Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Unfinished business of Liberty

Benjamin Tucker, like a lot of us, took on a lot of projects, not all of which came to fruition. His "Proudhon Library" and the pamphlet version of Bellegarrigue's "Anarchy: Journal of Order" are among those announced, but never completed. In some other cases, what Tucker translated from his wide reading of libertarian literature was just the tip of the iceberg, where fascinating material was concerned.

It will take some time before anything like the "Proudhon Library" is possible, but one of the reasons for pursuing the updated Libertarian Labyrinth is precisely to pursue those kinds of projects. And some of the smaller tasks are decidedly doable. I'm working away at the remaining chapters of Bellegarrigue's journal, and am on the track of four more "Socialistic Letters" by Ernest Lesigne. Tucker translated six of the letters, including the oft-cited discussion of "two socialisms." I have added the first five of those to the archive, and may yet finish with the sixth tonight. All are very interesting reading. Lesigne was a consistent and articulate proponent of individualist anarchism. Look, in particular, for his predictions about the decentralization of production in the fifth letter:
During the last thirty years or more, but since Karl Marx constructed his conclusions, they have been inventing little motors, little tools which will deliver the victims of the mechanical monster; the little industry of the artisan, for a moment thrown into confusion is being reorganized; the machine is becoming democratic, portable, convenient, cheap, accessible, and shows its superiority over the monsters of the great factory in that it can wait without suffering at times when there is no work; it no longer holds the laborer at its disposition, it is becoming at the disposition of man.

In a near future all laborers, even the proletaires of today, each one by himself or in small groups of associates, will have their own machines, their own tools and the desert will be in the industrial fortresses of today, around the high chimneys extinct, between the walls become lamentable. The sons of the aristocracy of iron and silver will work for a living,—which will not be a great calamity,—and historians will relate how the industrious people recovered their liberty, compromised for an instant by the infancy of machinery and the first spread of industrialism.

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