Emile Armand’s Individualist Anarchist Initiation has jumped to the front of the translating queue, and I was fortunate enough to track down a 2nd edition bound copy (Editions de L’En Dehors, 1923) through a bookseller in France, so I’ll be able to double-check transcription, formatting, etc. It pains me a little to push back work on Joseph Déjacque’s L’Humanisphère, Utopie anarchique again, just as I was starting to settle back into it. It’s a wonderful work, in many ways, but probably, for better or worse, much further from the concerns of most contemporary readers than Armand’s book. Also, as I am gradually shifting the emphasis of my own research from individualism to association, it seems useful to make more broadly available another example (comparable in that sense to James L. Walker’s Philosophy of Egoism) of a very social sort of individualism, based in large part on Stirner’s egoism.
At some point this week, I’ll head back to the start of Armand’s text and begin to translate the sections roughly in order, but since I am overdue to make some clarifications about “reciprocity” and the Golden Rule, I thought it would be useful to first introduce Armand’s discussions of “solidarity” and “reciprocity.” This installment covers about half of the section on “solidarity.”
16. Solidarity. Sociability. Camaraderie.
165) Obligatory solidarity.
Mystics, legalists, socialists, and communists, write and hold forth about a solidarity which would link all people: these because they accept the unwarranted affirmation that “God” is the father of the human race, those because the law is the bond which unites men since it allows them to live in society, and others because production and consumption are so inextricably linked that the producer is indispensable to the consumer and vice-versa. “God”, the law or economic fact, it is always necessary to bow and obey.
166) The individualists and imposed solidarity.
The individualist anarchist does not bow and, coldly, faithfully, they submit this formidable argument to critique: compulsory solidarity amounts to no solidarity at all.
“I have discovered,” he says, “that, come through the play of a natural phenomena, in the society of men, I found myself, from the beginning, faced with moral, intellectual, and economic conditions to which I had to submit without being able to dispute them. I did not ask to be born, which did not prevent that from my most tender infancy, institutions and persons, everything has been in league to condition me to be a resigned and solidary component of the social environment. In the family, at school, in the barracks and the factory, everyone told me that I should be in solidarity with my fellows. In solidarity with my parents, even when they prevented me by force from going to meet the girl towards whom I felt myself attracted; in solidarity with the school teacher who held me in the classroom for long hours in the summer, while outside the flowers bloomed and the birds twittered; in solidarity with the corporal or sergeant who imposed on me painful drudgery, repulsive exercises; in solidarity with the boss for whom each our of my labor increases the income along with the well-being… Thus I understand that “solidarity” means “slavery”.
“Later, a little more reflection taught me that I was as much a slave to those that chance had placed in circumstances better than mine as I was to those whose conditions we worse. The penniless person who cheers the passing regiment, the guard who keeps the unfortunate in prison, the worker who informs on his comrades in order to make foreman, the police officer who uses all sorts of ruses to deprive his fellows of freedom, the peasant who eyes me with contempt because I prefer to stroll along the byways rather than breathe the stinking air of the factories, the syndicalist who would willingly expel me from my work because I refuse to register with the workerist association to which he belongs – all these beings maintained that I was solidary with them, that it is for them and with them that I should think, work, produce, that is to say, devote the best of my faculties.
“I have reacted. To that terrifying determinism of the social environment, I have opposed my personal determinism. I refuse to accept gladly a solidarity of which it would be impossible for me to feel the bases, to negotiate the conditions or to foresee the consequences. I maintain that where solidarity is imposed on me, it is null, and that I am not required to observe it. In vain the “excessive” solidarists will object to me that the devout peasant, the radical tailor, the socialist postal employee, the bonapartist baker, the communist laborer, the jingoistic sailor are are necessary to my life: that they contribute, anonymously or not, directly or not, to furnish me the utilities without which I could not subsist. I respond to them that in the conditions under which society currently evolves, these different members of the social milieu social are not only producers, they are voters or members of political parties, sometimes members of juries, often progenitors of magistrates, and officials; of exploiters each time that they can; they are partisans of authority who employ their own moral or intellectual authority to maintain or cause to be maintained, by delegation, the regime of forced solidarity.
“I do not feel myself at all in solidarity with those who contribute to maintain domination and exploitation, I am not more in solidarity with whoever perpetuates the survival of prejudices which hinder individual development; I am not in solidarity with the harmful consumers nor useless producers; I am presently in solidarity with them only because I have been forced to be and each time that I find the occasion to escape from that constraint, take advantage of it.
“No, I am not in solidarity with those who, by their approval, silence or resignation, continues to maintain conditions of being or doing involving coercion or exploitation, little matter in what form. Those who differ from me in this regard are not individualists.
“I do not reject all solidarity a priori and stubbornly. I simply refuse solidarity with those whose efforts run counter to my plan: to live the present moment in full liberty, without infringing on the liberty of others. I would reject a priori solidarity even even with those of my dearest friends accomplishing deeds about which they have not consulted me and results of which I have had no part. It is a posteriori – having all the background information in hand – that I want to declare myself in solidarity with beings who do not live by my side or acts which are committed without my participation, near or far.
“That does not mean that I do not feel myself generally in solidarity with all the deniers of authority, with all the rebels, against exploitation, with all the critics of established facts and res judicata: with the individualist anarchists, finally. Where I will separate myself from them, is if they want to compel me to accept responsibility for forms of struggle or propaganda which are not my own. Of solidarity, I only know what I have accepted, debated, and consented to, having first examined it consciously. I am in solidarity only with those who think about solidarity as I do.”
History shows us that the concept of imposed “solidarity” has particularly served to create dogmas or to give rise to despots. To render solidarity concrete and effective between beings that are not associated by temperament, or interest, requires Religion or Law; in order that the relations that they determine between persons do not remain a dead letter, there must be executives of religion of of law, priests or magistrates. Whoever voluntarily accepts the obligation of solidarity or the constraint of mutual aid belongs to the world of authority.
167) Voluntary Solidarity.
In summary, the individualists tend to accept no solidarity but what they have weighed, desired, examined, discussed. They will attempt to make it so that the solidarity that they accept never binds them. And free themselves from it as soon as they perceive that its practice leads them to accomplish acts which do not suit them, or to take on responsibilities for which they have no taste. In all domains, a single preoccupation dominates their thought: will I personally gain, from the path on which I am engaged, more liberty to be and to do, without depriving another of their liberty to think or act? The manner in which they will tend to determine their lives, and all the acts existence, will depend on the answer to this question.
168) Imposed solidarity.
The human is a sociable being and the individualist, who is part of the human race, is no exception. The human being is not sociable by accident, since its physiological organization constrains it to seek, in order to complete itself, to reproduce, one of its fellows of a different sex. In a general manner, we can however state that humans practice sociability without reflection or under duress: at school, in the barracks, and later at the factory, they live a large part of their existence in common with individuals towards whom no affinity attracts them, beside whom no sympathy holds them. In the cities, they gîtent in immense edifices, another sort of barracks, door to door with neighbors to whom no intellectual or moral tie links them. We even marry without knowing one another, without any knowledge of our respective needs.
169) The individualist anarchists considered as a “species.”
Now, that is not what the individualist anarchists want. They no more intend to be slaves of imposed sociability than they do of placing themselves under the yoke of forced solidarity. They can associate with their comrades, with the individualists, with those of their world, of their “species.” “With those of their species” is certainly the appropriate expression, for we would not deny that the individualists form a species within the human race recognizable by well determined psychological traits. The individuals who, consciously, reject domination and exploitation of all sorts, live or tend to live without gods or masters, seeking to reproduce themselves in other beings in order to perpetuate their species and continue their intellectual or practical labor, their work of simultaneous emancipation and destruction; these individuals form a separate species, in the human race, a species as different from the other human species as, in the canine tribe, the Newfoundland is from the pug.
Listen to us well, it is not a question of making the individualist anarchist a “superman” among humans, any more than it is a question of making the Newfoundland a “superdog” among dogs. There is a difference, however: the Newfoundland is a fixed type which will not evolve; the individualist type will evolve: it fulfills, in the human race, the role that the prophetic species have played in the evolution of living beings. We can compare it to those more gifted and vigorous types, more fit for the struggle for life, that appear at a certain moment within a species and end up determining the future of that species. With their imperfections, their shortcomings, their errors, the individualist anarchists constitute, we believe, in the latent state, the type of the future human: the individual of free spirit, sound body, educated will, ready for adventure, inclined to experiment, living life fully, but not wanting to be either dominated or a dominator.
170) Mutual aid within the species. Camaraderie.
The individualist is not then isolated within his species. Among themselves, the individualists practice “camaraderie;” like all species in constant peril of being attacked, they tend instinctively to the practice of “mutual aid within the species.” We will return later to certain of the forms that this “mutual aid” can assume. The tendency is toward the disappearance of avoidable suffering within the species: there is not any comrade who, on the contrary, would tend to prolong or increase the suffering among their fellows.
The individualists urge whoever will to go along with them to rebel practically against the determinism of the social environment, to assert themselves individually, to sculpt their internal statue, to render themselves as independent of the moral, intellectual and economic environment as possible. They will press the ignorant to educate themselves, the apathetic to respond, the weak to become strong, the bent to raise themselves up. They will push the poorly endowed and less able to draw to themselves all possible resources and not to relay on others.
[Working translation by Shawn P. Wilbur]