The Principles and Aims of Anarchists
June 2, 1886 — London Dialectical Society, London UK
THE KEY-NOTE of the Anarchist contention is, that the vitiation of social life is produced by the domination of man by man. The spirit of domination is the disintegrating element, which, constantly tending to break up society, is the fundamental cause of confusion and disorder.
This impulse in men to dominate their fellows, i.e., impose their will upon them and assert their own superiority, would seem to be an ignorant misdirection of the healthy impulse to assert human dignity, the unity of man, as distinct but not separate from the unity of nature, and the dignity and spontaneity of the individual human being as distinct but not separate from associated humanity. The misdirection of this impulse has been encouraged by the absence of knowledge as to the nature and method of natural processes, which has resulted in superstitious awe of all uncompreheded manifestations of force in external nature and in man. This awe has been utilised by the stronger and more cunning of the human race to sanction their domination.
As knowledge has penetrated the governed masses, their submission to the oppression of the dominators, whether priests, lawyers, or warriors, has decreased; and the people have revolted against the form of authority then felt most intolerable. This spirit of revolt in the individual and in the masses, is the natural and necessary fruit of the spirit of domination; the vindication of human dignity, and the saviour of social life.
Anarchism is recognition and acknowledgement of this truth, that social peace and the possibility of full social developments depend on the accordance of the equal social claim of each sane adult to the responsibility of guiding his own thoughts, speech and action by the law of his own conscience, and not by the will of any other individual or collection of individuals.
Considering the spirit of domination as the great cause of human misery, and the present disorganization of social life, Anarchists declare war against its present principal; forms of expression — property, and law manufactured and administered by majority rule.
Property is the monopoly of social wealth; the claim to an individual right not only to use such wealth, but to prevent others from using it. Wealth being the product of the collective labour of society past and present, of associated mankind, can only belong to society. When it is monopolised by the force or cunning of individuals, other individuals who have been prevented by larger and more generous social feeling, want of strength, of ability or opportunity, from monopolising also, must necessarily become subordinate to the monopolists; since they must work to obtain the wherewithal to exist, and cannot work without the monpolised instruments of production. Hence the monpoly of social wealth is the main agent of domination.
Its justification on the ground of its social necessity as an inducement to labour, unless forced labour is to be substituted, is contradicted by the experience of the possibility of voluntary labour for a common object, whether sustenance or social improvements in the common labour of all primitive peoples, of such historical associations as the guilds of the Middle Ages, of the innumerable spontaneous societies and associations for every variety of social effort of the present day. It is also contradicted by scientific observations as to the pleasure experience by all healthy animals in the exercise of function, and the obvious preference of healthy and free human beings for such occupations as produce a tangible result, satisfy the whole nature morally and physically, and win the approbation of their fellows. Work which is the result of free choice is best done. But the desire to obtain the largest possible share of wealth by labour, injures workmanship and leads to the choice of the most profitable rather than the fittest sort of work.
The monopoly of wealth would have no chance against the sense of social justice and the needs of mankind, unless sanctioned and protected by law.
The kernel of law, which commends it to the respect of the moral sense of men, is the crystallised social custom — result of common experience, social feeling spontaneously called forth by life in common — which our written law contains. But this reasonable respect has been twice converted into superstitious awe by the dominators of men, who have pretended for law the origin of a divine revelation, and who have used the reverence thus inspired to cover the whole of the enactments they have made for their own advantage, and the maintenance of their supremacy.
The manufacture and administration of law by the delegates of a majority, changes nothing of its oppressive character; its only purpose remains to impose the will of certain individuals upon the rest, and to maintain certain privileges an distinctions. With the resignation of claim and monopoly of every sort, its occasion is gone.
Apart from this, law is essential the attempt on the part of certain persons to draw a hard and fast line for the conduct of others; and as the circumstances, motives and personal inspiration of no two individuals is the same, it is a perennial source of injustice and wrong. The pressure and the inspiration which is the natural and inevitable action of the surrounding social atmosphere upon the social sensibilities of the individual, are in all normal cases more than sufficient to secure the possibility of agreement and corporate action. With the removal of arbitrary bonds and hard and fast restraints their strength is more fully recognised, and the aroused sense of responsibility which follows the absence of coercion, tends to make opposition to social claims a matter of conscience rather than of caprice. In abnormal cases, the want of social feeling can be more humanely and more effectually met by an active display of brotherly care and attention; the spirit of resistance to all aggression in the name of human dignity, not of personal self-assertion, and the generous attempt to relieve the physical deformity or disease, or the moral blindness which has led to the aggression.
Anarchism is a protest against the government of man by man in every shape or form as the disturber of social life, an assertion that the free play of the social nature of free and equal human beings is the only solid basis of society.
Source: Three Essays by Charlotte Wilson, (Cienfuegos Press), 1979 pp. 6-10.