Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Chaim Weinberg, Forty Years in the Struggle

Robert Helms doesn't need me to build him up; his work speaks for itself. That said, it's nice to get an opportunity once again to point folks towards his excellent Dead Anarchists site. The occasion is the publication, by Helms and Wooden Shoe Books, of Forty Years in the Struggle: The Memoirs of a Jewish Anarchist, by Chaim Leib Weinberg. This is the result of years of labor by Helms and others. Check out the online edition at Dead Anarchists.

on ALLiance

Despite having a hand in its launching, I have let the existence of the Alliance of the Libertarian Left go pretty well unremarked here. Mark that down to the distractions of daily life, to continuing labors for the long term, and not to any lack of enthusiasm for the coalition. March saw a marvelous burst of activity in left-libertarian circles. I feel like I'm only now catching up—with comrades who were obviously ready to head off in a new direction, and with my own aspirations for the alliance. I've done a lot of thinking about what form organizing for the ALL ought to take in my own area, and more than a bit about the more general issues facing the coalition. I hope to be able to say more about those first thoughts soon, but the fruits of the second are starting to appear in a kind of "periodical letter," on ALLiance, in the blogosphere. I welcome comments and contributions.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Warren in New York, 1830

During the week of July 17, 1830, the "equal exchange of labor for labor" dominated the pages of both the Free Enquirer and the New York Sentinel and Working Man's Advocate. Josiah Warren had two pieces published in the Free Enquirer"To the Friends of the Equal Exchange of Labor in the West" and "Improvement in the Machinery of Law"—alongside another piece, "Equal Exchange of Labor," reprinted from the "Workie" paper. The Sentinel contained another piece on "Female Labor," which made reference, though not by name, to Warren. Warren had just come to New York, at the invitation of Robert Dale Owen, and he was making something of a splash. Owen was a controversial, but well-connected member of the circles around the Workingman's Party. By mid-1830, that party had already suffered at least one split, with Thomas Skidmore and Alexander Ming leaving to launch their Friend of Equal Rights and Poor Man's Party. Owen had opposed Skidmore's "agrarianism" and his class politics. Owen and Skidmore engaged in a lengthy dispute over the true nature of Skidmore's proposals in The Rights of Man to Property. They also tangled over the question of birth control, education, and child-rearing practices. It would be interesting to know what, if anything, Warren made of these debates, as he was undoubtedly at least as close to Skidmore on some questions as he was to Owen.

In any event, August saw a similar flurry of activity on the topic of labor-for-labor exchange, including an exchange between Warren and "E. C." in the pages of the Free Enquirer. In his communication, E. C. expresses his faith in the principles expressed in Warren's earlier article, and poses a few standard objections to the plan. Warren's reply deals with these in summary fashion.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Resource on British labor periodicals

Dr. Detlev Mares has posted a number of pdfs of "Source material on British popular radicalism (1864-1886)." There are some partial periodical indexes, plus a number of other resources. I ran across it looking for references to A. C. Cuddon, the British advocate of equitable commerce.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Equitable Commerce bibliography and miscellany

For your education, edification, and amusement:


A Work-in-Progress: I currently have most of my notes from 1821 to about 1853 incorporated into this sprawling bibliography+, which includes the full text of many short articles. If you're one of the folks looking forward to Crispin Sartwell's anthology, check my progress once in awhile, and take a look at Crispin's Josiah Warren Project, which just got a major update.

Monday, May 14, 2007

stupid search engine tricks

Specific searches get specific results. Right? It depends, actually. Here are a couple of examples:

I was searching for a particular edition of one of Josiah Warren's works, the full title of which is, believe it or not, The former title of this work was "Equitable Commerce", but it is now ranked as the first part of True Civilization: a subject of vital and serious interest to all people; but most immediately to the men and women of labor and sorrow. This is not to be confused with the first book to be published as True Civilization an immediate necessity, and the last ground of hope for mankind being the results and conclusions of thirty-nine years' laborious study and experiments in civilization as it is, and in different enterprises for reconstruction, published a few years earlier, and now, apparently, ranked as the second part. These long titles are, of course, exactly the sort of information you expect to be truncated in databases, so I was simply looking for books called True Civilization, written by Josiah Warren.

At Google Books, I first tried a very general search:

Author: Josiah Warren

and the results included five books: 3 editions of True Civilization, and 2 of Equitable Commerce. None of these was the edition I was looking for. But I was pretty sure I had seen it on the site before. After some searching, I determined that it was indeed there. But things get weird. A narrower search:

Author: Josiah Warren +
Title: True Civilization

returns four editions of True Civilization! The narrower search provides more results, even though it appears that the author's name is spelled correctly in the entry for the "now you see it, now you don't" 1869 edition.

I'm a little baffled. It appears that the search engine at Google Books either searches different author data, or searches the author data differently, depending on whether or not I have specified a title. That looks more like a bug than a feature.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Josiah Warren's stereotype-plate patents

Josiah Warren's 1830 "Reduction in the Cost of Printing Apparatus" described one of his attempts to make the power of the press widely available. An 1846 patent (#4479) issued for "Improvement in Compositions for Stereotype-Plates" marked on advance in this project. Matrices of a composite material, largely made up of clay, took the place of the lead matrices proposed in 1830 (themselves an improvement of copper matrices, in terms of the ease with which they could be used. (There is a reissue on file for either 1853 or 1883.)

It took me quite awhile to actually find this patent, although I knew roughly when it was issued. That's no big surprise, I guess, since the author of the reissue is listed as "JOSIAH WAEREN," and that of the original as "JOSIAH WAEEEET," with an issue date of "Apr 25, 1346." On the positive side, Google Patents is now allowing you to download pdfs of the patents, after having recently made it impossible to even download page images efficiently.

How NOT to Read Josiah Warren

[The following note comes from David Ames, Robinson Crusoe's Money (1876, pages 59-60). I include in here for the specimen notes, both of which were new to me, and for the hints about E. D. Linton's scheme, but it can also stand as a textbook failure to read Josiah Warren's actual proposals. Those who have just read William Pare's "Equitable Villages in America" will get a chuckle at the differences between the two accounts.]

* If to any it may seem puerile and unnecessary to enter into such explanations, it may be well to remind them that one of the schemes for a new currency, which has of late found some earnest advocates in the United States, is that of Josiah Warren, of Ohio, who proposed that currency “should be issued by those men, women, and children who perform useful service “—i. e., grow corn, mine coal, catch cod-fish, pick up chestnuts and the like—” but by nobody else;“ such results of service being deposited in safe receptacles, and having receipts of deposit issued against them to serve as “equitable money.” A further axiom of Mr. Warren was, “that the most disagreeable labor” (not the most useful) “is entitled to the highest compensation;” and, therefore, inferentially entitled to issue the most money. A specimen of this equitable money before the writer reads as follows:Of course, to make this money equitable, and its issue, as claimed, “the satisfactory solution of the great problem of labor and capital,” there must be some presupposed equitable relation between eight hours of shoe-making and a hundred pounds of corn. But one hundred pounds of corn in Illinois are the result of only a quarter as much labor as a hundred pounds in New England; and what comparison is there between eight hours’ work of a skilled mechanic and that of a more cobbler in making shoes? or of the man who performs a disagreeable, slavish piece of work, and of the genius who invents or makes a machine that makes this disagreeable work unnecessary?

E. D. Linton, of Boston, one of Warren’s most eminent disciples, improves on Warren’s ideas, and proposes that the United States Government should prepare and issue a currency, which should read as follows:

And the same inferentially in respect to pigs, coal, shoes, and the services of doctors, lawyers, and cooks. So, then, if the note in not to be on its face a lie, and the promise in to be actually performed on demand, the necessity will be absolute on the part of the Government of the United States to have store -houses for wheat at Chicago, pig-pens at Peoria, coal-mines or dépôts at Pottsville, and trained professionals ready on call to plead a case, preach a sermon, cure a cold, and cook a dinner; and all of these last must take their pay in pigs if required. But as a pig has one value at Peoria, and another value at almost every other place, the dollar’s worth of pig which the United States would pay might be a whole pig in one place, a half in another, and possibly only the snout in another.

Friday, May 11, 2007

William Pare on equitable commerce

William Pare's "Equitable Villages in America," a lecture from 1854, is a particularly good short treatment of the system of "equitable commerce" proposed and practiced by Josiah Warren. Pare never forgot that the first principle of Warren's philosophy was individualization, and this helped him to understand that the "cost principle" is not simply a matter of exchanging labor time, but a system which incorporates into the notion of "cost" a whole range of subjective valuations, which cannot be subordinated to any social or institutional standard of equity without betraying the system completely. I recommend the essay to anyone interested in Warren's thought.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

William Bailie

William Bailie is probably best known as the biographer of Josiah Warren. His Josiah Warren: the First American Anarchist remains the only game in town, though we can now be hopeful that it may be supplemented with a new work in the near future. Bailie was, however, also a contributor to Liberty and other journals, and produced a series of articles on the "Problems of Anarchism," which ought to stand with the handful of other 19th century attempts at teasing out the details of individualist anarchist theory. I've been reviewing Bailie's work in relation to a set of essays I'm working on. What better time to start getting it into the archive? Here's a start:

The Dual Commerce Association, Boston, 1859

One of the things that is becoming clearer from continuing research into the practical history of mutualism is that there were lots of small experiments in, and local enthusiasts for, equitable commerce and mutual currency. I've already documented one Practical application of the cost principle in Massachusetts, 1863. If appears that this was preceded in Boston by an 1859 project, The Dual Commerce Association. The OCLC catalog lists one 16-page pamphlet:

Dual Commerce Association. The Dual Commerce Association: its Experience, Results, Plans & Prospectus : First Report. Boston, Mass.: Dual Commerce Association, 1859.

and The Circular includes the following short notice:

* * * * *

"Dual Commerce Association," The Circular, 8, 4 (February 17, 1859), 4.

Dual Commerce Association—In Boston a new movement in trade, under the above title, has been in operation a few months, and of its character and results, Life Illustrated thus speaks:

"It proposes to purchase the necessaries and the luxuries of life, and distribute them to users and consumers at the exact cost of doing the business. In Boston, a number of 'stations' are provided where milk, butter, four, potatoes, soap, sugar and all other articles commonly used in families are received and distributed, the store or station keepers having fixed salaries so as to do away with all notions of profit or speculation.

"A barrel of flour, for example, is received and sold in parcels of one, five, or ten pounds, at the same rate per pound that would be charged on whole barrel if taken at once. The cost of receiving and delivering a barrel of four is but fifty cents, whereas to ordinary retail grocers the consumers pay two, or three, or four times that sum. In this way, the poor, without capital, can purchase as economically as the rich; and all make a saving of at least twenty per cent.—no small item for a mechanic or laboring man.

Though the principle of Dual Commerce ha been in practical operation but a few months the results have been most gratifying. The system, if it can be made to work well in one place—and all that seems to be waited are men of heart and capital—may be extended to all places. And it can be applied to manufactures, and even to agriculture, as well as to commerce."

* * * * *

Life Illustrated was a Fowler and Wells periodical (OCLC: 16837890), published from 1854 to 1861, at which point it was merged with the Phrenological Journal and Science of Health.) Crispin Sartwell and I are in the process of comparing notes and bibliographies, and I'm still transcribing material from The Boston Investigator. The pieces come together slowly but surely.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

The Big Time, at last!

Just recently, in a Wikipedia talk-page debate about the significance of the Alliance of the Libertarian Left, the True Intentions of the Agorists, etc., someone asked the interesting, if slightly incoherent question:

Why aren't "Shawn Wilbur" and "Brad Spangler" have Wikipedia articles if they are notable people? Who are these people?

Who, indeed? Well, it turns out that yours truly does have a Wikipedia article dedicated to him. On it, we learn the following:

Shawn P. Wilbur, född 1963, är en nutida amerikansk individualanarkist och mutualist.

Now you know.

Funny, though, that's far from the first indication I've had that my work is taken more seriously in Scandanavia (and Turkey) than in the English-speaking world. Much of my work from the '90s, on internet culture isses and virtual community, has been translated into various languages. Only yesterday, I read an interesting scrap of debate over my chapter in Internet Culture, or tried to read it, after finding an online Swedish-English translator.

Friday, May 04, 2007

Bridge over Troubled Waters


Donald Drumm's "Bridge over Troubled Waters," the BGSU Kent State / Jackson State memorial sculpture, is, as I said earlier, hidden in plain sight. This shot, with snow piled around it and a trash barrel tucked underneath, is unfortunately characteristic of the sort of attention it gets on campus. Drumm created a number of sculptures for the campus, designed the murals for the exterior of Jerome Library, and also, if I recall correctly, contributed a number of book cover illustrations for the Popular Press. The memorial statue currently stands on the corner, between lots A and G, right beside the one-room schoolhouse that is now the Educational Memorabilia Center (about where the number "39" appears on this map.) It appears, however, that it was originally at another location. The picture below, which is from an earlier period, is pretty obviously not at the same spot.

May Days to Remember





There is a Kent State / Jackson State memorial sculpture on the Bowling Green State University campus, hidden in plain sight on a busy corner between parking lots. Walking over at noon, through the end-of-semester move-out crowds, I suddenly heard the sirens of a passing ambulance. . .

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Joshua King Ingalls on land reform and the single tax

Joshua King Ingalls' essay "Henry George Examined: Should Land Be Nationalized or Individualized?" is now available in the archive. This is the classic encounter between the mutualist land reform doctrine of Ingalls and George's single-tax scheme. This version was taken from the supplement to Liberty, October 14, 1882, and differs slightly from the version incorporated in Ingalls' Reminiscences.

The "Little-Landers" of San Ysidro

"A little land and a living, surely, is better than a desperate struggle and wealth, possibly." So said William Ellworth Smythe, using the phrase of Bolton Hall, whose and Three Acres and Liberty and A Little Land and a Living were among the basic works of the back to the land movement. Hall was a single-tax advocate and anarchist, friend and supporter of Emma Goldman, etc. His Free Acres community was one of the single tax enclaves, which attempted a non-state form of Georgism. He was also a promoter of intensive, small-lot farming practices. Smythe followed Hall in some aspects of his radicalism, and admired him enough that the meeting house at one of the "Little Lander" colonies was named Bolton Hall, in an odd double-reference to the reformer and the more famous building. The article that follows is an introduction to the Little Landers, from The World's Work, XXIII, 1 (November, 1911), 96-100.

THE HOPE OF THE "LITTLE LANDERS"

THE STORY OF SAN YSIDRO, CAL.. WHERE FAMILIES PROSPER ON TWO ACRES AND A QUARTER

BY

JOHN L COWAN

FOURTEEN miles south of San Diego. Cal., so close to the Mexican boundary line that bullets from the rifles of the opposing forces fell within the village limits during the battle of Tia Juana, in May, is the little town of San Ysidro, more commonly known as the home of the "Little Landers." It is a "back to the farm" experiment, adapted to the wants of people of limited means. It is hoped eventually to adapt it to the needs of people of no means at all.

The Little Landers wish to show to families with little money and with little or no farming experience just how they can get to the land without danger of going from bad to worse. The corporation owns about 400 acres, all of which will be sold to persons desirous of engaging in truck farming, flower gardening, poultry raising, and other occupations adapted to just a little land. The price is high, judged by land values in many Eastern communities, being from $300 to $400 per acre. There are now forty families in the colony, with a total membership of 140. The smallest farm consists of a quarter of an acre, and the largest of seven acres, the average being two-and-a-quarter acres. From the experience so far gained, most of the colonists now think that one, two, or three acres (depending upon the size of the family) is sufficient. The ideal is just as much land as the family can bring under the highest cultivation without hiring help.

The problem of acquiring land is simplified by the smallness of the acreage required, and also by the fact that only part of the purchase price need be paid in cash. The balance can be made up largely from the colonist’s earnings. The profits accruing to the corporation are used for public improvements, which otherwise would have to he provided for by taxation. To build a home adapted to the kindly climate of southern California costs very little. The dwellings of some of the Little Landers cost no more than $100. Some, whether from choice or from necessity, live in tents, the cost of which was insignificant.

Similarly there is no need for a large investment in live stock and farm machinery. The live stock is limited to poultry and a cow or a pig or perhaps both. The requisite implements are no more than a spade, a hoe, a garden rake, and a few other inexpensive tools. In the purchase of supplies and the marketing of surplus products, the cooperation of the colonists eliminates the middleman, with his sometimes exorbitant profits, and invariably disproportionate expenses. Even inexperience constitutes no bar to success. The president, the secretary, and other officers of the colony are experienced in all the mysteries of poultry raising and vegetable culture, and count it a pleasure as well as a duty to impart instruction to new arrivals. At the weekly meetings of the colonists, practical questions of any kind may be asked; and the knowledge and experience of all is at the command of each individual.

The Little Landers have steered clear of communal ownership and other fads that have wrecked so many experiments at social betterment. Every man owns his own house, which may be as humble or as pretentious as his means and his inclination direct. Every man owns his own land, plants upon it whatever he pleases, and cultivates it according to his knowledge and ability. There are no restrictions upon the sale or the disposition of property.

Some of the Little Landers have been at San Ysidro for two years, and others for shorter periods. Some families have just arrived. All that have been established for six months or more are making a living, and most of them a better living than many a farmer of the East and Middle West with 160 acres of land or twice that. It is unfortunate that no one in the colony has kept an exact account of receipts and expenditures. “We made a living, paid for our improvements, and have money in the hank,” is the usual reply to a request for a statement of the profits on a year’s labor. That is satisfactory to them, hut not to the searcher after exact information. Each family strives to raise its own food supplies, with the exception of wheat, sugar, and spices. Grain is purchased for feeding to poultry and live stock. Supplies of this kind are bought cooperatively, in car load lots, at minimum prices. For all surplus food supplies grown by the colonists there is a ready market in San Diego. In the early days of the colony, eggs, poultry, vegetables, and other products were sent to commission houses in San Diego for marketing. It was found that sometimes the colonists received thirty-five per cent. of the retail prices, sometimes twenty-five per cent. and sometimes as low as ten per cent. Then a horse and wagon were bought, and a man was hired to sell the products of the colony direct to the consumers. When this plan was put into practice, the net returns to the colonists averaged seventy-five per cent, of the retail prices.

In all this, the one important point is that the Little Landers are making a living, and a little more. It seems evident that what these forty families are doing at San Ysidro millions of families can do in America. There are exceptional people among them: but the most of them are average Americans, driven by ill health, or by advancing years, or by financial reverses, back to the warm bosom of Mother Earth.

Furthermore, each Little Lander is his own boss. He reads of the high cost of living, the encroachments of predatory wealth, tariff agitation, and other issues that are vital to nine tenths of the people of America with comparative indifference, and with growing wonder that his fellow citizens of the republic do not follow the path he has helped to blaze to industrial independence. Every Little Lander has a job, and no man living has power to discharge him, even in times of financial panic and industrial calamity. In the whole community there is not a landlord or a tenant, an employer or a hired man.

The majority of the Little Landers live in the village of San Ysidro, raise vegetables, flowers, and poultry upon their lots, and cultivate whatever crops they desire upon their acres, located within easy walking distance. Others have built their homes upon their acres. In either case, the distance to the social centre of the community is so short that all enjoy the advantages of both town and country, with the inconveniences of neither. The deadly isolation of the farm is banished; but the delights of living close to nature, in the open air and sunshine, are preserved.

They have adopted the initiative, referendum, and recall. An irrigation district has been organized in accordance with the laws of the state; and bonds to the amount of $25,000 will be sold to provide an adequate water supply, as the community grows in population. A very ambitious park system has been laid out. In fact, even now, although the village is only two years old, the park is a marvel of floral wealth and beauty, owing to the labors of George P. Hall, President of the Little Landers, and formerly President of the California State Horticultural Society, in the park is the club house and assembly room, with library, reading room, and general loafing place. Every Monday evening there is a meeting for the discussion of topics of interest to the colonists. Questions are asked and answered, experiences with crops and poultry are related; and reports are rendered by officers and committees. Then there are songs and stories, a discussion of current events, and a lecture upon some educational theme. On Sundays, Rev. Josiah Poeton, Secretary and Manager. preaches a non-sectarian sermon. He is a Congregational minister. He was driven by a nervous breakdown from his flock in old Vermont. The community of Little Landers at San Ysidro was founded by Mr. William E. Smythe, the well-known author and journalist.

Prof. H. Heath Bawden, formerly of Vassar College, who is one of the colonists, is working to show the possibilities that lie unsuspected and undeveloped in an acre of land. He aims to develop a one- acre garden to the utmost possible limit of productivity. He is studying the requirements of each of the important garden vegetables in the way of light, heat, moisture, and chemical constituents of the soil. He aims at vegetable perfection, and thinks it practicable to produce better vegetables and more of them than any one has ever produced before. When he has finished his experiments he will, as far as possible, reduce the practice of the Little Landers to a series of mathematical formulæ, so that any one may know just what and how to grow the best vegetables in the largest possible quantities.

Such colonies may be multiplied indefinitely, provided only that they are established within easy reach of large cities, where a practically unlimited market may be had for fresh vegetables and fruits, poultry products, and other food supplies that can be profitably grown by hand labor upon small tracts of land. The advantage to the cities and to the colonists will be reciprocal. The people of the cities will get fresh fruits, vegetables, eggs and poultry at reasonable prices, and the colonists will enjoy the advantage of a steady market, at fair prices, for everything they can produce.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Three by Kropotkin


Prince Peter Kropotkin was a regular contributor to The Nineteenth Century, and his essays were widely reprinted. Here are three of his contributions to that journal.