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The Philosophy of Right and Wrong.

Now available thanks to Benjamin Sojda at Transcribing Liberty:

Liberty Vol. I, No. 7
October 29, 1881

The most serious calamity attendant upon false premises in the realm of thought is that the avowed and conscientious enemies of despotism are made to be persistent advocates and defenders of the pivotal agencies upon which it hinges. We do not make this assertion in a spirit of self-sufficiency and conceit, and are aware that those who differ from us will, of course, turn it against ourselves. Naturally, we feel very positive that the philosophy which shapes the teachings of Liberty is correct and unanswerable; but we are fallible, and, if the history of human opinions reaches anything, it is that nothing in this world is a finality.

But upon one thing all school of sociology will agree, - namely, that the very first step in all reasoning looking to human well-being is to fix upon a correct scientific basis of right and wrong. These terms are upon everybody's lips, from the prattling stripling to the hoary theologian and moralist, and yet the average man has no fixed conception of what it is that constitutes an action as right or wrong. At every step we find people disputing and arguing over the right and wrong of a thing, but arrest them in any instance, and ask them what constitutes right and wrong in nature and practice, and they are totally unable to answer. And yet the whole argument in every case is useless and worthless until this point is settled.

The chief mischief attending this lamentable absence of a true scientific standard of right grows out of the universally accepted inference that, as soon as one is convinced that a practice is what he calls wrong, it is his next and imperative duty to set about to interdict that practice by force. ...

Read the whole thing at Transcribing Liberty.

Pussy Riot, the Church and the State

Now available thanks to Robert Graham at Robert Graham's Anarchism Weblog:

Robert Graham's Anarchism: A Documentary History of Libertarian Ideas presents Bakunin's critique of the Church and State, posted in support of Pussy Riot.

Read the whole thing at Robert Graham's Anarchism Weblog.

Joseph Déjacque, "The Revolutionary Question" (conclusion)

Now available thanks to Shawn P. Wilbur at Contr'un:

 Here's the concluding section of Déjacque's "The Revolutionary Question," which undoubtedly contains a couple of the most fire-breathing footnotes in the literature:

The Revolutionary Question


Thus, as solution, liberty, equality and fraternity.

Liberty of thought,

Liberty of love,

Liberty of labor,

Liberty of action :

Liberty in everything and for everyone.

Equality of rights, equality of duties: social equality.

Fraternity, that is social character impressed by the simultaneous action of liberty and equality on the page of humanity; vignette which follows from the text; last syllable which concludes the formula according to the spelling out of two others; qualifier of solidarity and unity.

And, as means of operation, as transitional means, direct legislation.

And let no one repeat that the people are too ignorant; that it is to put into their hands an instrument of which they will no know how to make use; that they must wait, and wait for those who have the science to govern them. No, I would respond to these leather-breeches of the revolution, to these Decembraillards of the dictatorship. It is only by working at the forge that one learns to be a blacksmith; it is only by making law that the people will learn to make them well. I know well that the apprentice blacksmith strikes himself more than once on the fingers before knowing to forge well. That teaches him to pay more attention to what he does, and, as they say, “to make the trade enter the fingers.” The people, apprentice legislators, will also sometimes strike themselves by legislating, which will teach them to examine more closely the propositions and better manage their vote. And if, one day, it makes bad laws, the next day, it will be done with them, and put them on the scrap heap, ...

Read the whole thing at Contr'un.

Joseph Déjacque on Revolution (from The Revolutionary Question)

Now available thanks to Shawn P. Wilbur at Contr'un:

Of the Revolution

Principles :

Liberty, equality, fraternity


Abolition of government in all its forms, monarchic or republican, the supremacy of one alone or of majorities;

But anarchy, individual sovereignty, complete, unlimited, absolute liberty of everyone to do everything which is in the nature of the human being.

Abolition of Religion, whether catholic or Israelite, protestant or any other sort. Abolition of the clergy and the altar, of the priest,–curate or pope, minister or rabbi;–of the Divinity, idol in one or three persons, universal autocracy or oligarchy;

But the human being,–at once creature and creator,–no longer having anything but nature for God, science for priest, and humanity for altar.

Abolition of private property, property in the soil, in buildings, in the workshop, in the shop, property in everything which is an instrument of labor, production or consumption;

But collective property, unified and indivisible, possession in common.

Abolition of the family, the family based on marriage, on paternal and marital authority, on heredity;

But the great human family, the family united and indivisible like property.

The enfranchisement of women, the emancipation of children.

Finally, the abolition authority, privilege, and antagonism;

But liberty, equality, fraternity incarnated in humanity;

But all the consequences of the triple formula, passed from theoretical abstraction into practical reality, into positivism.

That is to say Harmony, that oasis of our dreams, no longer fleeing like a mirage before the caravan of the generations and delivering to each and all, under the shade of fraternity and in universal unity, the sources of happiness, the fruits of liberty: a life of delights, finally, after an agony of more than eighteen centuries in the sandy desert of Civilization!

[From “The Revolutionary Question.” Working translation by Shawn P. Wilbur]

Read the whole thing at Contr'un.

Now available: Three articles from The Liberator (December 29, 1832), on Nullification, Colonization, the Constitution and the Union

To-day, over at the main Fair Use Repository site, there’s been some work on transcribing articles from The Liberator — the ultra-abolitionist newspaper published by William Lloyd Garrison from 1831 to 1865. I’m happy to announce that three new complete articles are available, all from the same issue — Vol. II, No. 52 (December 29, 1832). The newly-available articles are:

  • “A Hint for Wild Colonizationists”, a passage quoted from Sir Walter Scott, intended as a snarky reply to those who proposed that black slaves should be emancipated only on the condition that former slaves were forced to emigrate to new colonies in Africa.

  • “Nullification”, a collection of columns from other Boston newspapers, which had responded harshly to an Abolitionist lecture on the Nullification crisis, and which accused abolitionist agitation of endangering the union between the Northern and Southern states.

  • “The Great Crisis!”, Garrison’s reply to the mainstream newspaper columns reprinted in “Nullification,” in which Garrison takes one of his first steps toward condemning any political “union” that depends on the enslavement of an entire race, and with any political compact or compromise that protects the institution of slavery. Garrison writes, in response to a claim that the terms of the federal union forbid interference with slavery in the Southern states:

    There is much declamation about the sacredness of the compact which was formed between the free and slave states, on the adoption of the Constitution. A sacred compact, forsooth! We pronounce it the most bloody and heaven-daring arrangement ever made by men for the continuance and protection of a system of the most atrocious villany ever exhibited on earth. Yes—we recognize the compact, but with feelings of shame and indignation, and it will be held in everlasting infamy by the friends of justice and humanity throughout the world. It was a compact formed at the sacrifice of the bodies and souls of millions of our race, for the sake of achieving a political object—an unblushing and monstrous coalition to do evil that good might come. Such a compact was, in the nature of things and according to the law of God, null and void from the beginning. No body of men ever had the right to guarantee the holding of human beings in bondage. Who or what were the framers of our government, that they should dare confirm and authorise such high-handed villany—such flagrant robbery of the inalienable rights of man—such a glaring violation of all the precepts and injunctions of the gospel—such a savage war upon a sixth part of our whole population?—They were men, like ourselves—as fallible, as sinful, as weak, as ourselves. By the infamous bargain which they made between themselves, they virtually dethroned the Most High God, and trampled beneath their feet their own solemn and heaven-attested Declaration, that all men are created equal, and endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights—among which are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. They had no lawful power to bind themselves, or their posterity, for one hour—for one moment—by such an unholy alliance. It was not valid then—it is not valid now. Still they persisted in maintaining it—and still do their successors, the people of Massachussetts, of New-England, and of the twelve free States, persist in maintaining it. A sacred compact! A sacred compact! What, then, is wicked and ignominious?

    […] It is said that if you agitate this question, you will divide the Union. Believe it not; but should disunion follow, the fault will not be yours. You must perform your duty, faithfully, fearlessly and promptly, and leave the consequences to God: that duty clearly is, to cease from giving countenance and protection to southern kidnappers. Let them separate, if they can muster courage enough—and the liberation of their slaves is certain. Be assured that slavery will very speedily destroy this Union, if it be left alone; but even if the Union can be preserved by treading upon the necks, spilling the blood, and destroying the souls of millions of your race, we say it is not worth a price like this, and that it is in the highest degree criminal for you to continue the present compact. Let the pillars thereof fall—let the superstructure crumble into dust—if it must be upheld by robbery and oppression.

Read, cite, and enjoy!

Skepticism and Solipsism by RAW

Now available thanks to Cleveland Okie (Tom Jackson) at RAWIllumination.net:

[This piece is a sequel to "The Compleat Skeptic." "Skepticism and Solipsism" was published in New Libertarian Weekly 100, Nov. 27, 1977. Thanks to Jesse Walker and Mike Gathers. The Mgt.]

In my last column, I pointed out that both the impeccable logic of David Hume and the experimental evidence anyone can discover through daily meditation for only a month of so, demonstrate that all we know directly is a stream of sensations. The theories that there is an "ego" experiencing this stream, and an "outside" world provoking it, are inferential, unproven and (if we are strict about applying Occam's principle of parsimony) should be rejected as illegitimate.

The main objections to this solipsistic theory are (a) it contradicts "common sense" -- i.e., the body of hominid (or primate) prejudice that is so widespread that only philosophers, mathematicians, physicists and other eccentrics ever contradict it; (b) it leads, if logically followed, to a course of behavior or non-behavior rather similar to the psychosis known as catatonia (but who is to say that the catatonics aren't the only ones who have figured out the sensible way to react to that highly agitated predicament of matter called "life"?) and (c) there's no way to argue with people who hold this belief (since you are, to them, only another temporary sensation that will pass like all the others), so to hell with them. This alternative is also known as "throwing the case out of court," which philosophers have, by and large, also done with the problem if the infinite regress.

Well, since I am not a philosopher by profession -- only a heckler of philosophers, like Socrates -- I don't have to answer questions, only raise them. Asking annoying questions, after all, is a profession in its own ...

Read the whole thing at RAWIllumination.net.

Joseph Déjacque, "The Universal Circulus" (revised translation)

Now available thanks to Shawn P. Wilbur at Contr'un:

[This remarkable bit of libertarian philosophy by Joseph Déjacque poses all sorts of difficulties for the modern reader, not the least of which is it borrowings from, and reworkings of, the works of Charles Fourier and Pierre Leroux. And there are places where it ha been necessary to translate things rather literally, since terms are used suggestively, according to the established uses of none of the writers or schools that they were drawn from. There are also a couple of times when Déjacque's enthusiasm clearly ran away with the syntax: where catalogs of conditionals come to abrupt stops, without ever quite managing to form a sentence, I feel fairly confident that I have accurately replicated the structural shortcoming of the original. In any event, the difficulties of this experimental piece are, I think, outweighed by all that is intriguing about it—and for the light that it sheds on notions like Proudhon's dialectical play with individualities and collectivities.]

The Universal Circulus 


Joseph Déjacque


The universal circulus is the destruction of every religion, of all arbitrariness, be it elysian or tartarean, heavenly or infernal. The movement in the infinite is infinite progress. This being the case, the world can no longer be a duality, mind and matter, body and soul. It cannot be a mutable thing and an immutable one, which involves contradiction—movement excluding immobility and vice versa—but must be, on the contrary, an infinite unity of always-mutable and always-mobile substance, which implies perfectibility. It is through eternal and infinite movement that the infinite and eternal substance is constantly and universally transformed. It is by a fermentation at all instants; it is by passing through the filtering sieve of successive metamorphoses, by the progressive emancipation of species, from mineral to vegetable, from vegetable to animal and from instinct ...

Read the whole thing at Contr'un.

Buenaventura Durruti: A New World in Our Hearts (Spain 1936)

Now available thanks to Robert Graham at Robert Graham's Anarchism Weblog:

Robert Graham's Anarchism: A Documentary History of Libertarian Ideas presents Buenventura Durutti on the Spanish Revolution.

Read the whole thing at Robert Graham's Anarchism Weblog.

Steven T. Byington, "On Interference with the Environment"

Now available thanks to Shawn P. Wilbur at From the Libertarian Library:




I WANT to start a discussion which may be of some length, especially if I get replies from those who disagree with me, as I hope I may, and I think it will pay if first I lay down, like Euclid, a few of the axioms and postulates with which I begin.

I observe that men universally hold that certain types of action are to be approved and certain others are to be disapproved. They differ as to what actions should be put in either class: Herodotus noted this in the case of the nation where it was a disgrace to eat one's father, and the other nation where it was a disgrace not to eat one's father. They differ as to what names should be used for the classes: most people say right and wrong or good and bad, but some object most strenuously to these terms and prefer to say high and low, noble and base, fine and sordid, and I know not what. But everybody has some name for some sorts of actions that he thinks well of, and another name for those of which he thinks ill. The question whether it is well to speak of "right" or "wrong" is a very dry dispute about words; but the question whether a given action belongs in the black class or in the white class is a question of intense interest wherever there is a difference of opinion about it. Look at any book that has been written to prove that there is no such thing as moral good or evil, and see with what a relish the author will stigmatise the moralist's attitude by the names of such vices as he recognises ...

Read the whole thing at From the Libertarian Library.

Tucker on "fake" translations

Now available thanks to Shawn P. Wilbur at Contr'un:

Here's a bit of fun from the 1891 volume of The Bookseller and Newsman, where Benjamin R. Tucker got very actively involved in the debate about translations of Emile Zola's "Money." It's classic Tucker.

The American Edition of “Money.”


The editorial notice of The Nile Publishing Company’s edition of “Money,” by Emile Zola, in the March Newsman, was the cause of much comment in trade circles. The following correspondence from the publishers of this book will interest The Newsman readers and throw much light on the matter of translating and publishing foreign works:

The Nile Publishing Company.
Chicago, March 26, 1891.
Editor The Newsman —We are in receipt of your last issue of the Newsman, and note what you say regarding our edition of “Money.” In reply we only say we seriously regret that you should accept such a statement as true from a competing publisher and publish it before at least allowing us to make a true statement concerning our translation.
It is true that we placed “Money” on the market on the 11th of March, but we were not enabled to complete it on that date by “drawing from the scant imagination fund of our translator.” We were enabled to do so by the expenditure of several hundred dollars in having the last fifteen pages cabled to us. We acknowledge that the last few pages were not literally translated, but Zola’s sentiments were expressed.
Do you not know that not one of Zola’s novels that have been published in the United States is complete? Publishers in this country are compelled to expurgate them, for our people will not tolerate his superlative degree of realism. Then why should we be so unjustly treated when we have ...

Read the whole thing at Contr'un.