Emile Armand reminds us that the individualist anarchist is focused on “his attempt to free himself from the yoke of existing domination” and is not interested in intellectualistic speculations about “the future society”. That is why those who accuse anarchists of preaching and wanting utopia (meaning with that term something unrealistic and unachievable) miss totally the point and show a crass ignorance of anarchists’ very practical and sensible aspirations.
Individualists concern themselves little with a future society. That idea has been exploited and can nourish the believer just as exploitation of paradise nourishes the priest; but it resembles paradise, in that a description of its wonders has an enervating, soporific influence on those who hear it; it makes them forget present oppression, tyranny and bondage; it weakens energy, emasculates initiative. The individualist does not put his hope in the future society. He lives in the present moment, and he wants to draw from it the maximum results. Individualist activity is essentially present work and a present accomplishment. The individualist knows that the present is heir to the past and pregnant with the future. It is not in some tomorrow that he wants to see the end of encroachment by society on the individual, of invasion and oppression of one person by another. It is today, in his own life, that the individualist wants to win his independence.
To be sure, the individualist often fails in his attempts to free himself from the yoke of existing domination. Considering the forces of opposition and oppression, this is very natural. But the future will profit automatically from what he gains. The individualist knows very well that he will not explore the whole forest, but the path he opens will remain, and those who follow him, if they want to, will take good care of it and broaden it.
The individualist is incapable, it is true, of outlining in full detail the map of “future humanity” as it would be if his demands were won. Thus he cannot make a topographical work; but on the other hand he can foresee with certainty both the nature of the terrain and the quality of the liquid that will fill the rivers, and the possible kind of culture. "The new humanity” is not for him absolutely terra incognita.
The individualist can, therefore, even now indicate what a "future humanity" will be. He knows it will resemble the present world in nothing - less by changes in detail than by a complete transformation of the general mentality, a different understanding of relations among men, a universal and individual change of state of mind, that will make certain methods and certain institutions impossible.
Thus the individualist can affirm with certainty that authoritarianism will in no case continue in the future society. To imagine a “world to come” where there would still be a trace of domination, coercion and duty is nonsense.
The individualist is sure that there will no longer be room for intervention of the State - of a governmental, social-legislative, penal, disciplinary institution or administration - in the thought, conduct and activity of human beings.
The individualist knows that relations and agreements among men will be arrived at voluntarily; understandings and contracts will be for a specified purpose and time, and not obligatory; they will always be subject to termination; there will not be a clause or an article of an agreement or contract that will not be weighed and discussed before being agreed to; a unilateral contract, obliging someone to fill an engagement he has not personally and knowingly accepted, will be impossible. The individualist knows that no economic, political or religious majority - no social group whatever -will be able to compel a minority, or one single man, to conform against his will to its decisions or decrees.
We have here a whole series of certainties on which there is no quibbling.
“Future humanity”, as the individualist conceives it, “unrolls itself” without terminal station, without point of arrival. It is eternally becoming; indefinitely evolving. A humanity of the dynamic type, if one can so express oneself, ignores stops en route; or if there are stops at stations, it understands that this is the time strictly necessary to let off those who want to try an experience that will involve only them.
The future humanity, "the new humanity", as the individualists understand it, constitutes a gigantic arena where, as much in thought and custom as in technique, all imaginable projects, plans, associations and practices will struggle and compete with each other.
It is because of these well established characteristics that "the new humanity" in no way resembles, can have no meeting point with ours, “the old humanity”. It will be poly-dynamic, polymorphous, multilateral.
When someone asks exactly how, in "the future humanity" that individualists want, one will solve some litigious point, it is clear that the questioner does not understand. But one can reply with certainty that there will never be a recourse to violence, compulsion or force to adjust a difference.
A good number of individualists think that the coming of "the future humanity" that individualists want, depends on an attack, on serious, rational and continued propaganda, against authoritarianism in all spheres of human activity, whether in political or social economy, in morals, in art, in science, in literature. Arguing from the fact that the individual is born into - is thrust into - an already organized society without being allowed to consent to it or reject it, or able to defend himself from it or oppose it, they deduce that this primordial fact confers on the victim the right to life, without restrictions or reservations.
That is, the right to consumption, independent of economic politics; the right to individual choice of the method of production and the means of production; the right to choose the consumers he wants to benefit by his exchange; the right to choose whether to associate with others, and, if he refuses to associate, the right to the means of production sufficient to maintain himself; the right to choose his associates and the purpose for which he associates.
In other words, the right to behave as he finds most advantageous, at his own risk, with no limit other than encroachment on the behaviour of others (to put it another way, the use of violence, compulsion or coercion towards one who behaves differently than you).
The right to the guarantee that he will not be forced to do what he considers personally disagreeable or disadvantageous, or hindered from doing what he wants to (he will not, therefore, resort to physical force, deceit or fraud in order to gain what appears useful, advantageous or agreeable to him). The right to circulate freely, to move wherever he pleases, to propagate those doctrines, opinions, propositions and theses that he feels impelled to, with the reservation of not using violence in any form to put them into practice; the right to experiment in all fields and all forms, to publicize his experiences, to recruit the associates needed for their realization, on condition that, only those who really want to, will participate, and that, those who no longer want to, can withdraw; the right to consumption and to means of production, even if he refuses to participate in any system, method or institution that seems to him disadvantageous.
The right to life, that is, the right to make one’s own happiness as one feels impelled to, alone or together with those one feels particularly attracted to, without fear of intervention or intrusion by personalities or organizations incompatible with one's ego or with the association of which one is momentarily part.
The individualists think that the guarantee of the right to life, thus conceived, is the least a human individual can demand when he realizes what an authoritarian and arbitrary act was committed in bringing him into the world. They think also that all propaganda for these demands, favours the advent of a transformed mentality, characteristic of all new humanity.
The struggle for the abolition of the monopoly of the State, or of any other executive form replacing it - against its intervention as centralizer, administrator, regulator, moderator, organizer or otherwise in any relation among individuals - equally favours, these individualists think, the emergence of this mentality.
I am aware that a good number of anarchist individualists have no interest in the "future humanity". For them "Without risk of erring too far, we can assume: 1. That there will never be a general, collective life from which authority is absolutely excluded; 2. That in all societies there will be individuals or groups who are protestants, malcontents, critics and negators. Without doubt we will witness transformations, improvements, modifications, even upheavals. The capitalist system of production may vanish in the end, gradually or forcibly. Little by little, one will work less, earn more; reforms will come, menacingly, inevitably. There may be an economic regime unlike ours. But whatever the social system, good sense indicates that its permanence depends on a system of regulation adapted to the average mentality of the people in it. Whether they want to, or not, those to the right or left of the average regulation must conform their behaviour to it; and it matters little whether its basis is exclusively economic, or biological, or moral.
Experience indicates that towards refractories they will use the only arguments men can dispose of: politics or violence, persuasion or compulsion, bargaining or command.
"The crowd always goes towards him who speaks well and carries himself well. Its angers last no longer than its admirations. It is always easy to fool and seduce. One can no more base oneself on it now than a century or a thousand years ago. The mass belongs to the strongest, the most superficial, the most slippery. In such a situation what do anarchist individualists do, what will they do?
“1. Some reply that they will remain within the milieu and struggle to affirm themselves - without concerning themselves too much with choice of means, for their great concern - the concern of their lives - is to react, at all costs, against external determination of their lives. It is to affirm oneself if not to diminish the pressure of the milieu on oneself. They are reactors, refractories, propagandists, revolutionaries, utilizing all possible means of battle: education, violence, ruse, illegalism. They seize occasions when the Power is abusive, to stir up rebelliousness among its victims. But it is for pleasure that they act, and not for the profit of the sufferers, or by abusing them by vain words. They go, they come, mingling in a movement or withdrawing, as their independence is or is not in danger of restriction, parting company with those they have called to revolt as soon as they pretend to follow them or constitute themselves a party. Perhaps they do, more than they are.
"2. Others situate themselves on the margin of the milieu. Having somehow obtained means of production, they preoccupy themselves with making their separation from the milieu a reality, trying to produce enough for themselves, while eliminating the factitious and the surplus.
"Because men, in general, seem to them hardly worth bothering about, they maintain only the minimum relations with people and human institutions, and their social life is limited to the company of selected 'comrades of ideas'. They group together at times, but only temporarily, and the limited association of which they are part is never delegated power to dispose of their product. The rest of the world exists for them only little or much - to the extent that they need it. Perhaps they are, more than they do.
“Between these two conceptions of individualist life, the divers anarchist individualist temperaments range themselves."
For the comrades whose opinions I have just transcribed, any sketch of "future humanity", any hypothesis of an individualist milieu, is a work of imagination, pure literary fantasy. They maintain that, for the mentality, the general will, really to transform itself, it would be necessary that "the species on the road to degeneration, the ‘directed categories’, deliver the earth of their presence: and that is not likely.”
It was only justice to make known this point of view that no individualist forgets, even when he speaks of becoming social.
For having depicted in broad strokes a tableau of "the new humanity" to which we would like to evolve, we cannot be taxed with being “future-society-ists”. The anarchist individualist is not a future-society-ist; a presentist, he could not, without bad reasoning and illogic, think of sacrificing his being, or his having, to the coming of a state of things he will not immediately enjoy. Individualist thought admits no equivocation on this point. It is amid the old humanity, the humanity of dominators and dictators of all kinds, that the “new humanity” appears, takes shape, becomes. Individualists are permanent and personal revolutionaries, they try to practise, in themselves, in their circle, in their relations with their comrades of ideas, their particular concepts of individual and group life. Every time one of the characteristics of the "new humanity" implants itself in the mores, every time one or more human beings, at their risk and peril, anticipate them by word or action, “the new humanity is realized”.
In the domain of art, letters, science, ethics, personal conduct, even in the economic sphere, one finds individuals who think and act contrary to the customs, usages, routines, prejudices and conventions of the “old society”, and attempt to break them down. In their kind of activity, they too represent the new humanity. Already the individualists take part in it, by their way of behaving towards the old world, because they reveal in each of their actions their intention, their will, their hope of seeing the individual free himself from the constraint of the herd, the mentality of the mass.
Can one hope that after many a flux and reflux, many a sad attempt, humanity will some day come to conscientious practice of reciprocity, to the anti-authoritarian, individualist-anarchist individualist-solution, the solution of equal liberty?
Can one anticipate that, more enlightened, more educated, better informed, the inhabitants of our planet will at last come to understand that neither coercion, nor domination of the majority, the elite, the dictatorship of an autocrat, class or caste, are capable of assuring happiness - that is, of reducing avoidable suffering? It is the secret of the future.
But, optimistic or pessimistic in this respect, the anarchist individualist will not the less continue to denounce the prejudice which gives statist authority its force: the superstition of necessary government and to live as though the prejudice and this superstition did not exist.
(Translated by D.T.W)