Monday, January 29, 2007

1881 - the first three

[Ah, for the settled life of a scholar, where I could tackle my 1.104 issues of Liberty each day, and keep a regular schedule, rather than the constant fire-fighting and scrambling that goes with part-timing. But the show must go on, however fitfully.]

So what actually appears in the pages of Liberty? The staple, stable source for Tucker's opinions remained, from first to last, the "On Picket Duty" column. From the first issue, of August 6, through the remainder of 1881, this occupied the first two columns on the front page of nearly every issue, while a collection of clippings "About Progressive People," occupied the third column. The two exceptions to this rule are interesting. The very first issue devotes the center column of the front page to a portrait of Sophie Perovskaya, the Russian nihilist martyr, together with a poem by Joaquin Miller. And the ninth issue devotes the entire front page, together with half a column on page four, to a short biography of Michael Bakunine, identified there as "the founder of Russian Nihilism," together with a portrait, which was apparently the object of a long search by Tucker to find an authentic likeness. In that issue, both of the usual front-page features were preempted.

The debates that we associate with Liberty start slowly, in part because Tucker dominates the pages of these early issues. The first issue is full of preliminaries, such as this statement:

Our Purpose
LIBERTY enters the field of journalism to speak for herself because she finds no one willing to speak for her. She hears no voice that always champions her; she knows no pen that always writes in her defence; she sees no hand that is always lifted to avenge her wrongs and vindicate her rights. Many claim to speak in her name, but few really understand her. Still fewer have the courage and the opportunity to consistently fight for her. Her battle, then, is her own, to wage and win. She accepts it fearlessly and with a determined spirit.

Her foe, Authority, takes many shapes, but, broadly speaking, her enemies divide themselves into three classes: first, those who abhor her both as a means and as an end of progress, opposing her openly, avowedly, sincerely, consistently, universally; second, those who profess to believe in her as a means of progress, but who accept her only so far as they think she will subserve their own selfish interests, denying her and her blessings to the rest of the world; third, those who distrust her as a means of progress, believing in her only as an end to be obtained by first trampling upon, violating, and outraging her. These three phases of opposition to Liberty are met in almost every sphere of thought and human activity. Good representatives of the first are seen in the Catholic Church, and the Russian autocracy; of the second, in the Protestant Church and the Manchester school of politics and political economy; of the third, in the atheism of Gambetta and the socialism of Karl Marx.

Through these forms of authority another line of demarcation runs transversely, separating the divine from the human; or better still, the religious from the secular. Liberty's victory over the former is well-nigh achieved. Last century, Voltaire brought the authority of the supernatural into disrepute. The Church has been declining ever since. Her teeth are drawn, and though she still seems to show here and there vigorous signs of life, she does so in the violence of the death-agony upon her, and soon her power will be felt no more. It is human authority that hereafter is to be dreaded, and the State, its organ, that in the future is to be feared. Those who have lost their faith in gods only to put it in governments; those who have ceased to be Church-worshippers only to become State-worshippers; those who have abandoned pope for king or czar, and priest for president or parliament,—have indeed changed their battle-ground, but are no less the foes of Liberty still. The Church has become an object of derision; the State must be made equally so. The State is said by some to be a “necessary evil”; it must be made unnecessary. This century's battle, then, is with the State: the State, that debases man; the State, that prostitutes woman; the State, that corrupts children; the State that trammels law; the State that stifles thought; the State that monopolizes land, the State that limits credit; the State that restricts exchange; the State that gives idle capital the power of increase, and through interest, rent, profit, and taxes, robs industrious labor of its products.

How the State does these things, and how it can be prevented from doing them, Liberty proposes to show in more detail hereafter in the prosecution of her purpose. Enough to say now that monopoly and privilege must be destroyed, opportunity afforded, and competition encouraged. This is Liberty's work, and "Down with Authority" her war-cry.

This is a somewhat different Tucker than we generally think of—one fascinated with the nihilists, taking "pleasure and pride" in presenting their likenesses to the world. "Down with Authority!" is certainly the kind of slogan that Tucker later avoided, or quibbled with. But he is still finding his feet. The remainder of the first issue does contain "Who is the Somebody?," which introduces the anti-monopoly focus and will precipitate the earliest debates. The second issue [more scans to come] is likewise "thin" and heavy on clippings, mixed with commentary on the decline of "free religion." The noteworthy articles include two reports on the International Revolutionary Congress, together with an editorial, "Vive l'Association Internationale!," which refers to William B. Greene's involvement in the IWA, questions the strategy of "propagandism by fact" (propaganda by deed), and takes a wary, but generally enthusiastic approach to the affair. Tucker quotes some of Greene's most mystical notions about the Internationals, from the Address of the Internationals of which he was the primary author. Tucker was clearly capable of partisan tolerance of such stuff.

Issue No. 3 is where things begin to take off. Besides some response to the assassination of President Garfield and more shots at the free religionists, there are a couple of major statements: "Land and Liberty," which praises the Irish World for its radicalism, but damns it for not being fully anarchist; "Two Kinds of Communism," the first of a series of pieces elaborating the difference between libertarian and authoritarian forms within the broad socialist movement [see Lesigne's "The Two Socialisms" and Tucker's "Armies that Overlap"]; and the piece to which the last responds, Wm. Harrison Riley's "Communism versus Commercialism" and W. G. H. Smart's "A Welcome and a Warning." Riley contributed at least one more item to Liberty, and Smart was something of a communist gadfly in most of the periodicals with which Tucker was involved. So we will meet up with both of them again down the road.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Progress and Premises, continued

By the time he started Liberty, Benjamin R. Tucker had his trial by fire as a controversialist in the pages of The Index, where he also debated Stephen Pearl Andrews about the merits of Proudhon, had edited The Word for Ezra Heywood and The Radical Review for himself. He was obviously reading voraciously, and making (and breaking) connections with radicals of all stripes. Reading Liberty is, in large part, reading the public record of his reading, or his connections and disconnections. By the end of 1881, the first debates are beginning to take off in the letters section of the paper, but the rest is all Tucker: translations, digests of his readings, comments on friends and foes, plumb-line epigrams.
Wages is not slavery. Wages is a form of voluntary exchange, and voluntary exchange is a form of Liberty.

Etc. These are the sorts of statements that have gone on to feed a thousand Usenet, blog, and Wikipedia debates, mere quibbles sometimes, certainly pithy and suggestive, but always requiring some real work to figure out exactly what the pith is. One of the reasons for a complete survey of Liberty is to see what all these pithy bits ultimately add up to.

More open questions: To what extent was Tucker consciously a controversialist? There are times when he genuinely does not seem to see what his antagonists are driving at, and he just keeps driving, sometime to the detriment of Liberty's connections with other radicals. In his Reminiscences, Joshua King Ingalls ends his treatment of a debate with Tucker over the merits of mutual banking with these comments:
Mr. I. not being a metaphysician or "master of logic," like his opponent, was slow to apprehend the little game, which had been put up on him; "this little campaign of question and answer for the purpose of silencing this gun," which had been annoying Mr. T. so long. . . . But there can be no doubt as to the silence of the gun, so far as the columns of Liberty are concerned. My name has not appeared in its columns, but once for two years, and that only to designate as "nonsense," a little notice I sent it commending Labadie's lecture at Detroit, one word of which, it was not allowed the readers of Liberty to see.

Interestingly, one point which was never addressed, as the debate was never resumed, was a claim made by Ingalls that:
Col. W. B. Greene informed me forty-five years since that he was pressed by borrowers to form his mutual bank, but found no lenders, except a few philanthropists who would lend their money without interest anyway, and these he was unwilling to risk sacrificing in an untried experiment.

Tucker considered the claim "extraordinary." In 1895, Tucker, debating Alfred B. Westrup, appealed again to his personal acquaintanceship with Greene, in an attempt to settle a point in the "standard of value" debate. I mention them here because I am not sure, in either case, that Tucker was correct about Greene's thought.

Tucker appears to me a paradoxical character, more than a bit fixated on a few principles he considered key, and willing to sacrifice personal connections in philosophical debate. He seems to have been charming and insufferable by turns. That, of course, would make him an almost perfect heir of Proudhon, Greene, and Warren.

Progress and Premises

At this point, I'm putting together "dummy" issues, with titles for all the major articles, and typing or scanning the bits that I think are most significant. I plan to put random free moments to work filling in the blanks in the early issues, while pushing ahead with the general reading and analysis. If anyone would like to help with the project, let me know and I'll add you to the team.

I've read through the issues for 1881 several times now, and am starting to get a feel for Liberty's beginnings. As I've mentioned before, the state of The Index and the "Free Religion" movement generally occupied a good deal of Tucker's attention in those days, as did the consequences of the Garfield assassination. What's apparent in these early issues is that Tucker is in the process of differentiating himself from the socialistic schools that surround him, and distancing himself from the religiously-grounded reformers of an earlier generation. He is also in the midst of a very delicate process of maintaining connections with the mutualists of an earlier generation—Proudhon, Greene, and Warren—while elaborating a "plumb-line" individualism that diverges quite radically in some ways from that earlier mutualism. One of the most interesting questions facing us in the pages of Liberty is to what extent Tucker was able to stay on the tightrope, and to what extent his individualist anarchism was a real break with that of his mentors and influences.

A little review may be in order, though I'll be the first to admit that this "review" contains a good deal of interpretation on my part.

Proudhon is the well-spring. Tucker gets Proudhon first through William Batchelder Greene, and then straight from the source. We know a good deal about Greene's reading of Proudhon, and we have his own account of their meetings. We know that Greene was in many ways as much a partisan of Pierre Leroux's philosophy as of Proudhon's, and that he adapted his own work as the debates between them played out in the wake of the February Revolution in 1848. In those days, Proudhon was clearly committed to some kind of harmonizing of "communism and property," and, influenced by Leroux's "triad," Greene aimed at a similar harmonization of "communism, socialism, and capitalism." Greene was much more immersed in European political thought than his biographers have generally given him credit for, and we can see the influence of the Saint-Simonians (and ex-Saint-Simonians) nearly everywhere in his work, assuming we know to look for it—nearly everywhere, that is, except in the later mutual banking works, which gradually lose the flavor of '48. (As I've previously noted, they also lose the explicit criticisms of Proudhon.) Greene's final writings don't seem to differ substantially from his early ones, when it comes to his religious commitments. He was a radical heretic early, and seems to have remained one. The atheistic tendencies of the anarchist movement pained him, and he said so, late in life, in the page of The Word. He also remained involved in his researches on "universal history," based in the works of Auguste Ott, Philippe Buchez, and others. But there are plenty of reasons to believe that these aspects of Greene's thought, however much they had been the underpinning of his understanding of mutualism, simply made little or no impact on his many disciples in the mutual bank propaganda. As egoism became part of the core of the Liberty group's individualism, many of the philosophical ties between generations were pretty thoroughly snapped. What that means in terms of our understanding of "mutualism" as a continuing tradition is a question I have to leave open for now.

In any event, Tucker also had his direct encounter with Proudhon, and intended to translate his works in their entirety. It would be interesting to know what combination of financial, ideological and philosophical reasons there were for the very limited amount of Proudhon's work that was actually translated. We're over a century down the road from Tucker's announcement of the Proudhon Library, and there have been very few new additions to the translated works, so there's reason to suspect that the "father of anarchism" has been rather systematically neglected by his own tradition. Perhaps it is not merely cynical of me to think that some of this neglect has come from the fact that "property is theft" has considerable value as a slogan, but that Proudhon's full body of work is demanding, and not always reassuring to any of the ideologies that have been built upon its fragments. My own reading suggests that Proudhon was remarkably consistent in his thinking about economic issues, but that his rhetoric changed considerably over the years, and that the tactics he adopted in dealing with an understanding of "property" as always somewhat "impossible" shifted slightly. I'm still wrestling with Proudhon, working on a number of translations. I can only speculate on how far Tucker pursued his thought, or to what extent his failure to translate more reflected a divergence from that influence. This, too, is one of the open questions we'll return to as we work through Liberty.

Josiah Warren was the other obvious influence from the earlier generation. I've quibbled at various times about whether Warren should be considered a "mutualist." He differed quite radically from Proudhon and Greene in his basic philosophy, and professed an opposition to Proudhon's ideas even late in life (again, in the pages of The Word.) But he may, if James J. Martin's sources are correct, have been among the petitioners for a mutual bank in Massachusetts during the ferment of 1850-1. In many ways, he closely resembled the explicit mutualists. Like them, he was philosophically grounded in the thought of the "utopian" socialists. Warren never seems to have repudiated the philosophy he shared with Robert Owen, however much he eventually dissented from his social schemes. He also continued in the experimental pursuit of anarchism now, a much more practical proponent of statelessness than the "philosophical anarchists" who came after. Greene had attempted to describe actual mutualism in this way:
Under the mutual system, each individual will receive the just and exact pay for his work; services equivalent in cost being exchangeable for services equivalent in cost, without profit or discount; and so much as the individual laborer will then get over and above what he has earned will come to him as his share in the general prosperity of the community of which he is an individual member. ("Communism vs. Mutualism," originally in The Word.)

He expected that extention of credit and freeing of markets would accomplish this. Note the way in which a "cost system" (more precisely, for Greene, a cost effect) generates profit as "general prosperty." That's the "mutual" in mutualism, in the realm of economics. For Greene, there was a social-psychological mutualism as well, based in the "doctrine of life" that "life is always objective and subjective." It was, in essence, his recognition of basic "solidarity." But perhaps the two, so tightly bound together in Greene, are ultimately separable, in which case the outcomes of Warren's "cooperation without combination" start to look quite a bit like the "harmonizations" of Proudhon and Greene. Perhaps we can say that, with his philosophy of individualization—"Disconnection, division, individuality the principle of order, harmony, and progress. . ."—he was trying to think himself out of certain "communistic" assumptions that had held sway in New Harmony, while Greene was trying to think himself into humanity, and on much more philosophical terrain. Warren cuts to the chase, and lays down a cost principle. His approach is all practical ethics, grounded in a faith that equitable behavior can compete.

Tucker is, perhaps, more like Greene in his personality, but ultimately closer to Warren in his desire to lay down principles.

Saturday, September 3, 1881, Vol. 1, No. 3


"For always in thine eyes, O Liberty!
Shines that high light whereby the world is saved'
And though thou slay us, we
will trust in thee."

John Hay

On Picket Duty
Wages is not slavery. Wages is a form of voluntary exchange, and voluntary exchange is a form of Liberty.
About Progressive People
Land and Liberty
Within the last two years the above heading probably has decorated every public bulletin-board in this country and Great Britain. Yet probably it owes prominence to the more accidental alliteration, and has no rational significance in the average mind.

What has land to do with liberty, or liberty with land? Certainly, if political liberty is meant, the Land Leaguers are strangely adrift, for in the very country to-day where savage despotism reigns and liberty is almost unknown, the people possess, occupy, and enjoy the soil with a liberality equaled by no other, while in that country said to have the most liberal, popular, and truly representative constitution on earth, the people are practically cur off from free and equitable enjoyment of the soil. Russia is as far ahead of Great Britain in the matter or popular enjoyment of the land as Great Britain is in advance of Russia in the matter of political liberty. Again, in Switzerland and the United States, both republics, we find in the former a most liberal and equitable distribution of the land, while in the latter land monopoly is scarcely less formidable and vastly more threatening for the future than in Great Britain. The sense in which our friends are prompted to associate land with liberty probably arises from the very natural feeling that, were the land more widely distributed, the tent-tax now levied upon the mass of farmers in Ireland would be lifted from their shoulders, and they would attain to greater liberty through a lessening or removal of its load. A very elementary ideas of liberty this, but logical as far as it goes.

But since the rent-tax is only one form of profit-theft, why land and liberty any more than every other article of commerce, and liberty? For it is by no means certain that land-monopoly is the chief source of profit-theft. It is the original (temporal) source, and a very good basis upon which to attack profit-theft; but it is, after all, only one source. Behind the wide rand of profit-plunder lies the concrete embodiment of the whole iniquity—usury.

The problem, then, upon closer analysis, reduces itself to this affirmation: Destroy usury, and you attain liberty. That greatest of all powers for good now working on this planet for the emancipation of oppressed humanity, the "Irish World," has got so far with the problem. "Usury is theft!" it cries out to 100,000 profit-ridden slaves every week, and it means by usury every species of something-for-nothing-tribute, whether it be in the form of rent, interest, or ordinary profits in the realm of trade.

But the "Irish World," glorious as its work and mission, has yet one more stage in the problem to conquer. Who is responsible for usury? Who sustains it? Who backs it with artillery? Usury, left to its merits as a voluntary social arrangement, could not stand for a day. As Patrick Ford well knows, the insignificant banditti known as landlords, who enslave Ireland, would run for their lives, or sink to their knees like curs whining for mercy, were not a police force of 100,000 men kept at their back against the protest of 5,000,000 people.

The State, then, is the author and defender of usury, as it to-day holds its murderous grasp at the throat of Ireland. And who is the State? The landlords, as the "Irish World" has reiterated a hundred times. Why, then, not abolish the State, and get down to the hard-pan of the whole problem?

Ah! But here we touch delicate ground. The "Irish World" will never reach that third and last stage of the problem of liberty. It is with a feeling of deep regret that we now indulge in a little plain talk, but duty will not permit us to talk otherwise, if we talk at all, and silence would be a crime against liberty. The moment the "Irish World" attacks the State, it attacks the pope, the bishops, the priests, and the whole tribe of spiritual usurers, who knew their art well before the first temporal landlord was born.

Spiritual usurers! Yea, these are the worst abominations in the whole series. "The monopolizing of natural wealth," cries the "Irish World," "is the bottom crime!" But we have natural wealth spiritual and natural wealth temporal. We have landlords spiritual and landlords temporal. Yea, and the landlords spiritual are the creators, abettors, supporters, and defenders of the landlords temporal. The very Christian Go to whom the "Irish World" appeals every week is the Father of usury, and his agents, the ecclesiastics, from the pope down to the pettiest priest who demands an admission-fee at the church-door for the supposed benefit of enjoying the sacraments, are spiritual landlords' bailiffs. These so-called sacraments—what are they but spiritual natural wealth monopolized by these mitred and surpliced thieves, and rented out for profit? If there is any power for good in this world that it pains us to criticize, it is Patrick Ford's great "Industrial Liberator." But a more pitiable plight never fell to the lot of beneficent organ of light and truth. It has reached the second stage of solution in the problem of liberty, but can never get any further so long as it remain the "Irish World" with that phallic symbol, the cross, at the top.
The State is the immediate supporter and defender of usury. Behind the civil state is the spiritual stat. Both have one common cause, the enslavement of the masses. Behind the whole is God, the author and finisher of usury and every other enslaving device that paves the way for man's inhumanity to man. Liberty aims to abolish them all, and all superstitious reverence for their unholy offices. Liberty alone has mastered the third stage of the problem of emancipation, and proposes to stand upon the logic of it without fear or favor. Come with us, good friends, and then you will not only know what "Land and Liberty" means, but, in solving the whole problem of liberty, all these other good things will be added unto you.
A B-B-Bird with W-W-W-One F-Feather
Shall We Tease Our Big Papa?
Two Kinds of Communism.
We do not believe in communism in the economic sense of the word. To us it seems, for many reasons, an impossible and undesirable form of society. Proudhon described it accurately as well as epigrammatically when he called it the "religion of poverty." But it is not our special business to antagonize the voluntary communism vigorously pictured by W. H. Riley in another column. He, and those of his friends who agree with him, may attempt any associative experiment they please; Liberty will look on with interest and report results.

It is compulsory communism of the Bismarckian stamp that we combat. It is the needle-gun socialism of Ferdinand Lassalle that we oppose. Statecraft is our enemy, whether it be that advocated by Jay Gould in the New York "Tribune," or that advocated by our good friend, W. G. H. Smart, in a note printed elsewhere in this journal,—a note, by the way, so good-humored, so straightforward, so utterly void of the circumlocution too frequently characteristic of Mr. Smart's newspaper articles, that we publish it with great pleasure. Space is lacking to meet his points now. Nevertheless, on misapprehension should be corrected immediately. We do not believe that any one can "stand alone." We do wish "social ties and guarantees." We wish all there are. We believe in human solidarity. We believe that the members of society are interdependent. We would preserve these interdependencies untrammelled and inviolate. But we have faith in the sufficiency of natural forces. Motives and good impulses aside, we have no sort of sympathy with those multitudinous groups of so-called socialists, of all colors, stripes, and propensities, with each its little scheme for bursting the bonds by which nature unites us and tying men and women together anew with artificial chains. None of them, whatever they may claim, believe in the unity of the race. All its members, in their opinion, need to be cemented into unity, and for this purpose each has his patent glue. They wish a manufactured solidarity; we are satisfied with the solidarity inherent in the universe. When Mr. Smart has whipped the Universe, "body, soul, and breeches," Liberty too will throw up the sponge.
Pity, but not Praise.
Communism vs. Commercialism

The only society in which the rights of individuals will be respected will be a communistic society, in which the partnership will always be voluntary. Where the right to secede is not recognized—in a family, a state, or a federation of states—there exists subjection, slavery.

All the frenzied babble about the rights of majorities to govern other than themselves must cease. Between kingcraft and communism there is no logical or permanent abiding-place. The rights of all individuals must be recognized as equal, or, sooner or later, we must submit to the “divine rights of kings”—supreme thieves.

Already, in these states, we have an upper ten and an upper ten thousand—virtually ten kings and ten thousand peers of the realm—whose wealth is stolen from the people by the vilest monopolies, usurpations; usuries; and this devilish aristocracy is not despised, but admired. To-day this aristocracy is more powerful and more vicious than that of Britain, and the vox populi is now really less effective in the United States than it is in the United Kingdom.

Commercialism is organized discord. Communism is organized harmony. Commercialism is compulsory conflict. Communism is voluntary concert.

Wm. Harrison Riley
A Welcome and a Warning.
Taking Courage
Names [poem]
Our European Letter
The Mistake of American Socialists
Compliments from Liberty's Friends
Kicks and Cuffs from Liberty's Foes

Saturday, August 20, 1881, Vol. 1, No. 2

Vol. I BOSTON, MASS., SATURDAY, AUGUST 20, 1881. No. 2

"For always in thine eyes, O Liberty!
Shines that high light whereby the world is saved'
And though thou slay us, we
will trust in thee."

John Hay

On Picket Duty
About Progressive People
Viva L'Association Internationale!
Rise and Fall of "Free Religion"
The Root of Despotism
The Concord School
The Revolutionary Congress
Crumbs from Liberty's Table

Thursday, January 4, 2007

Progress of the project

Am I behind yet? I'm wrestling with the best approach to these early issues, and to the archiving end of things in general. It may be that I end up creating pdf files of some of these early issues that are useful to read in their entirety, just to get a sense of the jumping-off place for this expedition, but which aren't all that exciting in comparison to later periods of Liberty. In any event, my scanning and posting chores are not always going to line up neatly, as other projects, such as the new Lab Reports, cause me to focus on later issues. Right now, I'm in the midst of finishing up with Joshua King Ingalls' contributions, which will come in handy later.

Expect more regular posting starting next week.