George Woodcock, Anarchism: A History of Libertarian Ideas and Movements, 1962, Postscript 1975.
14 Various Traditions:
Anarchism in Latin America, Northern Europe,
Britain, and the United States
Anarchism has thriven best in lands of the sun, where it is easy to dream of golden ages of ease and simplicity, yet where the clear light also heightens the shadows of existing misery. It is the men of the South who have flocked in their thousands to the black banners of anarchic revolt, the Italians and Andalusians and Ukrainians, the men of Lyons and Marseilles, of Naples and Barcelona. But though the Mediterranean countries and southern Russia have been its great strongholds, anarchism has a place that cannot be ignored in the political and intellectual life of many other countries. In a general history one cannot describe every libertarian movement as thoroughly as it might intrinsically deserve, but in this penultimate chapter I intend at least to sketch out the record of anarchism in Latin America, in Northern Europe, and particularly in Great Britain and the United States.
During the nineteenth century the countries of Latin America were related to Spain and Portugal not only by cultural and linguistic ties, but also by similar social conditions. This was a relationship that favoured the transmission of revolutionary ideas, and it was mostly the Spanish immigrants who spread anarchist ideals in Latin America, though in Argentina, as we have seen, the Italians also played an important missionary role. The earliest anarchist groups appeared in Mexico, Cuba, and Argentina at the beginning of the 1870s; these countries and Uruguay were represented at the last Congress of the Saint-Imier International in 1877, while in 1878 a Bakuninist League was founded in Mexico City.
The anarchists quickly became active in organizing craft and industrial workers throughout South and Central America, and until the early 1920s most of the trade unions in Mexico, Brazil, Peru, Chile, and Argentina were anarcho-syndicalist in general
outlook; the prestige of the Spanish C.N.T. as a revolutionary organization was undoubtedly to a great extent responsible for this situation. The largest and most militant of these organizations was the Federacion Obrera Regional Argentina, which was founded in 1901, largely under the inspiration of the Italian Pietro Gori; it grew quickly to a membership of nearly a quarter of a million, which dwarfed the rival social-democratic unions. From 1902 until 1909 the F.O.R.A. waged a long campaign of general strikes against the employers and against anti-labour legislation. Toward the end of this period there arose in Buenos Aires a situation in which the brutality of the authorities and the militancy of the workers incited each other to greater heights, until, on May Day 1909, a gigantic demonstration marched through the streets of Buenos Aires and was broken up by the police, who inflicted many casualties on the trade-unionists. In retaliation, a Polish anarchist killed Colonel Falcon, the Buenos Aires police chief who had been responsible for the deaths of many syndicalists. After this a rigorous anti-anarchist law was passed, but the F.O.R.A. continued as a large and influential organization until 1929, when it finally merged with the socialist U.G.T. into the General Confederation of Workers, and quickly shed its anarcho-syndicalist leanings.
In Mexico the anarchists played a considerable part in the revolutionary era that followed the downfall of the dictator Porfirio Diaz in 1910. One anarchist in particular, Ricardo Flores Magon, is still remembered among the fathers of the Mexican Revolution. With his brothers Jesus and Enrique he founded in 1900 an anarcho-syndicalist journal, Regeneration, which played a very important part during the next ten years in arousing the urban working class against the Diaz dictatorship. The Flores Magon brothers spent much of their lives in exile, carrying on propaganda from across the border in the United States, where they were several times imprisoned for their activities and where Ricardo died in jail in 1922.
Although Ricardo Flores Magon was concerned primarily with converting the urban workers to his anarcho-syndicalist ideas, he established links with the great agrarian leader Emiliano Zapata, whose activities in southern Mexico during
the revolutioniary era resemble remarkably those of Makhno in the Ukraine, for like Makhno he was a poor peasant who showed a remarkable power to inspire the oppressed farmers of southern Mexico andl to lead them brilliantly in guerrilla warfare. The historian Henry Bamford Parkes remarked that the Zapatista army of the south was never an army in the ordinary sense, for its soldiers 'spent their time ploughing and reaping their mewly won lands and took up arms only to repel invasion; they were an insurgent people'. The philosophy of the Zapatista movement, with its egalitarianism and its desire to re-create a natural peasant order, with its insistence that the people must take the land themselves and govern themselves in village communities, with its distrust of politics and its contempt for personal gain, resembled very closely the rural anarchism which had arisen under similar circumstances in Andalusia. Undoubtedly some of the libertarian ideas that inspired the trade unions in the cities and turned great Mexican painters, like Rivera and Dr Atl, into temporary anarchists, found their way to Zapata in the south, but his movement seems to have gained its anarchic quality most of all from a dynamic combination of the levelling desires of the peasants and his own ruthless idealism. For Zapata was the one leader of the Mexican Revolution who never compromised, who never allowed himself to be corrupted by money or power, and who died as he lived, a poor and almost illiterate man fighting for justice to be done to men like himself.
In Mexico anarchy strikes one as the appropriate product of a chaotic hiistory, a dramatic, divided land, and a localism as inveterate ass that of Spain. In the Teutonic lands that face the North Sea and the Baltic its presence is less expected, yet at least three of these countries, Germany, Holland, and Sweden, have produced libertarian movements of considerable historical interest.
German anarchism followed a course that curiously parallels the country's national development. In the 1840s, when Germany was a patchwork of kingdoms and principalities, the tendency was toward individualism, represented most extremely by Max Stirner. From tlhe 1870s onward, it turned toward
collectivism, until, in the twentieth century, the prevalent trend became a moderate anarcho-syndicalism, relatively nonviolent in practice and inspired by a respect for efficiency and intellect.
Anarchism first appeared in Germany under the influence of Hegel and Proudhon; it began in the 1840s with the very different personalities of Max Stirner and Wilhelm Weitling. Stirner, as we have seen, represented unqualified egoism; Weitling became a communist much influenced by Fourier and Saint-Simon. Like the anarchist communists he rejected both property and the wage system, and in his earlier writings, such as Gararttien der Harmonie und Freiheit (1842), he put forward a basically phalansterian plan of a society in which liberated human desires would be harmonized for the general good. Though Weitling wished to destroy the state as it existed, there were elements of Utopian regimentation in his vision of a 'harmonious' communist society, but in time these were tempered by the influence of Proudhon.
After Weitling's final departure to the United States in 1849, he abandoned his communism and moved even closer to Proudhonian mutualism. In the monthly journal, Republik der Arbeiter, which he published in New York from 1850 to 1854, he criticized the experimental Utopian colonies that were still numerous in the United States as diversions of the workers' energy, which in his view should attack the vital problem of credit by the foundation of a Bank of Exchange. The Bank of Exchange, he tells us in truly Proudhonian tones, 'is the soul of all reforms, the foundation for all cooperative efforts'. It will set up stores for raw materials and finished products, and issue paper money based on labour value to facilitate their exchange. Associated with the Bank will be trade associations of journeymen for cooperative production, and the profits from exchange transactions will enable the Bank to provide for education, hospitals, and the care of the aged and the disabled. By these means, and without state intervention or the elimination of the individual producer, the Bank will destroy the monopoly of the capitalist and provide an economic structure which will render political institutions unnecessary. These later ideas of Weitling were undoubtedly much more influential
in the neo-Proudhonian movement of the nineteenth-century United States than in Germany.
Several other German social theoreticians fell under the influence of Proudhonian anarchism during the 1840s. Karl Grün, possibly the most ardent convert, met Proudhon in Paris during 1844, and his Die Soziale Bewegung in Frankreich und Belgien was the first work to introduce Proudhon's ideas to the German public. Grün was a versatile man of letters who, like Proudhon, served a short, disillusioned period as a parliamentarian -- in the Prussian National Assembly during 1849 -- and spent much of his life in exile, dying in Vienna in 1887. It was during his earlier period that Grün was most attracted to the mutualist philosophy; in fact, he ventured beyond it, for he criticized Proudhon for not attacking the wages system, and pointed out that the growing complexity of industry made it impossible to decide on each man's product with any accuracy or justice. Therefore consumption and production must alike depend on choice. 'Let us have no right at all against the right of the individual.'
Moses Hess, another German socialist, who knew Proudhon and Bakunin in Paris during the 1840s, actually adopted the title 'anarchy' for his own social philosophy, expounded in 1843 in Die Philosophie der Tat. Hess was a rather solitary and truculent figure who stood out among the Rhineland socialists as Marx's most important rival. He was never so close to Proudhon as Grün became, and he later quarrelled bitterly with Bakunin, but he agreed with both in rejecting the state and dismissing organized religion as a form of mental bondage. Yet his doctrine was curiously muddled. In declaring that all free actions must proceed from individual impulses, unmarred by external influence, he came near to Stirner. In envisaging a social system under which men would work according to inclination and society would provide automatically for every man's reasonable needs, he anticipated Kropotkin. But he grafted on to his libertarian dream a number of features, such as universal suffrage and national workshops, which no true anarchist would entertain.
Neither Stirnerite nor Proudhonian anarchism had a lasting influence in Germany. Stirner gained no German following at
all until after Nietzsche had become popular, and the interest in Proudhon's ideas disappeared in the general reaction that followed the failure of the revolutionary movements of 1848 and 1849. A whole generation now passed before the reappearance of any perceptible anarchist tendency. In the early years of the First International neither Bakunin nor Proudhon had any German supporters, and the Lassallean delegates who attended one Congress of the Saint-Imier International agreed with the anarchists only in their desire to stimulate cooperative experiments.
During the latter part of the century, however, anarchistic factions began to appear within the German Social Democratic Party. In 1878, for example, the bookbinder Johann Most, who had formerly been a fiery member of the Reichstag, was converted to anarchism while in exile in England. With Wilhelm Hasselmann, another anarchist convert, he was expelled by the Social Democrats in 1880, but his journal, Die Freiheit, published first in London in 1879 and then in New York, continued to wield an influence until the end of the century on the more revolutionary socialists both in Germany and in exile. A few small anarchist groups were formed under his influence in Berlin and Hamburg, but it is doubtful if their total membership in the 1880s much exceeded 200; the particular kind of violence preached by Most encouraged the conspiratorial group rather than the mass movement. One such group, led by a printer named Reinsdorf, plotted to throw a bomb at the Kaiser in 1883. They were unsuccessful, but all of them were executed.
Most's influence was also felt in Austria, where the powerful Radical faction of the Social Democratic Party was anarchist in all but name. Libertarian ideas also penetrated deeply into the trade unions in Austria, Bohemia, and Hungary, and for a brief period from 1880 to 1884 the Austro-Hungarian labour movement was probably more strongly impregnated with anarchist influences than any other in Europe outside Spain and Italy. More influential even than Most was the Bohemian Joseph Peukert, who published in Vienna a paper of anarchist communist leanings called Zukunft. When the Austrian authorities began to suppress meetings and demonstrations in
1882, the anarchists and radicals resisted violently, and a number of policemen were killed. Finally, in January 1884, the authorities became so disturbed by the spread of anarchist propaganda and the increase of violent clashes between police and revolutionaries that they declared a state of siege in Vienna and promulgated special decrees against anarchists and socialists. One of the anarchist leaders, Most's disciple Stellmacher, was executed, and the rest, including Peukert, fled from the country. From that time onward anarchism ceased to be a movement of any importance in the Austrian Empire, though small propaganda groups did emerge in later years, and one libertarian literary circle in Prague counted among its sympathizers and occasional visitors both Franz Kafka and Jaroslav Hasek, author of The Good Soldier Schweik.
In later years Germany produced at least three outstanding anarchist intellectuals, Erich Muehsam, Rudolf Rocker, and Gustav Landauer. Muehsam, one of the leading socially engaged poets of the Weimar Republic, played an important part in the Bavarian Soviet rising of 1919, and was eventually beaten to death in a Nazi concentration camp. Rudolf Rocker spent many years in England, about which I shall say more in the following pages; after internment during the First World War, he returned to Berlin, and became one of the leaders of the anarcho-syndicalist movement during the period up to the Nazi dictatorship. He was a prolific and able writer, and at least one of his works, Nationalism and Culture, is a classic statement of the anarchist case against the cult of the national state.
Gustav Landauer, who called himself an anarcho-socialist, was one of those free spirits who never find a happy place in any organized movement. As a young man during the 1890s he joined the Social Democratic Party, and became the leader of a group of young rebels eventually expelled because of their anarchistic leanings. For some years as a disciple of Kropotkin he edited Der Sozialist in Berlin, but by 1900 he had shifted toward a position much closer to Proudhon and Tolstoy, advocating passive resistance in the place of violence and looking toward the spread of cooperative enterprises as the really constructive way to social change. He differed from most
other anarchists in appealing particularly to the intellectual whose role in social change he regarded as extremely important This led to the failure of Der Sozialist, which never gained a mass leadership, and to a growing sense of isolation on Landauer's part. Today Landauer's books -- both his political commentaries and his essays in literary appreciation -- seem excessively romantic. Yet he was one of those men of complete integrity and passionate love for the truth who represent anarchism at its best, perhaps all the more because they stand alone. Despite his distrust of political movements, Landauer was taken up in the wave of revolutionary excitement that swept Germany during the years immediately after the First World War, and, like Muehsam and Ernst Toller, he became one of the leaders of the Bavarian Soviet. In the repression that followed its downfall he was killed by the soldiers sent from Berlin. 'They dragged him into the prison courtyard,' said Ernst Toller. 'An officer struck him in the face. The men shouted, "Dirty Bolshie! Let's finish him off!" A rain of blows from rifle-butts descended on him. They trampled on him till he was dead.' The officer responsible for Landauer's murder was a Junker aristocrat, Major Baron von Gagern; he was never punished or even brought to trial.
Early in the present century the anarcho-syndicalist tendency quickly outgrew the small groups of anarchist communists and the circles of individualists upholding the ideas of Stirner and of John Henry Mackay.1 Syndicalism originated in Germany with a dissident group calling themselves Localists, who in the early 1890s opposed the centralizing tendencies of the Social Democratic trade unions and in 1897 broke away to form a federation of their own, the Freie Vereinigung Deutscher Gewerkschaften. In its early days most of the members of this organization still adhered politically to the left wing of the Social Democratic Party, but in the years immediately preceding the First World War they fell under the influence of the French syndicalists and adopted an anti-parliamentarian
latitude. At this time the F.V.D.G. was still a small organization, with about 20,000 members, mostly in Berlin and Hamburg. After the war, in 1919, a congress held in Düsseldorf organized the federation on anarcho-syndicalist lines and renamed it the Freie Arbeiter Union. The re-formed organization expanded rapidly in the revolutionary atmosphere of the early 1920s, and by the time of the Berlin International Syndicalist Congress of 1922 it had reached a membership of 120,000, which expanded further during the decade to a high point of 200,000. Like all other German organizations of the Left, the Freie Arbeiter Union was destroyed by the Nazis on their accession to power in 1933, and its militants either fled abroad or were imprisoned in the concentration camps, where many of them were killed or died of privation.
In Sweden there still exists an organization very similar to the German Freie Arbeiter Union. This is the Sveriges Arbetares Central; in the Baltic amber of Swedish neutrality it has been preserved from the disasters of oppression and war which destroyed almost every other anarcho-syndicalist organization, and today, in the 1960s, it still functions as a working federation of trade-unionists.
There were anarchists in Sweden since the 1880s, when they infiltrated the newly formed Social Democratic Party, from which they were expelled in 1891 during the general purge of anarchists from parties belonging to the Second International. Thereafter, as anarcho-syndicalists, they worked within the trade unions until, after a disastrous general strike in 1909, they decided to break away and set up their own federation in imitation of the French C.G.T. In 1910 they founded the Sveriges Arbetares Central. It was a tiny organization at first, with a mere 500 members, but its militant call to direct action appealed particularly to the lumbermen, miners, and construction workers, whose work was heavy and whose wages were generally low. By 1924, at the peak of its influence, the S.A.C. had 37,000 members; still, in the 1950s, it retained more than 20,000 members, published its own daily paper, Arbetaren, in Stockholm, and loyally kept alive the Syndicalist International Workingmen's Association.
There is a certain historical interest in considering how this rare survivor from the golden age of revolutionary syndicalism has adapted itself to the world of the 1960s, and a recent survey of world labour by American sociologists2 includes a valuable description of the Sveriges Arbetares Central in the mid twentieth century.
The structure of the federation has apparently remained that of an orthodox syndicalist organization, based on 'local syndicates, each embracing all members within a geographical area without regard to trade or industry'; 'the local syndicate remains the chief repository of union power', being 'affiliated directly to the national centre'.
It seems clear, however, that union practices have been modified by changing social conditions. Theoretically, as the authors of the survey point out, collective bargaining is opposed by the Swedish syndicalists:
As a means of exercising control over labour conditions each local syndicate has established a register committee, the function of which is to prepare wage schedules. After approval by the syndicate these schedules constitute the wages for which members may work. The failure of the register method to provide binding wages for definite periods of time enabled employers to cut rates during periods of unemployment, and some of the syndicates have been forced to enter into agreements. The syndicalists have advocated as means of enforcing their demands, the sympathetic strike, the slowdown through literal observance of working rules, shoddy work, and ca'canny. But these methods have proved incongruous in a so highly organized society as the Swedish, and, in fact, the syndicalists have practised collective bargaining.
The survey goes on to remark that 'the Swedish syndicalists have remained faithful to the political tenets of their doctrine', and that their unions 'abstain strictly from political activity'. Officially, 'the eventual overthrow of capitalism through the revolutionary general strike' is still professed by the leaders of the S.A.C., but, the survey concludes, 'as far as practical trade-unionism is concerned . . . there is not a great deal of difference between the socialist and the syndicalist unions'.
Theoretically, in other words, the Sveriges Arbetares Central
has remained faithful to the kind of revolutionary syndicalism preached by Pierre Monatte at the Amsterdam Congress in 1907; practically it has accepted standard modern procedures in industrial relationships; and in theory and practice alike it has gone far away from pure anarchism.
In Holland, anarchism has shared with the movements in Germany and Sweden their tendency toward syndicalism, but it has gained a character of its own from the militant pacifism of many of its leaders, and particularly of Ferdinand Domela Nieuwenhuis.
It was under the dynamic influence of Nieuwenhuis that Dutch anarchism really developed. In the first International the small Dutch Federation worked closely with the Belgians led by Caesar de Paepe; it supported Bakunin in his quarrel with Marx, opposed the centralism of the General Council, and joined the Saint-Imier International without ever becoming an organization of true anarchists. It was not, in fact, until the late 1880s that a clearly defined anarchist movement began
to appear in Holland.
It arose out of the revival of the Dutch socialist movement
under the inspiration of Nieuwenhuis at the end of the 1870s. Nieuwenhuis began his active life as a famous Lutheran preacher in a fashionable church of The Hague. He was still in his early thirties when he underwent a crisis of conscience rather similar to William Godwin's, and decided to leave the Church and devote his life to the cause of the workers. In 1879 he resigned his pastorate and founded a journal, Recht voor Allen, in which he advocated an ethical socialism based on a strong emotional revulsion against oppression and war, and a deep sense of human brotherhood; it was a distillation of Christian principles into modern social terms. Nieuwenhuis ceased to be a pastor, but he never ceased in the real sense to be a religious man. His strength of personality and his idealistic fervour soon made him the most influential personality among the scattered groups of Dutch socialists, and when they came together in 1881 to found the Socialist League, he became its
undisputed leader. The early years of the League, when it directed its efforts to
anti-war propaganda and trade-union organization, were very stormy, and most of its active members were imprisoned at one time or another, including Nieuwenhuis himself, but they gained enough ground for Nieuwenhuis to be elected to parliament in 1888 as a Socialist; he remained there for three years, but, like Proudhon and Grün, he found it a saddening experience, and emerged a convinced anti-parliamentarian. It was during his period in parliament that he began to turn toward anarchism, and to advocate, before French revolutionary syndicalism had been developed, the idea of industrial direct action and the general strike as means for the workers to free themselves from political and economic oppression and to combat war.
Already, at the International Socialist Congress in 1889, Nieuwenhuis had attacked the participation of socialists in parliamentary activity, and at the Zurich Congress in 1891 he raised, in violent opposition to Wilhelm Liebknecht, the idea of turning a war between nations into an international revolutionary war between classes by means of the general strike. At these congresses, and again in 1893 and 1896, he stood out in defence of the idea that the International should include socialists of every shade, from the most moderate reformists to the most extreme anarchists, and in the end he led the Dutch delegation out of the London Congress of 1896 as a final protest against the Second International's expulsion of the anarchists.
Meanwhile dissension had arisen within the Dutch Socialist League itself, between the majority, who followed Nieuwenhuis in his drift toward anarchism, and a strong minority attracted by German Social Democracy. The differences came to a head at the Groningen Congress of 1893, when the majority carried the League into the anarchist camp and the parliamentarians departed to form their own Socialist Party.
While Nieuwenhuis and his followers were winning the Socialist League to anarchism, their efforts to organize trade unions had also been largely successful, and in 1893 a syndicalist federation, the National Arbeids Sekretariat, was created. It developed under the ideological influence of Christian Cornelissen, who eventually became one of the most
important of anarcho-syndicalist theoreticians. He was particularly interested in the international organization of syndicalism, and the intellectualism of his attitude made him one of the few links between the working-class militants of the C.G.T., such as Pouget and Yvetot, with whom he was in direct contact, and the theoretical syndicalists who gathered around Sorel and Lagardelle, and to whose journal, Le Mouvement socialiste, he contributed. Cornelissen's influence in the European anarchist movement was very considerable during the early years of the present century, but it dwindled away to nothing when he joined Kropotkin and Guillaume in supporting the Allies during the First World War.
For almost a decade the National Arbeids Sekretariat, whose membership at this time did not reach more than 20,000, remained the most active and influential organization among the Dutch trade unions. Its fall from this ascendant position came rather dramatically during the general strike of 1903, which started on the railways, spread to other industries, and then, at the moment of apparent success, collapsed suddenly when the government began to arrest the leaders and to use soldiers as blacklegs. The Social Democrats reaped the benefit of this defeat, and there was a mass exodus from the anarcho-syndicalist unions. For several years the National Arbeids Sekretariat maintained no more than a small bridgehead among the dock-workers of Amsterdam and Rotterdam, and by 1910 its membership had shrunk to little more than 3,000.
The anarchist movement outside the trade unions also diminished in numbers and influence, but the personal prestige of Nieuwenhuis did not suffer greatly. He was the kind of idealist who does not need a movement to establish a moral influence, and he continued through the First World War and until his death in 1919 to wage his passionate antimilitarist campaigns, which were afterward continued by younger Dutch anarchist pacifists like Albert de Jong and Bart de Ligt, author of that extraordinary manual of passive resistance, The Conquest of Violence, which was read widely by British and American pacifists during the 1930s and led many of them to adopt an anarchistic point of view.
The Dutch anarcho-syndicalists slowly recovered some of the ground they had lost in 1903, and by 1922 the National Arbeit Sekretariat, though now a minority in comparison with the other trade unions, had regained its earlier membership: when it joined the International Workingmen's Association in 1922 it had almost 23,000 members. But, like the syndicalist movement in France, it soon began to suffer from the spell which Russian communism cast over its younger militants. Eventually the organization itself was captured by the communists and a large minority who remained faithful to anti-parliamentarian traditions broke away in 1923 to form the Nederlandisch Syndikalistisch Vakverbond. It never gained more than a fraction of the dominant influence which the National Arbeids Sekretariat had once wielded in the Dutch labour movement. After 1903, in fact, Dutch anarchism reconciled itself to having become a permanent minority movement whose widely respected leaders, like Nieuwenhuis and Cornelissen, enjoyed the prestige that in northern lands is granted to those voices crying in the wilderness which form the conveniently externalized consciences of peoples largely devoted to the acquisition and enjoyment of material prosperity.
English anarchism has never been anything else than a chorus of voices crying in the wilderness, though some of the voices have been remarkable. At no time did the anarchists have even a remote chance of controlling the British labour movement. They have always been a small sect, hardly existent outside London and Glasgow, and in adapting themselves to their situation without admitting it, they have concentrated more than libertarians in many other countries on the graces of art and intellect. The only casualty of anarchist violence in England was a Frenchman named Marcel Bourdin, who in 1894 accidentally blew himself up in Greenwich Park with a home-made bomb intended for use abroad, and even that incident became material for literature, since it provided Joseph Conrad with a plot for The Secret Agent, just as the activities of Johann Most in England provided Henry James with a theme for The Princess Casamassima.
But though there has been a recurrent libertarian itch among
English writers ever since Shelley, some of whose effects we shall shortly see, it would be wrong to give the impression that anarchism in England has been entirely or even principally an affair of men of letters. On the contrary, the modest record of the English movement shows an experimental spirit which has embraced every kind of anarchist thought and has produced every type of anarchist individual, with the sole exception of the practising terrorist.
Anarchism as a movement began in Britain during the 1880s, under the influence of foreign rather than native models. Neither the writings of Godwin and his disciples nor the primitive syndicalism of Robert Owen's Grand National Consolidated Trades Union or of William Benbow with his early version of the millennial strike, made any direct contribution to the anarchism of the later nineteenth century. If anything, their lingering influence impeded it, since the rejection of power which was their legacy to the general English labour movement produced an obstinate and long-maintained distrust of centralized authority that at times made anarchism seem a needless extremity. The real birthplaces of modern British anarchism were the clubs for foreign workers which appeared in Soho as early as the 1840s, and somewhat later in the East End of London. The Rose Street Club in Soho, the Autonomic Club in Windmill Street, and later (after 1885) the International Club in Berners Street, Whitechapel, were the most favoured centres of the anarchist faction among the expatriates.
The Rose Street Club was a stronghold of the followers of Johann Most, who arrived in England in 1878, and in the next year founded Die Freiheit, the first anarchist paper published in England. The discreetly blind eye of Scotland Yard usually allowed expatriate political activities in London to go unmolested; by a tacit gentleman's agreement most of the foreign revolutionists refrained from dabbling in English affairs or embarrassing the British government internationally. But Most went beyond discretion in 1881 when he devoted an editorial of gloating enthusiasm to the assassination of the Tsar Alexander II; he was sent to prison for eighteen months. The comrades he left in charge of Die Freiheit had no desire to appear less courageous than their leader, and when the Irish rebels
assassinated Lord Cavendish in Phoenix Park they loudly proclaimed their solidarity with the killers. This was interfering with a vengeance in British affairs, and Die Freiheit was raided and suppressed. For a few issues it appeared in Switzerland and on Most's release moved to New York for a further sensational career, which belongs to a later part of this chapter.
Die Freiheit was intended as propaganda for Austria and Germany, and it had little influence in England except among the expatriates. It was rather through the personal activity of a small number of Englishmen who attended the foreign clubs that continental anarchism spread into the slowly awakening socialist movement of the 1880s. Out of six English delegates who attended the International Anarchist Congress of 1881, four carried the credentials of clubs in Soho.
It was shortly after the International Congress that the earliest anarchist organization in Britain, the Labour Emancipation League, was formed by a revolutionary faction of the Stratford Radical Club, Its leader was Joseph Lane, an elderly carter who remembered the days of the Chartists and had long been an active open-air speaker. The Labour Emancipation League, which gained a modest following among East End working men, was dominated by the anarchism of Lane and Frank Kitz, one of the militants of the Rose Street Club, and it sharply opposed both state socialism and parliamentary activity.
In those halcyon early days of the English labour movement there was as yet no thought of the strict boundaries between socialism and anarchism later enforced by the Second International, and in 1884 the Labour Emancipation League became affiliated to the Social Democratic Federation, which united almost all the small socialist factions in England, with the notable exception of the aloofly intellectual Fabian Society. The union did not last long, thanks to the dictatorial nature of H. M. Hyndman, the Marxist leader of the Federation. By December 1884 the whole Federation was in revolt, and most of its leading personalities, including William Morris, Belfort Bax, and Eleanor Marx Aveling, resigned in protest. The Labour Emancipation League accompanied them into the new organization they created, the Socialist League, which shortly
afterward began to publish Commonweal under the editorship of William Morris. Within the League the anarchist faction, under the leadership of Lane, Kitz, and C. W. Mowbray, rapidly made converts and moved toward dominance.
They found a temporary ally in William Morris, whose relationship to anarchism is not easy to define. In News from Nowhere he portrayed nothing less than that paradisial anarchy dreamed of by libertarians for three centuries. Even in the non-Utopian present he shared to the full the anarchist contempt for the shifts and compromises of politics, and his anti-parliamentarianism continued to the end, since the most he would concede was that the socialists might in the last resort be justified in entering parliament if they were sure of getting a majority large enough to vote it out of existence for good and all. For him, as for the anarchists, it was necessary to find a way by which the people could 'themselves destroy their slavery'. It is true that he disagreed with the anarchists of the Socialist League over their extreme stress on violence and the destructive aspects of revolution. In his view a long process of education was necessary before the struggle to transform society could even begin. But, while this gave an element of gradualism to Morris's socialism, it did not fundamentally divide him from the libertarian tradition; Goodwin and Proudhon thought the same, and Kropotkin came very near to doing so in his later years.
It is true that, when he was sore from his experiences in the Socialist League, Morris categorically denied that he was an anarchist. But his statement on this subject showed clearly that he was considering anarchism in the narrow sense of individualism.
Anarchism means, as I understand it, the doing away with, and doing without, laws and rules of all kinds, and in each person being allowed to do just as he pleases. I don't want people to do just as they please; I want them to consider and act for the good of their fellows, of the commonweal, in fact. Now, what constitutes the commonweal, or common notion of what is for the common good, will and always must be expressed in the form of laws of some kind either political laws, instituted by the citizens in public assembly, as of old by folk-moots, or if you will by real councils or parliaments
of the people, or by social customs growing up from the
experience of society.
No anarchist except an extreme Stirnerite would dispute Morris's ideal of men acting for the good of their fellows. indeed, it is a central anarchist dogma that freedom releases human sociability to follow its natural course, while the stress which anarchists have placed on the power of public opinion in disciplining the anti-social individual suggests that none of them would object to Morris's idea of the common good being protected by 'social customs growing up from the experience of society'. An anarchist, on the other hand, would object to Morris's acceptance of laws voted by assemblies or popular councils. And it is in this narrow borderline that the real difference between Morris and the anarchists is to be found. Morris admitted a measure of direct democracy which would leave sovereignty to the people; the anarchists deny democracy of any kind and reserve sovereignty for the individual. But Morris appears to have allowed only reluctantly for his shreds of popular authority. In News from Nowhere, which was intended as the picture of society as he really would have liked it to be, no fragment of true authority or government is left; it is a thoroughly anarchist world that Morris invites us to enter. One is forced to the conclusion that the important differences which later developed between Morris and the anarchists in the Socialist League were matters of personality rather than ideology, and that a closer association with Kropotkin might have given Morris a clearer conception of anarchism and of his own relationship to it.
But in the early days of the Socialist League Morris and the anarchists still worked in apparent harmony, and together they secured, in June 1887, a majority decision that pledged the League to anti-parliamentarianism. The Marxists and the moderate socialists thereupon resigned, and the anarchists soon gained control. In 1889 they won a majority on the executive council, and immediately turned on their old ally Morris, depriving him of the editorship of Commonweal. It became an exclusively anarchist journal, expressing a point of view very close to that which Most had expounded in Die Freiheit.
The conquest of the Socialist League was only one manifestation of a general upsurge of anarchist activity during the later 1880s. This was shown particularly by the appearance of two libertarian periodicals expressing greatly differing tendencies. The Anarchist was first published in 1885 under the editorship of Henry Seymour, a disciple of the American individualist Benjamin Tucker, and the founder of the English Anarchist Circle, a small group of neo-Proudhonians who regarded individual possessions as essential to freedom and a rational exchange system as the key to social liberation. However, Seymour's interests were wide -- they even included an ardent partisanship of the Baconian theory of the authorship of Shakespeare's plays -- and he not only published as a pamphlet the only translation of Bakunin to appear in England for many years (the fragmentary essay entitled God and the State) but also included among the contributors to The Anarchist writers of such diverse opinions as George Bernard Shaw and Elisee Reclus. For a short period in 1886 Seymour offered the hospitality of his column to Kropotkin and his disciples, but the divergence between individualism and anarchist communism was too wide for the collaboration to last more than one issue. The Anarchist ceased publication in 1888, but the individualist tendency continued strongly into the 1890s. In 1889 Seymour himself brought out a few issues of a new journal, The Revolutionary Review, and from 1890 to 1892 Albert Tarn maintained the individualist position in The Herald of Anarchy.
But the dominant trend within the growing anarchist movement was toward free communism, and this was expressed particularly in Freedom, founded in 1886 by the group centred around Peter Kropotkin, who in that year began his long residence in England. The Freedom Group was a small circle of propagandists in the classic anarchist tradition, devoted to publication and lecturing, and eschewing any ambition to turn itself into a mass movement, though it maintained loose associations with various anarchist groups that began to spring up in London and the north. Kropotkin was the intellecjual mentor of the group, and around him clustered a number of distinguished expatriates, including Merlino and some old
associates from the days of agitation in Moscow, particularly Stepniak and Nicholas Chaikovsky. The more active members however, were English, and none was more militant than the sharp-tongued, black-haired Charlotte Wilson, a Girton girj who wore aesthetic gowns and had gone to live in a cottage on the edge of Hampstead Heath rather than accept the earnings of her stockbroker husband.
Charlotte Wilson had been an active member of the Fabian Society, and, since her conversion in 1883, she was its only voluble anarchist. She became and for a decade remained the editor and the real organizing force of Freedom, while Kropotkin provided its ideological inspiration, as he continued to do until his break with the Freedom Group over his support for the Allies in the First World War.
For eight years Freedom and Commonweal continued to advocate anarchism from slightly varying points of view. Freedom represented the intellectuals of the movement, and Commonweal the plebian activists. But after Morris's departure Commonweal declined rapidly in tone until it became a shrill sheet without ideological or literary significance. The Socialist League itself shrank to a hard core of devoted militants, whose verbal terrorism led to the repeated prosecution of Commonweal until, in 1894, it collapsed under the weight of fines and the loss of circulation. Finally, in 1895, the surviving rump of the Socialist League joined the Freedom Group, and Freedom became the organ of a united anarchist movement of small dimensions but considerable enthusiasm.
The late 1880s and the 1890s were the real heyday of English anarchism, when its gospel spread in many directions and influenced a considerable fraction of the numerically small socialist movement. Recollecting those days, the Fabian historian Edward Pease, who certainly had no reason to exaggerate anarchist influence, remarked:
In the eighties the rebels were Communist Anarchists, and to us at any rate they seemed more portentous than the mixed crowd of suffragettes and gentlemen from Oxford who before the war seemed to be leading the syndicalist rebels. Anarchism Communism was at any rate a consistent and almost sublime doctrine. Its leaders, such as Prince Kropotkin and Nicholas Chaikovsky, were men of 
outstanding ability and unimpeachable character, and the rank and file, mostly refugeees from European oppression, had direct relations with similar parties abroad, the exact extent and significance of which we could not calculate.
Two specific groups to which anarchism appealed particularly were the Jewish immigrants of the East End of London and the literary and artistic rebels of the 1890s. The Jewish immigrants were mostly working people employed -- often under appalling sweatshop conditions -- in various branches of the clothing trade. They burned with an understandable resentment at the thought that they had exchanged political tyranny and pogroms under the Tsars for exploitation by members of their own race and religion in free England, and for thirty years, from the mid 1880s to 1914, they provided more recruits to anarchism than the rest of the population of Britain.
Jewish anarchism in London centred around Der Arbeter Fraint, a Yiddish journal which began to appear in 1885 to give a literary expression to the various socialist points of view that were so volubly discussed week after week in the Berners Street International Club in Whitechapel. In 1891, owing largely to the expulsion of the anarchists by the Second International, the Berners Street Club was riven by political dissension, out of which the anarchists emerged triumphant, in possession of both the club and Der Arbeter Fraint.
The most active period of Jewish anarchism in London began with Rudolf Rocker's arrival in England in January 1895. Rocker was a bookbinder by trade, of unmixed German blood, who spoke no Yiddish and had known no Jews until he was introduced to the anarchists from the Polish ghettos in Paris on his arrival there as a political refugee in 1893. When he reached London he made immediate contact with the Jewish group in Whitechapel, learned Yiddish, and in 1896 began to write for Der Arbeter Fraint. Two years later he went to Liverpool and collaborated in editing a small paper, also in Yiddish, called Dos Freie Vort.
At the end of 1898 the group that published Der Arbeter Fraint offered him the editorship; he accepted, and remained the German editor of a Yiddish paper until his internment by the British authorities in 1914.
Rocker quickly overcame any difficulties that might arise from differences of background, and soon won the confidence and loyalty of his Jewish comrades. In time he became a great influence in the labour movement in the East End, where the anarchists were for long the most active political element among the Jewish population, and during the great strike of the sweatshop workers in 1912, when he turned Der Arbeter Fraint into a daily paper for the benefit of the strikers and eventually led them to a notable victory, he gained the respect and gratitude of thousands of people who did not share his views.
One day as I was walking along a narrow Whitechapel street [he recollected many years afterward], an old Jew with a long white beard stopped me outside his house, and said: 'May God bless you! You helped my children in their need. You are not a Jew, but you are a man!' This old man lived in a world completely different from mine. But the memory of the gratitude that shone in his eyes has remained with me all these years.
Between 1898 and 1914 the movement that centred around Der Arbeter Fraint developed into a complex network of social and cultural activities. In 1902 the Federation of Jewish Anarchist Groups in Great Britain and Paris was formed; it maintained until 1914 a continuity of action and cooperation rare among anarchist organizations of comparable size. Der Arbeter Fraint gradually became the centre of a considerable Yiddish publishing enterprise, which brought out not only the journal itself, but also a cultural review, Germinal, and a notable series of translations of the great contemporary novelists and dramatists. In 1906, after the establishment of the Jubilee Street Institute, an educational programme was started, with classes in English for immigrants from Poland and Russia and lectures in history, literature, and sociology on the lines of the People's Universities in France. Finally a mutual-aid organization called The Workers' Circle was founded, devoted both to progressive education and to the care of the sick and needy. The success of these many-sided activities seemed to vindicate anarchist ideas of voluntary organization, but it must be remembered that they were carried out by people whose traditions had inclined them for centuries to practise
a high degree of cooperation as a protection against external threats.
The literary rebels who skirmished on the verge of the anarchist movement during the 1890s were united only by a belief that anarchism and similar doctrines provided a social counterpart to their own emotional conviction that the freedom of the individual was necessary for the flowering of art. They ranged from important writers like William Morris and Edward Carpenter, who defended libertarian dreams without fully accepting the label of anarchism, to minor decadent poets like Evelyn Douglas, who once gave the propaganda by deed a twist of English eccentricity by firing off a revolver at the stony face of the Houses of Parliament. The most delightful inhabitants of the literary-aesthetic fringe were undoubtedly the two teenage daughters of William Michael Rossetti, Olivia and Helen, who were inspired by their admiration for Krppotkin to publish from their pre-Raphaelite home in 1895 a journal of the most fiery earnestness; it was called The Torch: A Revolutionary Journal of Anarchist Communism. In loyalty to their foreign ancestry, the Rossetti sisters specialized in introducing the writings of Continental anarchists, and Louise Michel, Malato, Malatesta, Zhukovsky, and Faure all contributed to The Torch. So also, on the literary side, did Octave Mirbeau and even Emile Zola, while one of the younger contributors was the youth who became Ford Madox Ford. But The Torch burned out quickly, and in later years both the Rossetti girls wrote with amusing asperity on their anarchist childhood.
The most ambitious contribution to literary anarchism during the 1890s was undoubtedly Oscar Wilde's The Soul of Man Under Socialism. Wilde, as we have seen, declared himself an anarchist on at least one occasion during the 1890s, and he greatly admired Kropotkin, whom he had met. Later, in De Profundis, he described Kropotkin's life as one 'of the most perfect lives I have come across in my own experience' and talked of him as 'a man with a soul of that beautiful white Christ that seems coming out of Russia'. But in The Soul of Man Under Socialism, which appeared in 1890, it is Godwin rather than Kropotkin whose influence seems dominant. Wilde's aim in The Soul of Man Under Socialism is to seek
the society most favourable to the artist. We immediately notice a difference between his approach and that of other libertarian writers, such as Proudhon and Tolstoy, who have also written on art. For Proudhon and Tolstoy, art is a means to the end of social and moral regeneration. But for Wilde art is the supreme end, containing within itself enlightenment and regeneration, to which all else in society must be subordinated. If Proudhon and Tolstoy represent the anarchist as moralist Wilde represents the anarchist as aesthete.
Since art, in. Wilde's view, depends on the full and free development of personal capacities, society must make individualism its goal, and Wilde seeks -- with what at first sight seems a characteristic paradox -- to attain individualism by way of socialism. Wilde is as passionate as Stirner in his advocacy of the individual will, and in his denunciation of the 'altruistic impulses of charity, benevolence, and the like', but he is not an orthodox individualist in the sense of regarding individual possession as a guarantee of freedom. On the contrary, he contends that the burden of property is intolerable and that society must lift it from the shoulders of individuals. This can only be done by 'Socialism, Communism, or whatever one chooses to call it', which by converting private property into public wealth, and substituting cooperation for competition, will restore society to its proper condition of a thoroughly healthy organism. So far, no Fabian could disagree. But Wilde adds that mere socialization of property is not enough. Individualism is needed as a corrective:
If the Socialism is Authoritarian; if there are Governments armed with economic power as they are now with political power; if, in a word, we are to have Industrial Tyrannies, then the last state of man will be worse than the first.
Here Wilde turns aside into a discussion of present-day society, in which a few privileged people enjoy a limited individualism, and the rest are condemned to uncongenial work 'by the peremptory, unreasonable, degrading Tyranny of want'. When he looks at the poor, Wilde finds hope, not among the virtuous, but among those who are 'ungrateful, discontented, disobedient, and rebellious'.
Disobedience, in the eyes of any one who has read history, is man's original virtue. It is through disobedience that progress has been made, through disobedience and through rebellion. . . . I can quite understand a man accepting laws that protect private property, and admit of its accumulation, as long as he himself is able under those conditions to realize some form of beautiful and intellectual life. But it is almost incredible to me how a man whose life is marred and made hideous by such laws can possibly acquiesce in their continuance.
Wilde's interest in rebellion was not a mere romantic pose. He saw his own life as a rebellion, and he genuinely respected sincere revolutionaries -- 'these Christs who die upon the barricades' -- even if he loathed indiscriminate violence. In 1886 Shaw found him the only English man of letters willing to sign a petition for the lives of the Chicago anarchists, and in The Soul of Man Under Socialism he makes quite clear his sympathy for those who try to rouse the poor to rebellion:
What is said by great employers of labour against agitators is unquestionably true. Agitators are a set of interfering, meddling people, who come down to some perfectly contented class of the community and sow the seeds of discontent among them. That is the reason why agitators are so absolutely necessary. Without them, in our incomplete state, there would be no advance towards civilization.
This discussion of rebellion leads Wilde back to his opposition to an authoritarian socialism, which will only make universal the economic tyranny that now at least a few escape. A voluntary system is the only possible solution:
Each man must be quite free to choose his own work. No form of compulsion must be exercised over him. If there is, his work will not be good for him, will not be good in itself, and will not be good for others. . . . All association must be quite voluntary. It is only in voluntary associations that man is fine.
From this point Wilde expands, in almost Godwinian tones, on the tyranny which property exercises even over the wealthy, and there is yet another touch of Political Justice in the passage where he points out that the abolition of property will mean also the abolition of family and marriage. There must be no
claims on personality that are not granted freely; in such freedom, love itself will be 'more wonderful, more beautiful, and more ennobling'.
Wilde's rejection of restraint, his consciousness that 'to the claims of conformity no man may yield and remain free at all', leads him naturally to his criticism of government. Authority is degrading to ruler and ruled, and no form is exempt; even democracy 'means simply the bludgeoning of the people by the people for the people'. With authority and property, punishment also will cease, since crime -- when men are no longer hungry -- will mostly vanish, and where it does not 'will be treated by physicians as a very distressing form of dementia, to be cured by care and kindness'. So the machinery of the state that governs must be dismantled, and all that remains will be an administrative apparatus (which Wilde still rather misleadingly calls a state) to arrange the production and distribution of commodities. Here -- since Wilde has no illusions about the dignity of manual labour -- machinery will take the place of men freed to follow their artistic or scientific or speculative pursuits and to produce the thoughts and things that only individuals can devise.
If Wilde follows Godwin in so much, there is one important respect in which he differs from him. Nowhere in The Soul of Man does one find a hint of that tendency to fall back on public opinion as a means of restraint which Godwin and so many other anarchists have shown. Wilde detested moralists of every kind; he hated cant about duty and self-sacrifice; he maintained that 'individualism . . . does not try to force people to be good'. What he would put in the place of public opinion is 'sympathy', and sympathy is the product of freedom; when men have no need to fear or envy their fellows, they will understand them and respect their individualities. It is a vision not unlike Stirner's, but it is tempered by Wilde's natural amiability.
Britain did not escape the trend toward syndicalism, though it came late and never produced an independent movement; moreover, the anarchist element was diluted almost to the point of disappearance. Tom Mann, who returned from Australia in 1910 with his head filled with I.W.W. theories, was the real
inspirer of the movement, which was most significant as a rebellion against the hierarchy that had formed in the trade unions and was in the process of formation in the Labour Party. The arguments of Mann and his associates in The Industrial Syndicalist (1911) spoke for a wide rank-and-file movement which aimed at the creation of industrial unions, on the lines of the I.W.W., and at substituting the concept of workers' control for that of nationalization in the socialist programme. These ideas were particularly strong in South Wales, where a celebrated anonymous pamphlet, The Miner's Next Step (1912), advocated the struggle against the capitalist state by a strong, centralized workers' organization, proceeding by strike after strike to the point where capitalism would collapse and the workers would take over the industries in which they worked. The emphasis on centralization in such propaganda was really anti-libertarian, and a closer approach to anarcho-syndicalism was adopted by a smaller group, led by Guy Bowman of The Syndicalist (1912), who was influenced by the Bourses de Travail and stressed the need for local unions as the basic industrial pattern. Both groups were impressed by the idea of the millennial general strike, and their theories continued to influence the British labour movement until the general strike in 1926.
The truer forms of anarchism lost their impetus in Britain before 1900. There were probably no fewer anarchists during the next decade, but their numbers did not keep proportional pace to the growth of the general socialist movement, and in spite of the fact that they branched out into educational and community-living experiments, of which Clousdon Hill and Whiteway were the most important, they gained little new ground. The First World War, which led to the suppression of their journals and to the split between pro-war and anti-war elements, set going a positive decline, which affected both the Jewish movement and the English-speaking groups in London, Glasgow, and South Wales. When Emma Goldman reached England in 1924 she found the movement almost dead, and in 1927 Freedom came to an end from lack of support.
It was almost a decade afterward that the enthusiasm aroused by the Spanish Civil War gave anarchism in Britain a new
lease of life. In 1936 Spain and the World began to appear; its most active founders, and the real inspirers of British anarchism during the 1930s and 1940s, were Vernon Richards, a young engineer whose father had been a friend of Malatesta, and his wife, Marie Louise Berneri, the talented and beautiful daughter of Camillo Berneri. The revivified movement was small but vigorous; Spain and the World and its successor, Revolt (1939), attracted not only many younger radicals but also a number of literary intellectuals; John Cowper Powys, Ethel Mannin, and Herbert Read were all contributors. Read, who had long been sympathetic to libertarian ideas, published in 1938 his Poetry and Anarchism, which he followed shortly afterward by The Philosophy of Anarchism, and these works marked the beginning of a period, beyond the chronological scope of the present volume, when anarchism became for a time part of the British literary landscape, attracting many younger writers of the 1940s and forming close links with such literary-artistic movements of the time as surrealism, personalism, and apocalypticism. But the description of that period belongs to another and a more personal narrative.
American anarchism has a double tradition -- native and immigrant. The native tradition, whose roots run back to the early years of the nineteenth century, was strongly individualist. The immigrant tradition, which begins among the German revolutionary socialists of the later 1870s, was first collectivist and afterward anarchist communist.
The native tradition stems largely from the writings of Thomas Paine, from the experiences of the early nineteenth-century socialist communities, and from Godwin's Political Justice, of which an American edition appeared in Philadelphia in 1796. Godwin's influence on early American literature and political thought was profound; Charles Brockden Brown, his principal American disciple, transmitted the nightmare of Caleb Williams to the darker traditions of the American novel, while the brighter dream of liberty and justice that is enshrined in Political Justice found an echo in the writings of Emerson and Thoreau.
For Emerson the state and its laws were always the enemies
of liberty and virtue. The very existence of political institutions implied a diminution of individual human dignity.
Every actual State is corrupt. Good men must not obey the laws too well. . . . Wild liberty develops iron conscience. Want of liberty, by strengthening law and decorum, stupefies conscience.
Yet one cannot regard Emerson as a complete anarchist. For him the state was a poor makeshift, but a makeshift that might be necessary until education and individual development had reached their goal in the production of the wise man. 'To educate the wise man the State exists, and with the appearance of the wise man the State expires.'
Thoreau's condemnation of the state was more thorough, and in many other ways he fits more closely into the anarchist pattern than Emerson could ever do. Walden, the record of a modest attempt to live simply and naturally, in a poverty of material goods that provides its own immaterial riches, is inspired by that desire to simplify society and to disentangle the needless complexities of contemporary living which underlies the anarchist demand for the decentralization of social life and the dismantling of authority. Behind both is the faith in natural as distinct from human law which makes all libertarians trust to impulses rising freely rather than to rules applied mechanically.
The essay On the Duty of Civil Disobedience, which Thoreau wrote in 1849, has remained one of the classic justifications of passive and principled resistance to authority; it shows Thoreau firmly placing the final judgement of any action within the conscience of the individual, and demonstrating clearly the incapacity of government:
I heartily accept the motto -- 'That government is best which governs least'; and I should like to see it acted up to more rapidly and systematically. Carried out it finally amounts to this, which I also believe -- 'That government is best which governs not at all', and when men are prepared for it, that will be the kind of government which they will have. Government is at best but an expedient; but most governments are, usually, and all governments are sometimes, inexpedient.
For Thoreau freedom was not merely a matter of politics,
and he believed that the War of Independence had left fellow countrymen both economically and morally enslaved. As a complement to the Republic -- res-publica -- he asked that attention be paid to the res-privata -- the private state of man:
Do we call this the land of the free? [he asked bitterly]. What is it to be free from King George and continue the slaves to King Prejudice? What is it to be born free and not to live free? What is the value of any political freedom but as a means to moral freedom? Is it a freedom to be slaves, or a freedom to be free, of which we boast?
Thoreau was most concerned with individual protest; his instinctive distrust of the mass mind made him eschew the collective deed. 'Action from principle' was in itself, for him, 'essentially revolutionary'; each man must act according to his conscience, not according to the laws of the state, and for men who so acted, like John Brown, Thoreau's admiration was boundless. Always he came back to the fresh, untrammelled, personal judgement, and it was for this reason that he hated 'the institutions of the dead unkind'.
Thoreau hesitated always between the rebel and the artist, and, while he wrote some of the most remarkable pleas for the individual against the state, he left it for other men to give an extensive practical expression to such sentiments.
It is here that we come to American individualist anarchism as a social doctrine. It begins in the heyday of the Utopian communities, the age when Owenites and Fourierites and Icarians and a host of minor religious and political sects sought to create in the broad lands of the young United States prototypes of their ideal worlds. Most of the socialist colonies were based on rigid Utopian theories of organization; leaders like Owen, Cabet, and Considerant, Fourier's principal heir, tried to create model villages that would reconstruct in every possible detail their predetermined plans of a just society. Inevitably, since the success of the community was held to depend on the proper working out of an inspired project, there had to be rules and an austere discipline. A sense of their own essential rightness of judgement turned men like Owen and Cabet into paternalistic autocrats, and the dialectic of
autocracy and resentful rebellion brought an end to many of the communities.
One of the men who sadly watched this process working out in Robert Owen's colony of New Harmony was a talented musician and inventor named Josiah Warren. Warren left New Harmony in 1827 with the firm conviction that Owen's way was not the right way to solve the problems of cooperative living.
It seemed [he said afterward when he analysed the causes of New Harmony's failure] that the difference of opinion, tastes, and purposes increased just in proportion to the demand for conformity. . . . It appeared that it was nature's own inherent law of diversity that had conquered us. . . . Our 'united interests' were directly at war with the individualities of persons and circumstances and the instinct of self-preservation . . . and it was evident that just in proportion to the contact of persons and interests, so are concessions and compromises indispensable.
Warren did not abandon the general idea of the cooperative community. All his life he felt that the way to social change lay in teaching men and women by practical experiment how they could live together in fellowship. But he took to heart the lessons of New Harmony, and in doing so he developed the theory of the sovereignty of the individual which has led to his being regarded, rightly I think, as the first American anarchist. It was not, he contended, the individual that must be made to conform to society, but society that must be fitted to the individual:
Society must be converted so as to preserve the sovereignty of every individual inviolate. That it must avoid all combinations and connexions of persons and interests, and all other arrangements which will not leave every individual at all times at liberty to dispose of his or her person, and time, and property in any manner in which his or her feelings or judgement may dictate, WITHOUT INVOLVING THE PERSONS OR INTERESTS OF OTHERS.
Seeking the causes of the wreck of New Harmony, Warren came to the conclusion that they had centred around the failure to deal adequately with the question of property. His conclusions were surprisingly like those which Proudhon reached, apparently quite independently, a few years later in
France. All that a man had a right to individually was the. material result of his own labour. But the complexity of civilization had made it impossible for each individual to live self-subsistently; division of labour was a reality that could not be ignored, and the economic relationships between men must be based upon it. He therefore made 'labour for labour' his formula, and sought to find a means of putting into effective practice Owen's original proposal for an exchange of labour time on an hour-for-hour basis, but with a flexibility that would allow individuals to agree on some kind of adjustment when one man's work, irrespective of time, had clearly been more arduous than another's.
Immediately on his return from New Harmony to Cincinnati, Warren started his first experiment, which he called a Time Store. He sold goods at cost, and asked the customers to recompense him for his own trouble by giving him labour notes, promising to donate to the storekeeper an equivalent time at their own occupations for that consumed in serving him. By this means he hoped to educate his customers in the idea of exchange based on labour and to recruit supporters willing to take part in his plans to found a chain of mutualist villages. The Time Store lasted for three years, and Warren came out of the experiment convinced that his plan was workable; He spent the next two years on what seems to have been the first design for a rotary press, and out of the earnings from his patents in stereotyping he accumulated enough money to start in 1833 a journal entitled The Peaceful Revolutionist. The final stage in his carefully planned scheme of action was to found a model village as soon as his ideas became known through his publications.
In 1834 Warren and a group of his disciples bought a stretch of land in Ohio and founded the Village of Equity with half a dozen families, who built their houses and operated a cooperative sawmill on a labour-for-labour exchange basis. The hierarchical structure of the Owenite and Fourierite communities was abandoned in favour of simple mutual agreements, and it was in fact the first anarchist community in any country since Winstanley's venture on St George's Hill almost two centuries before. Its failure was not due to any breakdown of the
exchange system, which hardly had time to prove itself, but to sickness, for there was malaria in the low-lying land of the settlement, and a final epidemic of influenza brought the community to an end.
Warren was too persistent and too convinced of the essential practicality of his theories to abandon his attempts. In 1846 he founded a second colony called Utopia, largely populated by disillusioned Fourierites. Here brick kilns, stone quarries, and sawmills were worked on the Warrenite basis, and the community remained for some years virtually independent of outside society. As for the organization of the colony, it was as near pure individualist anarchism as seems humanly possible. In the spring of 1848 Warren wrote:
Throughout our operations on the ground, everything has been conducted so nearly upon the Individualist basis that not one meeting for legislation has taken place. No Organization, no indefinite delegated power, no 'Constitutions', no 'laws' or 'Bye-laws', 'rules' or 'Regulations' but such as each individual makes for himself and his own business. No officers, no priests nor prophets have been resorted to -- nothing of either kind has been in demand. We have had a few meetings, but they were for friendly conversation, for music, dancing, or some other social and pleasant pastime. Not even a single lecture upon the principles on which we were acting has been given on the premises. It was not necessary; for (as a lady remarked yesterday) 'the subject once stated and understood, there is nothing left to talk about' -- All is action after that.
Utopia lasted as a mutualist village for almost twenty years, into the 1860s, with about a hundred inhabitants and some small woodworking industries. It survived Warren's own departure, when he set off in 1850 to found yet another community, Modern Times, on Long Island, which also maintained its mutualist character for at least two decades, eventually turning, like Utopia, into a more or less conventional village with cooperative tendencies. Neither community can be counted an actual failure, but both of them owed their success in great measure to the fluidity of American society during the period in which they operated, and both tended to dissolve rather than collapse as society in the eastern United States became more stabilized after the Civil War.
Because he combined theory so extensively with practice Warren was undoubtedly the most important of the American individualist anarchists, though both Stephen Pearl Andrews and Lysander Spooner eloquently elaborated on the ideas he had originally put forward. Later, largely through the influence of William B. Greene, Proudhon's mutualism was introduced into the United States, and its similarity to native individualism was quickly recognized. The Proudhonians remained a small sect, but they and the disciples of Warren both contributed much to American Populist thought, with its strong emphasis on currency reform.
In later years the leading American individualist anarchist was Benjamin R. Tucker, who founded the Radical Review in 1878, and three years later Liberty; which lasted until Tucker's printing shop burned down in 1907. Tucker's own ideas were a synthesis of Warren and Proudhon, with little original added to them, and he is perhaps most important for the fearlessness which made Liberty a forum for native American radicalism, and which earned the admiration of H. L. Mencken, George Bernard Shaw (a contributor to Liberty), and Walt Whitman, who declared, 'I love him; he is plucky to the bone.' Tucker called himself a scientific anarchist; he remained firmly individualist throughout his career, and opposed both the collectivist schools of anarchism -- since he believed that freedom was incompatible with any kind of communism -- and the advocates of the propaganda by deed, which struck him as essentially immoral. With the disappearance of Liberty, the tradition of native individualist anarchism virtually came to an end. Tucker himself lived on to the end of our period, dying in Monaco at the age of eighty-five, in 1939; during his last years he was plagued by doubts, and, while he still regarded anarchism as 'a goal that humanity moves towards', he doubted whether the path to that goal had yet been discovered.
As I have already suggested, there was little direct connexion between the native individualist anarchists and the immigrant anarchists. This was not because of any insularity on the part of the individualists. Both Lysander Spooner and William B. Greene had been members of the First International; Tucker made the pioneer translations into English of Proudhon and
Bakunin, and at first was enthusiastic about Kropotkin, to whose trial in Lyons as late as 1883 he devoted considerable space in Liberty. What detached him and his associates from the immigrant anarchists was the cult of violence that marked and marred their movement from the beginning.
The rise of immigrant anarchism begins with the split between revolutionaries and reformists in the Socialist Labour Party in 1880. This party consisted mostly of German immigrants, and even the rebels were theoretical Marxists, so that their founding of the Socialist Revolutionary Clubs in New York, Chicago, and other large cities was only the prelude to the appearance of anarchism. The event that took the Socialist Revolutionaries into the anarchist camp was the International Anarchist Congress of 1881. No delegates from the German groups in the United States actually took part in the Congress, though they were represented by proxy; it was perhaps the combination of distance and imagination that made the Congress seem so important in America. The new International founded at the Congress, which in reality led a phantom existence, seemed from New York and Chicago a powerful and portentous organization. As a consequence, by the end of 1881 there were actually two Federations in the United States that pledged adherence to the International. A convention in Chicago of Socialist Revolutionaries from fourteen cities in the East and Mid-west formed the International Working People's Association, known also as the Black International and consisting mostly of immigrants from Germany and the Austro-Hungarian Empire. It declared, after long debate, against political activity, and its resolutions clearly premeditated the use of violence.
At the same time a group of native Americans in San Francisco, led by Burnette G. Haskell, had formed a secret society, organized on the old conspiratorial system of small closed groups of nine men each, which also affiliated to the London International and called itself the International Workingmen's Association, or Red International. Haskell was a wealthy lawyer who also supported the anti-Chinese movement in California, and his links with real anarchism were too slight to be taken seriously.
Any doubts the Revolutionary Socialists in the East may have had about the choice between Marxism and anarchism seem to have been dissipated by the arrival of Johann Most in 1882. Most immediately refounded Die Freiheit in New York, and started a speaking tour through all the cities where revolutionary groups existed. His trenchant journalism, his fiery oratory, and his enthusiastic advocacy of violence, in a manner that rivalled Nechayev's, had a most malign influence on coming events.
Most was in fact so obsessed by revolutionary violence that he secretly found employment in an explosives factory in Jersey City, and afterward wrote an extraordinary pamphlet entitled Revolutionare Kriegswissenschaft, which is really a manual on the making and use of bombs, on burglary and arson for the good of the cause, and on certain aspects of toxicology already known to the Borgias. This was supplemented by articles in Die Freiheit in praise of dynamite and on easy ways to manufacture nitroglycerine. All these matters Most discussed with the sinister enthusiasm of a malevolent and utterly irresponsible child. He never used and probably never intended to use such methods himself; he recommended them to others instead, and his responsibility in the tragedy that followed in Chicago in 1886 was undoubtedly great.
Chicago was the centre in which immigrant anarchism took strongest root, doubtless owing to the city's bitter industrial struggles and to the notorious brutality of its police force. To the second Congress of the International, held in Pittsburgh during 1883, Chicago sent more delegates than any other city, and after the discussions at Pittsburgh the movement in Chicago took an immediate upsurge, both in members and in activity. The actual number of anarchists in the Chicago groups was probably about 3,000, out of the International's total American membership of 6,000. Most of them were Germans and Czechs, but there was also a vigorous American group of a hundred members, led by the flamboyant orator Albert Parsons. But the membership of the groups does not in itself give a full idea of the following the anarchists could command in Chicago between 1883 and 1886; this is perhaps better suggested by the fact that the International published five papers
in the city -- a German daily and two German weeklies, a Bohemian weekly, and an English fortnightly, Alarm. The aggregate circulation of these five journals was over 30,000. A Central Labour Union was founded in 1883 under the influence of the International, and by the beginning of 1886 it had already won the support of most of the organized labour in the city.
When the Eight-Hour movement started in the spring, the International was virtually in the lead, and 65,000 men went on strike or were locked out by their employers. Meanwhile, both sides had been assiduously whipping up feelings of violence. The police continued to deal brutally with strikers and demonstrators. The International called loudly for counter-violence. In October 1885 the Central Labour Union passed a resolution proposed by the anarchist August Spies:
We urgently call upon the wage-class to arm itself in order to be able to put forth against their exploiters such an argument which alone can be effective - Violence!
And on 18 March 1886 Die Arbeiter-Zeitung, the International's German daily, declared:
If we do not soon bestir ourselves for a bloody revolution, we cannot leave anything to our children but poverty and slavery. Therefore, prepare yourselves! In all quietness, prepare yourselves for the Revolution!
As May Day drew near, the centre of strife became the
McCormick Harvester Works, which had locked out its men and hired blacklegs, with 300 Pinkerton gunmen to protect them. Meetings were held regularly outside the works, and as regularly the police broke them up. On 3 May the police opened fire on the crowd and killed several men. The next day a protest meeting was called in Haymarket Square. The rain began to fall and the crowd was breaking up peaceably when 200 police marched into the square. They had just begun to break up the meeting when a bomb was thrown from a side-alley. The police started to shoot into the crowd, some of the workers shot back, the police shot at each other in the confusion, and when it was all ended some seven policemen were mortally wounded, mostly by the explosion, and probably three
times as many demonstrators were killed, though the exact
number has never been published,
A great round-up of anarchists followed immediately, and eight of the local leaders, including Parsons, editor of Alarm and Spies, editor of Die Arbeiter Zeitung, were tried for murder. There was no attempt to prove that any of the men had thrown the bomb. The prosecution concentrated on exposing their revolutionary beliefs and their violent statements of which there was no lack, and on the strength of its case seven were condemned to death. Four were actually hanged. The survivors were released a few years later when Governor Altgeld ordered an inquiry into the case and found no evidence that showed any of the accused men to have been involved in the bombing. A judicial murder of the four hanged men had in fact taken place.
But the recognition of the injustice the Chicago anarchists suffered, which made them into classic martyrs of the labour movement, has tended to obscure one point. No one, as I have said, has ever known who threw the Haymarket bomb. It may have been an agent provocateur. It may just as easily have been some unknown anarchist, as Frank Harris suggested in The Bomb, the novel he wrote about the incident. But it would never have been thrown, and Parsons and Spies and their comrades would not have been hanged, if it had not been for the crescendo of exhortations to violence that had poured from the Chicago anarchist papers and from Most's Die Freiheit during the critical years between 1883 and 1886.
The Chicago incident was the beginning of the popular American prejudice against anarchism of any type. In later years anarchists in the United States indulged in very little violence, but unfortunately two of the few incidents in which they were involved became so notorious that they vastly increased the general and sweeping unpopularity of anarchism. In 1892 the Russian Alexander Berkman attempted unsuccessfully to shoot the financier Henry Clay Frick in revenge for the killing of strikers by Pinkerton men during the Homestead steel strike. And in 1901 a Polish youth, Leon Czolgosz, shot and killed President McKinley. Czolgosz still remains, after sixty years, a rather enigmatic figure. He claimed at his trial to
be an anarchist, and bore himself with the same stoicism as Ravachol and Henry. But he belonged to no anarchist group and had only recently been denounced as a spy by a libertarian paper, Free Society, in Chicago. He was most probably a neurotic who had brooded solitarily over the world's injustice and had decided independently to perform a symbolic act by killing the relatively inoffensive McKinley, who seemed to him a personification of the system he hated. It is certain that the rather frantic police efforts to implicate anarchist groups and individual anarchist celebrities like Emma Goldman were completely unsuccessful.
However, in the eyes of Theodore Roosevelt, who followed McKinley in the Presidency, Czolgosz became the typical anarchist, and the incident led to the abandonment in 1903 of the good American tradition of asylum for political refugees, no matter what their opinions; in that year the law was passed which banned the entry of alien anarchists into the United States.
The anarchist movement within the country was inevitably affected by this series of sensational and tragic events. The Haymarket affair ended the brief period in which anarchism could command even a limited mass following. The Black International disintegrated, and most of its journals disappeared. The native American workers held more aloof than ever before, and from 1887 anarchism became principally a movement of immigrants and the children of immigrants. Even the Germans fell away, and it was only with great difficulty that Most kept alive Die Freiheit, which vanished after his death in 1906. It was mainly among the Jewish population of the larger cities, among the Italians, and among the Russian refugees from Tsarist persecution that anarchism survived. Except for the Union of Russian Workers, with its 10,000 members, and a large federation of Jewish groups, it became a movement of small and relatively isolated circles. A few dynamic personalities, like the Russians Emma Goldman and Alexander Berkman, both of whom reached America just after the Chicago tragedy, and the Italian Carlo Tresca, kept anarchist doctrines in the public eye, and it was mostly these outstanding individuals who produced its best periodicals -- such as Emma
Goldman's Mother Earth, which ran from 1906 to 1917, and Berkman's Blast, which had had a brief but lively existence from 1916 to 1917. Berkman contributed a minor classic to libertarian literature, The A.B.C. of Anarchism. Emma Goldman, with her emotional oratory, her enormous courage, and her generous advocacy of unpopular causes, really belongs in a frame larger than the anarchist movement alone can give her for, Russian though she was by birth, she represented in a very broad sense the best traditions of American radicalism. She faced many a hostile crowd for the sake of free speech, she went to prison for her advocacy of birth control, and she helped to introduce Ibsen and his contemporaries to the American public.
During this period many individual anarchistss were active in organizing Jewish and Italian immigrant workers into unions and in leading strikes, but no true anarcho-syndicalist movement appeared, though in 1912 the future communist leader, William Z. Foster, founded the abortive Syndicalist League of North America under the influence of the French C.G.T. After 1905 the anarchists who were interested in labour organization tended to join the Industrial Workers of the World, which was to some extent influenced by French syndicalism. However, they formed only one of a number of groups in that chaotic organization, and they never controlled it. In fact the I.W.W., which drew so much of its vigour and its metlhods from the hard traditions of the American frontier, was at imost a parallel movement to anarchism. It contained too many Marxist elements ever to be truly libertarian, and its centiral idea of the One Big Union was fundamentally opposed to the anarchists' passionately held ideals of localism and decentralization.
The First World War, the Russian Revolutioni, and the anti-radical repression which reached its high point in the Palmer raids of 1919, all took their toll of what remained of anarchism in America. The No Conscription League which Emma Goldman and Berkman started during the war years was suppressed in 1917 and many of its members were imprisomed. The February Revolution of the same year was the signal for thousands of anarchists to return to Russia, and in 1919 there began a series of deportations in which hundreds of actiive anarchists,
particularly from East Europe and Italy, were sent back to their own countries. Finally there was the advent of communism, which in the United States as in other countries attracted many of the younger anarchists and syndicalists into its ranks.
What remained of American anarchism during the decades between the wars entered into the condition common to sects that pass their age of militancy, lose the missionary urge, and settle down into self-contained inactivity. There were thousands of anarchists left in the country, as there still are, and anarchist papers like the Jewish Freie Arbeter Shtimme and the Italian L'Adunata dei refratteri continued to appear. But it was the communists who in the Depression years took the kind of initiative that in the past the anarchists and the I.W.W. would have taken with a rather different intent. The anarchist groups became largely social and educational circles for the ageing faithful, and no new and vibrant personalities arose to take the place of Goldman and Berkman, deported out of harm's way, or Benjamin Tucker, self-exiled in Europe's last absolute principality.
Yet even in its decline American anarchism produced a tragedy that stirred the world to anger and admiration; I refer, of course, to the case of Sacco and Vanzetti. The condemnation to death of these amiable idealists on scantily supported charges of banditry, and the seven years of agony that followed before they were finally electrocuted, in defiance of worldwide protests, by the State of Massachusetts in 1927, have become part of American and even international history, described so often that there is no need to retell them here. So has the dignity with which Sacco and Vanzetti endured the long cruelty of legal process, and so also has Vanzetti's statement on hearing the sentence of death, that statement which echoed in the hearts and consciences of an American generation and which seems even now to distil in essence the faith that for so many men has made anarchism more than a political doctrine.
If it had not been for diis, I might have live out my life, talking at street corners to scorning men. I might have die, unmarked, unknown, a failure. Now we are not a failure. This is our career and our triumph. Never in our full life can we do such a work for
tolerance, for justice, for man's understanding of man, as we now do by an accident. Our words - our lives - our pains - nothing' The taking of our lives - lives of a good shoemaker and a poor fish-peddler - all! The last moment belongs to us - that agony is our triumph!
1 Mackay was a wealthy Scot, born in Greenock, who became a naturalized German and, besides writing Stirner's biography, published a novel of his own, The Anarchists: A Picture of Society at the Close of the Nineteenth Century, which revealed him as a kind of inferior libertarian Gissing.
2 Walter Galenson (ed.), Comparative Labor Movements, New York, 1952.