The Economics of Anarchy

A Study of the Industrial Type (1890)

by Dyer D. Lum (1839-1893)

XI. Digression on Methods

EA-11.1 If equal rights be granted, and that under free conditions social supply must follow demand, why potter over methods? But because we are in a transition state, the question does arise: Shall our resistance to aggression be passive or active? Upon this point no answer is involved in our premises. Logically, however, the assertion of the law of equal freedom carries with it the sovereignty of the individual as a pre-requisite to voluntary co-operation; and this implies an equal right, singly or conjointly, to resist such invasion, and invasion under the forms of law does not invalidate the ethical proposition. Each must be guided as their own judgment determines, and whatever may be our judgment of the policy of such resistance, censorial denunciation lies beyond the province of individual sovereignty. If defence is right, no adhesion of numbers will augment its validity. To the further query: Which is best, passive or active resistance ? I answer that it is but an idle question. The popular superstition that personalities decide events, from which it springs, is born of militancy and characterizes its history. Force, however used, can teach no economic truth, yet events flowing from it often awaken consciousness of what equity demands. To deny that passive resistance has tremendous weight would be as great folly as to assert that it has given birth to such extension of freedom as we now enjoy. Though in the preceding pages I have tried to show the Industrial type may be peaceably realized, in common with many others I believe that the waves of events are driving us “Niagara-ward;” that no amount of philosophizing, no quaker preaching, will cause privilege to heed the demands of progress, nor avert the ever-nearing collapse of compulsory rule.
EA-11.2 If we are as August Spies [Online editor’s note: German-American anarchist August Spies (1855-1877), one of the Haymarket martyrs. – RTL] said, “The birds of the coming storm,” in that we but indicate, yet cannot prevent, its advent, it is none the less our duty to cry aloud and spare not, [Online editor’s note: Isaiah 58:1. – RTL] to awaken the thoughtless from their lethargy, to point out to the thoughtful the sole means of peaceful solution, nor to fail to keep aligned with the van of progress under all circumstances. Still, underneath all this fear that ideas may work down to move muscles, ignorance grasp the reins, and the “red terror” run rampant, there is not only distrust of human nature and history, but of principles as well. Violence of a frenzied people smarting under a sense of injustice is ever of short duration; the “white terror” of militancy is perpetual. Are our enunciation [sic] of principles underlying equitable social relations to cease when they begin to move muscles? On the contrary, to the extent that they are held will the dreaded reaction be less. Even as Garrison’s appeal to the higher law involved John Brown’s act, so it will be in the promulgation of every revolutionary principle. I do not try to avert it for I consider such a task fruitless. Every new social revolt has had to pass the entrenchments of privilege, and I see no reason to believe it will be different now, even though half-hearted reformers turn back affrighted.
EA-11.3 Force is not necessary to a revolution, nor is its use even generally successful, yet the ideas which prompted it are not crushed in defeat. That ideas have moved muscles in all great crises is beyond question. Why so? Because human nature, evolved under the militant type, is a constant factor in all social problems; because entrenched privilege never willingly relinquishes its position; because ideas lay behind the growing protest a point was reached where forbearance ceased to be a virtue.
EA-11.4 The church sought to hold on to its usurped power over mind when increasing intelligence demanded emancipation. Thought had long lain dormant, bound in strong cables fastened to God’s throne. Mind awakened, sighed for freedom, dreamed of peace, – and revolted! The cables were parted and in their vibration shook the stability of the throne to which they were attached. On earth red-handed war had full sway. Countries were desolated, families ravished, slaughtered, exiled. Yet progress halted not. God’s voice was lost in the din of battle waged by his infuriated adorers; earth was arrayed against heaven; finite man against the omnipotent fiend the Church had enthroned. Yet from blood-stained fields liberty of thought – the right of private judgment – the sovereignty of the individual over beliefs – emerged victorious.
EA-11.5 The union of Church and State remained, a morganatic rather than an equal alliance, a left-handed marriage provoking raillery and contempt. Was progress satisfied? Was its work accomplished? Were the swords to be beaten into plowshares? On the contrary. The guidons of progress were moved forward. A new position was taken. Old enemies in new uniforms still confronted each other. Authority, driven from the Church, had taken refuge in the State. Impotent in the one, it recovered virility in the other. The old cables were again tightened. The keeper of the amulet blessed the holder of the sword and the consecrated king went forth to conquer. Again the bugles blew and the contest waged. Again the cables parted, and king and priest were left to condole with each other. But Man rejoiced! He was free to bind himself with superstition’s cables, or to cut them. Was progress satisfied? Was its work accomplished ? Were the swords now to be beaten into plowshares?
EA-11.6 On the contrary. A vital question arose: Who should possess the plowshares? But much had been accomplished, though each step of progress had been stained with innocent blood. And while Authority remains to compel, Liberty’s garments will not be spotless. Are not all discussions, all controversies, all “popular sermons” which pass beyond the ears of drowsy hearers into print, all “able editors’” work and parliamentary eloquence, all cabinet disputes and political wrangling, essentially economic in nature, or tinctured by industrial demands?
EA-11.7 Industrial emancipation! Will it come? Is history a false guide? Is experience a delusion? Is progress a myth? Are industrial aspirations barren? Courage! Bide your time, but continue sowing seed for the harvest. The morning dawneth after the darkest night. Driven from the domain of thought, divorced from the throne, Authority has dug its last ditch in Economics. Progress has not halted. The political State has been transformed into an economic one. Forms of government are secondary, forms of profits primary, in State councils. The industrial baron craves the protecting arm once sought by ecclesiastical and political knights. Again protest rises, again the old cables are tightened.
EA-11.8 Aligned with progress we need have no fear. What priest and king failed to accomplish, the trader cannot enforce. Our wishes, our plans, our fears are unavailing to arrest the tide of progress. Have patience though freedom leads through sombre scenes. The desire for economic emancipation is a prophecy of its realization. We may study the line of battle; not to us to direct it. We may perform a soldier’s duty in the ranks, but liberty alone commandeth. The egoistic pleasure-seeker may arrogate to himself omniscience, but his voice is unheard.
EA-11.9 It is for awakened conscience to assert the principle; events will determine the character of the answer. Ideas once rooted in conscience never die. The old abolitionists denounced injustice, knowing that in awakening conscience time would bring it to bear in its own way to the extinction of vested wrong. So it is today; how concerns the new abolitionists not. The awakened conscience of our day responds to the awakening conscience of 1836 in repeating with new emphasis the lines of Whittier:
[Online editor’s note: American abolitionist poet John Greenleaf Whittier (1807-1892), in “Stanzas for the Times.” – RTL]
          “Is this the land our fathers loved,
          The freedom which they toiled to win?
Is this the soil whereon they moved?
          Are these the graves they slumber in?
Are we the sons by whom are borne
The mantles which the dead have worn?

          “And shall we crouch above these graves
          With craven soul and fettered lip?
Yoke in with marked and branded slaves,
          And tremble at the driver’s whip?
Bend to the earth our pliant knees,
And speak but as our masters please?

          *           *          *          *          *

          “No! by each spot of haunted ground,
          Where Freedom weeps her children’s fall:
By Plymouth’s rock and Bunker’s mound,
          By Griswold’s stained and shattered wall,
By Warren’s ghost, by Langdon’s shade,
By all the memories of our dead!

          *           *          *          *          *

          “By all above, around, below,
          Be our indignant answer: NO!”

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