Source: International Socialist Review
Source type: magazine
Document type: article
Document title: “Anarchy vs. Socialism”
Author(s): Simons, A. M.
Date of publication: October 1901
Volume number: 2
Issue number: 4
Pagination: 241-50 (excerpt below includes only pages 244-50)
|Simons, A. M. “Anarchy vs. Socialism.” International Socialist Review Oct. 1901 v2n4: pp. 241-50.|
|anarchism (compared with socialism); anarchism (criticism); McKinley assassination (conspiracy theories).|
|Mikhail Bakunin; Alexander Berkman [identified as Bergman below]; Gaetano Bresci; Leon Czolgosz; Peter Kropotkin; William McKinley; Johann Most; Pierre-Joseph Proudhon; Jean Jacques Élisée Reclus; Leo Tolstoy.|
Anarchy vs. Socialism [excerpt]
Socialism points out that the next stage of economic
evolution will be the co-operative ownership and operation of industry. There
will be no personal advantage in the possession of private property, as such
ownership will have lost the power to take the fruit of others labor. Hence
there will naturally be no need of laws to “protect the rights of private property.”
Under such conditions all the disagreeable features of government would disappear.
Government would simply become an administrator of industry. This does not mean
that it would be a gigantic boss, saying to this one, “Do this,” and to that
one, “Go there.” On the contrary, as is happening even at the present time under
the manifestly imperfect forms of co-operation existing in the midst of competition,
the directing function, the superintendence side of industry, would constantly
grow less and less. The capitalists have been quicker to see this fact than
most anarchists and their sympathizers. They are continuously seeking to avoid
the expense of slave drivers by various forms of sham co-operation, such as
profit-sharing, pensions, stock sales to employees, etc. In a co-operative commonwealth
the government would be little more than a gigantic information bureau, furnishing
to its citizens exact knowledge regarding the amounts of all kinds of commodities
required by the community, and notifying them where there is need of labor to
be performed. If comparison is to be made at all with present institutions,
the government of the future will be much more like an enormously developed
“statistical bureau” of today, rather than an overgrown police department.
Thus we see that the bug-a-boo of “state tyranny” and “governmentalism” fades away. All that is good in the “beautiful” philosophy of anarchy, of which we are told so much by its capitalist patrons, is really a part of socialism. The dream of the future in both cases is practically the same. But neither can claim any originality on that score, for it is the same old dream that mankind has been dreaming ever since suffering came upon the earth. It is the picture of perfect freedom, for which the race has ever longed, of which poets have sung and romanticists drawn visions. To praise a philosophy because it has at last comprehended that such a society would be desirable is, to say the least, rather foolish.
When it comes to an analysis of the causes of present conditions and methods of reaching this ideal, the antithesis between socialism and anarchy is sharp. And this method and analysis is really the only thing that is peculiarly characteristic of anarchy. It is all that is really entitled to the name. Let us then turn our attention  to this, the real heart of anarchy. In the first place, it is the gospel of individualism gone mad. It is the aim and object of socialism to give the individual every opportunity to develop his individuality, and it is one of the strongest indictments brought by socialists against capitalism that it stifles all individuality. But just because our present society does stifle individuality the anarchist analysis of that society is ridiculous. He would have it that individuals are responsible for present social conditions. It is because some people are officials that tyranny exists. Capitalists are responsible for capitalism, says the anarchist. History is but the biographies of “great men.” It will be seen that there is much in common between this and the copy book philosophy of capitalism. From this premise the anarchist deduces the natural conclusion that if there were no officials there would be no tyranny, no capitalists, no exploitation. But from his previous position he is bound to believe that the persons who take those offices and become the instruments to the accomplishment of evil are responsible for so doing. Now we are at the turning point. So far all schools of anarchy, including most capitalist moralists, agree. But now how shall we get rid of these responsible individuals? Tolstoi and those who follow him declare that all that is necessary to abolish all these evils is for every one to refuse to serve in any official capacity or to function as a capitalist. In other words, to retire into a sort of Hindoo Nirvana of self-renunciation and wait and hope until all the world shall be of the same mode of thinking, and tyranny and exploitation disappear for lack of people to serve as officials or capitalists.
This is the phase of anarchy that particularly appeals to the “parlor anarchist,” if I may be allowed to add one more to an already over-long list of varieties of anarchists. This enables them to make a great exhibit of self-righteousness with little personal discomfort, allows them the use of the name anarchist for drawing-room sensations; furnishes a new fad to show to one’s friends; permits the patronage of distinguished anarchists and the study of violent ones, while it leaves one free to disclaim all connection with any act of violence that may be committed. This is the kind of anarchy that we hear so much about as having such a beautiful philosophy. Whether it is beautiful or not I will not attempt to say, but if I know anything of logic and reason it is only a little short of idiotic.
But when this doctrine comes to a workman who has nothing but his chains to renounce, whose only “office” is a job, and whose only “capital” is his brain and muscle, he does not see how he can share in the conclusion or the honors of his bourgeois friend. With him the social question is one of life and death. When he is told that present economic conditions are traceable to a few individuals  he is apt to be rather impatient of the process of waiting until everyone will refuse to longer serve in official or capitalistic capacity, and decides that it would be well to make it a dangerous thing for anyone to hold such offices. This is the logic of “terrorism,” as set forth in many anarchist pamphlets. Knowing the sort of human nature that capitalism produces, it is a much more logical and sensible conclusion than is Tolstoism. This is the sort of logic that produces a Bergman, a Bresci and a Czolgosz. It is only logical deduction from the premises of anarchy, and has been so recognized by far more than a majority of the writers on anarchy. It is the doctrine which is openly preached by John Most and the anarchist organs of Patterson, N. J., and Spring Valley, Ill. But because these papers are not printed in English they are less known than the works of some of the “philosophic anarchists.” But these men recognize Kropotkin, Reclus, Bakunine and Proudhon as their classic writers or present leaders, and these are also the writers of the text-books of this “beautiful philosophy” of communist anarchy.
The socialist antagonizes these positions of anarchy at every point. Socialism insists, and demonstrates its position by a host of facts drawn from history and contemporary society, that economic relations and not individual caprices are at the bottom of social institutions. The social institutions thus determined constitute the environment which forms the character and determines the nature of individuals. The socialists maintain that at the present time that basic economic development has reached a point where a great change is imminent. It is the great triumph of socialism to be able to predict what that change will be, and the method of its accomplishment, and to substitute for the utopian dreams and anarchistic speculation of former ages scientific deduction from established facts. The socialist points out that this impending change must necessarily consist in the transfer of the great complex instruments with which wealth is produced and distributed from private to co-operative ownership. More important still, the socialist is able to demonstrate the manner in which this change is destined to come about.
When the ballot was put into the hands of the worker, when universal suffrage was attained, the need of forcible revolution passed away. This is especially true of any movement in behalf of the workers, since they constitute an overwhelming majority in present society. Moreover, until the laboring class are intelligent enough to vote for their own emancipation, they do not deserve to be free and would not know what to do with liberty if they had it.
Now, it so happens that the present ruling class profits by the continuation of the present economic system. Hence they are willing to tolerate, and, indeed, even encourage anything that will per-  petuate that system. But the socialists have come to realize that the days of the economic system of capitalism and anarchy are numbered and that the world is now ready for the next step in social evolution, the dawn of the era of co-operation and human brotherhood. They are seeking to educate the people to use their ballots to the end that the workers may actually become the rulers in the present state and may then use the governmental machinery to abolish all exploitation and oppression. This is the only movement that really antagonizes anarchy at every point. For this reason anarchists and socialists have ever been sworn enemies.
This again makes of anarchy the ally of capitalism. It is one of the strongest bulwarks of the present society against the coming of socialism. Its philosophy is in no way at variance with capitalism. Its logical violence serves as an excuse to inflame the minds of the ignorant against all those who would seek to change the established order. Thus it comes about that over and over again the violent deeds of anarchists have been used as an excuse for attacking the only real enemy of anarchy—socialism.
Is the line of evidence plain? I have shown that all that its good in the philosophy of anarchy is but the commonplaces of every religion, reform or social dream that the world has ever known, and that it is found in socialism in a more intelligent and logical form. I have shown that it has been able to attract the attention of intelligent people only because of a false conception of socialism, for which to some degree alleged socialists are responsible. I have shown that the logic of capitalism and the logic of anarchy are identical; that they are sister products of the same economic organization. I have demonstrated that all that is peculiar to the doctrines of anarchy are its individualistic interpretation of society, which is false, and its method of attaining its end, which is either through an imbecile quietism and affected humility and self-sacrifice, or else murderous private warfare and assassination. I have shown that this conclusion of violence is accepted by all the leading anarchist writers, including those who have been so much patronized by bourgeois society. I have shown that capitalism looks with favor upon anarchy because it sees in it a valuable ally against its only dangerous foe—the socialist movement. I have shown that the defenders of the established order have no particular desire to abolish anarchy, and could not do so if they wished. I have shown finally that the only sincere opponents of anarchy, the only ones who dare attack it root and branch and to demand that it, together with the murderous society that gave it birth, shall give way to a better order through the peaceful, intelligent action of the producers of wealth, are the socialists.
Press and police unite in telling us that the murder of President McKinley was the result of a conspiracy. Whether this be true  or not, in the sense of which they speak, whether the victims that have been dragged into the police drag-net of this and other cities were really associated with the man who did the deed is, of course, beyond my ken; but when the historian of the future shall look back upon the present age to chronicle the event we are now describing, he will see it as the result of the most gigantic conspiracy the world has ever known; a conspiracy so tremendous as to take a generation for its preparation and include a nation among its conspirators; a conspiracy, the chief actors of which moved with that marvelous accuracy which the mind only attains when working unconscious of the dictates of reason. When in the perspective of time the events of today shall be seen in their proper relations, some future writer will draw up an indictment, “In re the Murder of William McKinley. The People of the United States vs. Czolgosz et al.”
But there will be many parties upon that indictment that not even the most sensational press or the most zealous police officer of today has dared to suggest. First and foremost, as the actual responsible agent, as the true accessory before the act, will come the present ruling class. They are the ones whom economic development made the arbiters of our social life. They have formulated in their interests the social institutions, governmental organization, and to a large extent the thought of the great mass of the population. They have controlled press and pulpit and lecture platform and have used these agencies to formulate a public opinion out of which anarchy could not but develop. They alone reap an advantage from this terrible catastrophe. It is the members of this class who, with ghoulish greed for gain, have been gambling upon the stock market with the bulletins from the bedside of the dying president. It is they who will reap the benefit from the blow which this act will enable their reptile press to deal to union labor. The discouraging effect of this dastardly deed upon the thousands of striking steel workers is causing a smile of satisfaction to leer across the front of the profitable “extras” that trade upon a nation’s sorrow. Most prominent among those who make up this body of responsible conspirators must be put the great financial interests that control the destinies of the republican party. They it is who have resisted every attempt at change in social conditions and who see in this assassination but one more weapon ready to their hand with which to drive back all enemies of exploitation and oppression. They it is who for their own profit insist upon holding down the safety valve upon a social boiler long past the bursting point. They are the ones who have interpreted the philosophy of society along the same lines as they were interpreted by the man who fired the fatal shot at Buffalo. They have for a generation preached, with all the power which a complete  control of school and church and press and government could give them, the doctrine of individualism in all its nakedness, the doctrine of the competitive struggle as the religion of modern society, the doctrine of a “nature red in tooth and claw” as the only means of progress, the doctrine of the “survival of the fittest” in a murderous private warfare upon the field of trade—all this is the doctrine at once of the orthodox teachers of capitalism and the apostles of anarchy.
Were we not told from ten thousand platforms in every city and hamlet in this land by the orators speaking for the election of William McKinley that every man had an equal chance for success in this brutal economic fight, that the position which every man held in society was determined by his own exertions, that each individual was the arbiter of his own destiny? Have they not told us over and over again that individual responsibility was the keynote of modern social organization? More than that, have they not insisted that their class and their party, which they themselves personified in William McKinley, was capable of controlling social relations and determining economic conditions so as to give or take prosperity from the workshops and the multitude of workers of this country? All these are fundamental principles in the philosophy of anarchy.
As the next party to the indictment the second accessory before the fact and accomplice in the deed must be placed that other great political party who, with identical logic, opposed the election of McKinley, and who, after the election, have declared he was responsible for the formation of trusts and all the abuses that have grown out of them. The spokesmen of this party preached the doctrine that McKinley had it in his power to stop or continue the process of trade expansion, to set the limits to economic development. They declared over and over again through their press that economic conditions were controllable by those in possession of the powers of government, and could find no words strong enough in which to denounce the man whose death they are now foremost in deploring, whose character they are now loudest in praising. This party especially adopted the anarchist cry for the reversal of economic development and the destruction of organized production. In agreement with their accomplices in the republican party, the democratic party refused in any way to permit a transformation of society that would make such horrible outbreaks impossible. They insisted that the poison should be mixed, they demanded that the weapons should be prepared, they helped in the maddening of the brain, but when the natural result followed they hastened to disclaim responsibility.
As a natural result from the conditions fostered and the philosophy preached by these arch-conspirators, as a certain conclusion  from the premises to which they gave assent, there arose the third party to the indictment—the doctrinal or philosophical anarchist. He it was who was indorsed by the leaders of bourgeois respectability, who thereby gave every reason to believe that they were willing to accept the full logic of the premises laid down by their previous actions.
Finally we have the men whose names appear upon the indictment as it is drawn by the present ruling class. At the most these individuals are but the last and logical expression of the mighty chain of events and social relations that have been pointed out as inhering in capitalism. But just because they are in the grasp of this wider and mightier force their power for evil reaches far beyond that of any isolated individual.
The only body of men, the only portion of present society against whom this indictment positively cannot read, the only individuals whose hands are wholly clean of the blood of the chief magistrate, the only body that has consistently and continuously fought each and every one of these conspirators, that has denounced them publicly and privately, on its platform and through its press with all the power that it can wield, is the body of men that march beneath the banner and hold the name of socialism. They alone have always dared to denounce murder, whether it be of a ruler or of ruled, whether it be on the throne or in the workshop, whether by slow starvation or the bullet of the assassin, and they alone can go into the court of equity of the future with clean hands and rest assured of what the verdict will be.