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What is it to be an Anarchist?
J.D(onovan), in Honesty, June, 1887

Very little is known of this man's life and situation. Like so many of the MAC members he was also a secularist and member of the Australasian Secular Association. As with Brookhouse he became an anarchist under David Andrade's influence, but dropped out of sight when the Club folded in upon itself. There are a few indicators that he was active in labor matters in the 1900's in Melbourne.

The popular conception of an Anarchist is a curious one. Most persons conceive of him as a moody, disappointed individual, angry and discontented with all existing society institutions, and not at all scrupulous as to the means by which he may get rid of them. In fact, he is considered to look specially upon dynamite, bomb shells, and other murderous explosives, as particular friends and companions of his, to be used in preference to all other weapons.

And this opinion is entertained in spite of all protestations of Anarchists to the contrary - in spite even of etymology. For Anarchy literally means "without rule." The Anarchist consistently opposes all compulsion, and rule is but compulsion: and this phantom Anarchist, that vexes the souls of illogical Archists, is supposed to be an individual ever desiring to exercise his rule on others by forcible endeavour. The oft-recurring periods in human history, when opposing bands of Archists contended bitterly for the establishment of the locale of Archy, are with a delightful impudence, called periods of Anarchy and confusion, as if the words were identical, instead of being diametrically opposed. When it is settled which part or class shall rule, it is then said that Anarchy is at an end and rule established - rule meaning in each case, that for the present one band of con-federated Archist villains has given the other its quietus, and force and injustice shall reign, till the never dying love of liberty in the human breast shall re-assert itself, and attempt to teach its tyrants another lesson. Then again, Anarchy is supposed once more to prevail. The real fact in all this is, that neither party has correctly conceived the fundamental principles of natural justice, yet have resolved if any ruling is to be done, they, and not others, shall do it. They have loved liberty, it is true - but for themselves only. The scientific Anarchist of this century, essays to give Liberty to all, and as a necessary consequence, to abolish rule.

The Anarchist is such from intense intellectual conviction. He starts from the fundamental principles of justice and right doing. Since the thinkers of the world have abolished phantom sanction for conduct, no other basis for morality can be conceived than that of equity of inherent individual rights. This cardinal fundamental principle of Anarchy, equity, coincides with the best and deepest thoughts of the religious reformers, who have impressed the world, and sought to fill men with love for each other.. "Reciprocity;" "Do unto others as you would wish to be done unto;" these are the mottos of all Anarchists, who see that these sayings cannot have their full effect, unless Wisdom be united to love, and the positive institutions that stand in the way of their fulfilment, be undermined and destroyed. Where equity is the base, none can rightfully rule the other. If the freedom to do this wrong be given to any, then it must be given to all, and this mutality must inevitably, if observed, restore harmonic relations, and abolish rule altogether. It is the denial of this mutuality - the existence of a priviledged caste that rules, - that is the fatal enemy of human happiness. And this is true of all rule - despotic, limited monarchic, or democratic. To take from any person anything against his consent, violates fundamental morality, and the ethics of numbers under majority rule in no way condones the offence.

But the constant cry comes from the Archist, "What will you do with aggressors? Rule is necessary to keep criminals in check, and an organised judiciary is preferable to leaving revenge to private individuals." Would that Archists could come into court with clean hands, and truthfully plead, not even that all past governments, but that any existing government, rigidly confine themselves to the function of observing strict mutuality and justice among the individual members of the community! Could they do so, our opposition would end. But what is the record of the world's experience! That governments have been the champion aggressors from all time, and still remain so. How much, we ask, of this individual wrong-doing is the direct result of our positive institutions, our bands of confederated criminals, our governments? What poverty and incitements to crime have they not caused by their monopolies of land and currency, by their protective laws of every description, by their class legislation, their brutal coercion, their corrupt practices and robberies, their army of parasitic officials? Alas, poor human nature! it is ever being degraded, and then being cursed for its degradation. Of old time, God worshippers looked upon human nature as fallen, deriving all its bad features from itself or from a rival God, viz.: the devil. Reconciliation was to be effected by grovelling to God, and his self-elected mediators, - men robbing themselves of their goods for these parasites. And even yet, so-called liberal theo- logians give praise to God, and not to man, for all man's splendid qualities, ascribing them to him as gifts and not as the results of long evolutionary processes in human nature. So, as in the theological sphere, is it in the social and political sphere. Man in the past was supposed to need divine civil rulers, gods, or the descendants of gods, or divinely appointed. These gone, he still needed direction from limited monarchic or aristocratic constitutions. And nowadays, he is still popularly supposed to need democratic rulers - the envious heirs to aristocratic power. Just as all was robbed from matter to give to spirit, so is all robbed from men to the aggregate to give to their unworthy rulers. In truth, it is the general good behaviour of mankind that militates against the vicious influence of the ruling classes. If individual aggressors need reforming, much more do governments need destroying by the moral influences, arising from intellectual convictions of justice allied to will. The same process that reforms the one will destroy the other, - the process that gives men clear intellectual convictions of right doing, and accustoms them always to be just before being generous, - doing away with an necessity for government. Not even an Archist, have he but some slight claim to intellect, can say there is anything ethical about government. It is the sign of disease and not of health. The necessity which will lead us to deal with aggressors, systematically probably, will gradually dwindle as first principles extend among our rulers, and are acted on as an example to all beneath. Without that knowledge and that action, crime must inevitably continue.

We hope for no forcible release from present ills. It is force is the cause of them, and it can in no way cure them. Force is never ethical, and can even be rendered justifiable on the score of necessity, only when used as a means to keep men alive, who will spread moral influences. Because of this repugnance to force, deductively and inductively borne in upon us, we reject all authority imposed against our consent. The authority we accept willingly, the authority of specialists in all lines of human industry, and peaceable activity, is all the more weighty on us, that we know we are free to reject if it we please. The authority we shall respect and recognise shall be temporary, and limited in area, arising spontaneously, and existing because of the consent of those accepting it. Above all it shall be mutual and reciprocal, while our interests are as discrete as possible. The mode of election shall be reversed. Those worthy of authority, - that is, those who can gain the voluntary consent of others to guide them, will elect themselves, and be voted for afterwards by the Anarchistic methods of dealing with them if Anarchists think fit. To get rid of arbitary authority and restore reciprocal relations, must be the work of time, of patience, experiment, and steady effort. We must creep from under our positive institutions and let them fall for want of a base.

To hold the above convictions and aspire to act on them, is in my opinion to be an Anarchist.

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Last modified: May 1, 1999

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