VOTE! WHAT FOR? by Robert “Bobby” Lynn — eBook £1.50 (see eBookshelf)

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The pamphlet “Vote! What For?” by Robert “Bobby” Lynn, the Glaswegian Stirnerite anarcho-syndicalist who “radicalised” me as a 15-year-old (apart from my granny!), is a timely insight into the true nature of representative democracy and universal suffrage. An unforgettable street corner speaker, his proselytising patter was second-to-none. Here he is talking about the division of labour: “a man operating a machine in repetitive work day-in day-out becomes an automaton. He produces a nut and a bolt, a nut and a bolt, a nut and a bolt. … Finally you don’t know whether he is a nutter from the bolt factory or whether he has bolted from the nut factory.”

“This pamphlet is not meant to be a panorama of a possible future real world. It’s meant to be an observation on present day society with a view to changing it, as I believe it to be an insane asylum. It is so gigantic that most of us do not notice it. Most people have visions of a society of their desires but because of miseducation their views are frustrated. They have been so indoctrinated by their “teachers”: the classroom, from the pulpit, from parents who came through the same sausage machine indoctrination. From the cradle to the grave they are nurtured and subjected to varying degrees of subservience. In consequence they sniff for their master like an obedient pet dog. They seek their messiah, divine or mundane.

“If I could lead anyone into the land of milk and honey, I wouldn’t do it. Why? Because if I could lead anyone into it then I could lead them out of it. No one has the power to give you what you want without having the power to snuff it out. I want to be neither a mister somebody nor a mister nobody but merely a mister this body: neither to be possessed nor dispossessed. If I could change the social system by myself I would do so. But because of my incompetence I need allies: I need more strength; I need you. It is self-interest but an interest that is mutual. At present I hack at the social system as best I can like laboriously cutting away with pick and shovel at a mountain to get to my destination; Forever trying to muster sufficient dynamite in order to blow it out of existence. So I speak to you, especially you of the working class who have an immediate economic interest in destroying our maniacal social system. Economic freedom is the concrete base of all other freedoms. Without economic freedom another freedoms are merely spooks.

“I ask you then to rid yourself of spooks. Organise to achieve real freedom from your compulsory asylum. Karl Marx once exhorted the working class to unite. “Workers of the world unite, you have nothing to lose but your chains, you have a world to win.” However, he spent so much time in the British Museum that it would seem he had forgotten to advise them where to unite.

“In my pamphlet I try to show the futility of organising in political parties. I advise industrial and social organisation. A do-it-yourself movement and make the politicians redundant. Send them and the tycoons of industry into the museums of antiquity along with the spinning wheel and the bronze axe. One last word I hope after reading the pamphlet you may find the rational core within the mystical shell and boycott the vote.” — Robert Lynn

The cover illustration depicts the suicided Ajax, impaled on his sword, being covered by Tekmessa. When Achilles was killed it was Ajax who saved his body from the Trojans, hoping to be rewarded with Achilles’ magical armour, but Odysseus who had also been involved in the fighting also wanted the armour. To settle the matter the Greeks leaders, under Athena, voted by piling stones in front of the opponents; Ajax, who lost by one vote, went off in a hissy fit and slaughtered the Achaeans captured livestock, then commited suicide. How very unlike the post-electoral behaviour of our own dear politicians.

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REFLECTIONS by Voltairine De Cleyre — eBook £1.50 (see eBookshelf)

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This stimulating collection of the writings of Voltairine de Cleyre, an important anarchist writer of the late 19th and early 20th century, covers such diverse topics such as the Paris Commune, Crime and Punishment, the Mexican Revolution, Sex and Marriage, the McKinley Assassination —and of course her distinct interpretation of anarchism.

Voltairine De Cleyre (1866-1912), anarchist, poet, lecturer, writer and teacher lived in St. Johns, Michigan until 1880, when she was sent to a convent school in Sarnia, Ontario. After graduating she became active in freethought circles, and moved quickly from socialism to anarchism. From the late 1880s until her death in 1912, De Cleyre was an energetic anarchist and a prolific writer, living in Philadelphia and then Chicago. She was a contemporary and acquaintance of Emma Goldman, Alexander Berkman, Benjamin Tucker and other prominent anarchists of the time. Emma Goldman described her as “the poet-rebel, the liberty-loving artist, the greatest female anarchist of America.” Max Nettlau, a historian of the anarchist movement, considered her to be “the pearl of Anarchy,” outshining her contemporaries in “libertarian feeling and artistic spirit.” She published hundreds of poems, essays, stories, and sketches, mainly on themes of social oppression, but also on literature, education, and women’s liberation. She died on June 23, 1912 and was buried in Waldheim Cemetery in Chicago.

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ANARCHY by Élisée Reclus

The following text was originally a talk presented in Brussels on June 18, 1894 to the members of “The Philanthropic Friends,” Masonic lodge (“Les Amis Philanthropes”, Lodge No. 5 of the Grand Orient of Belgium*). It was published as “L’Anarchie” in Les Temps nouveaux 18 (May 25-June 1, 1895).

Jacques Élisée Reclus (15 March 1830 – 4 July 1905)

Anarchy is far from being a new theory. The word itself, in its accepted meaning of “the absence of government” and “a society without leaders,” is of ancient origin and was used long before the time of Proudhon.1 Besides, what difference do words make? There were “acratists” before there were anarchists, but the acratists were not given their name — a learned construction — until many generations had passed. In all ages there have been free men, those contemptuous of the law, men living without any master and in accordance with the primordial law of their own existence and their own thought. Even in the earliest ages we find everywhere tribes made up of men managing their own affairs as they wish, without any externally imposed law, having no rule of behaviour other than “their own volition and free will,” as Rabelais expresses it, 2 and impelled by their desire to found a “profound faith” like those “gallant knights” and “charming ladies” who gathered together in the Abbey of Thélème.

But if anarchy is as old as humanity, those who represent it nevertheless bring something new to the world. They have a keen awareness of the goal to be attained, and from all corners of the earth they join together to pursue their ideal of the eradication of every form of government. The dream of worldwide freedom is no longer a purely philosophical or literary utopia, as it was for the creators of the Cities of the Sun and the New Jerusalems.3 It has become a practical goal that is actively pursued by masses of people united in their resolute quest for the birth of a society in which there are no more masters, no more official custodians of public morals, no more jailers, torturers and executioners, no more rich or poor. Instead there will be only brothers who have their share of daily bread, who have equal rights, and who coexist in peace and heartfelt unity that comes not out of obedience to law, which is always accompanied by dreadful threats, but rather from mutual respect for the interest of all, and from the scientific study of natural laws.

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Pierre-Joseph PROUDHON His revolutionary life, mind and works by Edward S. Hyams eBook £1.50 (see eBookshelf)

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PROUDHON WAS BORN in the same year, 1809, as Charles Darwin, at about the moment when the reaction against the French Revolution, led by the old imperial monarchies and the British aristocratic oligarchy, began to triumph. That triumph was short-lived but at the time it was clear to only a very few men that Europe was facing a century of revolution.

It was in the half-century following Proudhon’s birth that a number of men of talent and two men of genius, Proudhon and Karl Marx, sought to give form and practical applicability to the social, political and economic philosophy to become known as socialism. Thus Auguste Blanqui, who when not fighting the monarchy and the bourgeoisie, was in prison working out the principles of communist trade unionism and was the father of the French Socialist Party, was only four years Proudhon’s senior; Alexander Herzen, the great publicist of socialism in Russia, was born in 1812, as was Louis Blanc who developed revolutionary socialism out of the idealistic proto-socialism of Saint-Simon. Michael Bakunin, the Russian anarchist and Marx’s most troublesome enemy, was born in 1814; Marx in 1818 when his master, Hegel, was not yet fifty; and Engels in 1820. Lassalle, founder and master of the formidable German Workers’ Party, was born in 1825.

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A DOMINIE ABROAD by A.S. Neill eBook £1.50 (see eBookshelf)

A.S. Neill’s experiences setting up a ‘Free school’ in the pre-Hitlerian Germany of the Weimar Republic. Dissatisfied with traditional schooling, with its lack of freedom, democracy, and self-determination, Neill searched for a place to establish his own school and to experiment with his developing ideas, gathering what was best in the educational systems of various nations. In 1921 he became a co-director of the Dalcroze School, part of an international school, called Neue Schule, in Hellerau, a suburb of Dresden, Germany. His first step was to buy a dictionary and start to learn the language, the next was to record his impressions. His difficulties were many. With cheery optimism the bohemian teacher overlooked the fact that he was in a community with definite laws on education; he also forgot the difficulties of finance and that his favourite tobacco was unobtainable within five hundred square miles.

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