Anarchist Individualism and Amorous Comradeship
(1872 - 1962)
Émile Armand (pseudonym of Ernest-Lucien Juin Armand; 26 March 1872 – 19 February 1962) was an influential French individualist anarchist at the beginning of the 20th century and also a dedicated free love/polyamory, intentional community, and pacifist/antimilitarist writer, propagandist and activist. He wrote for and edited the anarchist publications L’Ère nouvelle (1901–1911), L’Anarchie, L'EnDehors (1922–1939) and L’Unique (1945–1953). (From : Wikipedia.org.)
Anarchist Individualism and Amorous Comradeship
Anarchy is a methodology and a means of individuation as well as an organizational strategy. Free association, autonomy — Emile Armand knew there was, between society and the individual, a veil of mystifying ideology that had to be torn.
So many anarchists today fear interacting with the world outside their circles; but they forget how many natural anarchists there are in the world, people opposed to profit and power without labeling themselves anything at all. Reading Emile Armand today is like peering at the present through lenses of the past that clarify everything suddenly, in flashes, a past with the same alienations, the same struggles, the same hang-ups.
The concern of some modern anarchists for concepts such as ‘race’, ‘class’ and ‘gender’, concepts with no material reality except as social constructs, ‘conventions and prejudices’ which torture and distort the vision and should be destroyed in daily life, is the typical result of a sexual repression that also forbids discussing sexual issues in many modern literary anarchist circles.
The sexually repressed person categorizes themselves and other people, because s/he can’t directly experience the vast intricacies of anyone for fear of their involvement taking on a sexual dimension, and must erect walls of armoring, like clothing, but extended analogically to the character itself, protecting the individual from emotion. All authentic interaction has, implicitly, a sexual aspect, and if it is liberated, expresses not an obsession with that sexual side of things but a conscious acknowledgment and self-management of it.
When the lights are out, race, class, and gender have no more meaning; only individual feelings and sensual enjoyments are meaningful in the anarchy of truly free emotional association. Sexuality is a primary force in life, and our social relations come from that same place. The repression of that force creates an inversion in the mind and body which is fertile soil for the planting of authoritarian ideology; this is something Armand saw clearly so many years ago, as did individuals in so many other “forgotten” strains of the vast treasure trove of individualist and anarchist thought that has been expressed over the centuries.
Like other individuals, such as Wilhelm Reich, Han Ryner, or Thomas De Coster, Emile Armand knew well the insularity we see around us in radical circles as well as in society at large, and he knew the rigidity accompanying it; he saw it as an expression of a communist pollution in anarchy. Communism was always just a thin façade hiding a brutally ‘scientific’ authoritarianism, and Armand’s distaste for it was plain.
Most of Armand’s life was spent directly living it, but his writing was mostly polemical. His position was his own, and he seems to have struggled to make his voice heard in the bustling anarchist milieu of his time, as well as in society at large. He was a nudist and a polyamorist, taking to their logical conclusion, in daily life, the arguments of the anarchists, and living his own life in his own way.
A thorough rereading of Armand today is a healthy alternative to the dry ideologies — always infinitely less messy than the realities — that come in and out of fashion, and an invigorating look into the life of a man who tried his best to be himself and be happy, in the midst of all the misery and role-playing.
Emile Armand was born in Paris in 1872. The son of a progressive bourgeois family, he received a profoundly anticlerical education, which, almost with symmetry, generated within him a great mystico-religious passion. His father fought in the Paris commune, and the family had to emigrate to London in exile. Upon his return numerous things happened to Armand — he first became a born-again Christian, then he abandoned Christianity, having begun to read anarchist books, and then he got tired of his wife.
Emile Armand’s rebellion was prolix and massive. It revealed itself in the way a photograph does, the colors appearing without warning from within a gray, virginal, bloodless life. First he rebelled against his own name, Ernest Lucien Juin — against a family institution. Then against his catholic creed, against moral obligation. Then he rebelled against his wife, against social condemnation. And then, later, against Power in general, which is a weakness common to all people and which is the seed of misery. Then he created his own name, Emile Armand, as voluptuous as was the kindness of the ideas he began to profess: amorous camaraderie, a combination of sensuality and freedom, of love and respect. And he assumed a new identity, which was paradoxically generous — anarchist individualism.
If hypocrisy is the mother of the mediocre human and avidity is its father, Armand desired instead the creation of an precocious generation of free children, happy egoists, innocent humans who would know how to detect, with their bodily feelings, the irrational meanness of Power wherever it might come close to generating in people a complicit attitude towards itself. Armand was not alone; he had the friendly companionship of Max Stirner and Han Ryder, recognized individualists who did not call themselves such either, and who had already walked a path which became an inspiration for the French thinker.
Emile Armand was a whole man — essayist, poet, journalist, editor, and translator. He steered away from novels, alexandrine verse, and the genres and spirits that claim that beauty is only to be found in strict compliance to formal rules. At moments, his writing becomes sticky, somewhat repulsive, sentimental — but this all corresponds to what is to be expected of a man who could not, nor wanted to distance himself from his passions. He had already done so too much in his past — for him it was time to narrow himself. The titles of some of his publications reflect this — The Averse, Outside the Flock, Beyond fighting, The Unique.
The current prejudice declares individualism to be a synonym for obfuscation, skepticism, melancholy and repulsion; that if individualism were an animal, it would be a pesky fox — that if it were a season, it would be winter, and if it were a habitation it would be a basement. It also declares that individualist sensibility is in reality a closing ceremony for the senses, for feelings, the egotistical enclosure of an “I” which considers itself to be the center of the world. There’s no reason to deny it: for anarchist individualists it is sure that each is the center of his or her own world. There is no One Earth, besides in a physical sense in which it is conceived as having certain cosmic coordinates. The negation of this unambiguous condition is characteristic of the individual who, predicating a merely discursive philanthropy, practices with violence a disrespectful centrality. This is what Armand observed — To be unique is not to be the only one, and to be among others is not simply to be just anyone. The problem is that the flock of (altruists) has curiously misinterpreted the (central question).
The Individualism of Emile Armand responds with a smile to traditional prejudices, one of which is the traditional views on sexuality. His is an individualism of happiness; and happiness is the closest sister of eroticism. Thus, it would be an exaggeration to consider Armand as a prophet of sexual freedom. Certainly, he practiced and spoke of it, but his was a call sent out only to a few, to the soul brothers and soul sisters that could understand the throbbing of freedom in all its rich forms. “The individualist is generally a very sensible person, a thinker, a meditator, an aficionado of social observation and personal analysis”, according to Georges Palante in his Individualist Sensibility.
As Sainte-Beuve once said, “if all of us put ourselves for one minute to the task of saying what we really thought, this society would crumble.” And Armand wanted to destroy the moral and sexual prejudices of his epoch to create a new era. History tells us that no destruction tends to be very widely welcomed, and his was no exception, but it is worth the time to rescue from the dustbin of history the valor of this man, who, like so many others, put his body and ideas outside of his times.
A chaos of beings, acts and ideas; a disorderly struggle, rough, bitter, and without any center, a perpetual lie; a continual succession of events that occur blindly, raising some up today only to crush them pitilessly tomorrow.
An informal and anonymous mass, rich and poor, slaves of secular and hereditary prejudice — some because they draw advantage from those prejudices, and others still because they are submerged in the most crass ignorance and lack the will to escape. A money-worshiping mass, that has for its supreme ideal the rich man; a people made brutish by prejudices, by authoritarian teaching-methods, by an artificial existence, by alcohol-abuse, by adulterated and cheaply produced foods, a plague of degenerates from above and below, without any profound aspirations, with no other goal besides “making it” or living tranquilly.
That which is only provisional constantly threatens to become definitive, while the definite never stops threatening to become more than just provisional. Lives which do injustice to the convictions held by those who live them; convictions which serve as springboards for dishonest ambitions. Freethinkers that end up more clerical than the priests themselves, devotees that reveal themselves to be nothing but vulgar materialists. Superficialities that pass for profundities, profundities that don’t get taken seriously.
This is the living picture of our society, and it is still quite inferior to reality. Why? Because from each face a mask leaps forth, because no one worries about being and everyone worries about appearing. Appearances! Seeming! Yes, this is the supreme ideal of this society, and if anyone so avidly desires well-being and wealth, it is only in order to have the possibility of appearing to possess such things. Because, as we fly along with time, money is the one thing that holds us down.
This mania, this passion, this race after appearances and after what improves them devours the rich as well as the vagabond, the cultured as well as the illiterate. Workers that resent the boss, while they dream of becoming bosses themselves; businessmen who make such a fuss about their commercial “honor” but don’t stop themselves from participating in dishonorable business; whether small merchant or corporate capitalist, member of however many patriotic and nationalist committees, he goes as fast as he can to employ foreign labor because it’s cheaper and he can increase his profit; the socialist “representative”, lawful defender of the poor proletarian whose numbers pile up in the dirtiest parts of the city, himself resides in a privileged part of town, in the lordly neighborhoods where air is abundant and pure; the revolutionary, who denounces the state’s persecutions and puts forth great effort to move sensible hearts to action while the bourgeoisie — rudder of the ship of state — persecutes him without respite, puts him in jail, denies him the freedom to speak and write; once this revolutionary has acquired power, he becomes even more domineering, even more intolerant and cruel than those he replaced. The freethinker marries in the church and almost always has his children baptized. Only when the government tolerates it does the religious man dare to express his ideas, and he keeps quiet where religion is made to look as ridiculous as it really is.
Where can we find sincerity, then? On all sides and everywhere the gangrene spreads. It is in the heart of the family, where quite often father, mother, and children hate each other and deceive each other even while they say they love one another. We see it in marriage, where husband and wife, not really listening to each other, are unfaithful to one another but do not break the bond that enchains them, or, at least, lack the courage to speak frankly. Sincerity shows itself in every grouping where one graces his neighbor with the same esteem as the group’s members would generally show to the president, secretary, or treasurer of the group, when they’re trying to get some promotion, or while they’re waiting to take over their post when they reach their term limit. It is often lacking in the various acts of self-abnegation we see in the world — in illustrious acts, in private conversations, in official declarations.
Appearances, appearances, appearances! Pure, disinterested, and generous semblances — when purity, disinterest and generosity are no more than vain lies — to appear honest, moral, virtuous — when integrity, virtue and morality are the least of the professions they profess.
Where can we find someone who has escaped this contagion?
It will be objected that we are treating the problem from a metaphysical point of view, that it is necessary to come down to the solid earth of reality, and that this reality is the only one: that our present society is the result of a long historical process whose beginnings are perhaps not so far in the past; that humanity or the various humanities are seeking out their path, but occasionally mistake it, find it again, go forward and take steps backwards. That certain crises shake its very foundations, that they are dragged along, thrown upon the road of destiny only in order to later give up the march, or, on the contrary, to mark the rhythm. That, scratching a little bit at the fool’s gold, the varnish, the general idea, the surface of contemporary civilizations, the babblings, infantilisms, and superstitions of prehistorical or pre-prehistorical civilizations, could be laid bare.
From a purely objective standpoint we will be told that “actual” society embraces all beings, all aspirations, all activities, and all pains and sufferings as well. That it is comprised of producers and greedy people, of the disinherited and the privileged, the healthy and the sick, the sober and the drunken, the believers and the incredulous, the worst reactionaries and the followers of the most unlikely doctrines. Society evolves; it modifies itself, transforms itself. It carries within it the seeds of dissolution and rebirth — at certain times it destroys itself and at other times it regenerates itself. Here it is chaotic, there it is ordered, and somewhere else it is ordered and chaotic at the same time. It glorifies abnegation, but it extols interest. It is in favor of peace, but it suffers war. It is against disorder, but accepts revolutions. It holds to the known facts, but acquires new knowledge without end. It hates everything that disturbs its tranquility, but it follows astutely those of its children who know to dispel their lack of confidence, or awaken its curiosity with promises of a different kind, or calm their fear with the attraction of a mirage. It declaims against the powerful, but in the end it follows their model, adopting their customs and regulating its aspirations according to those of those in power. Shaken by terrible crises and pulled towards the worst excesses, it naturally finds itself a servant and vassal as soon as the smoke from the fire dissipates. It is impulsive like a youngster, sentimental like a young girl, unsteady like an old man. It obeys its most primitive instinct, the instincts that guided the birds when no society existed, but it gives in to the most rigorous discipline, to the most severe regimentation. It demands that its leaders sacrifice themselves for it, but rebels when exploited by them. It is generous and greedily eager. The rigidity of its habits ends up unbearable for it, but it flaunts its decadence. It is a partizan of the least necessary effort, but it adapts itself to the most exhausting work. It flees from fatigue, but dances upon the volcanoes. It is majoritarian but makes concessions to the minority. It reveres dictators but erects monuments honoring the fallen. A melancholy melody makes it cry, but the drum rolls awaken something in its memory from many generations ago — the desire to massacre, to destroy, to sack. It is cruel and tender, wasteful and miserly, vile and heroic. It is an immense, enormous crucible in which the most disparate elements, the most dissimilar characters, the most contradictory energies are melted down, in an oven that consumes the intellectual and manual activities of its members only for the pleasure of their destruction, a field constantly fertilized by the conquests and experiences of past generations. It appears as a woman in a constant state of pregnancy who doesn’t seem to care who or what comes out of her womb. It is Society.
It will be conceded, then, that not everything is perfect in society, and it will be said that that is a part of every imperfect being. It is by means of authority that it maintains the bonds of solidarity that unite people — relatively weak bonds these — but it still has not been declared nor shown that human societies could exist without authority. Hypocrisy dominates in peoples’ social relations, in every ambiance and among every people; but still it has not been proven that it does not constitute in reality a necessity whose origin stems from the multiplicity of temperaments, that it might not be perhaps an instinctive expedient, destined to attenuate shocks and crashes and to take a little of the roughness out of the struggle for life.
The conditions of production and of the distribution of products favor the privileged and perpetuate the exploitation of those who are not privileged, but it remains for us to determine: 1) whether in the present circumstances of industrial production it would be possible to obtain, without that exploitation, the necessary production to maintain the economic functioning of human societies; 2) if every worker is not potentially privileged, that is, one who aspires to supplant that economic functioning to enjoy his own privileges.
It will be said, further, that it is insane to try to discover and establish the individual’s responsibility, that he or she is suffocated, absorbed by everyone around, that the individual’s thoughts and gestures reflect those of the others, that it cannot be any other way, and that if, in all the extensions of the social scales, the aspiration is to appear and not to be, the cause should be sought out in the present state of the general evolution of humanity, and not in the minimum component of the social ambiance, the minuscule, lost atom, squandered in a formidable aggregation.
We do not intend to speak to those who think that there is no other way besides letting the “inevitable evolution of society” proceed along its slow course. We are addressing those who are dissatisfied, those who doubt. To those who are even discontented with themselves, to those who feel the weight of hundreds and hundreds of years of convention and prejudice. To those who thirst for a real, true life, for freedom of movement, for real activity, and who find nothing but makeup, conformity, and servility around them. To those who want to know themselves more intimately. To those who are restless, tormented, to those who seek new sensations, to those who experiment with unheard of forms of individual happiness. To those who believe nothing shown them in this society. Let Society occupy itself with the rest — those who this world appreciates and speaks well of: they are the “satisfied”.
“Why do you abandon the open path to take this narrow and rough road? Do you really know, little girl, where you’re taking yourself? It just might end up that you’ll find yourself in some unfathomable abyss. No one, not even the smugglers, dare to venture down it. Stay on the wide, spacious road that everyone else walks down, why don’t you? Stay on the cared for and mile-marked path, with its signs and directions. It’s so comfortable and pleasant to stroll along it!”
“Because I’m sick of the suffocating dust, sick of the route the rest follow; sick of the slow drivers and the rushing walkers. I’m tired of the monotony of the main drags, the horns on the cars and the trees that line it like soldiers. I want to breathe freely, to breathe as I please, to live my own life.”
“You’ll never manage to live your own life, poor girl. It’s a chimera. The passing years will cure you soon enough of that desire. We always live in some way for other people, and they, in turn, live, to a certain extent, for us. He who plants wheat is not the same that makes bread. And the miner is not the one who drives the train. Life in society is an ensemble of very complicated human machinery, the functioning of which requires a great deal of vigilance, and demands numerous concessions and infinite attention.
“Think of the chaos which would come of it if everyone wanted to live their own life! It’d be just like hell, if everyone went down that road that no traveler visits, where bad weeds grow tangled, and which leads no one knows where.”
“Oh, old man! It’s just this complication of life in society that horrifies me. I’m shocked by the obligation to be dependent on the person next to me, an obligation that I feel weighing more heavily each day on my being, on my desire to live my own way. And I lose heart when faced with the idea of living the lives of others, of living for them; I want to be able to bite into clean mouthfuls without finding myself considered a glutton or a spoiled brat. I want to be able to lie down and stretch out on the grassy meadows, without fear of any guards or police. I love the roots, the trees, and the forest’s creatures, the brambles and blackberry bushes of this path with no exit; what do I care about the gilded bread and palaces in the company of which I feel disgust? Why should I care where I’m going? I live for today, and I’m indifferent to tomorrow.”
“Oh young girl! Others before you have spoken the same words, and they, like you, have gone towards the unknown. They never ended up coming back from that voyage. A long time after, on the now smoothed-over path, on the summits cleared of underbrush, little mountains of bones have been found, here and there — that’s all that’s left of them. Without a doubt, they lived their own lives, but at what cost? And for how long? Think about those tall towers emitting their thick clouds of smoke without end. They are the chimneys of the grandiose factories that humankind has erected — there, millions of men, on those whitewashed, spacious, and well ventilated premises, are working the marvelous machines that dispense to us humans the most necessary articles. And when night comes, these simple people, satisfied with a day’s work well done, conscious of the daily bread they win by the sweat of their brows, come home singing to their humble homes where their loved ones await them... Look over there at that rectangular building, with its large halls and its ample windows; that is the school, where selfless teachers prepare little beings like you to overcome life’s challenges; little creatures who only find advantage in schooling — can’t you hear the sweet sound of those little voices repeating the lessons that yesterday they were told to memorize?
“The ringing of those military-like bells and those measured steps, which will soon walk the twists and turns of the road before them, is there for you, to bring forth a troop of boys and girls marching with the flag held high before them, children who are kept in the schools for a certain period of time in order to teach them how to efficiently defend their fatherland, their nation, if any new menace rears its head.
“Don’t you see that that’s the way men evolve towards Progress, each of them working in their own specialization and according to their own capacities? There are, without any doubt, courtrooms and jails, but those are for the malcontents, for the few undisciplined ones who make them necessary. Regardless of its defects, the implantation of such a state of things has taken centuries. It is our civilization — imperfect, but perfectible — from whose influence you will never be able to escape unless you sink to who knows what depths.”
“In those vast factories and workshops I see no more than flocks of slaves, executing monotonously, as if they were religious rites, the same gestures in front of the same machines, slaves who have lost all initiative and whose individual energy is decreased more and more every day, and every day it seems less and less true to me that these risks are part of the necessary conditions of human existence. From top to bottom, in the administrative hierarchies, only one watchword can be heard — drown individual initiative.
“Yes, when the night comes, I can hear your workers singing, but with bitter voices, and only after they’ve stopped in at least one of the innumerable taverns set up around the factories. The voices that come from your schools are the little voices of sad, bored children who can hardly keep down their desire to run, to leap the fences and walls, to climb the trees. Beneath the uniforms of your soldiers I only see beings who have had every sentiment of individual dignity annihilated in them. To discipline will, to kill energy, to restrain initiative — these are the imperatives of your society; these are the things people suffer so that your society might subsist. And you fear those who don’t want to adapt to this so greatly that you seclude them in the somber darkness of jail cells. Between your “civilized man” of the twentieth century, whose only preoccupation seems to be avoiding the necessary effort for sustaining his existence, and the man “dressed in animal skins”, which wins out? The latter did not fear danger; he did not know the factory or the barracks, neither the tavern nor the brothel, neither jail nor school. You have conserved, modifying them only in appearance, the superstitions and prejudices of these people you’d call “savage”. But you lack their energy, you lack their valor, and you lack their frankness.”
“Well, I agree that in the panorama of our present society there are some dark shadows. But there are generous men who have tried and still try to introduce greater equity and justice to its functioning. They are recruiting partizans, and perhaps tomorrow they will be the irresistible majority. Don’t go down these out-of-the-way paths — instead, hold to good principles, follow a method. Believe me, I’m an experienced old man; success doesn’t tend to accompany those who don’t systematically pursue it. Science teaches that it is necessary to regulate life. Hygienists, biologists, and doctors will supply you in its name with the necessary formulas for its prolongation and for your happiness. To lack authority, principles, discipline, and a plan is the worst of incoherencies.”
“I do not need, nor do I want your discipline. With regards to my experiences, I want to have them for myself. It is from them, and not from you, that I will draw my rules of conduct. I want to live my own life. Slaves and lackeys terrify me. I hate those who dominate, and those who let themselves be dominated sicken me. He who bends before the whip is worth no more than he who wields it. I love danger, and the unknown, the uncertain, seduces me. I’m filled with a desire for adventure, and I don’t give a damn for success. I hate your society of bureaucrats and administrators, millionaires and beggars. I don’t want to adapt to your hypocritical customs nor to your false courtesies. I want to live out my enthusiasms in the pure, fresh air of freedom. Your streets, drafted according to plan, torture my gaze, and your uniform buildings make the blood in my veins boil with impatience. And that’s enough for me. I’m going to follow my own path, according to my passions, changing myself ceaselessly, and I don’t want to be the same tomorrow as I am today. I stroll along and I don’t let my wings be clipped by the scissors of any one person. I share none of your moralism. I am going forth, eternally passionate and burning with the desire to give myself to the world, to the first real person that approaches me, to the ragged trousered traveler, but never to the grave and conceited wise-men who would regulate the length of my stride. Nor to the doctrinaire who would like to clutter my mind with formulas and rules. I am no intellectual; I am a human being — a woman who feels a great vibration within herself before the impulses of nature and amorous words. I hate every chain, every hindrance; I love to walk along, nude, letting my flesh be caressed by the rays of the voluptuous sun. And, oh, old man! I will care so very little when your society breaks into a thousand pieces and I can finally live my life.”
“Who are you, little girl, fascinating like a mystery and savage like instinct?”
“I am Anarchy.”
The religious consider the individual to be a manifestation of divinity’s designs; the legalists consider the individual as a function of the law; the socialists consider the individual as needing proper administration, as an instrument, as a kind of machine of production and consumption; the revolutionaries consider the individual to be a soldier of the revolution. They all tend to forget the individual as him or her self, outside of all authority. They ignore the individual as an individual unity, subtracted from all domination and coercion of all kinds. This is the empty space anarchism fills.
Anarchy derives from two Greek words meaning negation or absence of government, of authority, of command. Often times it is associated with disorder, but we are not interested in this boring, oversimplified meaning. It is certain that it is a substantially negative term, but by extension it can be used to designate the philosophical conception of society that excludes the concepts of government and authority. The anarchist is whoever brings forth anarchy, the “realizer” of the ideas and acts from which anarchy springs forth. Anarchism is, seen from the speculative, practical, or descriptive standpoint, the ensemble of ideas and facts that are rich in anarchy and flow logically toward it. We consider anarchy and anarchism to be synonyms for whatever is anti-authoritarian and for anti-authoritarianism.
In practice, any individual who, because of his or her temperament or because of conscious and serious reflection, repudiates all external authority or coercion, whether of a governmental, ethical, intellectual, or economic order, can be considered an anarchist. Everyone who consciously rejects the domination of people by other people or by the social ambiance, and its economic corollaries, can be said to be an anarchist as well.
It is difficult to be precise about the historical origins of the anarchist movement. The first person who reacted consciously against the oppression of another individual or of a collectivity was an anarchist.
History and legends cite the names of numerous anarchists: Prometheus of mythology, Satan of the bible, Epictetus, Diogenes, and the mythical Jesus could be considered, under many aspects, old kinds of anarchists. The philosophical origins of the movement seem to go back to the Renaissance, or more precisely, to the Reformation, which, planting in spirits the ideas of free thought and individual inquiry into biblical matters, went beyond the objectives of its initiators and led to the diffusion of rational critique in all subjects. This seed of free thinking, where the development and perfection of a rational critique of institutions and conventions began, came to be planted when people started to dissect the puerile words upon which orthodox believers build their faith.
In the end, the movement finished its work of free thought and submitted to analysis all kinds of laws and rules, morals and teaching programs, economic conditions and social relations. Thus, anarchism became the manifestation of the most dangerous and fearful opposition that the tyrants of government have ever faced.
Marginal, apart from all political parties, like lost youths, the living antitheses of socialism, the anarchists find themselves in fundamental disagreement with present society. They deny the law, and if they rise up against the authority of those who claim to represent them, against the acts of government, it is because they affirm that they want to create their own laws, and find in themselves the energy necessary to live.
In order to survive and perpetuate themselves, societies need to appeal to an infinite number of authorities: the authority of gods, the authority of legislators, the authority of wealth, the authority of respectability, of traditions, of ancestors, of leaders, of directors, of programs, of plans. Everyone either accepts or protests against being determined by his or her environment. The anarchist pushes, on the other hand, for free access to the material means necessary to determine his or her own life without any authority.
We have seen that anarchism is the philosophy of antiauthoritarianism. Anarchist individualism is, as such, a practical conception of this philosophy, and it entreats every individual to seek out and discover in practice, in everyday life, his or her own theory.
The anarchist individualists found their conception of life and of its hopes on the “individual act”. This means that in spite of and in opposition to all the abstractions created by the secular or the religious forces in society, all the traditional ideals of fraternity, the anarchist declares that the basis for all collectivities, for all societies, for all ethnic, territorial, economic, intellectual, moral, and religious entities is found in the individual. Without the individual none of the above would exist.
It will be objected, in vain, that in the absence of a social environment the individual could not exist nor develop. Not only is this absolutely false in the literal sense, since humans have not always lived in society, but it is also false when one analyzes the problem in its diverse aspects, since the following fact cannot be denied: without individuals there would be no social environment.
The human being is the origin, the foundation of humanity. It is only too clear that the individual was the precursor for the group. Society is the product of individual additions.
To be an individualist does not necessarily mean to live isolated and without associating with others. Some people find that alone they are stronger than in groups. These people say that when authority attacks, it does so more energetically when it is a question of an association then when it is a question of individuals. And that when it defends itself it is weaker and more defenseless against individuals. Some of these solitary individuals say that one can never know for certain that one’s comrade will not become a traitor, even involuntarily. Others say that association permits that better results can be obtained, that is, a more ample production in less time, and with less effort. For others, association represents a kind of instinctive necessity.
The individualist cannot be considered simply as a personal denier of authority, but as a personal negator of exploitation. The individualist does not want to be an exploiter, nor does he or she want to be exploited.
The individual can be considered to be a synonym for the “I” or the “self”. Now, the individualist doesn’t put limits on the development of his or her “self”, and does not restrict its personality on the social plane, but is careful not to invade, not to usurp the ground on which a comrade develops and moves. Individualism, the dominion of the “I”, demands the following conception of the relations between the “self” and the “other”, the “I” and the “not I”: An individual, no matter how insignificant or low, cannot be sacrificed to any other individual — no matter how important the other is — nor to a group of people, nor to the majority, nor to the social environment.
In the majority of cases, the individualists are not revolutionaries in the systematic and dogmatic sense of the word. They say that a revolution does not provide a real improvement in the individual’s life, any more than a war does. In times of revolution, the fanatics of rival parties and of fighting tendencies worry more than anything else about dominating each other, and to achieve that domination they avail themselves of a violence and hate that often isn’t even seen in the enemy armies. Like war, a revolution can be compared with a case of the fever: the sickness behaves in much the same way every time. After the fever has gone down the patient returns to his or her previous state. History teaches us that after revolutions, counterstrikes and repressions always take place that separate them from their original objectives. It is necessary, then, to start with the individual. This notion should be propagated from person to person — it is criminal to force someone to react in a different way than that which he or she feels to be useful, advantageous, or agreeable to his or her own life, his or her own growth, and his or her own happiness. That this crime is committed by the State, by the law, by the majority, or by a solitary individual does not make a difference in terms of the problem itself. It is the same crime. Anarchist Individualism comprises the ideas of “individuals” who react when faced with “the social”. These concepts, like I said before, should be the fruit of reflection or the consequence of a reflective temperament, and not the result of a passing overexcitement, foreign to the nature of those who demand it.
Anarchist individualism presents no project, and instead proposes an ambiance in which the individual has precedence over the human mass. It is a new orientation of thought and sensibility more than the fictitious future construction of a new social order.
When it is asked of the individualist to extend his point of view, the individualist recognizes frankly that he or she would only be incapable of existing and developing his or herself in a humanity in which an infinite number of self-governing groups and of self-governing, isolated individuals function simultaneously, practicing all kinds of economic, political, scientific, affective, literary, and recreational postulates. Definitively, a forest of individual and collective realization. Here and there everything happening — here everyone receiving what they need, there each one getting whatever is needed according to their own capacity. Here, gift and barter — one product for another; there, exchange — product for representative value. Here, the producer is the owner of the product, there, the product is put to the possession of the collectivity. Here omnivorousness, there vegetarianism, or any other hygienic or culinary tendency ending in “ism”. Here sexual union and family, there freedom or promiscuity. Here, the materialists, there the spiritualists. Here the progenitor mother, there the children brought up by the group. Here the search for artistic or literary emotions, there scientific investigation and experimentation. Here the schools of voluptuousness, there those of austerity.... And meanwhile it is understood that any individual has the chance to, at any time, migrate from one group to another or to withdraw from the whole. And this without the possibility existing that the more powerful groups would feel themselves capable and/or tempted to absorb the weaker groupings, or that any group would want to violently integrate isolated individuals.
The individualist, in our conception, loves life and fortitude. Proclaims and exalts the happiness of being alive. Recognizes sincerely that one’s own happiness is the objective. The individualist is not an ascetic, and the mortification of the flesh is repugnant to him or her. The individualist is a passionate person. Going forth without tinsel and glitter, chin up, the individualist sings with gusto, accompanied by the flutes of Pan. Communicating with nature by means of his energy, that energy stimulates instinct and thought in the individualist. He is neither young nor old. Only whatever age he feels. And while there is a drop of blood left in his veins, he struggles to conquer a place in the sun. The individualist does not impose, nor does he want others to impose on him. Repudiates bosses and gods. Knows how to love and knows how to repent and change. Gushes forth with love for his own, those of his world, but he is horrified by “false comrades”. He is brave, and conscious of his own personal dignity. He gives himself shape, sculpts himself, and reacts towards the outside. He withdraws from society here and lavishes himself upon it there. He is not worried by prejudices and laughs at those who concern themselves with “what others might think”. He likes art, sciences, and letters. Loves books, study, meditation, and creativity. An artisan, not a day laborer. A generous, sensible, and sensual person. Thirsts for new experiences and fresh sensations. But if he advances through life like a fast-speeding car, he does it on the condition that it’s him driving, animated by the will to determine for himself which role wisdom, and which part pleasure, will play in his life.
We are not ignorant of the theses of those who uphold the law of “continual progress.” This idea is not new. There are seeds of it in Greece and Rome, and later in the mystics of the middle ages. They announced that in the same way as the reign of the Son follows the reign of the Father, after that will come the reign of the holy spirit, in which there will be no more errors nor sins. Leaving mysticism aside, this conception was affirmed and clarified first by Bacon and Pascal, and became general later with Herder, Kant, Turgot, Condorcet, Saint-Simon, Comte, and their successors, the utopian and scientific socialist schools, and definitively by the evolutionists and fatalists of all kinds.
We are not ignorant of the fact that the idea of the law of constant and uninterrupted progress was accepted, exalted, and vulgarized by the poets, the literati, the philosophers, and by many scientists. It played among men the role of consoler, which in previous centuries, when faith ruled them, was played by religion. But with careful examination we can see quickly that there is nothing less founded, scientifically speaking, than this supposed law.
Above all, it is impossible to prove experimentally that the acts of every human being, of every people, of all peoples, are immutable and incontestable effects of primordial circumstance. In reality we care as little for the origin, the beginnings of humanity, as we do for the end or the goals towards which it proceeds. But even knowing exactly what this origin was, we have no scientific criterion that permits us to distinguish what is progress and what is not. We can say that there is movement, a flow — and nothing else. Men, according to their aspirations or to the party they belong to, define this movement as “progress” or “regression”. And that’s all.
Behind this conception of continuous and unavoidable progress, behind its scientific appearance, a secret mystical and determinist thinking rings. Here we see it mix itself in with the idea that the individual is “nature becoming conscious of itself”. There we see it accompanied by the idea that all animal evolution announces and moves towards the rise of the biped of erect stature and which speaks words, that is, the human being. It is pure anthropocentrism, and it forgets the simplest reality — that on the lowliest forms of life that the universe bears, below the atmosphere that surrounds it like a diaphanous veil, a whole multitude of parasites scratch and vegetate. Some accident has overexcited, apparently, the intelligence of one of the many parasitic species living on this body — the earth — and caused it to believe it was permitted to dominate over all the other species. Was this good luck or bad luck for the inhabitants of the planet? We do not know. We have no idea what the result would have been had some other species of vertebrate prevailed, for instance the elephant or the horse, or other varieties of creatures. Nothing proves that nature could not have “become conscious of itself” in a better way through those creatures. Nothing proves that a new geological, biological, or other kind of accident would not take away from man his throne, his power, and his arrogance.
But facts are facts. As things stand, man seems to be, from the intellectual point of view, the most gifted of the terrestrial parasites. Let us return to and study the law of continual progress, the thesis of progressive and necessary evolution. Now, this is a law that cannot be accepted without admitting, at the same time, that not only are the things that happen and have happened necessary, but that they serve and have served, necessarily, the happiness of the human race. To this conclusion arrived August Comte and Taine etched it into stone with the phrase “what exists has a right to exist.” Everything happens, then, for the good of the best of evolutions. In the past as well as in the present. The violence applied to bodies and the violence exercised over opinions; the inquisition; the war councils; the wars and epidemics; the strangulation of undomesticated consciousnesses and the fires wherein the heretics were burned; the death squads; the burning liquids; the asphyxiating gases; the bombardments; the “cleaning out” of the trenches by blows of the bayonet; the use of the atomic bomb and the destruction of Hiroshima; the concentration camps; the ovens — Everything is for the best according to this view. The prisoners of war massacred in spite of having been promised their freedom, the Christians of imperial Rome thrown to the lions for food, the extermination of the Albigenses and the Anabaptists, the pardons handed down from the governors, reasons of state, perverse laws. Slavery, pariahs, the homeless, the jails. The feudal lords that played with their subjects’ lives more easily than with a dog’s life. The monopolists and the exploited, the privileged and those marginalized by the laws. Everything is for the best, everything worked, everything was concurrent in the march towards progress, all these things facilitated and prepared for the coming of ineluctable and universal happiness.
It is impossible! Our reason rebels against this idea!
We look down into this bottomless whirlpool in which the greatest civilizations and most famous ages have sunk, into the depths where the most resonant and grandiose historical periods have been washed away, and from these unfathomable abysses we hear no songs of happiness and pleasure, but instead we hear an unharmonious, horrendous cacophony of protests, cries, and lamentations; feelings, aspirations and necessities ignored, mutilated, offended, repressed. The ferocious and a bit contrived clamorings of the accommodated try to cover and suffocate the screams of rage and hatred from those who had no chance to feel satisfied. But they never succeed.
Rhetorical figures? Sentimental arguments? I concede it. But they are proven by facts, and documented by historical experience. At every moment in the development of a civilization — whatever the influences that preceded their growth — the discontented, the oppressed, the marginalized of one class or another have risen up, alone or in groups; certain people stood up and proclaimed that their happiness was denied by and in the margin of what the dogmas, the conventions, the laws, the decrees, the dictatorships or mandates of mediocre minds, the elite or the social environment imposed. The flame of resistance and nonconformity has never been entirely put out, even in the most sinister days of humanity’s evolution. It is certain that the fire of hope, hope for a happiness different from the official happiness, from the happiness of those around, hasn’t always burned with the same light. But because of this it has never lit any less brilliantly the road of rebellion and individual autonomy, the road on which the majority of humanity has always walked. If it was necessary to attribute to a law the improvements and betterments that some believe they find in people’s social relations, that law might be that of the “continuous persistence” of the spirit of non-conformism, and not at all the so-called law of “continual progress.”
Domination was exercised at first by one person upon another. The most physically strong, the best armed, dominated the weakest, the one with the least defenses, and forced the latter to comply with the former’s will. The man who only had a piece of wood to defend himself with had to cede, eventually, to the man who persecuted him with a steel pointed spear or with a bow and arrow. Later, or perhaps contemporaneously, another factor determined the exercise of domination — cunning. Men came forth who began to succeed in convincing their fellows that they possessed certain secret magical powers capable of doing them great harm, of causing many inconveniences to their persons — and to their goods — if they were to resist the authority of the former. It is possible that these “magicians” were convinced of the reality of their power. Either way, domination has, everywhere and always, two founts — trickery and violence.
In present societies, domination is only rarely exercised — in normal times — with such brutality as it has been. When it is practiced in such a way, it happens thanks to custom, moral or legal sanction, or thanks to an irregular state of things. It is certain that there are still mothers who hit their kids because they disobey, husbands that hit their wives because they reject the legally accepted obedience, and police that fire upon escaping prisoners or vise-versa. But this is tolerated by habit or is exceptional. When domination is exercised over a human collective for the benefit of an autocrat, it happens because that autocrat has the support of a sufficient number of complicit parties or satellites that have a vested interest in seeing that authority survive, and these complicit parties help that domination by forming mercenary armed troops, sufficiently powerful to make all resistance futile.
Domination is rarely exercised for the profit of an autocrat, at least not directly. It is always practiced for the benefit of a class, of a caste, a political clientele, a plutocracy, a social elite, or of the majority of a collective. It supports itself on a regimentation of a political, economic, civil, military, legal, moral or religious kind. And it is made holy by institutions regulated by leaders.
To understand the evolution of the morality of fraternal society, it is indispensable to remember that “good” is a synonym for “permitted” and “evil” a synonym for “prohibited.” Someone — the bible says — “did what was wrong in the eyes of the eternal being”, a phrase repeated in various passages of the Hebrew holy books, as well as those of the Christians. But it is necessary to express that more clearly — someone did something that was prohibited by the moral and religious law established by the theocracy... In all times and in all the big groupings of people, what is “evil” is always the ensemble of acts condemned by convention, written or not — which varies according to epochs and societies.
So it is that it is “evil” to expropriate the property of he who possesses more than what he needs to live well, “evil” to mock the idea of God or of priests, “evil” to negate the “fatherland”, “evil” to have sexual relations with close relatives. And since prohibition is not enough, oral convention becomes crystallized in the law, whose function is to repress.
I recognize that the appearance of a difference between “good” and “evil” — the permitted and the prohibited — marks a new stage in the development of the intelligence of collectivities. At first this difference was social; the individual lacked sufficient hereditary possessions and sufficient mental experience to avoid being submitted to sales and purchases and to the mob mentality.
It is understandable that “good” and “evil” are soaked with religious connotations. Over the course of the whole pre-scientific period, religion was for our ancestors what science is for us. The wisest men from those times on could only ever conceive of a supernatural explanation for the phenomena that they didn’t understand. Religious habits preceded civil habits.
However surprising it might be a posteriori to live in ignorance of conventional good and evil, it is an indication of intelligence. This is not because he who ignores the permitted and prohibited is more like nature — and much less because he is a person without morals — but simply because he doesn’t try to reason with the world and what happens.
On the other hand, the contemporary person who places him or herself individually outside and at the margin of good and evil reaches a superior stage in the evolution of human personality. He or she has studied the essence of the concept of social “good and evil”, and has asked what is left of the permitted and prohibited beyond appearances. If one prefers instinct to reason as a guide, it happens after careful comparison and reflection. If one gives way to reasoning in its confrontation with feelings, or gives way to feelings over reasoning, it is a deliberate act, after having felt one’s way along through one’s temperament. One then secedes from the traditional flock, because one considers that tradition and conventionalism are obstacles to one’s expansion. In other words, whoever rejects these concepts is a-moral, after having asked him or herself what “morals” are worth for humanity. There is a good distance between this person who gives up morality and the “primitive” person, who flees animality at great cost, whose brain is still obtuse, who is still incapable of opposing his or her personal determinism to the crushing determinism of the surrounding society.
Life can only be beautiful for those who take upon themselves the desire to live their own lives.
Life is only beautiful when considered individually, in its uniqueness. It is good to breathe the air, filled with the scent of the meadows, to climb on the slopes of wooded mountainsides, to sit tranquilly at the edge of a creek murmuring its unworried song, to dream on the beach; but on the condition that these are things experienced personally, on one’s own account and not because it was written in some tourist guide.
But only what can be grasped fully can be enjoyed fully, since wherever the ability to appreciate and the feeling of good measure disappears, so too does freedom. The true enjoyment of life is a question of capacity, of attitude, of one’s personal conception of it.
Hindu philosophies, and those that come from them, believe — and there are those that do so more and less — that health comes from the suppression of individual life, that is, from the union of the subject and the object, the fusion of the self with the other, the “I” with the “not I”. Now, all of nature shows us that it is precisely in the differentiation between the “I” and the “not I” where the vital phenomenon resides. And in the same way as nature does, scientific experience also shows that as minor as this difference is — that is, as minor as is the consciousness that the subject possesses of being separated from the object — it is as minor as the sensation and the manifestation of will. There is one phenomenon that unites the I and the not-I perfectly: the particular state called “death.” Here too, nature and experience teach that simple and pure instinct pushes living organisms, from the lowest to the most elevated forms of life, to avoid death. For this reason these philosophies and its adepts seem to me to be plagued by morbidity.
I do not deny that people are nothing but an appearance, an aspect or a momentary state of matter, a passage, a bridge, a relativity. I do not ignore that the I is nothing, in the end, but the sum of the flesh, bones, muscles, and diverse organs contained in a kind of sack called “skin”. In other words, that it is in this form that life for the individual being manifests itself. I admit all this. But as long as this bridge, this passage, this stage, this moment lasts, as long as this particular relativity gifted with consciousness lasts, my reason, upheld by scientific experience, and my feelings, guided by instinct, find it to be natural that this particular composite of aggregates would try to get the best out of all the faculties it possesses.
To limit the passions! To restrict the horizons of the happiness of living? Christianity tried to do so, and it failed. Socialism is trying to reduce humanity to a sole common denominator of necessity, and it will fail as well. Fourier saw it clearly when he launched his truly majestic expression of “the utilization of the passions”. A reasonable being utilizes; only the senseless suppress and mutilate. “Utilize one’s own passions” yes, but for whose benefit? For one’s own benefit, to make one’s self someone “more alive”, that is, more open to the multiple sensations that life offers.
The happiness of living! Life is beautiful for whoever goes beyond the borders of conventional existence, whoever evades the hell of industrialism and commercialism, whoever rejects the stink of the alleys and taverns. Life is beautiful for whoever constructs it without care for the restrictions of respectability, of the fear of “what they’ll say” or of the gossips.
“To live for life’s sake”, to perform the proper function of bipeds of erect stature, gifted with consciousness and feeling, capable of analyzing emotions and cataloging sensations. “To live for living’s sake”, and nothing else. To live for the voyage between places, to appreciate intellectual, moral, and physical experiences, scattered along each person’s path, to enjoy them, to provoke them when existence is too monotonous, to put an end to an experience, to renew one. “To live by living”, to satisfy the needs of the brain or the demands of the senses. To live to acquire knowledge, to struggle and form an autonomous individuality; to live for love, for embraces, for flower-gathering in the fields, for eating fruits from the trees. To live to produce and consume, to plant and reap, to sing harmonies with the birds, to stretch out in the sun on the beach by the oceanside and at the riverbank.
To live for living’s sake, to enjoy sharply, deeply, everything that offers life, to taste every drop from the cup of delights and surprises that life places before the lips of everyone who becomes conscious of their own being. Doesn’t all this perhaps incite noisy complaints from the secular and religious metaphysicists?
The individualists want “to live for living’s sake”. But they want to live in freedom, without any exterior morality imposed by tradition or by the majority establishing borders between what is illicit and what isn’t, between the prohibited and permitted.
To live for living’s sake, no longer racking one’s brains to ask one’s self if this life is consonant or not with a general criteria of virtue and vise, but putting all care in not doing anything that might diminish one’s respect for one’s self in one’s own eyes, nor anything that might damage one’s individual dignity.
To live for living’s sake, without oppressing others, without stepping on the aspirations or feelings of others, without dominating. Free beings, who resist with all their forces the tyranny of One Sovereign as much as they resist the suction of the multitudes.
To live, not for Propaganda nor for the Cause, nor for the Future Society, since all these things are contained within Life, but only for everyone to live, in freedom, their own life. Neither bosses, nor equals, nor servants — these are the conditions in which we want to “live for the sake of living”.
We have no instinctive desire within us to suffer. We flee by nature from physical suffering. And in this repugnance we feel in perfect communion with all living organisms: with those who are of the highest and lowest forms of animal life. We can, at many times, feel different from the rest of our fellows, different from the perspective of aspirations and desires, dissimilar in relation to doctrines and conceptions of life, but we have in common with all living beings who are healthy in body and mind that we do not want to suffer physically.
Every time we suffer, we suffer in our hearts. And we do everything we can — everyone in their own way — to eliminate, or at least to diminish that suffering, to cure ourselves of it. We follow diets, we ingest remedies, and we take precautions to put a quick end to pain and physical trials. None of us willingly accept physical suffering to any great degree.
Well, then, we don’t want to suffer morally either. None of us has become a better person thanks to pain, regardless of the part of us it has devastated. We never find any path to perfection in pain. Every time we suffer “morally”, our health changes, and when that suffering reaches an acute degree, “moralizing” phenomena do not follow: we lose our dreams, or our appetites, or our tastes. We also, sometimes, do things we would never have thought to do; our whole organism offers less and less resistance to epidemics because of our suffering.
We have never gained any benefits or advantages for our suffering. On the contrary, we come out of it diminished, devalued, mutilated by these painful periods that we pass through because of circumstances, people, events, or other elements. The idea of becoming complacent faced with one’s own suffering is a concept with a Judeo-Christian origin which manifests two things — that suffering is the result of disobedience to the law, and that by means of suffering one can be forgiven for one’s sins or for those of others. It is thus the product of self-hypnosis. Some may find, through morbidity, that suffering “contains something good”. But we are not weak, nor are we mystics.
We hate, we detest suffering, because we want to live, because we love living, because we want to enjoy like Dionysus the fruits which life offers healthy organisms, that do not ask themselves — at the moment these fruits present themselves according to the seasons — whether they are good or bad, whether it is good or bad to take them.
On the other hand, physical suffering is not different from moral suffering. Suffering is indivisible.
If we want to physically enjoy life, our life, we do not desire it as “patrons”, as dilettantes, but rather, with passion, with intensity, furor, with perseverance and refinement, with more and more intensity as our existence becomes fuller. Putting into play all our gifts of exterior perception and interior comprehension, all of our aptitudes, we gather — wherever we can discover and/or provoke them into existence — the pleasures, the happiness, and the chances we get by means of our own determination. And we do so by making use of all the deepest reserves of our sensibility.
Our individualism is not an individualism of the graveyard, an individualism of sadness and of shadow, an individualism of pain and suffering. Our individualism is a creator of happiness, in us and outside of us. We want to find happiness wherever it is possible, thanks to our potential as seekers, discoverers, realizers.
Our interior health is measured thusly: we are still not nauseated by the experiences of life, we are still disposed to trying new experiences, to begin again what was not finished or what did not bring us all the happiness and pleasure we were promised; there is in us a love, an infinite love, for happiness. When it is not springtime that sings inside us, when in the depths, deep in the depths of our beings, there are neither flowers nor fruits, nor voluptuous aspirations, that means that something important has been thrown away and lost, and, I’m afraid, that it is time to think about going down that dark road from whence no one returns.
There are youths that call themselves individualists, but their individualism does not attract us. It is stingy, arid, timorous, incapable of conceiving of experience for experience’s sake, pessimistic, pompous, furiously documenting everything or documented in everything, mystified, confused, neurotic, colorless and without inner heat; an individualism that has not even the necessary force, once it sets out on the path of aloneness and freedom, to sink itself into it fully. Oh, what a disgusting individualism! They can keep it; we don’t envy them.
There is the individualism of those who want to create their own happiness dominating, administrating, exploiting their peers, making use of their social influence, whether it be governmental, monetary, or monopolist. It is the individualism of the bourgeoisie. And it has nothing in common with ours.
It is the individualism of those who think themselves to be superior, who want to crush the rest under the weight of their morality, of their intellectual culture; the individualism of the “hardcore” (read, those who are hard with others), of the insensitive; of the conceited who won’t bend over to pick up a gold coin, of those who don’t cry and who exist in that seventh heaven beyond human reality. I fear that this is only the individualism of the fatuous and presumptuous, of the angels that one day sooner or later end up thrashing about in the ocean of uniform mediocrity, the individualism of human turkeys who in the end are content with a little shell to live in to calm their ambition. This individualism does not interest us either.
We want an individualism that radiates happiness and benevolence, like a hearth radiates warmth. We want an individualism that shines even in the wintriest of hearts. An individualism of bacchantes, deliriously free, which extends itself, expands, and overflows, without owners, borders, or limits. Whoever doesn’t want to suffer nor carry heavy loads, but doesn’t want to make anyone else suffer or carry the weight for them. An individualism that doesn’t feel humiliated when called to apologize or to make up for damage caused by carelessness. Oh, what a rich, magnificent individualism!
Anarchist individualists who use trickery as a defensive weapon are to be reproached. However, without cunning and trickery, either authority would have humiliated them or the environment would have absorbed them long ago. To subsist, that is, to conserve, prolong, intensify, and exteriorize his life, the individualist, the outsider, cannot, under pain of suicide, refuse any method of struggle, including cunning. He cannot reject any means, except the imposition of authority. And this is so because he finds himself to be in a state of inferiority in relation to his social environment, which always seeks to extend its usurpation over what he is and what he has.
Who doesn’t play the games of deceit? Perhaps the worker, who is careful not to reveal his ideas to the boss, the boss who steals from the worker a part of the fruits of his labor, the “paster” of seditious manifestos who puts them on the walls of public buildings at night; the distributor of subversive works who works cautiously so he will not be surprised? No, certainly not them. And why should the use of cunning be disdained in others? Why should we let our adversaries know all our thoughts? Why open ourselves and our drives to the first one who comes along? The individualist does not live as a “friend” in the ambiance that surrounds him. He concedes to society the least possible of himself, and tries to snatch what is in his reach, since he didn’t ask to be born, and, once he was submerged in the world, an irreparable act of authority was exercised over him, which excludes all possibilities of any bilateral contract being made.
Anarchist individualists deny any pedagogical value to violence. They do not recognize any practical utility for it in the solution of people’s and collectives’ problems. The use of violence solves nothing. It is only an affirmation of brute superiority, a fundamentally anti-individualist way of doing things because it requires the use of physical authority. The only form of revolutionary action recognized by anti-authoritarian individualists is the special tactic commonly called “passive resistance.”
Passive resistance is an act of rebellion or an ensemble of insurrectionary actions different from the manifestations, the uprisings, and the armed struggles of the world. This kind of resistance never upholds itself by way of the passing and superficial excitation of the masses. Passive resistance, which can be used to achieve all kinds of objectives, supposes the preliminary education and initiation of those that use it.
For instance, one can, without raising barricades, abstain from all activity, from all work, from all functions that imply the maintenance or consolidation of a certain regime; refuse to pay the taxes destined to further the functioning of institutions and services one considers to be useless and unnecessary, and even totally irrational; from tariffs on consumption to the war tax, one can refuse to pay it. One can refuse to send one’s children to State schools, whose teaching one may judge to be tangential, unilateral, and pernicious for the education and development of one’s progeny.
Professors and doctors who are such thanks to an official diploma can be rejected. One may deny any response to commissaries, judges, magistrates, tribunals, civil, criminal, or correctional courts of justice, One can refuse to obey, to adapt to the wording of a decree, of a law, of an order that one considers to be contrary to one’s own conception of life. One can refuse to work for a wage that he deems to be too low or for a number of hours that he considers too high. One can stand up against all kinds of social, administrative, or juridical pretensions and usurpations that one considers to be capable of dealing a decisive blow to one’s autonomy.
Let us suppose the existence of a movement based on “passive resistance” that develops on a grand scale, and is not directed by any “capo”, but which would be studied, premeditated, and decided on individually by each of its participants. Let us suppose a movement of partial or general passive resistance — what could a state, a government, or any dictatorship do, the individualists ask, against this great, silent, decisive stoppage, against this total abstention?
The individualists say that the total absence any chaos, of any activity, would make it impossible for any government to intervene, because that would disturb the public peace. Because each passive resistor or abstentionist would be individually conscious of his or her own refusal, there would be no leaders to arrest. What could the most despotic of governments do against the “crossed-arm general strike”, against a movement of passive resistance comprising of hundreds of thousands of people, from which one would only find defectors very rarely because only those who were driven by their own will would participate in it? They could massacre, gun down those hundreds of thousands, those millions of adherents, but that would not resolve the conflict, and moreover, it would go against the interests of those same directors of people.
Who isn’t conscious that abstention, prepared, matured, and consciously practiced, would have a different value, a different reach than does that noisy, tumultuous and irreflexive agitation that drags in its flocks — whether they wish it or not — a number of followers ready to flee at the sight of the first serious obstacle, some because they had only let themselves be dragged in by the current, and others because they had never thought about the possible consequences a prolonged general strike entails? It is natural, given these considerations, that the tactic of passive resistance will have been the focus of attention for theorists of anarchist individualism, and that these consider it the most appropriate instrument to express their demands.
Whoever speaks of an independent life supposes “risks”. A life free of rocky roads, full of victories, never running any eventual risks even in thought, is inconceivable. It can occur that in a society based on an egalitarian organization of production and consumption, economic risk becomes reduced to an insignificant minimum, but an expansive realm would still remain — the realm of psychological relativities — where risk would persist in being a factor in individual evolution.
On the other hand, it is not one of the individualists’ intentions to refuse risks in their own lives. A smaller risk corresponds to a smaller individual initiative. To a smaller personal initiative corresponds a decreasing individual autonomy. The theory of the least effort doesn’t pertain to any individualist concept; it is the doctrine of those without energy who let themselves be dragged around blandly by the knockout-pill current of conventions, of prejudices and social comforts. Life conceived of outside of social “arrangements” requires an effort. And there is no effective effort without initiative. The withdrawal of individual initiative means the death of will, of effort, of force, that is, the disappearance of the impulse towards a distinct orientation.
Life is only so as much as it is experienced directly. Life freed of authoritarian morality, life unconditioned by any previous gesture, that ignores the changing circumstances in order to better reveal new forms and new aspects. This kind of Life cannot completely avoid risks.
The individual must conquer a full enjoyment of life by means of his own will and action. There, where the adventure has died, only what is regulated remains; there, where there are no more furtive hunters, remain the guards of the hunt. There, where risk is nonexistent, there is nothing more than people carved according to a mold, people cut out of patterns. Robots, functionaries, managers. There, where the bohemian lifestyle disappears, there are only people whose lives are well organized and who are viciously cunning.
Now, to refuse to take risks in one’s individual life is equivalent to making one’s self a robot. Without risks, life would end up reduced to a monotonous chain of known and precedented acts, whose repercussions would resemble hopeless litanies. That those who don’t see anything but a perfect producer and a perfect consumer in human beings, that the “hierarchizers” continue with their annihilation of all risks, that’s OK. They’ve got character. The communists and the collectivists don’t know how to realize their ideal society without people who behave like robots. But to say that the anarchist individualists only “mention” risks? Well! Free life, real, true life, the individualist life, is a constant risk, a constant effort, an experience that doesn’t end except with death.
The day when risk — under any form — is abolished from the face of our poor, small earth, it will drag away in its ruins the last of the individualists.
To know that one is aging; to become conscious that one’s own hair is going white, and one’s face becoming marked with the lines of years; to feel one’s self to be in the bloom of youth — What does it matter, after all, that gray or whitened hairs appear on one’s head? What is important is that I don’t feel old, nor that I am growing old. One has only the age one feels — he who feels old is old. It is certain, considering the social ridicule and sociaal conventions that exist, but he who cannot confront them is condemned to the age he is given, or that which is shown to him.
To live a complex life is not an easy thing, after all. One can count on the fingers the people who are really apt enough right now for a really complex life, that is, for a life that would involve living contemporaneously various existences without these becoming confused or impeding each other. What a flowering of capacities that would be for those who would be capable of manifesting themselves, expanding themselves into multiple activities that accompany each other without conflicting with each other! What a wealth, what a beauty this accumulation of experiences! It is infinitely probable that the man of tomorrow will not be the specialized man, the man of one purpose, but the man of multiple possibilities, multiple reasonings, sufficiently potent and energetic to have various existences simultaneously and in a parallel fashion. I like to think that this would be aided along by innumerable voluntary associations that would have it as their objective — each in their own sphere — to leave unexplored no realm of those things that the investigation and experiencing of which are enjoyed by people.
Doubtless the fanatics, the enthusiasts of the centuries when belief ruled over people, had faith. Faith, as the “substance of the things hoped for”, as the “proof of what cannot be seen”. And through faith “they did great things”. They persevered in spite of the torments. They were whipped, stricken, tortured, burnt, without denying their beliefs, without a single cloud obfuscating their vision. At the beginning, they were a small handful of men. The more they died, the more numerous they became. And these were not only the disciples of a Cakya-Mouni, or a Jesus of Nazareth, nor the worshipers of Jehovah, or the followers of Mohammed. During the great periods of crisis, in times of intellectual repression, of revolutions, of wars, there are always people who rise up, who “have faith” in a better future society, or in the final triumph of their fatherland. People who sacrifice themselves for the free expression of their thought. For their concept of the future society. For an ideal that will never come within their reach. To conquer, keep, or lose a freedom that death prevents them from enjoying.
Perhaps some of you will tell me that you have lost faith in the invisible, or that you never had it. Or also that “we live on food, not words”, or further, that “every happiness that your hand cannot grasp is a dream”. That you don’t want to sacrifice themselves for an ideal. Or to make the least possible effort towards the ignoble “future”. That you want to live right away, without worrying about chasing phantoms.
And it’s good; but if one has no energy nor initiative, one never reaches any horizons, the sky is low, and the air unbreathable. There is no objective.
Contemplate the herb that waves among the grassy hillsides, or the creek that sinks and gurgles from rock to rock, or the little bird that flaps its wings in flight, or the spider just starting to weave her new web. Come, observe, listen. Everything, everyone, will show you it has faith in itself. Faith that they will fulfill their reason for existence for themselves, until they live like beings instead of like things. Faith in one’s own creation. Your present fatigue, since nothing seems important or everything seems as insignificant as can be. Your faith in the result of your present effort, even when the last one failed. A faith so powerful and practical that it produced the miracle of the continuous existence of life in spite of all the geological, meteorological alterations and agitations; in spite of the destruction and depredations that that destroyer without scruples, man, commits.
To have faith in one’s self. Faith in anyone who undertakes their own will and effort. In the work we dedicate ourselves to. Today, right now. For today, for the past which is nothing but the recurring present, and for the future into which we penetrate at every moment. For everything there is to be, since we continually become. For everything we’re about to do, because our feet are always in the stirrups. What is the invisible, the indefinite, the Ideal any good for? Arenít you a part of Reality? Isn’t the work your hands do a proof that you are more than just a shadow? Get moving, then! The rest — enthusiasm, ardor, perseverance, tenacity, the quest for new risks and a disdain for danger — will come naturally.
Wake with the dawn. Moving quickly, taking cars and trains, hurry to work. That is, enclose yourself in a more or less spacious spot, more or less deprived of clean air. Sitting in front of a machine, transcribe memos the half of which wouldn’t even be compiled if they were written by hand. Or, fabricate, working some mechanical instrument, objects that come out the same every time. Or, never moving away from a motor, watch vigilantly over its functioning. Or, otherwise, mechanically and automatically, sitting rigidly in front of a loom, repeat the same gestures continually, the same movements. And do so for hours and hours, without any variation, without distraction, without any change in atmosphere — every day! Is this what you call “living”?
Produce! Produce more! Always produce! Like yesterday, like the day before yesterday. Like tomorrow, unless sickness or death surprises us — produce? Things that seem useless but whose superficiality is hardly ever discussed. Complicated objects which are mostly of a terribly low quality but which can be used unsatisfactorily for some purpose or another. Objects, the process of producing which is rarely understood in its entirety by any of the workers that share their fabrication — Produce? Without knowing what is to become of one’s own product. Without being able to refuse to produce for those who we dislike and oppress us, without being permitted to take the smallest autonomous, individual initiative; Produce: now, hurry! Become an instrument of production that gets itself going in the morning, that drives itself on, that takes on too much, that stretches its capacity until the point of complete exhaustion — This is what you call living?
Leave in the morning on the hunt for a juicy clientele. Cajole the “good client”; doggedly. Run from home, to your car, from your car to work, from work back to the commute. Make fifty sales pitches a day. Spill sweat and blood so your commodity becomes preferred, and the commodity of the next salesman becomes devalued. Come home late, overexcited, fed up, agitated, make those around us unhappy, deprive yourself of all interior life, of all the feelings that pull you to seek out a more beautiful, full humanity — And this is what you call “living”?
Dry yourself up between the four walls of a prison-cell. Feel the unknown of a future that separates us from what is ours, what we feel to be ours at least, because of solidarity or because of having shared risks together. Feeling, if condemned to death or prison, the sensation that our lives are fleeing from us, that there is nothing more we can do to determine our own lives. And do so for months, for whole years. Incapable of struggling anymore. Nothing but a number, a toy, a rag, a thing — caught up, watched over, spied on, exploited. Everything punished with sentences totally out of proportion to the crime. And this is what you call living?
Put on a uniform. For one, two, three years, repeat incessantly the act of killing men. In the exuberance of youth, in your fullest virility, become a recluse in immense buildings where people enter and leave at fixed times. Consume, parade, awaken, sleep, and do everything and nothing according to an established schedule. Train yourself to die, or to produce deaths. Become a tool, a robot, in the hands of the privileged, the powerful, the monopolists, the hoarders, only because you yourself don’t happen to be one of the privileged, nor one of the powerful, nor an owner of men — is this what you call living?
Incapable of learning, loving, being satisfied alone, of spending time according to your liking — having to be shut up inside while the sun shines and the flowers invigorate and intoxicate the air with their scent. Not able to go to the tropics when the snow covers the windows, or to the north when the heat becomes terrible and the grass dries in the fields. To find, erected before you always and at every turn, laws, borders, morals, conventions, rules, judges, offices, jails, and men in uniform who maintain this mortifying order of things.
And this is what you call living? You, who are in love with the intensity of life, you, who adore “progress”, all of you, you who push forth the wheels of this blood-guzzling machine of a “civilization” — I don’t call it living — I call it vegetating. I call it dying.
The individualists have always shown a particular interest in the so-called colonies: free environments, vital activity, work in common.
The reason for this sympathetic interest is in an admiration for the effort that a more or less numerous group of people can put forth in order to create, in the heart of this society ruled by laws and by a general conformity, islands or oases where one can put forth an effort and materialize their own ideals. It is still not possible for these ‘autonomous zones’ to escape the impositions of the society surrounding them, except in exceptional cases. The individualists have always observed that the founders of these colonies, the initiators, and the participants in them always had about them a certain determination to liberate themselves from the old world’s impositions, or, at least, to reduce them to the minimum possible, with a will to last in spite of all the obstacles and problems. That these attempts have had a favorable result or not, whether they founded themselves in religious principles or a-religious ones, makes little difference. What interests us is not whether they remained standing, but their resistance to all the internal and external factors that collaborated or allied together to corrupt them, to dissolve them, and to make them disappear.
The problem is that, sacrificing all to the common denominator, these “communitarians” find themselves estranged before the concept of a union based on the sovereignty of the individual. Is it impossible to imagine a formation that would have the independence of the individual as its object, and not the common preoccupation about the equilibrium between production and consumption?
If the major worry of certain “unique beings” on “our” earth consists in living together without sacrificing any of their own individual autonomy, how can that problem be resolved?
Liberty of solitude and liberty of company! Absolute respect for one’s person, for what belongs to someone and what depends on him or her, and the faithful respect of freely arrived-at conventions. These are some of the foundations on which the function and development of a city of this kind could base themselves, a city which would not have the pretense of being an example for anyone nor of prefiguring a future society, and less of resolving the social question. The objective would be simply to celebrate a permanent gathering in an established place, a place for friends, for individualist comrades, of “unique beings” linked together by merit of similar thoughts, by a shared disdain for hypocrisy, two-facedness, social, moral, or intellectual prejudice, or anything else that makes the social environment a residence for dementia and an asylum of incoherence.
The above lines have no other end than to “launch” an idea that will probably end up having a practical result in the future, or which perhaps will meet with complete indifference.
There is a danger graver than that of conservatism, clericalism, and communism — it is the danger of mediocrity-rule. What do we mean by mediocre? Mediocre man is a half-person, indifferent, apathetic, less than is usual. He is the man who fears combative originality, who fears energetic initiative, who is horrified by absorbing passions, by efforts which consume one, by the spontaneity that exalts, the adventure that forges character, he unforeseen quickness of intuition and perception. Mediocre is the man who is not moved neither by the forces that rise him up nor by those that degrade him; who accepts in good faith being a face in the crowd or an agitator, in such a way that his mentality does not rise above that of the others, accepting as a brother or sister anyone who doesn’t scare him with ardor of temperament or originality of understandings. Mediocre man is always ready to enlist, to enroll, to jump on the bandwagon, as long as no overcomplicated measures are necessary. He is ready to participate in every effort destined to improve his lot, but only if those don’t require him to reflect or cooperate ostensibly. He is not very virtuous, and he is modestly vicious. He is mediocre in everything and of everything mediocre.
Don’t be misled — anarchist individualists are negators, destroyers, demolishers.
They are those who believe in nothing, and respect nothing — nothing, really, is safe from their all-encompassing critique. Nothing is sacred for them.
When should one criticize?
At every moment. There is not a single historical event that didn’t arouse critique — there is not a single suffering, no pain, and no torment that hasn’t given rise to criticism. Every human drama offers material for critique.
Where should one criticize? Everywhere.
How should one criticize? Enthusiastically. Courageously, vigorously. With sincerity. The individualist criticizes as if the possibility that at that instant everyone around him were to become an anarchist individualist depended on his action or inaction. Without worrying about the failures of those who preceded him, of their errors, of their inanity. With the hope and conviction that the result he will obtain will be worth more tomorrow than today.
With what means?
With thousands of means. By all means. With words, writings, action. With newspapers, pamphlets, books. With discussion, conferences, confrontations. With a life lived refracting. With a marginal existence lived as an example.
Not because of dilettantism or arrogance. Not to gain followers and disciples. Not to make one’s self a number or others into numbers. To make a clean slate. And once they are released, once they are freed, once they are placed in the mind, reason and feeling vibrate at will and it remains to each of us to build our own conception of life, complete it, and fabricate one’s own interior City.
I want to live. To live means to appreciate life. Individually. That’s the only reason I feel myself to live by means of my senses. Through them: through my brain, my eyes, my hands, I conceive of the exterior world. I only feel myself to live physically, materially. The gray matter that fills my skull is material. My muscles, my nerves, my veins, my flesh are material. Joy and pain, emotions, sensual, olfactory, tasted, mental pleasures, either augment or restrict the functioning of my essential organs. There is nothing in all of this that is not actual, natural, tangible, even measurable.
I have no other ideal besides the full physical and material enjoyment of life. I do not classify pleasures as superior or inferior, good or bad, useful or harmful, favorable or inconvenient. The ones hat make me love life more are useful. The ones that make me hate it or depreciate it are harmful. Favorable are the enjoyments that make me feel like I’m living more fully, unfavorable those that contribute to the shrinking of my feeling of being alive.
I feel myself to be a slave as long as I consent to others judging my passions. Not because I’m not really passionate, but because I want to flesh out my passions and impassion my flesh.
Why do the bees fatten up their queens in such a way that we only do for our opera singers? This is a question that deserves to be contemplated.
Bernard Shaw. Man And Superman, 1946.
Before putting forth the anarchist individualist perspective on the sexual question, it is necessary for us to clarify what we mean by the expression, “freedom”. It is known that freedom cannot be an end, since there is no absolute freedom, like there is no general truth, practically speaking. Only individual, particular freedoms exist. It is impossible to escape certain contingencies. One cannot be free, for instance, from breathing, from taking things in, from being unique. Freedom, like truth, purity, goodness, equality, is nothing but an abstraction. And an abstraction cannot be a goal.
Considering, on the contrary, that from a particular point of view, freedom is understandable when it is not an abstraction, when there are means of achieving it, when one takes the road towards it. In this sense that the freedom to think, to be able to conceive of and do things without exterior obstacles in the way, to express through words or writing one’s thoughts as they take form before the spirit, makes sense.
This is precisely why only particular freedoms exist in possibility; leaving the domain of the abstract, placing ourselves on solid ground, we can affirm that “our needs and our desires” — more than our “rights”, an abstract and arbitrary expression — have been refused us, mutilated or covered up by authorities of various kinds.
Intellectual life, artistic life, economic life, sexual life — the individualists demand the freedom for these things to manifest themselves fully, according to individuals, to the tune of their freedom, outside of he legalist conceptions, and of the religious or civil prejudices. They demand, considering them to be like great rivers from which human activity floods, that they be free to flow in their own direction without being dammed up by moralism or traditionalism. Even further, that they not be hindered by impetuous error, by over tensed nerves, by backwards impulses. Between life in the free air, and the life in the shop front, we choose life in freedom.
Love is one of the aspects of life, and the most difficult to define, because the perspectives from which it can be considered are very diverse. Sometimes the satisfaction of sexual necessity, an emotion, a sensation that escapes one’s comprehension is called “love”, and other times a feeling that comes from the spiritual necessity for intimate and affectionate camaraderie, from a profound and persistent friendship is called “love”. Other times, beyond all this, it is even a reflexive act of will whose consequences have presumably been pondered. Love is also an experience of personal life: here and there we find impulsive experiences, pure caprices, and experiences that can last for many years or for the entirety of life.
Although love does not escape analysis any more than the other domains of human activity, its analysis presents more difficulties. Love is found “beyond good and evil”. Some paint it as the “child of Bohemianism”, others attribute “reasons that reason ignores” to it, many consider it “stronger than death”. It is, essentially, of an individual nature. If it is feeling, it is also passion. Whenever a person lives his or her life in an affectively intense manner — whether this intensity comes from feeling or passion — it influences his or her character, awakens spirit, is conducive to “heroism”, but also brings along in the same way feelings of dismay, sadness, and gloomy anxiety. If reasoning and will can, in certain cases, channel the development of these feelings, they do not take away love’s characteristic sentiment and passion.
The way things are, humanity is made up of beings of different sexes whose coming together is indispensable for the perpetuation of the human race.
Until sexless people (they would hope) can be created in biological labs, this indispensability will continue, and since that dawn of that day will take a long time to come, it will be necessary to speak of human differences of this sort.
But not only is the continuation of the human species linked to the attraction of people of both sexes, nature has it that the two sexes are attracted mutually, and that the sexual act be the fount of a voluptuous happiness that depraved asceticism and farcical Puritanism would like to dishonor or stain with infamy. They will never come, however, to considering it an unhealthy act, since it forms a part of human nature.
The fact itself that procreating can be voluntary and that its exercise can be the consequence of the woman’s free choice does not suppress sexual attraction in any way.
The sexes are attracted to each other, seek each other out, naturally, normally — this is the original, primordial fact, the fundamental basis of the relations between the two halves of the human race.
On the other hand, it is insane to try to reduce love to an equation or to limit it to one form of expression. Those who attempt this will find right away that they’ve been walking the wrong road. The amorous experience knows no borders, no limits. It varies from individual to individual.
Sensual, sentimental, or affective, a great duplicity is imposed on sexual relations. The legal kind of love is for many people the only they know; that is, the lifelong union of two beings who usually didn’t know each other so well before their “marriage”, who in their flirting and relationship before the marriage and into it usually hide their true character, and, in spite of the possibility of divorce, tend to have a hard time separating without grave social or economic inconvenience.
Free union itself is only very slightly different from marriage when it accommodates itself to custom. As regards convenience, a great number of people who are naturally ‘changeable’ or ‘unstable’ have to appear to be ‘constant’ or ‘stable’. From thence results that people live together and end up suffering real tortures and the awkward ‘comfort’ of domestic hypocrisy. It ends up that the two refine their superficialities together, trying to hide from each other their real temperament, and bringing up intrigues that require a permanent lie. This all results in the reduction of people’s character, and generally of personality.
Is there anything less normal than the practical consequences, in the life of some women, of such conceptions as chastity and sexual purity? The infamy, accepted by all, that tolerates two sexual moralities, one for women and other for men? Is there anywhere women are more enslaved, where she is made more ignorant and placed more brutally beneath a yoke?
All legal and obligatorily constituted societies can only be hostile to irregular loves. To consider the normal expression of love, natural sexual attraction, it is necessary that the preoccupation for individual anatomy predominate over all other things.
To slave-love, the only kind of love that authoritarian societies can tolerate, the anarchist individualist opposes free love. To sexual dependency, that is, to the dominant concept demanding that the woman be mostly nothing but pleasure-meat, the individualist opposes sexual freedom, in other words, the freedom for every individual, of both sexes, to have their sexual life under their own control, to determine it according to their desires and the aspirations of their sensual or sentimental temperament.
When anarchist individualists demand sexual freedom, what do they mean? Is it “freedom to rape” or of deprivation, that they want? Do they hope for the extermination of all feeling in amorous matters, the disappearance of tenderness or of affection? Do they glorify, perhaps, heedless promiscuity, or bestial sexual satisfaction? No. We simply want that every individual should have the right to dispose of their sexual life according to their own whim, and in all of the circumstances of that life — according to one’s own temperament, sentiment, or reason. Attention: this means one’s own sexual life, not that of others. We do not demand sexual freedom without sex education. We on the contrary believe that, gradually, in the period preceding puberty, human beings should ignore nothing concerning sex life — in other words, the unavoidable attraction of the sexes — whether considered in its sentimental, emotional, or physiological aspects.
So, “Freedom of sexual life” is not a synonym of “perversion” or of “loss of sexual sensibility”. Sexual freedom is exclusively of an individual order. It presupposes an education of the will that would permit each to determine for himself or herself the point at which one is no longer in control of one’s passions or inclinations, an education which perhaps would show itself to be much more instinctive than it seems at first glimpse. Like all freedoms, sexual freedom requires effort — not that of abstinence; abstinence is a proof of moral dissatisfaction, in the same way as deprivation is a sign of moral weakness — but of judgment, of discretion, of classification. In other words, it is not a question of the quantity or number of experiences, but of the quality of the experimenter. To conclude. The freedom of sexual life remains united, in the individualist sense, with preparatory sexual education and the power of individual determination. Julio Guesde wrote in 1873 that “sexual relations between women and men, founded upon love or mutual sympathy, will then become as free, as varied, and as multiplied as the intellectual and moral relations between people of the same or different sex.” We, realists, actualists, affirm that thesis; that sexual relations between men and women (except those which individual temperament bars) can right now become as free, as variable, as multiplied as intellectual or moral relations between humans are, or should be.
We believe that the truly advanced spirits of an age are the emancipators of that age, and that they should concern themselves with becoming educated by the best sex-educators available; they should never let a chance to propagate and affirm the importance of sexual education go by. A human being should know not only what delights — sentimental, emotional, physical — are reserved for us by sexual life, but also what responsibilities it implies. A serious sexual education would not ignore the problem of making procreation voluntary, nor would it ignore the thesis that “it is the woman’s choice when she will conceive.” Or even that “extreme” opinion that “society should allow women to choose to abort her children or to give them over to the collective for them to raise them.” It would also treat the subject of prophylactics and other precautions one should take to avoid the fearsome effects of venereal disease. The propaganda of the freedom of love is indispensable for bringing each individual to serious reflection about the negative effects of these diseases, to consciousness of their symptoms, information too often left to mystery or treated too lightly.
The individualists do not separate “freedom of sexual life” from “sexual education”. And it is important that those that know teach those that don’t. It is an elementary responsibility.
Contrary to the prejudices of a religious or civil order, the individualists consider the question of sexual relations in the same way as they would treat any question. They do not exclude sexual voluptuousness from the experience of life as a whole: they place it on the same level as intellectual (artistic, literary, etc.), or even moral, or economic voluptuousness.
When the individualist anarchists demand freedom of sexual life — in all circumstances, inside as well as outside of marriage — they do not pronounce themselves to be in favor of nor against monogamy or polyamory. To dogmatically support the one or the other is equally anti-individualist.
The individualists ask that the amorous experience not be qualified as more or less legitimate, as superior or inferior, whether it be simple or plural. They demand that all beings instruct themselves on all these things, and that neither fathers, mothers, nor fellows take advantage of their privileged situation to keep them hidden from those who trust them and place their confidence (by the familial obligation or otherwise) in them. To each person belongs the right to determine his or her sexual life as it pleases them, to vary their experiences or to remain with a single partner; in other words ‘to do as they please’.
Making affective phenomena penetrate into everyday life-experience is not a way for the individualists to diminish the importance of the ‘love’ factor in the evolution of human existence.
We would save ourselves certain disillusionments and revulsions if we were to make certain facts of life, instead of considering them definitive, to appear temporary, modifiable, revisable; essentially variable. This, which is already accepted from a scientific and intellectual point of view, is often not accepted from the sentimental, affective, or sexual point of view; we don’t know why. Moreover, it is not enough to accept this idea hypocritically and practice it clandestinely. The individualists demand the searching out and practice of “sexual freedom”, and demand for it the same publicity as is given to the other “freedoms”, convinced that its development and evolution are connected not only to the growth of individual and collective loyalty, but to a great extent as well to the disappearance of the authoritarian regime.
Sentimental emancipation consists, from our point of view, not in negating, inferiorizing, or devaluing feelings, but in putting them where they belong — on the physical, physiological plane. In all walks of life there are people inclined, instead, to put their feelings (their sexual or amorous sympathies) on a metaphysical plane. Conveniently, the individualist has been emancipated from this illusion. Feelings, sentiments, are experienced perceptions, those perceptions that the self, in the presence of other not-I beings — the intuitive and sentimental self, the sexual self if you please — The sentimental impression that one or various not-“I”‘s produce might be more or less impulsive, alive, powerful, marked, durable: this impression is not rustic nor inexplicable; it can be perfectly well elucidated, reasoned, analyzed. It is a manifestation of the senses like the rest; it is not more nor less moral — it is, simply, “beyond good and evil.”
Sentiment is of an individual nature, but it is susceptible to education, to conversation, to intensive and extensive acculturation, like everything that is part of the domain of the senses, everything that pushes sensibility forth. One might wish to be more sentimental than one is, and this can be achieved, in the same way as one can come, through the appropriate care, to make a tree or the land produce more beautiful fruits, or larger thorns. One can, by looking carefully, learn to be a good lover, to be tender, affectionate, caring, as one can learn to be a sailor or a speaker of a foreign language. It is certainly a question of temperament, but it is also a question of will; of reflection, of the search for personal tastes.
Thus, from the sentimental point of view, everything is liberated that makes sentiments fall into place, into the manifestations of individual sensibility, between the products of the personality’s vital constitution. Everything, sentimentally speaking, is liberated that considers feelings to be a susceptible product — like all the products of human sensibility — of development, intensification, improvement, or vise-versa.
The words, ALWAYS and NEVER, have too dogmatic an appearance to make up a part of the individualist’s vocabulary.
The experience of amorous camaraderie begins at the moment when two beings like each other; if not in detail, at least a grosso modo. Generally this happens without anyone worrying about the future, and it can also happen after a long period of reflection. It can take place when one loves in general, and the other desires in particular. From the moment when one of the participants declares, beforehand, that they don’t consider the amorous experience a caprice, the experiment goes on, until it is ascertained whether both are in agreement. Among ourselves, we find that we have too much scientific spirit about us to draw any conclusions from fortuitous encounters. We know perfectly well that, in the same way as the swallow’s song doesn’t make the spring, neither can one or two hours of love reveal everything the people involved are capable of manifesting.
Theoretically, the amorous experience might last an hour, a day, or ten years. It can last for an instant or it can go on for the whole duration of a person’s life. Practically, it ends when those who lived it agree to put an end to it, or when whoever announces his or her desire to interrupt it gets the sincere agreement of his or her co-experimenter. To impose the breakup of an amorous experience on a fellow human being is an act of authority (voluntary or not), as it is also an act of authority to impose an end to living together. To make someone accept an amorous rupture requires a refined tact, an extreme delicateness, requires taking various precautions. Perverse words, malevolent insinuations, bitter reproaches — these are weapons which anarchist individualists refuse to use. Their greatest worry is to avoid the suffering of those they want to leave behind. The practice of polyamory permits the prolongation of the amorous experience and avoids all brusqueness. In any event, in that case it is always between comrades that one puts an end to an amorous experience: without offending, sweetly; between comrades disposed towards starting again tomorrow, as the case may be. Among us no experience, of any kind, ends definitively.
People with an inconsistent nature, if they declare themselves right away, give those who fear suffering an opportunity to know how to behave, to know what they can believe in. If this clarity exists, there is no possibility of concealing, of fraud, or of deception. A comrade may, for instance, love a certain person, A, with the intention of prolonging the amorous experience and of living together, and also love another person, B, with the same spirit, but without living with them, and also love C and D on a pure whim. What is most important is that all intentions are made clear.
If, for individualists, to impose a breakup in amorous matters can be considered a function of the conservation of one’s independence or personality, that rupture nevertheless cannot compromise the comrade it is imposed upon. Some individualists end up saying that s/he who desires the separation must make sure that the other will have found an equivalent to make up for the loss, or, on the contrary, to get them one. The method of equivalency, they say, is the only scientific one; they say it responds to the idea of energy-sharing and compensation. For them the road of arbitrary desire is closed — without it, the compensatory element bubbles up in “reprisals” and vengeance, inadmissible between good comrades.
This said, it is clear that, in the final analysis, imposing a breakup ought to end up comfortable. But not everyone reacts in the same way. Some accept the situation without objecting and others feel pushed to present and make the considerations of their particular nature heard. These others may be thinking that their loved one is under the influence of some foreign or retrograde energy. The individualist can defend his cause to the comrade, and the comrade will listen to those arguments, examining whether the former is capable of changing their mind. The individualist can make an effort to persuade; if pushed by determinism, insisting, as he does with his daily propaganda, upon drawing others to the ideas he professes. And we must not alienate ourselves from this insistence.
But in no case will individualists who want to impose a breakup and those who oppose it resort to legal sanction or physical violence. The employment of these means would exclude them ipso facto from anarchist individualism.
Up till 9:15, you found the person with whom you had been living for such a long time to be gifted with all kinds of unrivaled attributes and qualities; listening to them one would say that they were the incarnation of an ideal, almost an angel sent from heaven to accompany you and make your earthly existence tolerable. At 9:20 you find out that this unique, extraordinary person, this perfection of perfections, has slept with someone else; yesterday, or last week, or a month ago, or 6 months ago, or a year ago. At 9:25 — you’ll have needed five minutes to become yourself again — this perfection of perfections has become a monster in your eyes, perhaps the most repugnant monster the earth has ever been home to. Their presence becomes suddenly odious, and to deal with the news you see no other recourse than to abandon forever the roof under which you’ve lived so many hours of affliction and enjoyment together.
I don’t know what reasons of moral order — lay, juridical, or religious — you might be basing your actions on, but in my eyes I declare frankly that I can only conceive of your conduct as dictated by one of three motives — ignorance, cruelty, or dementia. Alright, well, I don’t want the company of ignorant, cruel, or demented people.
I will be cynical. I maintain that if sexual impudence — which has nothing to do with sexual freedom — were universal, it would produce no more evils and miseries than the present manner of conceiving of marriage.
The bourgeois denounces us for being partizans of sexual freedom. We are called indifferent, insensible, immune to the pain or hassle resulting from not being able to keep emotions inside, from mistakes, from ruptures, from separations. And this is not really to have known or understood us at all. Although we have to deal with the most atrocious suffering, with being sentimentally crucified, we do not want dictatorship in matters of love, nor do we want them in political, economic, moral, or intellectual matters. We don’t accept, in the world of love, the dominion of men over women, nor the dominion of women over men.
In speaking of associationism or of camaraderie in intellectual economic, scientific, or recreational questions, all the anarchists, or each one of them, presents his projects, plans, and suggestions. When it is a question of associationism in sexual matters or of amorous camaraderie, the assembled seem distressed; the men look at us as they would look at an importune invader, and the women as though we were depraved.
Nationalism, chauvinism, or patriotism, bellicosity, exploitation, and domination are found rooted in jealousy, in accumulation, in amorous exclusiveness, in conjugal fidelity. Sexual morality always makes use of the retrograde parties, of social conservativism. Moralism and authoritarianism are tied to each other like ivy to an oak-tree.
It’s not that I want the death of love, but rather I am afraid of dead love. To this I oppose living love, which breaks the chains of prejudice, tears off the masks of pride, and leaves disdainfully; that love which is above good and evil, unbridled love, flowing and unhindered, drunken, aphrodisiac love, equal and plural, generous love that no one denies. I oppose it to the pallid, coarse, limited, scarce, prudish love, ignorant of passion and adventure, that is glued to the love for one person alone like a snail is glued to its shell, a stingy love that does not give itself because it can offer so little.
Certain people, respectable in matters of anarchy, have looked at each other upon meeting and whispered: pornographer. The pornographers, friends of mine, are people who cannot hear talk of sexualism, cannot read an erotic description, or feel themselves around a desire for love without being disgusted by it, without feeling a repulsion. The pornographers are those who feel assaulted in their insides when they see the shining back of a neck, a softly beating throat, a fine skin, a curved hip; it makes their blood boil.
The pornographers are those who believe themselves to be in the empire of sin when a vision of luxury passes before their eyes. Ah, the poor impure ones! Ah, the slaves!
The couple that ignores “lateral loves” ends up undergoing mutual influence in the way they see things, the way they feel; even reproducing eachothers’ manias. Here individuality disappears, personalities are overwhelmed, and both in the couple end up without individual initiative. They end up afraid of experience for its own sake to such an extent that, though they may even call themselves anarchists, their lives hardly differ from those of the most antiquated social conservatives.
For me, the primordial question is that of knowing: does not propaganda in favor of amorous pluralism, of the conquest of the faculty of plural love, in its triple form, intellectual, sentimental and carnal — does not that propaganda value human unity? If an individual lets himself or herself know others more intimately, and allows others to know them more intimately, don’t they glow more brightly, live with more intensity; doesn’t he or she appreciate with more looseness and freeness of spirit the energies of his or her comrades, doesn’t she become less poor, less curt, less stingy in the contact with others that determines his or her everyday life? That is what interests me as a bringer of anarchy, convinced that sentimental poverty, the indigence of amorous luster, and conjugal dogmatism constitute excellent fields of operation in which to plant the seeds of truth in orthodox or archist spirits.
I don’t know why the search for a sentimental pleasure for the satisfaction that it can provide, the refinements of amorous enjoyment for the delight that they can dispense to us, are considered by some individualists (!) as less pure, less elevated, and even less noble than the journey through intellectual pleasure for the cerebral contentment that it can proportion. I don’t understand how an anarchist could bring himself to compose a hierarchical list of the different enjoyments: cataloging this gesture, cataloging such and such a body part as dignified or undignified. Without a doubt I am a great “pervert” — at least I’m not greatly “pure” — but I cannot see the least qualitative difference between the cheek or buttocks of a man or a woman. I do not understand, then, why it must be “good”, for anarchists to uncover the cheeks, and “bad” to unclothe buttocks.
I don’t understand why among some anarchists the pleasure that one experiences listening to beautiful music is considered “elevated” and why the pleasure through which we enjoy feeling flesh tremble at the touch of our kisses is considered “low”. How can one have an anarchist concept of life and at the same time construct a hierarchy of the sensations? I cannot bring myself to understand that.
What do I mean by amorous camaraderie? A concept of voluntary association that encompasses amorous manifestations, passionate and voluptuous gestures. It is a more complete understanding of comradeship than that which only brings intellectual or economic camaraderie. We do not say that amorous camaraderie is a more elevated, more noble, or more pure form; we simply say that is a more complete form of comradeship. Every camaraderie that is comprised of three is, say what you will, more complete than those comprised solely of two.
Individualists, materialist and determinist anarchists, say or write that to go beyond enjoyment for enjoyment’s sake and pleasure for its own sake, is an equivocation, an illusion. I expect nothing after I die, I will say it again, and I don’t consider it an equivocation nor an illusion to contemplate, at the edge of the ocean, to hear the murmurs of the city, in an orchard, to crunch apples in my teeth. I don’t consider it an illusion nor a rip-off to feel the pressure of a woman’s lips against mine. My life is too short — like yours — for me to renounce at the moment the occasion presents itself for me to enjoy someone who offers themselves to me, or to provoke the opportunity if it were necessary.
I hear people saying that monogamy is superior to any other kind of sexual union. Different, yes; superior, no. History shows us that non-monogamous peoples are in no way inferior, as far as science or literature, to the monogamous ones. The Greeks were dissolute, incestuous, homosexuals, and they praised courtesanship. Look at the artistic and philosophical works they created. Compare the architectural and scientific production of the polygamous Arabs with the ignorance and crudeness of the monogamous Christians of the same era. Moreover, it is not certain, as is presumed, that monogamy or monandry are natural. On the contrary, they are artificial. Wherever archism does not intervene or punish quickly with its typical severity (archism, that is the law and police) there is an impulse towards sexual promiscuity. Take a look at the saturnal and floral bacchanals of Antiquity — carnivalesques; medieval festivals; Flemish kermises; the erotic clubs of the century of the encyclopedists — contemporary open-air dances. They are reactions; and you can like me or not, but they are reactions in the end. What’s happening is that humans have a very hard time putting up with subjection to monogamy and monandry, and that kind of sexual union is only so on the outside, in appearances. That’s the truth.
I do not deny — no one has denied it — that monogamy works for certain — let’s say many — temperaments. But based on the studies that I’ve made of these questions, I proclaim anyway that monogamy and monandry impoverish sentimental personality, narrow the analytic horizon and the restrict the range of possibilities for involvement with different people.
To practice “amorous camaraderie” means, for me, to be a more intimate comrade, a more complete, and closer one. And by the mere act of being connected through the practice of amorous camaraderie to your lover, you will be, for me, a closer, more alter ego, more loved comrade. I intend, furthermore, to help myself to sexual attractions like I would in a panacea of more ample, more accentuated friendship. I have never said that this ethic was within the reach of all mentalities.
We are told that it is necessary to indicate at which port the individualist anarchist must drop anchor when he launches himself into the ocean of the diversity of the forms of sentimental or sexual life. The individualist anarchist milieu of which I am a part holds another point of view. We think that it is a posteriori and not a priori — according to experience, comparison, personal investigation — that the individualist must decide to go in for one kind of sexual life or another. Our initiative and criteria exist in order that we might help ourselves to them without allowing ourselves to be diminished by the diversity or plurality of our experiences. Attempts, tests, and adventures don’t scare us. .To set out on this path brings risks that must be calculated, we must look ahead straight and clear before getting on the boat. Once we are floating on the sea, we will know where the wind is pushing us; the essential part is that we must fix our eyes well upon the dark storm in order to end up with the clearest lucidity, always apt to take stock of the situations we’re in. To figure out where we’re at. We consider life to be an experience, and we want that experience for its own sake.
It’s worth the hassle to analyze the prejudice of chastity, because of the support it gives to the statist and authoritarian concept of the present social conditions. I call chastity a “prejudice” because looking at it from the point of view of reason and biological hygiene, it is absurd that a man or woman should impose a silence on the functioning of a part of his or her organism, renounce the pleasures or gestures that this functioning can bring about, or refuse the most natural necessity. From this point of view one can daringly affirm that the practice of chastity, the observance of sexual abstinence, is an abnormality, an expedient counter to nature.
In a now-extinct English review, “The Free Review”, a woman, Hope Clare, described in surprising terms the consequences of chastity upon the health of the feminine element of humanity.
“Daily, proofs are given to us of the physical evils that a long or constant virginity causes. Disuse debilitates, and mutates every organ. Only the perverted constituents of civilizations-in-decline refuse to exercise their sexual functions.... The primitives are in this respect much more sensible than the civilized. Nature punishes abuse as well as abstinence with the same rigor. Is the matter really an impartial one? A profligate person can have a long career of intemperance without his or her health really suffering much, but a virgin does not escape inconvenience so easily. Neurotic hysterics, the most widely-known expression of this chronic sickness, is the near-unavoidable result of absolute celibacy. It is found with a good deal more frequency in women than in men, and the most expert specialists are agreed that, nine times out of ten, abstinence is the first cause of this affliction. Menstruation, which is of such importance in the life of a woman, does not happen without perturbation among virgins. Very occasionally it happens accompanied by suffering. The deep disarray which the health of many single women suffers has no other reason for existence, and it ends up causing very grave inflammations of the reproductive organs. The state of the celibate person is morbid, their bodies are predisposed towards sickness and suffering. Anemia, chlorosis — these are the results of continuous virginity. Every day one walks down the street beside these victims of this violation of nature; they are easy to recognize because of their pallid and yellowed faces, their sunken eyes, their cold look, their phlegmatic step, their rigidity. They could be likened to flowers wilted prematurely for lack of life-giving sunlight, but if they would bloom if only they were transported to an atmosphere of love.”
These lines justify fully the qualitative of “prejudice” which I apply to chastity. This can be examined from a religious as well as from a civil point of view.
The religious people of ancient days consecrated with the cult of their gods a certain number of priests and priestesses that would vote as to people having sexual relations or not, and the violation of their command was punished by other sanctions. It is evident that the important position that amorous life occupies in the lives of people distances them from the “duties” they are supposed to have to Divinity, and creates obligations and distractions that run contrary to the cultish behavior that these religious entities impose upon their creatures. The natural always disgusts the spiritual, the physical annoys the metaphysician. That’s why the mystics consider sexual gestures and love in general as though it brought with it an element of the impure, because “sin” — the sin par excellence — makes the divine come down into the human, establishing heaven on earth. This idea comes to its apogee above all Christianity. Sexual, carnal love, is the sin, and as such it is displeasing to the sanctity of the Divinity. Moreover, the founder, supposed or real, of Christianity, was celibate, or at least is presented to us as such. The apostle saint Paul, that great Christian propagandist, saw quite clearly that, as a last resort, it is better to cede to the sexual impulse, that is, to get married, than to “embrace” or “lay with” people. But in the eyes of God, the state of virginity is recommended highest. As it is necessary to give a place to “the working of the flesh”, though it only be to assure the prolongation of that mutant form of love called “marriage only”, it was also necessary to make marriage into a sacrament, the union of two bodies and souls to a certain moment, a union based in the perpetual vote of sexual fidelity, blessed by the earthly representatives of God, and having procreation as its unique goal.
The civil conception of marriage is a lay translation of a religious idea. The state official of civil matters exercises no more than the simple function of lay priest. The citizen, theoretically, must remain chaste until the magistrate has sanctioned his or her sexual relations by means of marriage. If he or she proceeds in a different way, he or she is chastised by the public, and receives the condescension of straight society, especially if it’s a girl. The State has, in effect, a big interest in making sure that sexual relations have as a corollary the establishment of the family, because this is the reduced image of authoritarian society. Authorized by laws, the fathers impose a contract on the beings they have caused to be brought into the world — without consulting them — a contract the terms of which may not be discussed, and which contain the germ of the whole social contract; it is in the family that the child learns to obey without discussion, without critique, which makes it necessary to be content with evasive responses or without any response at all when he or she asks for any kind of explanation; it is in the family that interest in becoming a good schoolboy, a good soldier, a good worker, a good citizen, is inculcated in the child’s mind. When this child leaves the family to found a new one, he already has all the qualities required to be dominated or to dominate, to be exploited or to exploit. That is to say, to be a good supporter of the state.
Now then, the chastity that women have been kept in, and in which they have kept themselves, has predisposed them admirably towards playing their role of good mother, good teacher, good citizen. From the moment, however, that nature is about to undermine or put the artificial in danger, she must renounce nature and subject herself to the artificial. This is the result of the practice of chastity in women.
There where the prejudice of chastity has disappeared, in individuals as well as collectively, the other unnatural prejudices upon which social conventions rest will not take long to crumble. Prostitution would end too if the social ambiance didn’t find it necessary to devote a more or less large part of its population to satisfying abnormal existences.
Emotions are subject to sicknesses, in the same way as all faculties or functions which are exhausted or damaged. Indigestion is a sickness of nutritive function brought to excess. Tiredness is overwork produced by exercise. Pulmonary consumption is the sickness of injured lungs. Sacrifice is the amplification of abnegation. Hatred is at times a sickness of love. Jealousy is another one.
Jealousy has many faces. There are jealousies of property. They come from a sickness of legalized love, sanctioned or not by the code. One of the conjugal partners considers the other as “his or her property” or his “thing”, a “custom” out of which they cannot escape. And cannot conceive that “their thing” might pull back, nor that their power over them might be taken away. This kind of jealousy can get complicated because of the influence of a wounded self-love, or become aggravated beneath the weight of economic constraints.
There are “jealousies of sensuality” when one of the participants in the amorous experience finds themselves “diminished” by the end of the amorous relations that linked them with the person who has fallen away but who they still love. Complicated by desire, suffering grows in the face of the knowledge that a third enjoys the pleasures that this sick person had reserved for themselves.
“Emotional jealousies” also exist, which proceed from a feeling of decreased intimacy, a shrinking of friendship, or a weakening of the same. Whether or not the eclipse of affection given by the loved one is explainable, the person in question feels that the love he or she was the object of is decreasing, becoming ill, and threatening to end. Thus the moral and physical energies decrease proportionally. Their health is also altered in general.
Sensual or Emotional jealousies can be considered, as well, as a reaction of the instinct of conservation of amorous life against that which menaces its existence.
“Jealousies of property”, which are not at all interesting from the anarchist individualist’s perspective, are linked to the disappearance of the idea that a human being can belong to another, as if it were a question of a piece of furniture or some other object. “Sensual jealousies”, in general, are cured when the patient finds another individual with whom he or she can relive emotions or sensations that are more or less similar to those which he or she lost with the person left behind.
Certain facts demonstrate that “emotional jealousies” are hard to cure, and are sometimes incurable. It has happened many times that a person receives such a blow from an amorous disillusionment that the whole rest of their life is altered. I have known men who had built their whole emotional life on a particular affection, and who, having lost it, have ended up feeling so down and out that they’ve killed themselves.
Individualists do not deny jealousy any more than they do the flu. But if it is true that sexual experiences differ from one another, how can jealousies — a morbid form of love more than a sickness of it — how can they exist? Can an individual, whether the subject or the object of an amorous experience, really and sincerely think that he or she lacks the qualities and necessary attributes to attract another similar love? The emotional experience is one thing, and the sensual experience another; and selecting someone to procreate with is even another. It may come to pass that the man with whom a woman chooses to procreate may not be the one she feels the greatest affection for, and that she searches in him for certain physical qualities to which she is indifferent in another man. Can the one really reasonably be jealous of the other?
Can it be affirmed that, in women, jealousy is a proof of love? Is it not, on the contrary, the result of centuries upon centuries when priests and legislators continuously repeated to us that woman is destined to be the possession or the object of a man, that he should, conversely, be entirely hers as well, and that she was indebted to her owner and prohibited from having two people?
If it is true that the fire of love, once it is put out, cannot be reignited, it cannot be denied that there is no hardness, and even cruelty, in the abandonment, to isolation and pain, of a human being that sincerely loves you and for whom there was reason to believe retribution in emotions would be due. Almost every time — when it is a question of conscious people’s involvements — when reflection and will are made to intervene in affectionate experiences, almost every time a serious, honest explanation is given, the causes of the sickness disappear.
When love has really disappeared, the cure is obtained through reasoning more than through pity. Pity — which must not be confused with benevolence — is one of those uncertain and equivocal remedies that, rather than curing these sicknesses, perpetuate them.
Quite frequently we find, in society, disgraceful people that take recourse to violence or to intimidation in an attempt to keep the love of those they claim to love. It is fitting to ask what can be left of an affectionate love that prolongs itself beneath the threat of the revolver. I cannot understand what a person thinks he or she is going to gain by killing the person they love. Unpremeditated, it is an act of insanity; premeditated, it is an act of vengeance. Above all, in questions of love, vengeance is a vile, low act.
Responding to people who are “convinced of their jealousy”, who affirm that jealousy is a function of love, the individualists remind them that love, in its most elevated sense, can also consist in “desiring, above all else, the happiness of the loved person”, in finding “their own happiness in the maximum realization of the personality of the object of love.” This thought, in those who share it and cultivate it, almost always ends in creating a cure for “emotional jealousies”.
Behind it all is the fear that these diverse emotions are mere palliatives and cannot cure the sickness but superficially. In love, like in all the rest, abundance is what annihilates jealousy and envy. This is why the formula of love in freedom, everyone for everyone, is the preferred way of going about things for anarchists.
I am horrified by coquetry in love. I do not sympathize with the woman who, though she is desirous, lets herself be desired passively. A prolonged resistance freezes my blood and definitively pushes me away when maneuvers to mask the acuteness of the sexual necessity come into play. Neither ingenuity nor getting to know someone better are sufficient excuses for me. If respect and esteem were not in such great disuse, I would say the woman who gives herself is deserving more than anyone of them. Let her give herself, let her not deny or make a commodity of herself. Let her simply give herself. Without make-up, without playing a ruse, without calculations, without assumptions, without hidden goals. Without thinking about guarantees of ulterior fidelity. Without interrogating destiny. Without worrying if s/he goes back to another lover. Let he or she abandon him or herself, give his or her body. And not only his or her body, but his or her imperfections, passion, or sensibility. Without ostentation in contrast to the natural intimacy of love. But also without that puerile fear with respect to the good or bad opinions that his or her gift might generate. Giving oneself to another, because of love in general or desire in particular. To whomever one likes, to whomever likes one. Sometimes together, other times with different people. For an hour, a day, ten years. Without any selfish preoccupation with civil state or social condition. This is the character of a lover, of people who are really in love, who really love themselves. The flirt does not give herself, does not sell herself, does not make a commerce of herself, but rather, simply exhibits herself. She is a cold lover. She is a mask, the counterfeit figure of a real lover. The coy woman is the antidote to love.
One can find a relatively good number of “bourgeois” that practice “free love”, or, rather, its caricature. Among them, this practice is accompanied by flirting, coquetry, and clever maneuvers designed to disguise the severity of their sexual need. Among them lies, appearances, calculated actions, and deceptions abound, and hidden intentions are cultivated. Money interests come into play when venality does not do so directly. “Free Love”, for them, is a synonym for “free prostitution”, and those who believe declarations of friendship or sympathy are paid in coin. A puerile fear in the face of the good or bad opinion that “giving” one’s body might result in manifests itself. Passion is filtered out, and emotion dispensed drop by drop; sensibility is distilled. People make themselves believe things that aren’t true. People promise themselves easily without having the slightest intention of doing what they promised, disillusionments cruelly follow after reasons for believing in illusions are given, the given word is taken away brutally after having allowed the other to believe in the supposed affection, and mischievously they play at offering themselves and taking it back. It even ends up sometimes that people will delight in the pain of those they torment and oppress with their refusal of love to them. In a word, they make each other suffer with the greatest indifference.
It is not strange to run into people with advanced ideas, readers of vanguardist newspapers or members of extremist organizations that would be scandalized if any talk of sexuality appeared therein, without the observation of certain precautions of language or style. For them, the genital organs are always “shameful” parts of the body. There is no real discussion of what the sexual act refers to or the pleasure that it stimulates and is stimulated by. They forget that without the attraction of voluptuousness they would not be in this world. “Cover that breast!”
The life of the senses plays a considerable role in people’s existence. Why ignore its influence? Why not concede to it, on the contrary, the place it belongs in? True sexual liberation consists in insisting on this point: sexual desires are natural things, and they lose the alien feel they typically end up characterized by when the experiences, satisfactions, and refinements to which they can be so conducive are spoken of and written about in full, clear light.
Obscenity consists in intrigue, in the “closed doors” that surround the varied manifestations of sexual life.
I can’t even conceive the possibility that there might be something unhealthy in contemplating the spectacle of the coupling of two beings, or of the caresses they give one another. It is no more harmful than contemplating a painting showing a laborer planting a field, or harvesters collecting grapes. What is unhealthy is the prejudice that would prefer that these spectacles be hidden beneath a veil and made to circulate clandestinely and furtively.
What is modesty, on the other hand? What is obscenity? The dictionary defines obscenity as what is contrary to modesty, and modesty as the feeling of fear or timidity that people have relative to sex. This particular definition goes on to say that obscenity is of a purely conventional order, and that a book, a show, a recording, or a conversation loses all its obscene character when the person who reads, sees, perceives or hears it does not feel, in doing so, “neither fear, nor a feeling of timidity.”
So, obscenity does not reside in the object looked at, in the writing that is read, in the habits one has, in the words one uses, but, every time, is instead in the person looking at it, examining it, hearing it. There is no more obscenity in a volume detailing the amorous act or in clothing that lets certain parts of the body be seen, than there is in the spectacle of a turkey clucking around a farm or a poppy which rises up from a bed of flowers; there is no more obscenity in reading an algebra book or listening to an operetta.
In all fields of human behavior, expression and spectacle bring out desire. It is no more “obscene” to desire a woman whose dress lets one see a well-formed leg than to desire a box of chocolates, or to look hungrily at a tree bearing excellent fruit, or to install a henhouse after seeing a egg be laid. These are completely normal associations of ideas.
The curve of a waist, the tightness of a pantleg, the adhering of a swimsuit to the skin, and the nakedness of a human body have nothing reprehensive about them. Not only do I not feel any kind of repulsion, fear, or timidity about me when I see these things, but I have indeed never noticed the arising of such feelings in people of normal intelligence. I have found people who are not pleased by the absence of “modesty” in spectacles they witness, but I have never found anyone who could demonstrate to me that a spectacle or an expression are obscene in and of themselves.
Obscenity is a perception purely relative to the individual that feels him or herself to be hurt or scandalized by what they perceive. Objectively, obscenity does not exist outside of that individual., it does not exist in the same way as modesty does not exist. Dorine’s breast is not impudent, it is Tartuffe who sees impudence in it. Tartuffe is a hypocrite. Given the Jesuit mentality of our contemporary social environment, it can be inferred that 99 percent of those who censure or denounce with the greatest vehemence those lectures, spectacles, and gestures they consider “inappropriate” suffer no real “feeling of fear or timidity” before the thoughts those things might engender in them. They are hypocrites, like Tartuffe, their model.
Sexual stimulus is no worse than classical, mathematical, literary, or artistic stimuli. There is an infinity of books that discuss, with a profusion of details, the combinations and refinements that the practice of exact sciences and fine arts can give rise to. Why are there not oral and written courses in amorous voluptuousness, wherein all the great things that the practice of amorous relations can give rise to might be openly discussed and taught? Since these courses do not circulate ad libitum, the description of voluptuous practices is considered obscene. That’s the only reason.
We find in life two kinds of people who repudiate effort; some for interest, some because they aren’t apt. The first are the “parasites” — those who do not work — that is, those who would like to live off the work of others, not so much because they are incapable of doing it themselves, but because it ends up more profitable for them, less tiring, to let themselves be lulled to sleep with sweet nothings. The parasite is not only someone who lives comfortably off collecting rents or off a fortunate inheritance; he is found in every part of life and in all areas of human activity. He operates in all ambiances. Proteiform, he has a thousand different names: as a vagabond he might be a poet, an artist, a propagandist, a worker without work, a specialized worker who perhaps is very hard working. But one can be all these things without being a parasite in any way. That’s why it’s hard to unmask the parasite. With a little ability and clarity one can recognize the parasite; his work consists of plagiarized ideas, his activity and propaganda full of other people’s work and banalities. The proletarian who takes advantage of the efforts of others to improve his own luck, who never takes an active part in the revolutionary struggle — let us not forget that he too is a parasite.
We admit that we are all a little parasitic. But in a general sense, what thing, what being on this earth is not a parasite on the Earth? And isn’t planetary life in itself a kind of parasitism? We take advantage, clearly, of the conquests of our predecessors. We move about upon the bridges they constructed for us, we feed our brains with their ideas. If we limit ourselves to this, we are all nothing but vulgar parasites, and in that case we would do much better to just shut up and become recluses, hidden away in our nullity, instead of going about divulging, as though it were flour from our sack, things that others said before us and better than us. It is only upon the condition that we go beyond, that we continue the work of those who preceded us, at our own risk and danger, helping ourselves to their works and results as though these were signals that point the way to new struggles and experiences, that we cease to be parasites. Parasites abound in the world of production. Who could tell us the number of unused workers? And everyone who accepts and perpetuates — even as they condemn — the conditions of life in present society are not even the worst of the parasites — the worst are those who understand the necessity of making an effort and don’t because they are afraid of the risks that go along with it.
On one of our postcards the following maxim is printed: “Prostitute your brain, your arm, or your groin, it’s still prostitution and slavery.” But this isn’t a sexual apology. On the contrary. What it means is that the worker who lets himself be exploited muscularly or intellectually commits a logical error if he considers himself “morally” superior to the street whore who catches passing flesh hunters. Because whether we are hostile to or are in favor of modern exploitation, we perpetuate it too. Whether they be our mental, muscular or sexual faculties that we allow to be exploited, it is only a mere question of details. An exploited person is an exploited person; we are all to an extent exploited, and those who let themselves be exploited and are against exploitation are prostituting themselves. I do not see how the kept woman or the mistress is inferior in any way to those who are adversaries of exploitation and yet spend their whole day in front of a machine making machinelike gestures, or going around trying to find out if they can extract some profit for their bosses from a parochial group of merchants. Prostitution has little to do with the kind of work a person is doing; it is the fact that we are making a living through a process which is contrary to the opinions we profess, or which reinforces the regime we would like to combat.
We have always considered nudism to be a revolutionary revindication. We must add that it is only as an individual means of emancipation that it interests us. This does not mean that we practice nudism as a therapeutic activity or that we are trying to get to a more “natural” state of things. From the individualist perspective, the practice of nudism is something more than a hygienic exercise or a more physical culture.
We consider the practice of nudism as:
An affirmation. To demand the freedom to live naked, to get naked, to walk around naked, to associate with other nudists without having any preoccupations upon discovering the body besides its resistance to temperature; it is to demand the right to totally determine for ourselves the disposition of our bodily individuality. Against social and religious institutions that insist that the use or abuse of the human body should be subordinate to the will of the legislator or the priest, the nudists’ demand is one of the most profound manifestations of individual freedom.
A protest. To demand and practice the freedom of nudity is to protest, in effect, against every dogma, law, or custom that establishes a hierarchy of body parts, that considers, for instance, that the exhibition of the face, the hands, the arms, the throat, is more respectable than to unclothe the buttocks, the breasts, or the stomach. It is to protest against the classification of the parts of the body as noble and ignoble — the nose, for instance, considered noble, and the penis summarily ignoble. It is to protest, in a more elevated sense, against all interventions (legal or not) that demand that “we must not oblige anyone” to strip off their clothes “if they don’t want to”, and that we be “obligated to wear clothes” if other people would like it that way!
A liberation. Liberation from clothing, from the subjection to wearing clothes which have never been nor could ever be anything but a hypocritical disguise, given that the importance shifts over to what covers the individual up — and consequently to what is “accessory” — and not to the body, whose culture, nevertheless, constitutes the essential part of life. Liberation from one of the principal notions upon which ideas of “permission”, “prohibition”, “good” and “evil”. Liberation from flirting, from passive acceptance of those artificial, gilded indicators, which maintain class-differences. To save one’s self from that prejudice of modesty which is always just “shame of the body”. To liberate one’s self from the obsession with “obscenity” that our social hypocrisy cultivates.
We hold that the practice of nudism is a kind of “better camaraderie”, of “less-scarce companionship”. A comrade, or a fellow, is less distant from us, more valuable to us, more intimate, simply because he or she gives him or herself to us in plain view without any subtle intellectual or ethical intentions, and moreover without any hiding of the body.
The detractors of nudism tell us that the sight of nudity or that to frequent nudist colonies consisting of people of both sexes is an exaltation of erotic desire. In reality, the erotic “exaltation” engendered by nudist activities is “pure, natural, and instinctive”, and it cannot be compared to the fictitious “excitation” produced by semi-nudism, the skimpiness of dresses and all the artifices of touch and makeup that the clothed (or half-clothed) society we find ourselves in makes use of.
There is a method, the absolute application of which would repair, for those who would adopt it as a basis for their relations and agreements, any wound, prejudice, illusion, or economic trap; any diminution or injury to personal dignity — the method of reciprocity.
Predicated upon loyalty, in any field of human activity, the method of reciprocity implies equity, as much in the economic sphere as in that of customs, in the intellectual fields as well as in sentimental or emotional questions. In effect, there is nothing that can escape the effects of reciprocity. This is a way of behaving as regards other people that has a potential for truly universal irradiation. It is very simple to expound, because it consists in receiving the equivalent for what has been given, as much as regards the isolated individual as the associated one.
In exchange for the product of your effort, I offer you mine. You receive it and we stay on hand for each other. If, on the contrary, it does not satisfy you, if you don’t consider it equivalent to that which you’ve given, well, in that case everyone keeps what’s theirs and we look for someone else with whom we might come to a better accord. In this way, none of us become debtors.
It will be objected that it is an aspect of that concession, reciprocity, that it ends up making a ferocious beast out of a man. For example, you may judge me, and you are in your right, but I will also judge you and will do so with the same weapons — don’t run away. Don’t hold back criticism from me, and I won’t be careful to keep mine from you; you have injured me, you have offended me, and I will offend you, I will do the same injury to you, or worse. You showed yourself to be cruel, merciless, inexorable, and I will react in the same way. So you see, we are not, and never will be, peers. Though it be practiced in all its crudeness, the method of reciprocity automatically reestablishes and affirms dignity, placing it on an indestructible pedestal.
Without a doubt, supported in reciprocity, relations and accords among men exclude deceit. Without a doubt, the method of reciprocity implies Thalion’s law, but it only works if, in every assessment, we put ourselves on an equal level with respect to our personal dignity. It is certain that we will discover ourselves and treat each other as we are. My determinism is not yours, the things that push me to react are not the same that move you to action; very occasionally, my feelings direct me to follow the road your reasoning moves you down. But in as much as I am myself, with my mind together, I sustain that I am worth something, and I don’t claim to be your equal. Perhaps I am less muscular, perhaps your mind’s capacity is superior to mine. Perhaps you are more sensitive to certain emotions which do not happen to disturb me. But insofar as I am myself you cannot tear me away from anything, nor claim ownership of my product, if I don’t think that what you offer me is what I’m looking for. So we shake hands, whether we agree or not, whether we are going to trade the products of our efforts or not. I continue being myself, and you continue as you were.
Because I appeared to be alive, and vegetated. Because I was a kind of undead being, I didn’t worry about love. I closed my eyes and quit listening to my understanding. I imposed silence on the throbbing of my heart. I told myself that love doesn’t flourish except in plenty, in the exuberance of life. That love is to life as the spinal column is to the body. That it is for life what energy is for matter. And that during those long months, interminable, of exile, I was going to throw away all thought, all worry relative to love.
And I made no exception for any of the ways in which love manifests itself in the spirit or senses.
Love, in its essential aspect. Noble, elevated, mystical. Love, stronger than death. Accord of two wills. Or of two consciousnesses. Or of two evolutions, ringing out the same note together when the shock of events made them vibrate; when the most unforgettable unpredictable things happen, making them resonate with pleasure or pain, sadness or joy. In the abyss of their destinies, the love that their encounter realized consecrated or in the process of being consecrated. Or as a fusion of two affinities that called to each other and themselves. Atop the mountains and seas, above separations and distances. And which they had both envisioned in their futures when they met. And met again. Love that doesn’t exist nor understands itself. Without an absolute understanding of the loved one, a comprehension for all moments. Which leaves no room for secrets, no mysteries. Not inquisitorial love. Nor suspicious, nor jealous, nor nagging, nor invasive love. But that love which hums deep within those who love so completely that no thought, no act on the loved one’s part can surprise, nor come up unannounced, nor helpless.
Or, love in its sentimental, pure, delicate aspect; faithful, infinite, profound. The love that needs good earth to grow in, whose primordial element is caring, affectionate tenderness, persistent, obsequious love, that in order to develop and live would need an atmosphere or reciprocal attachment. Love that makes the loved one’s accent change, that changes their voices. That one of its glances makes one tremble in the brain. Which does not resist a kind word, a gesture of true sweetness. But that shakes like a poplar leaf when it hears the footstep of a stranger. That love which feeds itself with its own flames. That always finds an offering to pleasure on the altar, an offering taken from an inextinguishable reserve when the fire that burns on the altar threatens to diminish in intensity. Love that keeps no account books of losses and gains. Love that suffers, laments and cries over the idea of inflicting suffering and causing tears. That love that neither the wounds, nor the drownings, nor the deprivations could ever debilitate, beat down or starve. Love that pardons, not seven but seventy times. That love that consoles, that cures sickness, and welcomes new progeny celebrating its turn. The love that disgrace makes more vigorous, which ties itself to a destiny like a rock sinks into an oak tree, humble and perfumed like a violet in a valley. Certain love, that lasts, love that gives birth to love. That lives on love, that dies of love, and that sometimes succumbs to excess of love.
Love in its butterfly like, vagabond, carefree aspect. Which knows no law but that of its caprices, which follows its caprices though it die trying. Love that devours the flower without waiting for the fruit to mature, passionate love, iron red in the fire, incoherent love. Which finds no meaning outside the inflammation of its liveliness and in the quickness of its being put out. That likes tabooed pleasures, prohibited enjoyments, forbidden caresses, unpredictable adventures.
Mischievous love, rascally, orgiastic, indecent, unstoppable, immodest, impatient love, terror of the greedy and of people with good sense. Love that doesn’t consult the marriage records or the civil registers, that kind of love that could care less about all the barriers and constraints, that crouches between the fake layers of identity and hides in the dark corners of the alleyways. Love which knows no remorse nor spite, nor fidelity, nor constancy, which forgets yesterday and ignores tomorrow, that never worries about drying up the tears it causes. Light, frivolous, ironic, happy, mocking love, in revolt; playful love, satyr-like, love, child of bohemia, gypsy love.
Well, then, I don’t think I’ve left out any of the many faces under which love appears, in the heart, the brain, and the senses.
And as I had imposed it upon myself to refuse a single thought to love, love appeared to me to be even more fertile, more tremendous, more potent. What a desert-like existence, where love no longer flourishes and becomes fruitful! What weakness, an existence where love no longer defies the forces that dispute the orientation of the will! What impotence, a life that ignores the resources of creation, of originality, of freshness, that resound and shine in the presence of Love!
I know that voluptuousness is a theme that people don’t like talking about nor writing about. To speak of it causes a certain alienation, or provokes complaints of bad taste. There are books in any library that embrace nearly all the aspects of human activity. There are dictionaries and encyclopedias. Perhaps there are a hundred books, concerning a single specialization of human manual production. And I’m not even including political or sociological books. But not a single book can be found on the shelves consecrated to voluptuousness. There are magazines about numismatics, philology, heraldry, fishing, card games. Even the most minor artistic or poetic tendency has its magazine or paper. The most insignificant ism has its bulletin. Love novels abound, and one can even find books that speak of free love and sexual hygiene. But not a single periodical is devoted to a frank look at voluptuousness, without reserve, discussing it as one of the most important founts of life energy, as happiness, as a stimulant of life struggling to exist.
People circulate long, drawn out studies about how to paint, how to sculpt, about woodworking, stonecutting or metal forging. But I seek in vain for documented articles that consider voluptuousness as an art, which expound the old refinements, and propose new ones. It isn’t that voluptuousness is irrelevant to them. But they’re only interested in it as something clandestine, shadowy, something hidden behind closed doors. Only then do they speak of it. As if nature wasn’t sincerely voluptuous! As if the heat of the sun and the scent of the fields weren’t conducive to voluptuousness!
I am not ignorant of the reasons for this attitude. I know their origin. The Christian virus infects the brain. The Christian venom circulates in your veins. The reign of your Owner isn’t of this world. And you are the slaves to this master in his reign. Yes you, socialists, revolutionaries, anarchists — who swallow unblinking a hundred plastic columns about social demolition and construction, but who are “obsessed” and scandalized by two hundred lines calling people to the voluptuous experience. Ah, poor slaves!
The present epoch is notable for the fact that it contains the existence of a human race which tends more and more to dress and eat the same way, to stay in living spaces constructed from the same mold: a humanity that thinks the same way about everything and in the middle of which, if this isn’t reacted to vigorously, there are distinct personalities and original temperaments, inventive and creative minds which will become more and more rare until they constitute real anomalies.
Let no one speak to us about the uselessness of art, because it constitutes a vehicle of personal affirmation and manifestation. Yes, art is useless when it is “social”, when its interpreters prostitute themselves, that is, when they try to be liked, when they submit themselves to current opinion. Any theory that attempts to collectivize for the use and happiness of all, those sensations that only make some happy is truly harmful and toxic.
True art, art for the artist, is not toxic. It develops the artist, it brings up desire and appetite in the spectator, it awakens the will to intensify and deepen as far as possible the affirmation of the “I” in the work.
Who would say that nature always produces only useful or toxic things? No matter how imperfect it may be, it always produces something enjoyable.
I don’t ask artists, creators or interpreters to please me. I feel capable of determining which pieces harmonize with my desires and those that don’t satisfy me. I ask the artist to make art: to put his “whole soul” into the work, that he affirm himself in it intensely, with as much sincerity and passion as the cockerel in the morning as he sings his cock-a-doodle-doo, or the turkey making his rounds.
What I ask from the artist is not that he marry his work with my conception of beauty, but rather that he reveal to me what he is when he paints, sculpts, dances, plays, or declaims. It is the artist’s idea of feminine beauty that interests me when I see Venus sculpted in Paros marble. I am interested in their vision of the position of the sun, reproduced with such an orgy of colors in those canvases which the indifferent multitudes can’t recognize the beauty of. It is the scream of their hearts, broken by their abandonment by the loved person which saturates their poems. It is their personal interpretation of this waltz by Strauss. What interests me in the artist is original individuality, creative manifestation, affirmative initiative. It is, in a word, their personal manner of approaching art.
Either art for the artist, or the artist for the art. Either the work of art in which the artist described, gave shape to his interior vision, where he spilled out all his imagination and his experiences, the work of art as an act of individual revelation, as a way to manifest the most intimate emotions and sensations. Either that, or the artist for the art: the artist-servant of a formula, slave to a technique, a needy person who proposes the perfection of his execution of the sincerity of an impression. The artist for the art: which pursues a “social” end, which writes, paints, or sculpts to obtain the consensus of others, to convince and to persuade, the artist who sacrifices the sincerity of his perception to the necessity of being understood by the easily disturbed. No! Art for the artist, or nothing!
One can possess the basic technique of an art and remain fallacious, that is, to write, paint, or sculpt to produce a determined effect, to become renowned, to make money — in other words, to become exactly the opposite of an artist. On the other hand, one can be a great artist without having ever produced a single work of art. In other words, one can be a dreamer, an artist inside, for one’s whole life.
To demand of yourself “perfection” in your own artwork does not always reveal the creative spirit, a initiator’s temperament. It can certainly connote excellent, precious gifts of ability and capacity; it can be a proof of certain qualities of a skilled laborer, but in my eyes, it is force, potency, originality that attracts me to a work, not the finishing of details and constant, suffocating worry about formal perfection. I ask that a work move my sensibility to the point of drawing tears from my eyes, that it put my capacity for comprehension to the test, that it make a hurricane of contradictions rise up within me. I want to see in every work of art an attempt, a sketch, not a definite object, outside of competition, so limited, so perfect, that its creator cannot surpass it any longer.
Writers who have studied the question are almost all in agreement when they say that poetry preceded prose: that before composing books of history or geography, grammatical or philosophical treatises, man expressed himself in verse or declaimed rhapsodies. The poet preceded the grammarian. This is easily understood if it is admitted that poetry is the “intimate song of the human spirit”, as the romantics would say. If it is also admitted that the poetic language is the most appropriate for the translation of the crises of joy and pain, the wrenchings of tenderness and hatred, the sentiments of faith and doubt, the dreams that console and the deceptions that deprive us of hope. Prose is too disciplined and dependent on grammatical form to serve as a vehicle for the description of the passions that wage war in the human being, for the expression of the sufferings and enjoyments that fill our days. Up to now we have not diverged in any way from the classical perspective. The point at which we break off from the school is when they say that poetry is not of a complete character until the poetic language is subjected to certain measures, to certain rhythmic combinations, subject to a set of rules which regulate what they call “Poetic Art”.
Is poetry the translation, the representation of the emotions that shake and vibrate a human being? If we say yes, I don’t see how that can accommodate a collection of rules: to impregnate poetry with cadences and measures that constitute impediments to the sincerity of expression. If poetry is a literary process, subject to the observation of certain fixed rules, it ceases to translate, to manifest what afflicts the soul, and is no more than a way of writing, as conventional as prose... It would no longer be able to reflect the agitation of the emotions that live in people except by means of rhythmic combinations in which spontaneity and truth would be as singularly deformed as the emotions themselves.
It isn’t that we are trying here to negate the architectural aspect of a poem composed of many different cantos, each of which comprise a regular number of rhyming alexandrine verses, aligned systematically; nor are we trying to doubt the monumental character of a piece of theater, ordered into scenes and acts, meticulously articulated, with majestic monologues and without breaking the rules of the poetic art. It is not a question of a failure to recognize talent, or the way those who put them together elaborate them, nor of genre itself at all. However, it is only far away from this “form” that the drifting, free nature of that poetry abandoned to chance manifests itself, with that impetuous style that distinguishes poetry from the other expressions of human emotion and thought. Instead of the famous “beautiful chaos”, I see nothing but precepts, levels, chains of arpeggios; hooks, lines, and sinkers...
Without a doubt, a form is necessary for the materialization of cerebral production. It is necessary to reword one’s thoughts so they can be understood and multiply. Papyrus, canvas, paper, colors, inks, pencils, cloth, scissors, marble, the kinds of type, are other intermediaries, as such, which the intellectual worker or the artist cannot be deprived of. What I deny is that the measures and the rhymes are the only form of the poetic voice. You may object in vain that it has been that way up until today — or more or less up to today — in all the literature of all the so-called civilized peoples, whose poetic production, even when they don’t use rhymed verses, indeed do employ the repetitive meter of the Greeks and latrines. The theme would require a more profound study. I will respond quickly that it’s just the force of tradition and custom, intellectual prejudices, and the influences of a unilateral education that make us think those rigid forms are necessary.
It is not a question, either, of denying the effects that one can achieve with rhyme and meter, but rather of affirming that they cannot give a poetic character to a piece of literature that doesn’t already have one. An excellent rhymer can be a detestable poet. What distinguishes poetry from prose is not that ‘prose doesn’t express itself with uniformly cadenced phrases, and doesn’t contain a determined number of verses, and rhymed syllables following each other in a certain order’. What distinguishes poetry from prose is that the form of the poetic voice is much more distinctive, much less artificial than the prosaic voice. Poetry cannot be as stiff as prose can, isn’t so concerned with syntax, pays little attention to the conventions of style, is less clear and more tumultuous, works better with plays on words, new words, and inversions. In brief, there is between poetry and prose as much a difference as there is between a canal and a downpour flowing down a mountain.
This critique is not in bad faith, nor is it being made out of a lack of taste, nor out of an ineptitude for the comprehension of the great classical or romantic poets, nor out of some dislike for the Parnassians. It is known: the Corneilles, the Racines, the Boileaus, the Molieres, the Lamartines, the Mussets, the Victor Hugos, the Leconte de Lisles, have produced verses of an undeniable amplitude, rhythm, sonorousness, and sentimentality. I fear, however, that in them their talent may have damaged their creative impulse and sincerity. I fear that in many cases talent cannot be distinguished from ability and subtleness. Seeing the outpour of majestic verses from the great classic poets of the 14th century, the image of the rows of soldiers, magnificently adorned and carefully lined up in a Versailles hall, waiting straight-faced for the Sun King to come smile at them. In the same way, when I read the poems of the first half of the 19th century, I seem to always hear an echo which the words of the prestigious orators sets off, speaking as though they were the formidable lawyers of some poor convict.
It is up to he who creates, who initiates, who puts out a work, to determine whether to write in a “form” is in accord with his aspirations. If the poet can pour out with more sincerity the “intimate song of his spirit” through the intermediary of alexandrines or ten syllable verses, who would object to that? But then let us stop looking at the poet who makes use of phrases that occur to him and puts them together according to an arrangement of his own, a phrase placement that is personal and seems to him to be better than the cadenced and rhymed phrases of the commonly accepted “poetic art”. Alliteration, the intended repetition of certain words, accentuation, the elevating and subordinating of certain parts of a phrase are technical proceedings whose quality depends on the talent of their creator and also on his project.
The original, creative poet, who occupies himself above all with “singing” his emotions, with giving free reign to whatever he feels, who has put to himself the task of translating poetically all the pulls, the urges, the crises, the fears, and the desires of men facing the difficulty of the struggle for existence, never submits to any imposed form, no matter how cherished it is by tradition, rules, or school.
... It is necessary to have the audacity to say that science is shit, with a dry tone, like Jarry said, because the science of a world without a conscience can only bring men to their ruin.
Gilbert Lamireau, in Proposals of a crime-thinker
I don’t disdain the so called applications of science. When I contrast the complexity of modern life — as it is lived in the great agglomerations of humans — with the simple life that one can live by renouncing all things not indispensable for living a life of good moral and physical health, it should not be understood that I think we should remain disarmed in the face of the mechanical acquisitions that surround us. Given that to live is to struggle, that is, to resist whatever tends to diminish and mechanize people, it is indispensable to do so by making use of all the means within our reach to attain success. I don’t count myself among those fanatics of “life lived entirely in nature”, for the simple reason that in our overpopulated regions it is very difficult to do so. A few days of escape to places where civilization, in spite of it all, is still not absent, followed by a return to the habitual, urban, agitated, feverish world we live in cannot mean a “return to nature”. I don’t doubt, however, that it would be impossible to live a simple life, relatively; on the margin of civilization, if one consents to put up with the inherent inconveniences.
Some time ago I received a letter from some comrades who were vacationing on an island in the Cyclides, where there was no electricity nor any means of transport aside from animals. These comrades were staying in the houses of the people who lived on the island, and were treated very hospitably, and I suppose the problem of getting food didn’t cause any great unrest.
In spite of the constant sun and the endless blue sky, it would be interesting to know not only — in the case of a prolonged stay — if those comrades would have been able to adapt themselves to that existence, which seems very simplified; if they, moreover, might have been adopted by the people living there, who are apparently prisoners of rather elaborate religious prejudices, and enslaved to customs that we denounce daily.
To renounce civilization to submit silently to puerile superstitions that recall medieval times seems to us to be incompatible with the aspiration to the individual emancipation of the mind and body, a sine qua non condition of our interpretation of life.
But the preceding is a digression. While going over those lines I thought about those people who flatter themselves that they’ve made comprehensible what they call the “latest progress in science”. I see that we are all being obligated to deposit confidence in an “elite” comprised of privileged people who have access to instruments that we lack, aside from certain tools or apparatus of simple acquisition. When it is a question of delicate apparatus that our range of possibilities does not permit us to obtain (unless suddenly access to them would be free, which is not the case for most apparatus), we must refer to the results obtained or described by members of this “elite”. We have no electronic microscopes, no laboratories, nor gigantic telescopes available to us. If we are told that such and such a luminous ray emitted by the NNN nebula has spent XXX thousands of millions of light years to reach us, we can’t really contradict those numbers any more than we can contradict the affirmations lavished upon us by such and such professor whose work is, as they say, “in fashion”, when it comes to such and such vaccine or drug. We are spoken to about proven facts, for instance, in the field of nuclear science, but we have no way of controlling conditions in such a detailed fashion for the operations that would be necessary for us to reaffirm and prove to ourselves the fabrication of an atom bomb or a satellite, etc. We are forced to have to rely on the good faith of the technicians. I recently paged through a book that talks about cybernetics, a book full of algebraic formulas, and I had to confess to my friend that had given it to me that, like him, I understood nothing of what it said.
I could give more examples. But the fact that the people who spend their time making understandable the proofs or hypotheses of the scientists cannot, any more than I can, control them nor disprove them. We are relegated to an inferior status (since it is free, our approval is apparently worth nothing anyway.)
To the hypotheses invented by such and such an illustrious professor, as a result of experiences that we cannot verify, we could not oppose another hypothesis, unless we were to venture into those vast realms ourselves, and then it would be objected that our conclusions deserve no examination because of the fantastic studies realized by the masters of the science in question.
It is, then, impossible to doubt the capacity of these wise men, to doubt their sincerity, the independence of their spirit, their intellectual integrity, etc. Their products are evidently unquestionable. Faced with them, we find ourselves in the same situation as that of the primitive man finds himself in when faced with the “medicine man”. In his book, “False Science and Scientific Falsehood,” Jean Rostand tells us the fantastic story of the N rays, which many wise men today admire — but which have never existed. This here is my way of curing the sick, say the medicine men — you must believe in my gestures and my sentences. In that way you will be cured of your illness, unless you die of it. The poor man can do nothing but lean forward to hear more. That’s what we do, humbly, before the therapist with his degrees, when he prescribes for us a medicine, the composition of which escapes our examination and control, and there’s no reason, we must think, to question its efficacy if we consider its use to be satisfactory. Our function is not that of control over science, but of acceptance of what science teaches as irrefutable truths, at least for the moment. I think, sometimes, about the controversies that surround the doctrine of evolution, of mutation (or transmutation), the constitution of matter, the expansion of the universe, the formation of the solar system, the appearance of life on Earth, and the existence of stars, etc... We are poverty stricken as we await the future to bring us a scientific truth, which, later, will be followed by another hypothesis. All of this uncontrollable from any position but that of the scientific “elite”. There is no need, then, to cross the seas to find the “medicine-man” and the “primitive man”, since we have them all right here, except for the fact that we call our primitivism “civilization” and we call our medicine men “experts.”
Far be it from us to put forth the idea that the expert could have bad faith, or that he might let himself be influenced by moral, political, religious, economic or social considerations, except where it would concern his aspiration to honors and a good personal situation — both of which are things having nothing to do with their work. But if there might appear in us an inkling of doubt, we would find ourselves uninformed, deprived, incapable of doing away with ambitions that have nothing to do with the quest after science but corrupt it, powerless to formulate any kind of opinion, lacking the indispensable material to pass impartial judgment on which are the convincing experiments and which are not so convincing. There are few things we can realize with the means presently available to us common people, and this obligates us to accept, in spite of everything, arguments which offer no alternatives — an intolerable thing for individualists (as it is for all anarchists).
Will there always be an aristocracy, an expert-class, absolute proprietors of the tools necessary for the acquisition of knowledge, and a ragged trousered proletarian class, reduced to the minimum portion when it comes to the distribution of and access to the indispensable instruments of serious verification and control of scientific investigations, where the approval of no institute is necessary to keep a job or stay in that realm? I don’t know. But I do understand that I would like to be part of a less complicated, less differentiated social ambiance, a simpler society, where underinvolvement as well as overinvolvement do not exist. The error is in believing that one makes this desire real by putting one’s self in a position of marginality, outside of civilization, a position that is necessarily limiting. We will have hardly put our backs into the fallow land, into the mountains, and the beaches (from whence we were never really absent), when it will begin again to imprison us, to envelop us and push us to use the inventions and techniques we have become the perpetual toys of. It is above all the task of those comrades that are making an effort to initiate us into a knowledge of the progress of science to spread such information as would be advantageous for the creation of an ethics of individuality, the will to be one’s self, the possession of a dialectical and incontestable consciousness of the fact of one’s existence.
Emile Armand (1872–1962), the French anarchist individualist, was a very popular activist in his time. It is not certain why he is so unknown today, since he was known in Spain in a number of libertarian circles. connected with eclecticism, naturalism, vegetarianism and communitarian lifestyles. His influence was much greater than a quick look would reveal. Armand divulged his thought in the workers’ press, spreading in his magazines and books the most advanced ideas around at the time about sexuality, communes, and the position of the autodidactic and critical individualist against authoritarianism and exploitation. The son of a “communard”, a man of notable vitality, he founded, in 1901, an organ of tolstoyan, or Christian anarchist tendency, called the New Era. He directed, over a certain time, the periodical Anarchy, collaborated on Sebastian Faure’s The Libertarian, and was the force behind the magazine The Outsider, which appeared in Orleans between 1922 and 1939, putting out a total of 335 issues . This magazine, in 1926, took on the subtitle, “Organ of practice, realization, and anarcho-individualist camaraderie.”. He was also behind its successor, The Unique, which was also distributed in Orleans and which came out between 1945 and 1956 and consisted of 110 issues. 
Armand passed from a militant Christianity to pacifist and non violent anarcho-individualism. Nonetheless he always defended the anarchists in his publications, including the partizans of expropriation, who were rather common in the anarchist movement between the two world wars. His defense of “illegalism” in his anarchist magazines earned him a good number of enemies in the movement itself, among the more “calm” sectors; among them Jean Grave himself accused Armand, André Lorulot, Albert Libertad, Paraf-Javal, and many others who collaborated on Anarchy, of ideological deviation, and of provoking, with what Jean Grave considered their ‘dissolute lives’, the demoralization of the movement in general . .Max Nettlau also dedicated some unkind words to the nucleus of French anarcho-individualists in his Anarchy through the centuries. Anyway, the virulence of his writing, his antireductionist positions, his ample gazes, and his constant provocation of all orthodoxy — including anarchist orthodoxy — gave a new vitality to the European anarchist movement. He also brought in renovations that were paradoxically linked with their roots and with the spontaneous groupings of individuals into affinity cells in Bakunin’s sense. The individualists, thanks to written propaganda, put in motion certain stagnant sectors of the revolutionary syndicalist movement, because their philosophy and thought was in accord with Armand’s ideas of self-education and self-critique.
Armand’s theoretical work revolves around three key ideas: anarcho-individualism, amorous camaraderie — sexuality without restraints — and the free association of individuals into communes, commonly called “free milieus” by the anarchists of the early 20th century.
This whole wave of Armand’s thought was very diffused in Spain after the middle of the twenties, by his anarcho-individualist comrades. His articles appeared in Barcelona in La Revista Blanca, and in València in the magazine, Studies. Armand began to be heard by the Spanish public in 1903 when he published an expansive study of Tolstoy in La Revista Blanca; Tolstoy, the Christian anarchists. The idealist anarchists. Libertarian communism does not shine for everyone. He quickly entered into polemics with Carlos Malato; this lasted various years, involving Federico Urales as well, who became from that point on a faithful reader of Armand’s works, which ended up inspiring his famous work, Adventurer of Love, published in episodes in La Revista Blanca in its second epoch. .
Through thick and thin, his most constant translator (into Spanish) was Jose Elizalde, force behind the group “Sunlight and Life”, from the Barcelona neighborhood Clot; he was the secretary of the Federation of Anarchist Groups, which became part of the FAI in 1927, and he also collaborated on two of the most important Spanish anarcho-individualist magazines: Ethics and Initials, both published in Barcelona. The promoters of Ethics, with Jose Elizalde at the head, published their review monthly, from January 1927 until January of 1929. After that it became Initials: A Monthly eclectic magazine of individual education. His editorial energies were complemented by another original initiative, which was not much explored at the time from a libertarian perspective: he published a magazine for children that appeared in 1928 under the meaningful title, Bloom (floreal); it was at the same time the main organ of the Naturist anarchist school. The singularity of Ethics consisted in the fact that it never called itself an anarchist or libertarian magazine — it must be remembered that at the time the country was under military dictatorship and hundreds of anarchist militants were doing “preventive” prison time or were in exile — but it instead defined itself as a magazine of Individual education, philosophy, literature, art and naturalism.
In the 6th issue of Ethics, in June of 1927, a small commentary on Armand’s work, Free Love was published: “Unfortunately, there are few women who read him and know his ideas, but Armand, a flood of theory sowing its seeds, fills the furrows with them, and they will gradually flower, as is already happening in the background, as a haven of peace and love. He has put himself to the task of defending Free Love, which obsesses so greatly those who truly feel the pain of seeing the submission of females.” In the following number of the magazine, a very important article of Armand’s was published, entitled “Let us fight against Jealousy”, which set off a powerful polemic and caused a great interest. Armand’s widespread readership in Spain at the time was largely due to the fact that he published most of his articles in newspapers, but in 1936 he made use of the distributorship operated out of Initials magazine to put into action a small publishing house of his own, and began to sell his publication, Anarchist-Nudism.
The internationalist idea also penetrated into Armand’s mind, and he became a defender of the planned languages, like Esperanto and Ido, which according to him would erase the differences in understanding between individuals. Jose Elizalde, his friend and translator, was also the director of the Ido-ist newspaper Ad-Avane! which, in accord with Armand, also defended the theses of the Ido language against its rival Esperanto. Elizalde had a great polemic with Saljo — an esperantist militant — in the pages of La Revista Blanca; it was not a new argument, since it had already begun in Land and Freedom in 1917–1918, and was continued in Free Land, Conscious Generation. Elizalde, however, announced himself to be a professor of both languages in the Eclectic Naturalist Cultural Center of Clot, giving free night classes for workers.
We know that in 1926 the International Library in Paris published a book of Armand’s in Spanish — Realism and Idealism mixed — Reflections of an Anarchist Individualist. Also, in the 30s, one of his most scandalous books appeared from Orto books in València — Libertinage and Prostitution: great prostitutes and famous libertines: influence of the sexual act in the political and social life of humanity. In 1934 “Orto, Library of Social Documentation” published one of Armand’s most distributed books in Spanish, and one that had already appeared in France in 1931: “Ways of Life in Common without State nor Authority: Sexual and Economic Experiences through History.” The large volume, 400 pages long, collected together a number of experiences of the “free milieus” or Communities that motivated, in their time, an ample discussion about their viability, or lack thereof, in anarchist circles. The majority of the information came to Armand from the extensive correspondence he maintained as editor of his magazine The Outsider, which was already an open forum for the narration and communication of all these kinds of experiences. In the prologue to this book, Armand says about his book that “from the anarchist individualist perspective, it seems difficult to be hostile towards those human beings, who, having no more than their individual vitality, attempt to realize all, or a part, of their aspirations. Moreover, many Colonies stayed in existence for a number of generations, and one must ask one’s self why those who oppose the colonies always bring up their “failure”; as if they would only accept them if they had lasted indefinitely, deny their utility, and do not consider them to be convenient. Every Colony that functions in the present conditions is an organism of opposition, of resistance, whose make-up could be likened to the cells; the members of the colonies had to struggle not only with the exterior enemy (the social ambiance) but also, in the present conditions, against the enemy within, against the poorly-extinguished prejudices that are reborn from their ashes, an inevitable laxity, etc.; On the other hand, this need for the colonies to last forever makes little sense, since we have to consider the colonies for what they were: a means, not an end. It is equally an educational, individual and collective “means” (a kind of practical propaganda).” The author, after discussing some interesting reflections about these collective experiments, passes over to make a history of these attempts and gives us a dense listing of all the collective experiments he could amass documentation of, and their localization on the terrestrial globe. Then he reviews a series of “free milieus”, not only anarchist, but also of religious, atheist, cooperative, owenist, fourierist, henry-george-ist, libertarian communist, collectivist, or individualist associationist origin. Armand collected and edited testimonials from the inhabitants of those communes, and what is most important, popularized among the working people the possibility of new forms of association and cooperation, alternatives to the hierarchical family and rigid workplace.
With his works, Armand introduced to Europe some very distinct pacifist and anarcho-communitarian currents of the French revolutionary syndicalist movement, which had for a long time been a great influence on the whole anarchist movement in the Spanish state. Thanks to him, the thought of Benjamin Tucker (1854–1939), the stirnerist John Henry Mackay (1864–1933), Morris Hillquit, Josiah Warren, etc., were introduced to Europeans. Also thanks to him, the whole huge European communitarian-anarchist tradition was recuperated by the movement, after having fallen off to the side and being forgotten after the Marxists disqualified what they called “Utopian Socialism” by calling themselves the “Scientific Socialists” and opposing the two. Armand revitalized the ideas of Cabet, Owen, and above all, of Charles Fourier, by collecting documentation about the communities that his ideas caused the creation of. Moreover, we can affirm that all of Armand’s ideas about freedom in sexual matters come from Fourier’s “theory of the four movements”, which was as disdained by some “puritan” anarchists as Proudhon was. Fourier explains that humans have to follow the patterns of a markedly sexual universe which always moves in harmony, proposing a new organization of the amorous world in which everyone would be able to express their individuality in the plurality of encounters, which would permit all forms of love, encouraging every imaginable kind of associations. Fourier also fought for the liberation and promotion of women, and intended to make them as equipped, capable, and strong as men, which was an idea far before its time. His ideas were ignored until they were taken up again by some American utopians and by Emile Armand, who launched them once again into orbit, from which they had fallen in an embryonic state.
Armand established fruitful polemics with other anarchist individualists, partizans of sexual freedom without restrictions; an interesting counterpoint was the series of debates he had with the Brazilian free thinker and anarchist Maria Lacerda de Moura, and with a number of other writers. In his way, he always carried on his youthful experiences as a participant in the libertarian talks of the French anarchists Albert Libertad and Paraf-Javal. His tireless activity as a provoker and agitator of European anarchist thinking, on par with that of Fourier, Stirner, Tucker and Mackay, still remains a treasure chest for us to rediscover.
 On Armand, consult MAITRON, Jean, The Anarchist Movement in France. There is a small biography in BEKAERT, Xavier: Anarchism — Violence and Nonviolence. Also, about authoritarianism in LEWIN, Roland, Sebastian Faure and “The Hive” or Libertarian Education.
 The Unique had a notice saying that it was an “interior bulletin exclusively destined for the friends of Emile Armand. It may not be sold to the public.” This subtitle was removed in March of 1947. At the end of the magazine’s life in July-August 1956, the magazine was continued by a bulletin inside “Defense of Humanity” which was published between 1957 and 1962.
 See the rather exaggerated accusations of GRAVE, Jean, The Libertarian Movement in the 3rd Republic: souvenirs of a revolutionary, Paris 1930, pg. 184, and footnote.
 On this question see URALES, Federico: The evolution of Philosophy in Spain Barcelona, 1968, pag. 51 and footnotes.
From : TheAnarchistLibrary.org
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