianism and teetotalism. Even tobacco and coffee were banned by some ... But the chief characteristic of Andalusian anarchism was its naive millenarianism (The Spanish Labyrinth, 157).

The anarchists expected a new age in which even the landowners and the Civil Guard would be free and happy.

The Hero

Simple idealism may be linked either to fervent non-violence or to violent action. Idealistic violence as a form of peasant rebellion tends to be symbolized (and in due course sentimentalized) in the Robin Hood tradition of bandits as avengers of a robbed peasantry. This tradition merges via Bakuninist romanticism into the anarchist expropriators who robbed banks for the benefit of the revolutionary movement. Hobsbawm, in a recent book on the theme of Bandits, chooses as a symbol of the expropriators Francisco Sabate from Barcelona. After the victory of Franco in the Civil War, Sabate was reduced to making brief raids into Spain from over the French border, and was eventually shot by the police. Sabate's mode of life was [96] simple, his habits were ascetic and he was always poor; and he acted with the conscious chivalry and daring of a hero, taking risks to avoid hurt to other people, and always walking towards the police. Hobsbawn quotes a comment by one of Sabate's friends after his death: 'When we were young, and the Republic was founded, we were knightly though also spiritual . . . We have grown older, but not Sabate ... he was one of those Quixotes who come out of Spain' (106-7).

The image is attractive, but its quality depends on the character of the hero, and its validity depends on the social context. The danger of allying moral purism to exaltation of violence is that it can turn into the brand of fanaticism which led in the Spanish Civil War to the murder of pimps and male prostitutes. While the peasant bandit transferred to the urban underworld tends to become a 'gangster'. If intellectuals espouse romantic violence they may blend quixotic righting of the wrongs of the poor with a republican tradition of public-spirited men who risk their lives to kill a tyrant. A good example was Alexander Berkman's attempt to shoot Frick, the man who during the Pennsylvania Homestead Steel Strike of 1892 imported the thugs who killed eleven strikers, including a ten-year-old child. But this style of action easily merges into more indiscriminate terrorism, or blends with ordinary criminality. French anarchists in the 1890s were confronted with these dilemmas. Some of the French intellectuals at this time, many of whom inclined towards anarchism, adopted a dilettante pose towards violent deeds. When a homemade bomb was exploded in parliament a group of celebrities were asked by a journalist to comment, and one of them replied: 'What do the victims matter if the gesture is fine?' (Barbara W. Tuchman, 'Anarchism in France', in Horowitz, ed., The Anarchists, 452). This attitude veers towards that alliance between the intellectual elite and the underworld 'mob' that Hannah Arendt traces as one of the cultural strands leading towards fascism. At the other extreme rigorous intellectual consistency may take the form of idealizing merciless ruthlessness for the sake of the cause, and willingness to sacrifice to this end all moral scruples and individuals who get in the way. The fantasy of the ice cold conspirator, embodied in The Catechism of a Revolutionist, was played out with inflexible willpower by the Russian student Nechaev, who manipulated and cheated Bakunin, lied his way to revolutionary influence, murdered a fellow student who saw through him, and died defiant and unrepentant in a dungeon. [97]

The Coward

The intellectual may, however, look for a solution in another form of popular experience, not to find a golden age simplicity, pure faith or romantic rebellion, but to discover a vein of common sense and normality with which people protect themselves from the perils of politics. This emphasis on self-preservation became one of the motifs in political thought at the time of the English Civil "War. As noted in Chapter 1, not only is it central to Hobbes's brand of authoritarianism, but it took more subversive and anlti-political forms. Irene Coltman in her book Private Men and Public Causes charting the various currents of thought emerging from the Civil War suggests that the insistence on self-preservation had already found classic literary expression in Shakespeare's FalstafL 'What is honour?', Falstaff asks himself just before a battle in which his main interest is to avoid being killed. 'Can honour set to a leg? No. Or an arm? No. Or take away the grief of a wound? No. Honour hath no skill in surgery, then? No. What is honour? A word . . . Who hath it? He that died o' Wednesday . . . Honour is a rmere scutcheon' (Henry IV, Part I, Act V, Scene 1).

Falstaff's virtues are contrasted with the honors of battle wreaked by men less prudently timid. They are also contrasted with opposing values. Shakespeare embodies in Hotspur, who would 'pluck bright honour from the pale-fac'd moon', the heroic virtues of ardent ambition, generosity and impetuous courage, -which bring him to an untimely death at the hands of Prince Heniry on the battlefield. The Prince is more hard-headed and cold-blooided than Hotspur. He also knows when to renounce Falstaff's world and his personal friendship, which he does brutally on becoming King. Yet his sense of political realism is also a sense of responsibility, and is presented as being more conducive to the public good than Hotspur's gallantry or Falstaff's anarchy.

The Political Realm

Shakespeare tends to accept that rulers live in a separate sphere from their subjects, that their burdens are much greater and their decisions necessarily founded on necessity of state. This is the secular view of politics to be found in Machiavelli, which has since become an important influence on political theorizing. A sensitive modern interpretation which avoids crude Machiavellianism is to be found in Hannah Arendt's The Human Condition. She insists that certain values and attitudes are inappropriate to the political realm—among [98] these, love, both personal love and universalized Christian love. This love 'can only become false and perverted when it is used for political purposes such as the change or salvation of the world' (47). This is a direct refutation of the Tolstoyan aspiration.

Hannah Arendt's position is based on a belief that there are separate realms of experience and activity, with different criteria applicable to them: religion, art, philosophy, and science -- all distinct from the sphere of politics, as is the private world of the household. Given the confusions and dangers of trying to fit politics into the mould of another mode of understanding and experience, the idea of multiple spheres of activity is helpful. But any view which accepts a total separation of spheres runs into trouble. Their total separation within the experience of an individual implies the invasion of bureaucracy into the personality, Max Weber's 'parcelling-out of the soul'. Moreover, all these spheres must have a common locus in a given society, and their social separation is dangerous, since their effects cannot be totally separated. If science is pursued irrespective of social consequences, philosophy and art divorced from public relevance, religion concerned entirely with the other world, and if the average man retreats into his private life, the result may be pure Machiavellianism -- rampant political irresponsibility. Total separation of spheres is potentially as disastrous as that Stalinism which, in a gross distortion of the Marxist attempt at social integration, dictated scientific and philosophical truth, decreed artistic forms, denied autonomy to moral standards, and invaded personal privacy.

When the Greek idea of politics as the public realm (located literally in the assembly place) is linked to the constitutional tradition, the picture that emerges is of a political sphere hedged round by distinct worlds over which politics may claim no dominion. The boundary between politics and private hfe protects individual freedom. The world of learning and of factual documentation creates, Hannah Arendt suggests, another boundary which resists political attempts to distort their truth. However, a constitutional outlook, formed under the necessity of setting up barriers to the incursions of royal power in a centralized State, tends to overlook the Greek understanding of the interpenetration of culture and politics; embodied for instance in the role of drama in refining the notion of justice, or in philosophical debates about moral and political concepts.

A modern defence of the interrelation between politics and other spheres can perhaps best appeal to a situation which is understood as the complete negation of free politics -- 'totalitarianism'. Hannah Arendt suggests in her study of The Origins of Totalitarianism that the logic of a total ideology excludes genuine thought: 'The self-coercive force of logicality is mobilized lest anybody ever start thinking [99] -- which as the freest and purest of all human activities is the very opposite of the compulsory process of deduction' (473). Thought in this sense is both spontaneous and creative, and so is capable of challenging the existing order and creating something new. The Polish philosopher Kolakowski says that creative thought is 'precisely the activity which cannot be duplicated by an automaton. Philosophy is the eternal effort to question all that is obvious ... The police ideal of order is the order of a comprehensive file; philosophy's ideal is the order of an active imagination' (Marxism and Beyond, 40, 55).

Both the critical and the creative contributions of art and philosophy to society promote an ideal of individual and social freedom. The role of science is now peculiarly complicated, and in its impact on politics is frequently seen as a threat to freedom and creativity. This development is particularly ironical in view of the hopes placed in science as an instrument of enlightenment and liberation, though this identification of science with progress now helps perpetuate the dangers arising from superstitious respect for 'science'. In the natural sciences the aim of pursuing truth, and understanding the mysteries of nature, has been largely subordinated to the aim of using science to dominate nature. The prestige of natural science has led theorists for well over a century to attempt to create a social science of equal status, which would rid us of our present uncertainties. The triumph of this social science would appear to imply a total determinism, an uncovering of the 'laws' which individuals or societies must follow; but on the analogy of natural science it also involves use of this knowledge to direct and dominate society by the scientific elite. But this misconception of 'science' can be refuted from within the scientific tradition. Bakunin in one of his perceptive flashes argues in God and the State that the very nature of science -- its tendency to generalization and abstraction -- makes it unsuited to guide or govern a society. 'Science cannot conceive real individuals and interests' (60). Paul Goodman outlines in his essay on ' "Applied Science" and Superstition' (in Utopian Essays and Practical Proposals) the humanist inspiration of science, in which 'pursuit of natural truth is a transcending good' and in which the discipline of scientific habits is of positive value. When Kropotkin sought in Modern Science and Anarchism to relate anarchism to scientific method, his analogies with the animal world did not lead him to subordinate social experience to models drawn from the natural sciences. Instead he appeals to the evidence of history and anthropology, and popular experience. Anarchists stand within a tradition of science which seeks to pursue understanding for its own sake, but also applies this understanding to improve men's environment, and social conditions, in an experimental and critical way. From this [100] standpoint 'sociology' or psychology may promote areas of freedom and creativity which seem to be denied by the iron necessities of power politics. Comfort for example sees modern sociology as upholding an experimental and anarchist view of social change while 'politics' obtructs social possibilities. But when science becomes a legitimating ideology for the abuse of power, and a source of techniques to be used in the interests of power, then the pretensions of 'science' may be opposed by the political tradition of creativity and freedom (for a persuasive attack on 'scientism' in the name of political values see, Bernard Crick, In Defence of Politics).

The confusions of the debate between 'science' and 'politics' arise because both have been divorced from their original humanistic context. Greek philosophy was imbued with conviction that in human affairs it is essential to retain moderation and balance. If men succumb to the temptation to assume godlike powers through an over-weaning pride, then just and inevitable retribution will follow. The relevance of this principle (which is both a moral and an aesthetic principle) has been demonstrated in modern science -- in, for example, the splitting of the atom. Its relevance to politics is equally obvious. While Greek city states were as prone as most regimes to the 'arrogance of power' their view of politics was informed by the sense that moderation was an inherent political value. Moreover, politics in this sense was based primarily on speech, and so on reasoned persuasion, not on force; on the collective action of equals, not the enforced obedience of slaves.

This picture of politics among a community of citizens naturally undergoes a radical change if politics is understood primarily in relation to the rulers of nation States, within which society is hierarchical and the majority of subjects passive. This is the context assumed by Shakespeare. Machiavelli sketches an outline of politics which includes both the virtues of the citizen in the classical republic, and the machinations of the Prince whose heroic capacity may be demonstrated by the magnitude of his crimes. This blurring of republican politics with princely-power politics has been handed down to us, though for most people the latter image is probably predominant. But a double image of the political sphere creates confusion about the relevance of moral criteria. A tradition of republican politics embodies values which pure power politics may destroy. So the anarchist contention that power politics within nation States is not inevitable can claim support from the classical tradition of politics.

Machiavelli's ideal is Rome with its austere and martial virtues. But even the more diverse and humanistic Athenian ideal of republican 'politics' is not compatible with Tolstoy's Christian morality. [101] Hannah Arendt has, however, made an interesting concession towards the Tolstoyan view in a recent essay on 'Truth and Polities', though she chooses first a Greek rather than a Christian example. In discussing the influence of the Socratic proposition that 'it is better to suffer wrong than to do wrong' she suggests that the influence this statement has had arises not from philosophical argument, but the power of example -- because Socrates staked his life on this truth. She sees this as the only way ethical principles can enter the political realm without distortion. The inspiration of the principle in action encourages imitation, and creates a model which enables us to grasp the principle. It is certainly true that the history of individual conscientious disobedience to the commands of government is understood, and handed down, largely in terms of certain key figures; and one can trace the inspiration of Thoreau and Tolstoy on, for example, Gandhi, who has in turn partially inspired movements of civil disobedience in the United States and Britain.

Tolstoy appeals to the individual conscience and to a morality which claims its validity from a source outside the political sphere, but which often challenges the crimes committed under the label of political necessity. But individual disobedience has its roots also in that very different personal commitment which means clinging doggedly to one's home, family, health, life and personal enjoyment as long as humanly possible. Despite the apolitical nature of this common ambition, private values do have relevance to politics in encouraging qualities like prudence and caution. These are political virtues for Machiavelli too, but in his context tend to look like pure calculation of risks, and of the risks of those who have, or are gambling for, power. A general respect for the goods of private life suggests a much greater caution about gambling with other people's lives. Debunking of heroic pretensions and principles also guards against fanaticism and idolatry and helps to keep politics down to earth.

Not only does commitment to private values have general implications for political policies, it also tends to have implications for personal political action. Men can sometimes build precarious happiness by concentrating on their private welfare; but before the worst disasters of war and tyranny the individual is often most helpless to save himself by being apolitical. Brecht, who often salutes the qualities of tenacious self-preservation, and of dogged obedience to the absurd commands of the powers-that-be, embodied in the Good Soldier Schweik, also emphasizes the necessity of social responsibility. He shows, for example, in The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui (about Hitler's rise to power) how social corruption, the narrow interests of those with economic and political power, together with [102] the timidity of the common man, enable Hitler to gain increasingly irresistible power. Alex Comfort, who is sceptical about the values of heroism, is nevertheless convinced in Art and Social Responsibility that desire for self-preservation must be translated into active resistance: 'From now on, the deserter is every man's friend' (88) and 'You can abolish firing squads only by refusing to serve in them' (85). But this steers dangerously close to heroism.

The Citizen

Indeed, once the apolitical common man begins to pursue the logic of his values and engage in disobedience he begins to find a meeting ground with the individual following the star of his own conscience, especially when the conscientious resister also begins to politicize his stand. Both may seize on the idea of responsible citizenship. Socrates and later Thoreau justified their actions in part on the grounds that they were acting for the real good of their society, and submitted themselves to the laws of that community. Alex Comfort is less concerned with individual civil disobedience in a relatively civilized State, and more with popular and 'underground' resistance in a dictatorship or society mobilized for war. But he also stresses that the criterion is personal responsibility, the safeguarding of freedom by disobedience. A concept of citizenship also fills the gap between an aristocratic code of heroism and the selfish prudence of the commoner pictured by Shakespeare. Citizenship denotes critical judgment and personal responsibility, and is, therefore, opposed to the 'somnambulant heroism' of those who go to war and commit atrocities; at the same time it demands courageous, but where possible prudent, resistance. The model of citizenship also narrows the gap between the political virtues of the ruling Prince -- a sense of social responsibility and of social necessities -- and the moral standards of the individual conscience.

One of the main tenets of anarchist political theory is, therefore, the belief in the frequent necessity of disobedience to governments and resistance to particular policies. This idea of resistance may be based on a wide range of values: it may be seen primarily as an assertion of original 'political' or republican values against the distorted justifications of power politics; it may stem from a non-political moral commitment; from a sense of artistic or scientific or philosophical responsibility; or from an instinctive and intuitive sense of human responsibility. While these standpoints may often conflict in the values they espouse and the specific actions they encourage, they also tend to overlap and to gain a certain unity from their opposition [103] to common evils. They also unite in their refusal to accept uncritically any appeal to morality, idealism or faith designed to justify various forms of war and oppression. Alex Comfort sums up this scepticism: 'when they begin to say "Look, injustice," you must reply, "Whom do you want me to kill?"' (Art and Social Responsibility, 83).

This commonsense scepticism is intrinsic to the philosophy of that theorist most concerned to inculcate civil obedience -- Hobbes. But Hobbes directs his attack not against the justifications of governments, but against the independence of conscience, philosophical questioning, aristocratic heroism, or devotion to the ideal of democratic citizenship, which may all in different ways undermine the stability of government. As a result Hobbes defends the morality of the 'tame man' who obeys through fear and prudence. He is not, however, unaware of the political limitations of this model of the ideal subject, or of the validity of other values. In the Conclusion of his Leviathan he discusses those qualities which go to make up a good citizen of the commonwealth, qualities which are said to be incompatible in one man, but which can be combined through education and discipline. Two of these incompatibles are courage which disdains death and wounds, and so also inclines men to unsettling the public peace; and that safe timorousness, which however 'many times disposeth to the desertion of the public defence'. Hobbes then inserts an epitaph to the man to whose memory the Leviathan is formally dedicated:

There is therefore no such inconsistence of human nature, with civil duties, as some think. I have known clearness of judgement and largeness of fancy; strength of reason, and graceful elocution; a courage for the wars, and a fear for the laws, and all eminently in one man; and that was my most noble and honoured friend, Mr Sidney Godolphin; who hating no man, nor hated of any, was unfortunately slain in the beginning of the late civil war, in the public quarrel, by an undiscerned and undiscerning hand (461).

The figure of Godolphin which briefly illuminates the Leviathan also introduces a sense of loss, not only because he personifies the tragedy of violent death, but because he embodies political values of active and responsible citizenship. Oakeshott in his essay on 'The Moral Life in the Writings of Thomas Hobbes' comments:

Indeed, it seems almost to have been Hobbes's view that men of this character are a necessary cause of the civitas; and certainly it is only they who, having an adequate motive for doing so, may [104] be depended upon to defend it when dissension deprives the sovereign of his power (Rationalism in Politics, 293).

The rarity of such qualities, however, leads Hobbes to place his faith in passive obedience to a sovereignty which men may well call 'tyranny'. Citizenship appears to imply a community of citizens, which depends on favourable cultural and political forms; conditions which in many cases are not more favourable now than when Hobbes wrote. But, as Thomas Mann realized when looking desperately for a possible conjunction of cultural values and political organization capable of stopping the rise of Hitler in Germany, the existence of this kind of political responsibility may be essential to stave off total barbarism. Hobbes's philosophy of the tame man has often succeeded all too well; while his own type of critical intelligence, and sense of the conditional nature of obedience, have frequently been submerged by the kind of myths and fanaticism he deplored.

One reason why many anarchists hold on, from their varying standpoints, to a sense of political or social responsibility, which transcends or opposes government definitions of what a 'good citizen' should do, is because they retain a degree of optimism about realizing a better community -- here and now in the interstices of the State, and in the future. This optimism is not facile; in this century it may at times become desperate. But as Herbert Read once commented : 'The task of the anarchist philosopher is not to prove the imminence of a Golden Age, but to justify the value of believing in its possibility' (Anarchy and Order, 14). [105]