(Anarchism and Crime)
by Joseph Labadie (1932)
Crime is an injury done another by aggression.
Anyone who injures another by encroaching upon his life, his freedom or his property is a criminal.
The law of equal freedom, the essential principle of Anarchism, is a protection to life, liberty and property.
Therefore, no Anarchist can take another's life; no Anarchist can absorb as his own the prodicts of another's efforts. To do so is a denial of the fundamental concepts of Anarchism, and brands one as the enemy of Anarchism - as an Archist instead of an An‑archist.
It is, however, true that once in a while one who holds anarchistic views violates the law of equal freedom. But do not some Christians set at naught the principles of Jesus Christ? some vegetarians eat meat occasionally? some mothers destroy their children? But does the Anarchist invade because he is an Anarchist? Does the Christian fly in the face of Christ because he is a Christian? Does the hungry vegetarian eat meat because he is a vegetarian? Does the mother who slays her child do so because she is a mother? Are not these victims of conditions which drive them to do things contrary to their general principles?
It is an old story, however, that of the thief running away with his booty crying "Stop thief!" to divert attention from himself. This is what is being done, what has always been done, by those who profit, or think they profit, by continuing the old Archistic way. Not all who cry “thief! thief!” are thieves, of course, nor do all of those who cry down Anarchism profit by the reign of Authority.
Indeed, does it require argument to show that even among those who cry the loudest against Anarchism are those who are exploited most under the present system of industry, and enjoy least under prevailing social customs?
Argument against the present monopoly system is being made everywhere, even in the smallest hamlets. It is being shown everywhere that the State is corrupt to the core. It is quite a disgrace now to be a politician, and for one to hold a political position is usually looked upon with suspicion of wrong doing.
Authority never before was dragged into the light of day as at present; and wherever it is uncovered loot is found in its possession or incompetency slinks away branded with dishonor. Where it is not festering with corruption the State is drooling with stupidity. Read the newspapers and see it condemned out of its own mouth, see if this is not true.
If it be true that crime is injury done others by aggression, then what is the State but the first criminal in the land? Mention one crime that is not, directly or indirectly, nearly or remotely, traceable to the State - that institution which embodies “the principle of invasion in an individual, or a band of individuals, assuming to act as representatives or masters of the entire people within a given area” - and a thousand can be named in which it is the positive factor.
[Quote from Relation of the State to the Individual by Benjamin Tucker.]
To govern is to subject the non-invasive individual to an external will. This is the means by which the State commits its crimes. It gives capital the power of increase, and "thru interest, rent, profit andl taxes it robs industrious labor of its products." Indeed. it has been truly,aid by Proudhon that it debases man, prostitutes women, corrupts children, tramnmels love, stifles thot. monopolizes land, limits credit and restricts exchange.
What greater crime can be done than to deny the workers free access to land, the source from which all material comforts come? Land originally cost nothing, and what valid excuse exists now that unused land should be paid for by those who want to use it? Absolutely none. The ownership of unused, unimproved land restricts the production of wealth, scatters population sparsely over wide areas here or packs it like sardines in a box there, wastes effort in the building of roads little used, increases the cost of things by transporting them greater distances than a rational land system would imake necessary, enslaves the non-owner to the landlord, and makes a class of parasites that is worse than useless.
It would be impossible to enumerate even in a thousand pages all the crimes which the State has committed and continues to commit. This is no idle statement. but the conclusion of some of the best observers of the time. We are told by the great philosophers, historians and scientists that the State originated in violence and crime, and has continued to the present day in its original elements, although they are refined and probably less insolent in its assumptions than in earlier periods. but not much.
For the State and its partisans to call Anarchists or any other body of people criminals is as if the records of their own guilt were being repeated to the multitudes of earth thru millions of phonographs.
To stop this saturnalia of crime that curses the world is the mission of Anarchism. It comes upon the scene, not with the 'bludgeon of the policeman, not with the trappings of the soldier, not with the brass knuckles of the cowardly bully, not with the bomb or the bullet or the dagger of the assassssin, but with a peaceful mien. serene, gentle, firm, sincere and helpful,, figure of beautiful proportions, with the light of reason in one hand, an open page in the other, a sunburst of freedom about its smiling face. and in its wake the science of the world contributing its fullness to the comfort and the happiness and the glory of every willing member of society.
Ah! what a barrier ignorance is to worldly blessings!
Now, why do you call Anarchists bad names? Do you know anything about them? Have you read their literature, found out what they want to do and how they want to do it? If you have not then do you consider it honest, fair, intelligent, to criticise or condemn what you know nothing about? Is it dignified to make yourself ridiculous in the eyes of the well informed? Would you be proud of the knowledge of a friend who insisted the moon is a green cheese? Or that the earth is flat and poised on the back of an elephant? Do you malign the Anarchists because they are comparatively few and their doctrines unpopular? Honest injun, is it not the role of an ignoramus to voice opinions on a subject to which no study has been given? And is it not the part of a coward, to ruffianly jump on the numerically weak?
A capitalistic write-up of an Anarchist meeting.
As a concession to ignorance, and on the plea that to do so might lessen opposition and prejudice, a quarter of a century ago it was suggested that Anarchists change the name of the sect or cult or philosophy, as you will. Indeed, groups did change to Voluntary Socialists, Free Socialists, Voluntaryists, Individualists, Anti-Statists, and so on.
It was said that people who believe in passive resistance to wrong, who insist that the social-economic problems which in every corner of the world press for solution must be solved through the medium of peace, as Anarchists do, should not give themselves a name that was generally considered to mean chaos. It was contended that the word Anarchy to the uncultured mind means disorder, violence, bloodshed. The answer was that indeed it means this only to those unfamiliar with its philosophy and literature, and so the Anarchists have steadfastly refused to change the name. If it startles people and they are led to investigate, as sure as day is light and night is dark, adherents will come to it.
They know that every body of people, no matter in what age, who discovered and propagated a new idea, or an old one in new form, had to run the gaunlet of prejudice, ignorance, ridicule, abuse, maltreatment of every kind, even to imprisonment and death; that even the gentle Jesus, the Graechi, Galileo, Bruno, and thousands of others, have suffered for opinion's sake, that every new religion, every change in the political form of every government, every social and economic improvement in the conditions of the people, have had to prove its right to be by wading through floods of bitter opposition and cruelty and barbarities of every description.
But it was hoped this was a more enlightened age than those through which other reforms had passed; that the days of martyrdoms and thumbscrews and rack could never be revived. Alas! Judgment was too soon. The Anarchist is the last to bear the contumely and brutality of the ignorant and the knavish. And so today fatnecks, political and religious, intellectual crooks and prosititutes foolish, idiotic folk who think they know things without the need of study, investigation, observation; monopolists, profitmongers (except here and there one who is better than the system), do not hesitate to vilify the Anarchist.
All who believe in authority and government, in the sense in which these words are used, and therefore deny freedom, can consistently resort to violence and crime, because to hold arbitrary, physical force control over others is itself a crime. Aggression, denial of freedom, of individual sovereignty, is the fundamental concept of their scheme of politics. Slavery in every form is injury done those over whom mastership is exercised, and what is slavery but forcible control of others?
Why does anyone want to control others if not to reap where he's not sown?
Why does anyone want more land than he can personally use if not to more firmly grip power over his fellows for unsocial purposes?
Why does the banker ask special privileges in the issuance of money if not to get an underhold on those who have no such privileges, if not to get more than he gives?
Why does the politician strive so strenubusly to get office if in some way the office gives him no unequal advantage over others?
But he who believes in freedom, in Anarchism (if he live in harmony with his philosophy), cannot exercise unnatural, artificial advantages over his fellows. He is willing to take his chances in the open, without privilege or coercion or violence. He will not even profit by his neighbor's ignorance, as this is only another way of enslaving his weaker brother. There is no difference in kind if one be stripped by physical force or cunning. The Anarchist is willing that people either co-operate or compete, as they themselves individually determine, and he will not monopolize of nature's forces more than is necessary for his own use.
It has been said that the Anarchists should he prevented from carrying the red flag, and indeed the authorities of the State have been invoked to prevent then doing so. But why? Do you prevent the Irish from carrying green or yellow flags? Do you protest against church organizations, social or civic bodies or anybody el:e from carrying whatever kind of flag or banner they choose? Is it because Christ's banner was crimson? Or that the battle of Bunker Hill was fought under the red flag? Or that it always was the color of the flags of the poor and downtrodden and revolutionary? Come, noW, honor bright, do you know why you rail at the ted flag? Isn't it because you don't know any better, and this makes you a bigot and blatherskite?
Here is the difference between the Red Flag and every other flag: Every other flag stands for but a single group or nation while the red flag is universal in its character and significance, symbolizing universal brotherhood.
Anyway, Anarchists do not pin their faith to the color of a piece of cloth. They don't care particularly for any kind of a flag, and would not fight for any They're not so foolish. Bulls get angry and fight over a red rag, and how silly for human beings, supposed to have more sense, to do the same! As a matter of fact, however, there is no such thing as an anarchist flag. Kings, capitalists, monopolists and politicians keep peoples divided and contentious with fool notions about flags and patriotism, just as though either gave honest Labor in any field for bread and butter and shelter and freedom.
Anarchists want to be judged by the principles they themselves hold and their behavior, and not by what either their fool friends or enemies may say of them, or what a single individual says or does. The capitalistic newspapers are not just criterions, because they are published to make money, and it does not pay to tell the truth about Anarchists. The public is debauched with sensation, and, as a drunkard, loves what is it's own hurt. Would you like to be judged by your enemies? Do you really think they would be just to you? Would they be likely to? Well, neither do Anarchists want to he judged by their foes. They want to be estimated by what they really stand for. They want you to read anarchistic books and papers - the writings of Proudhon, of Sir Auberon Herbert, John Henry Mackey, Tucker, Tandy, Stephen Pearl Andrews, Josiah Warren, Kropotkin, Tolstoi, Herbert Spencer, Emerson, Thoreau and others who stand for freedom. Of course, they don't all agree in every particular; but neither do the spokesmen of the authoritarian school.
Individual Anarchists differ in the manner of presenting Anarchism as do other people in expounding their philosophies or doctrines. Do all democrats or republicans or prohibitionists or trades unionists or authoritarian socialists or monarchists or catholics or protestants or any other body agree in everything? In order to find out the essentials in each one of these fellowships, cults, societies or whatever you choose to call them, one must find out those things in which there is agreement. Now, all Anarchists believe in Freedom, the freedom of the individual to do what he wills, so long as he does not by aggression injure another. This applies to every walk of life. The individual must be his own soverign, must be responsible for his own conduct, must be free to do or not do whatever he chooses within the realm of non-invasion, of what Spencer calls equal freedom.
As to methods, nearly all of them believe in the efficacy of peaceful means in accomplishing their objects, such as the boycott or taboo, the general strike or refusal to serve an opponent. education as to the needs and rights of the individual in society, persuasion, appeal to personal and class interests - passive resistance in every form. Some of them, like Tolstoi, for example, even go so far as to advocate non-resistance and the doing of good to those who do you evil. This certainly is mild enough for the gentlest and meekest of men. I am glad to say most Anarchists are more worldly and practical than this. I wouldn't advise you to assault one without very good cause and expect to get off with a whole skin.
Now, have you any true idea what Anarchism aims to do? You have been told they want to kill the rich and divide their goods equally: that every Anarchist goes about like a battleship, armed to the turret with whiskey bottles and dynamite and daggers and guns and bombs! If you believe this kind of stuff then you are Indeed as gullible and foolish as the plunderbund, press, pulpit, and politicians think you are. It is quite natural, however, for one inclined to these things himself to think others are also. In the absence of knowledge to the contrary one is apt to judge others by himself.
Nearly every, assassination, every murder, crime of every description against public men and women for years past has been imputed to Anarchists. It is a wonder they were not charged with the killing of Lincoln and Garfield and Goebel and Harrison and others. Indeed, President McKinley's death was certainly taxed to Anarchism, notwithstanding the fact that it was proven that the poor unfortunate Czolgosz was a republican [who] voted at republican primaries, and no doubt was insane as the result of a boyish vice. These facts come to me by letter from Peter Witt, city clerk of Cleveland while Tom L. Johnson was mayor. Mr. Witt will undoubtedly give you the facts too if you ask him.
"Czolgosz was not an Anarchist," writes Mr. Witt. "To charge that he was is simply ridicilous. He was *** insane. In politics he was a republican, and as such voted at the republican primaries for several years. This fact I brought out shortly after the assassination by going over the election records. These records have since been destroyed, not because of what they contained btjt to make room for later ones. His father and brothers voted at the same primaries."
This ought to forever silence the criminal charge that Anarchism was responsible for the assassination of McKinley. But it probably will not. This kind of a lie dies hard.
From my point of view the killing of another; except in defense of thuman life, is Archistic, authoritarian, and, therefore, no Anarchist can do so. It is the very opposite of what Anarchism stands for. Can one be an Anarchist and do Archistic acts any more than one can do antichristian deeds and be a christian at the same time? Can one steal and be honest? Can one go east and west simultaneously? Is up and dcown the same thing?
"We must study the causes to which the annual recurrence of crimes in all countries is due," says Ferri in his Positive School of Criminology "These are natural causes, which I have classified under the three heads of anthropological, telluric and social. Every crime, from the smallest to the most atrocious, is the result of the interaction of these three causes, the anthropological condition of the criminal, the telluric environment in which he is living, and the social environment in which he is born, living and operating.""
"Want," he says, "is the strongest poison for the human body and soul. It is the fountainhead of all inhuman and antisocial feeling. Where want spreads out its wings, there the sentiments of love, of affection, of brotherhood, are impossible.
"Crime," he continues on another page, "has its natural source in the conibined interaction of three classes of causes, the anthropological (orgi:nic and psychological) factor, the telluric factor, and the social factor. And by this last feator we must not only mean want, but any other cond(ition of administrative instability in political, moral, and intellectual life. Every social condition which makes the life of man in society insecure and imperfect is a social factor contributing towards criminality."
When it is difficult or impossible to earn a living by honest methods, then it is maintained by crime, by taking the means of sustaining life by theft, chicane or murder. Anarchism would make it easier to earn a living honestly and therefore tends toward the reduction of crime.
Let me tell you briefly what Anarchism aims to do:
It claims that freedom, liberty, is the greatest factor in bringing material comfort and happiness to the people, and so Anarchism would reduce gradually, even to the vanishing point, the political power and physical control which some people hold over others. It wants to make all unused land free to those who will use it. This will dispense with the State.
The State is those persons who claim mastership over all the people within a given area. [This definition] designates its purpose - to loot. [Anarchists want to end] the colossal expense of supporting the landlord class, and increase the wealth-producing power by turning landlords and the disemployed poor from parasites to producers.
- It wants to make the issuing of currency. money, the tool of exchange, call it what you will, as free as the issuing of a personal note or mortgage. This would wipe out the interest takers and make them more useful to society.
- It wants to do away with patents and copyrights. This would turn the vast unearned sums that now go into the pockets of privilege into the comforts and homes of the producers, and increase the amount of machinery, books. etc., and at less cost. There is no justice in making property of ideas.
- It wants to substitute voluntary co-operation and really free competition for the present State, under which things are worth more than human beings, abolishing the politician, with his arbitrary physical power as manifested by the police, the army and the navy, which are now supported by taxes forcibly collected from the people. It believes so:diers. policemen, politicians and all the other extravagances made necessary to support the present criminal State, would be very much more useful to society were they to raise their own food, make their own clothes and build their own houses.
- Most Anarchists would treat crime as a disease and the criminal as a fitter subject for the hospital than the prison.
Anarchists as a rule know that fundamental social and economic changes come slowly, through experiments and thought and necessity and patient toil and not by wars and violence and disorder and bloodshed; and so they do not expect the millenium to come at beck and call, by ballot or bluff, by bullet or bluster; but that societies grow more just and perfect if permitted, and that violence and disorder but retard symetrical growth as the vandal hatchet and violent storms maim and disfigure and retard even the most rugged tree. They do hope, however, to better human conditions by clearing away the rubbish injustice, lefting the sun of righteousness shine on the dark places.
They know that you must become an Anarchist before Anarchism can be; that you must have an intelligent desire to be free before timid freedom ventures within your reach - that freedom is only for those who want it; that you must realize your slavish conditions before slavery can be abolished; that you must comprehend your own degradation and servility before human dignity and self-respect can be yours; that you must know that you are being despoiled of the greater share of the results of your honest efforts before the despoilers will cease their spoliation; that you must have the knowledge, the will and courage to take your own and leave what belongs to others before you will be fit to associate with those who love justice and hate wrong, who are wise enough to know their own rights and strong enough to refrain from aggressing another's security, who are clear enough of mental vision to distinguish friend from foe.
Anarchists know that so long as they are few in number they can be overwhelmed by authority and its ignorant and therefore willing victims. This is why they spend so much time and effort and money to reach your thinking machine so as to lay before it facts and reasons that will influence its mechanism. When this is done successfully your intelligence will no doubt show you how useless and harmful most of our present political machinery is, and you will cooperate with them, be one of them, in the effort to reduce the powers and functions of the State and increase the beneficent influences of freedom. Every person convinced of the truth of Anarchism sees how liberty enlarges human prosperity and happiness, and, becomes from purely self-interest a propagandist, dreaming of a future when ...
"For a' that, and a' that,
It's comin' yet for a' that,
That man to man the world o'er,
Shall brothers be for a' that."
SOME IMPORTANT BOOKS ON ANARCHISM
- TRUE CIVILIZATION by Josialh Warren
- VOLUNTARY SOCIALISM b1y Francis 1. Tandy
- INDIVIDUAL LIBERTY by Benj. R Tucker
- SCIENCE OF SOCIETY by Stephen Pearl Andrews
- GOD AND TIHE STATE by Michael Bakunin
- FIELDS, FACTORIES. AND WORKSHOPS by P. Kropotkine
- WHAT Is MUTUALISM? by Clarence L. Swartz
- THE EGO AND HlS OWN by Max Stirner
- NEWS FROM NOWHERE by Willialn Morris
- THE SLAVERY OF OUR TIMES by Leo Tolstoy
- SOUL OF MAN UNDER SOCIALISM by Oscar Wilde
- LOVE'S COMING OF AGE )by Edward Carpenter
- VINDICATION OF NATURAL SOCIETY by Edmund Burke
- WHAT IS PROPERTY? by Pierre J Proudhon
- POLITICAL WORKS by Thomas Paine
- ON LIBERTY by John Stuart Mill
- SOCIAL STATICS by Herbert Spencer
- DUTY OF CIVIL DISOBEDIENCE by Henry D. Thoreau
- FREE POLITICAL INSTISTUTIONS by Lysander Spooner
- CONVENTIONAL LIES by Max Nordeau
- MUTUAL BANKING by William B. Greene
- THE PHILOSOPHY OF EGOISM by James L. Walker
- A STUDY OF THE MONEY QUESTION by Hugo Bilgram
- THE ANARCHISTS by John Henry Mackay
- NOW AND AFTER by Alexander Berkman
- ANARCHISM AND OTHER ESSAYs by Emma Goldman
- LIBERTY AND THE GREAT LIBERTARIANS by Sprading
- SOLUTION OF THE SOCIAL PROBLEM by P. J. Proudhon
- ANARCHISM by Paul Eltzbacher
OTHER BOOKS AND PAMPHLETS
- The Conquest of Bread, Peter Kropotkine
- The Economics of Anarchy, Dyer D. Lum
- Social Wealth, J. K. Ingalls
- The Economic Causes of War, Achille Loria
- The Cause of Business Depression, Bilgram and Levy
- Political Justice and its Influence on General Virtue and Happiness, William Godwin
- The Menace of Privilege, Henry George, Jr.
- A Politician in Sight of Haven, Auberon Herbert
- Ancient Society, Lewis H. Morgan
- Man and Woman, Havelock Ellis
- The Evolution of the Idea of God, Grant Allen
- Descent of Man. Charles Darwin
- A Geneology of Morals, Frederick Neitzsche
- The Quintessence of Ibsenism, Bernard Shaw
- Anarchy, Enrico Maletesta
- Ancient Lowly, Osborne Ward
- A. B. C. of Evolution, Charles McCabe
- Progress and Poverty, Henry George
- Socialism and Philosophy, Antonio Labriola
- Anarchism versus Socialism, William C. Owen
- Anarchism: Its Aim and Methods, Victor Yarros
- Leaves of Grass, Walt Whitman
- Force and Matter, Ludwig Buchner
- The Wisdom of Life, Arthur Schopenhauer
- Ruins of Empires, C. F. Volney
- The Martyrdom of Man, Winwood Reade
- Freedom of Speech, Zechariah Chafee, Jr.
- The American Credo, H. L. Mencken