HAPPY INDEPENDENCE DAY
WORKING PEOPLE OF AMERICA
"It has been my fate to be a worker all my life."--Jo Labadie
"government, even in its best state, is but a necessary evil; in its worst state, an intolerable one." Thomas Paine
Independence day,was a day forgotten by the early 19th Century American master craftsmen, landowners, rich farmers, and religious revivalists. It was revived and celebrated by the 'mechanics and artisans' of the American Republic. The origin of July 4th celebrations in the United States were the celebrations of apprentices and journeymen in revolt against the social conservatives of the the day, their masters. It was their day to demand the fruits of the revolution their right to the fruits of their labour. (Sean Wilentz, Chants Democratic; New York City & the Rise of the American Working Class 1788-1850, OUP 1984)
It was this struggle of labouring men and women in America that led to the Free Labour movment which eventually confronted the Democratic Tyrants of Tamminy Hall in New York with a new political party called the Republican Party. It was this party under Abraham Lincoln that called for the freedom of the labouring man, and freeing of the slaves so that they could enjoy the fruits of their labour as mechanics, artisans and farmers. (Montgomery, The Fall of the House of Labour)
Freedom was no slogan for a new toothpaste, or another coffee shop. Freedom was not something to be exported at the end of the bayonet. Freedom was for the individual to enjoy his or her right to the fruits of their labour. For it was well known that labour produced all value.
The radical American individualist was an anarchist. Influenced by Prodhoun, Stirner and the First International Working Mens organisation, anarchists like the Haymarket martyrs were joined by the individualist anarchists like Benjamin Tucker and Joseph Labadie, who understood the labour theory of value was essential for demanding individual freedom.
The anarchists are simply unterrified Jeffersonian Democrats. They believe that “the best government is that which governs least,” and that which governs least is no government at all. Benjamin Tucker
They shared no cant with the capitalist, the monopolist as they called them, for these robber barons stole the labour of others, leaving them in poverty while living in mansions fit for kings. They were athiests, abolitionists, feminists, and socialists. Their socialism was not that of Europe, not State Socialism, but that of the 'free association of producers'.
Not to abolish wages, but to make every man dependent upon wages and secure to every man his whole wages is the aim of Anarchistic Socialism. What Anarchistic Socialism aims to abolish is usury. It does not want to deprive labor of its reward; it wants to deprive capital of its reward. It does not hold that labor should not be sold; it holds that capital should not be hired at usury. Benjamin Tucker
They were individualist socialists. They were a 'unique', as Stirner refered to the egoist, socialist movement in a new nation. A nation that was built not on monarchies or old families, nor status or wealth but built by labour. Their individualist anarchism enthralled and influenced the emigre anarchist Emma Goldman, and horrorfied statist socialists and craft unions. They were the extreme left of the labour movement .
IF I WERE to give a summary of the tendency of our times, I would say, Quantity. The multitude, the mass spirit, dominates everywhere, destroying quality. Our entire life--production, politics, and education--rests on quantity, on numbers. The worker who once took pride in the thoroughness and quality of his work, has been replaced by brainless, incompetent automatons, who turn out enormous quantities of things, valueless to themselves, and generally injurious to the rest of mankind. Thus quantity, instead of adding to life's comforts and peace, has merely increased man's burden.
The oft repeated slogan of our time is, among all politicians, the Socialists included, that ours is an era of individualism, of the minority. Only those who do not probe beneath the surface might be led to entertain this view. Have not the few accumulated the wealth of the world? Are they not the masters, the absolute kings of the situation? Their success, however, is due not to individualism, but to the inertia, the cravenness, the utter submission of the mass. The latter wants but to be dominated, to be led, to be coerced. As to individualism, at no time in human history did it have less chance of expression, less opportunity to assert itself in a normal, healthy manner. Emma Goldman, Minorities Versus Majorities
American Anarchist Socialism was the result of the direct experiences of working men and women as they suffered abject poverty while wealth flowed around them. It was the poltical and economic trajectory of a nation of labourers and farmers an Artisnal nation. And it was the artisan that celebrated 'their ' independence as being one and the same as their 'nation'.
But all that changed through the Civil War and after as America became an industrial capitalist nation of robber barons. Great monopolies were created, the first military industrial complex, one that gave power to the two political parties, the Democrats and the Republicans. No longer were either the voice of the 'workingman', whom they gave sufferage to in order to win their votes. Thus was born the rebellion of workers to create a 'third party' as well as various socialist parties and social organizations like unions and the farmers Grange movement.
There were from the beginning two different strands within Socialism: one was the Right-wing, authoritarian strand, from Saint-Simon down, which glorified statism, hierarchy, and collectivism and which was thus a projection of Conservatism trying to accept and dominate the new industrial civilization. The other was the Left-wing, relatively libertarian strand, exemplified in their different ways by Marx and Bakunin, revolutionary and far more interested in achieving the libertarian goals of liberalism and socialism: but especially the smashing of the State apparatus to achieve the "withering away of the State" and the "end of the exploitation of man by man." Interestingly enough, the very Marxian phrase, the "replacement of the government of men by the administration of things," can be traced, by a circuitous route, from the great French radical laissez-faire liberals of the early nineteenth century, Charles Comte (no relation to Auguste Comte) and Charles Dunoyer. And so, too, may the concept of the "class struggle"; except that for Dunoyer and Comte the inherently antithetical classes were not businessmen vs. workers, but the producers in society (including free businessmen, workers, peasants, etc.) versus the exploiting classes constituting, and privileged by, the State apparatus.
While there was plenty there was plenty of want as well, as thousands of new immigrants flooded America seeking their economic freedom from serfdom in Europe. What they found was an America that would use and abuse them for their labour by allowing capital its unfettered freedom. Such freedom of capital is often mistakenly called, even today, individualism. But it is not. As homegrown Socialists like Jack London would discover.
Man being man and a great deal short of the angels, the quarrel over the division of the joint product is irreconcilable. For the last twenty years in the United States, there has been an average of over a thousand strikes per year; and year by year these strikes increase in magnitude, and the front of the labor army grows more imposing. And it is a class struggle, pure and simple. Labor as a class is fighting with capital as a class.