- Transcriber's note: Obvious typographical errors have been corrected -
Vol. I. MARCH, 1906 No. 1
P. O. Box EMMA GOLDMAN, Publisher 10c. a Copy Madison Sq. Station, N. Y.
Mother Earth E. GOLDMAN and M. BAGINSKI 1
The Song of the Storm-Finch MAXIM GORKY 4
Observations and Comments 5
The Tragedy of Women's Emancipation E. GOLDMAN 9
Try Love GRACE POTTER 18
Without Government MAX BAGINSKI 20
Vive Le Roi FRANCES WAULS BJORKMAN 27
Reflections of a Rich Man 28
Comstockery JOHN R. CORYELL 30
Don Quixote and Hamlet TURGENIEFF 40
On the Banks of Acheron EDWIN BJORKMAN 42
The British Elections and the Labor Parties H. KELLY 44
And You? BOLTON HALL 48
National Atavism INTERNATIONALIST 49
Mine Owners' Revenge M. B. 56
International Review 58
Literary Notes 61
10c. A COPY $1.00 PER YEAR
EMMA GOLDMAN, PUBLISHER P. O. BOX MADISON SQ. STATION, N. Y. CITY
Vol. I MARCH, 1906 No. 1
There was a time when men imagined the Earth as the center of the universe. The stars, large and small, they believed were created merely for their delectation. It was their vain conception that a supreme being, weary of solitude, had manufactured a giant toy and put them into possession of it.
When, however, the human mind was illumined by the torch-light of science, it came to understand that the Earth was but one of a myriad of stars floating in infinite space, a mere speck of dust.
Man issued from the womb of Mother Earth, but he knew it not, nor recognized her, to whom he owed his life. In his egotism he sought an explanation of himself in the infinite, and out of his efforts there arose the dreary doctrine that he was not related to the Earth, that she was but a temporary resting place for his scornful feet and that she held nothing for him but temptation to degrade himself. Interpreters and prophets of the infinite sprang into being, creating the "Great Beyond" and proclaiming Heaven and Hell, between which stood the poor, trembling human being, tormented by that priest-born monster, Conscience.
In this frightful scheme, gods and devils waged eternal war against each other with wretched man as the prize of victory; and the priest, self-constituted interpreter of the will of the gods, stood in front of the only refuge from harm and demanded as the price of entrance that ignorance, that asceticism, that self-abnegation which could but end in the complete subjugation of man to superstition. He was taught that Heaven, the refuge, was the very antithesis of Earth, which was the source of sin. To gain for himself a seat in Heaven, man devastated the Earth. Yet she renewed herself, the good mother, and came again each Spring, radiant with youthful beauty, beckoning her children to come to her bosom and partake of her bounty. But ever the air grew thick with mephitic darkness, ever a hollow voice was heard calling: "Touch not the beautiful form of the sorceress; she leads to sin!"
But if the priests decried the Earth, there were others who found in it a source of power and who took possession of it. Then it happened that the autocrats at the gates of Heaven joined forces with the powers that had taken possession of the Earth; and humanity began its aimless, monotonous march. But the good mother sees the bleeding feet of her children, she hears their moans, and she is ever calling to them that she is theirs.
To the contemporaries of George Washington, Thomas Paine and Thomas Jefferson, America appeared vast, boundless, full of promise. Mother Earth, with the sources of vast wealth hidden within the folds of her ample bosom, extended her inviting and hospitable arms to all those who came to her from arbitrary and despotic lands—Mother Earth ready to give herself alike to all her children. But soon she was seized by the few, stripped of her freedom, fenced in, a prey to those who were endowed with cunning and unscrupulous shrewdness. They, who had fought for independence from the British yoke, soon became dependent among themselves; dependent on possessions, on wealth, on power. Liberty escaped into the wilderness, and the old battle between the patrician and the plebeian broke out in the new world, with greater bitterness and vehemence. A period of but a hundred years had sufficed to turn a great republic, once gloriously established, into an arbitrary state which subdued a vast number of its people into material and intellectual slavery, while enabling the privileged few to monopolize every material and mental resource.
During the last few years, American journalists have had much to say about the terrible conditions in Russia and the supremacy of the Russian censor. Have they forgotten the censor here? a censor far more powerful than him of Russia. Have they forgotten that every line they write is dictated by the political color of the paper they write for; by the advertising firms; by the money power; by the power of respectability; by Comstock? Have they forgotten that the literary taste and critical judgment of the mass of the people have been successfully moulded to suit the will of these dictators, and to serve as a good business basis for shrewd literary speculators? The number of Rip Van Winkles in life, science, morality, art, and literature is very large. Innumerable ghosts, such as Ibsen saw when he analyzed the moral and social conditions of our life, still keep the majority of the human race in awe.
MOTHER EARTH will endeavor to attract and appeal to all those who oppose encroachment on public and individual life. It will appeal to those who strive for something higher, weary of the commonplace; to those who feel that stagnation is a deadweight on the firm and elastic step of progress; to those who breathe freely only in limitless space; to those who long for the tender shade of a new dawn for a humanity free from the dread of want, the dread of starvation in the face of mountains of riches. The Earth free for the free individual!
EMMA GOLDMAN, MAX BAGINSKI.
The Song of the Storm-Finch[A]
By MAXIM GORKY
The strong wind is gathering the storm-clouds together Above the gray plain of the ocean so wide. The storm-finch, the bird that resembles dark lightning, Between clouds and ocean is soaring in pride.
Now skimming the waves with his wings, and now shooting Up, arrow-like, into the dark clouds on high, The storm-finch is clamoring loudly and shrilly; The clouds can hear joy in the bird's fearless cry.
In that cry is the yearning, the thirst for the tempest, And anger's hot might in its wild notes is heard; The keen fire of passion, the faith in sure triumph— All these the clouds hear in the voice of the bird....
The storm-wind is howling, the thunder is roaring; With flame blue and lambent the cloud-masses glow O'er the fathomless ocean; it catches the lightnings, And quenches them deep in its whirlpool below.
Like serpents of fire in the dark ocean writhing, The lightnings reflected there quiver and shake As into the blackness they vanish forever. The tempest! Now quickly the tempest will break!
The storm-finch soars fearless and proud 'mid the lightnings, Above the wild waves that the roaring winds fret; And what is the prophet of victory saying? "Oh, let the storm burst! Fiercer yet—fiercer yet!"
[A] From "Songs of Russia," rendered into English by ALICE STONE BLACKWELL
To the Readers
The name "Open Road" had to be abandoned, owing to the existence of a magazine by that name.
Observations and Comments
The importance of written history for the people can easily be compared with the importance of a diary for the individual. It furnishes data for recollections, points of comparison between the Past and Present. But as most diaries and auto-biographies show a lack of straight-forward, big, simple, sincere self-analyses, so does history seldom prove a representation of facts, of the truth, of reality.
The way history is written will depend altogether on whatever purpose the writers have in view, and what they hope to achieve thereby. It will altogether depend upon the sincerity or lack thereof, upon the broad or narrow horizon of the historian. That which passes as history in our schools, or governmentally fabricated books on history, is a forgery, a misrepresentation of events. Like the old drama centering upon the impossible figure of the hero, with a gesticulating crowd in the background. Quacks of history speak only of "great men" like Bonapartes, Bismarcks, Deweys, or Rough Riders as leaders of the people, while the latter serve as a setting, a chorus, howling the praise of the heroes, and also furnishing their blood money for the whims and extravagances of their masters. Such history only tends to produce conceit, national impudence, superciliousness and patriotic stupidity, all of which is in full bloom in our great Republic.
Our aim is to teach a different conception of historical events. To define them as an ever-recurring struggle for Freedom against every form of Might. A struggle resultant from an innate yearning for self-expression, and the recognition of one's own possibilities and their attitude toward other human beings. History to us means a compilation of experiences, out of which the individual, as well as the race, will gain the right understanding how to shape and organize a mode of life best suited to bring out the finest and strongest qualities of the human race.
* * * * *
The American Brutus is, of course, a business man and has no time to overthrow Caesar. Recently, however, the imperialistic stew became hot and too much for him. The marriage of Miss Alice Roosevelt produced such a bad odor of court gossip, as to make the poor American Brutus ill with nausea. He grew indignant, draped his sleeve in mourning, and with gloomy mien and clenched fists, went about prophesying the downfall of the Republic.
Between ourselves, the number of those who still believe in the American Republic can be counted on one's fingers. One has either pierced through the lie, all for the people and by the people—in that case one must become a Revolutionist; or, one has succeeded in putting one's bounty in safety—then he is a conservative. "No disturbances, please. We are about to close a profitable contract." Modern bourgeoisie is absolutely indifferent as to who is to be their political boss, just so they are given opportunity to store their profits, and accumulate great wealth. Besides, the cry about the decline of the great Republic is really meaningless. As far as it ever stood for liberty and well-being of the people, it has long ceased to be. Therefore lamentations come too late. True, the American Republic has not given birth to an aristocracy. It has produced the power of the parvenu, not less brutal than European aristocracy, only narrower in vision and not less vulgar in taste.
Instead of mourning one ought to rejoice that the latest display of disgusting servility has completely thrown off the mantle of liberty and independence of Dame Columbia, now exposed before the civilized world in all her slavish submissiveness.
* * * * *
The storm in Russia has frightened many out of their warm bed-clothes.
A real Revolution in these police-regulated times. More than one voice was raised against the possibility of a Revolution, and they who dared to predict it were considered fit for the lunatic asylum.
The workingmen, peasants and students of Russia, however, have proven that the calculations of the "wise" contained a hitch somewhere. A Revolution swept across the country and did not even stop to ask permission of those in authority.
Authority and Power are now taking revenge on their daring sons and daughters. The Cossacks, at the command of the "good Czar" are celebrating a bloody feast—knouting, shooting, clubbing people to death, dragging great masses to prisons and into exile, and it is not the fault of that vicious idiot on the throne, nor that of his advisors, Witte and the others, if the Revolution still marches on, head erect. Were it in their power, they would break her proud neck with one stroke, but they cannot put the heads of a hundred million people on the block, they cannot deport eighty millions of Peasants to Siberia, nor can they order all the workingmen in the industrial districts shot. Were the working bees to be killed, the drones would perish of starvation—that is why the Czar of the Peace Treaty still suffers some of his people to live?——
* * * * *
In Mayville, Wis., a transvaluation society has been formed, the purpose of which is, to bring about the transvaluation of all values in matters of love and the relations of the sexes. The members of this society are to contribute by word and deed towards the breaking of all barriers that prevent an ideal and healthy conception of love.
The president of this society, Emil Ruedebusch, known in this country through his work, "The Old and New Ideal," which, by the way, was confiscated upon the grounds of obscenity and the author put on trial. It is an undisputed fact that robust, graft-greedy Columbia abhors every free expression on love or marriage. Emil Ruedebusch, like many others who have dared to lift the veil of hypocrisy, was condemned to a heavy fine. A second work of the author, "Die Eigenen," was published in Germany.
His idea, that the relation of the sexes must be freed from the oppressing fetters of a lame morality that degrades every human emotion to the plane of utility and purpose, I heartily endorse. His method of achieving the ideal seems to me too full of red tape. However, I welcome every effort against the conspiracy of ignorance, hypocrisy and stupid prudery, against the simplest manifestation of nature.
The Tragedy of Woman's Emancipation
By EMMA GOLDMAN
I begin my article with an admission: Regardless of all political and economic theories, treating of the fundamental differences between the various groups within the human race, regardless of class and race distinctions, regardless of all artificial boundary lines between woman's rights and man's rights, I hold that there is a point where these differentiations may meet and grow into one perfect whole.
With this I do not mean to propose a peace treaty. The general social antagonism which has taken hold of our entire public life to-day, brought about through the force of opposing and contradictory interests, will crumble to pieces when the reorganization of our social life, based upon the principles of economic justice, shall have become a reality.
Peace and harmony between the sexes and individuals does not necessarily depend on a superficial equalization of human beings; nor does it call for the elimination of individual traits or peculiarities. The problem that confronts us to-day, and which the nearest future is to solve, is how to be oneself, and yet in oneness with others, to feel deeply with all human beings and still retain one's own innate qualities. This seems to me the basis upon which the mass and the individual, the true democrat and the true individuality, man and woman can meet without antagonism and opposition. The motto should not be forgive one another; it should be, understand one another. The oft-quoted sentence of Mme. de Stael: "To understand everything means to forgive everything," has never particularly appealed to me; it has the odor of the confessional; to forgive one's fellow being conveys the idea of pharisaical superiority. To understand one's fellow being suffices. This admission partly represents the fundamental aspect of my views on the emancipation of woman and its effect upon the entire sex.
Emancipation should make it possible for her to be human in the truest sense. Everything within her that craves assertion and activity should reach its fullest expression; and all artificial barriers should be broken and the road towards greater freedom cleared of every trace of centuries of submission and slavery.
This was the original aim of the movement for woman's emancipation. But the results so far achieved have isolated woman and have robbed her of the fountain springs of that happiness which is so essential to her. Merely external emancipation has made of the modern woman an artificial being who reminds one of the products of French arboriculture with its arabesque trees and shrubs—pyramids, wheels and wreaths; anything except the forms which would be reached by the expression of their own inner qualities. Such artificially grown plants of the female sex are to be found in large numbers, especially in the so-called intellectual sphere of our life.
Liberty and equality for woman! What hopes and aspirations these words awakened when they were first uttered by some of the noblest and bravest souls of those days. The sun in all its light and glory was to rise upon a new world; in this world woman was to be free to direct her own destiny, an aim certainly worthy of the great enthusiasm, courage, perseverance and ceaseless effort of the tremendous host of pioneer men and women, who staked everything against a world of prejudice and ignorance.
My hopes also move towards that goal, but I insist that the emancipation of woman, as interpreted and practically applied to-day, has failed to reach that great end. Now, woman is confronted with the necessity of emancipating herself from emancipation, if she really desires to be free. This may sound paradoxical, but is, nevertheless, only too true.
What has she achieved through her emancipation? Equal suffrage in a few states. Has that purified our political life, as many well-meaning advocates have predicted? Certainly not. Incidentally it is really time that persons with plain, sound judgment should cease to talk about corruption in politics in a boarding-school tone. Corruption of politics has nothing to do with the morals or the laxity of morals of various political personalities. Its cause is altogether a material one. Politics is the reflex of the business and industrial world, the mottoes of which are: "to take is more blessed than to give"; "buy cheap and sell dear"; "one soiled hand washes the other." There is no hope that even woman, with her right to vote, will ever purify politics.
Emancipation has brought woman economic equality with man; that is, she can choose her own profession and trade, but as her past and present physical training have not equipped her with the necessary strength to compete with man, she is often compelled to exhaust all her energy, use up her vitality and strain every nerve in order to reach the market value. Very few ever succeed, for it is a fact that women doctors, lawyers, architects and engineers are neither met with the same confidence, nor do they receive the same remuneration. And those that do reach that enticing equality generally do so at the expense of their physical and psychical well-being. As to the great mass of working girls and women, how much independence is gained if the narrowness and lack of freedom of the home is exchanged for the narrowness and lack of freedom of the factory, sweat-shop, department store, or office? In addition is the burden which is laid on many women of looking after a "home, sweet home"—cold, dreary, disorderly, uninviting—after a day's hard work. Glorious independence! No wonder that hundreds of girls are so willing to accept the first offer of marriage, sick and tired of their independence behind the counter, or at the sewing or typewriting machine. They are just as ready to marry as girls of middle class people who long to throw off the yoke of parental dependence. A so-called independence which leads only to earning the merest subsistence is not so enticing, not so ideal that one can expect woman to sacrifice everything for it. Our highly praised independence is, after all, but a slow process of dulling and stifling woman's nature, her love instinct and her mother instinct.
Nevertheless, the position of the working girl is far more natural and human than that of her seemingly more fortunate sister in the more cultured professional walk of life. Teachers, physicians, lawyers, engineers, etc., who have to make a dignified, straightened and proper appearance, while the inner life is growing empty and dead.
The narrowness of the existing conception of woman's independence and emancipation; the dread of love for a man who is not her social equal; the fear that love will rob her of her freedom and independence; the horror that love or the joy of motherhood will only hinder her in the full exercise of her profession—all these together make of the emancipated modern woman a compulsory vestal, before whom life, with its great clarifying sorrows and its deep, entrancing joys, rolls on without touching or gripping her soul.
Emancipation as understood by the majority of its adherents and exponents, is of too narrow a scope to permit the boundless joy and ecstasy contained in the deep emotion of the true woman, sweetheart, mother, in freedom.
The tragic fate of the self-supporting or economically free woman does not consist of too many, but of too few experiences. True, she surpasses her sister of past generations in knowledge of the world and human nature; and it is because of that that she feels deeply the lack of life's essence, which alone can enrich the human soul and without which the majority of women have become mere professional automatons.
That such a state of affairs was bound to come was foreseen by those who realized that in the domain of ethics, there still remained many decaying ruins of the time of the undisputed superiority of man; ruins that are still considered useful. And, which is more important, a goodly number of the emancipated are unable to get along without them. Every movement that aims at the destruction of existing institutions and the replacement thereof with such as are more advanced, more perfect, has followers, who in theory stand for the most extreme radical ideas, and who, nevertheless, in their every-day practice, are like the next best Philistine, feigning respectability and clamoring for the good opinion of their opponents. There are, for example, Socialists, and even Anarchists, who stand for the idea that property is robbery, yet who will grow indignant if anyone owe them the value of a half-dozen pins.
The same Philistine can be found in the movement for woman's emancipation. Yellow journalists and milk and water literateurs have painted pictures of the emancipated woman that make the hair of the good citizen and his dull companion stand up on end. Every member of the women's rights movement was pictured as a George Sand in her absolute disregard of morality. Nothing was sacred to her. She had no respect for the ideal relation between man and woman. In short, emancipation stood only for a reckless life of lust and sin; regardless of society, religion and morality. The exponents of woman's rights were highly indignant at such a misrepresentation, and, lacking in humor, they exerted all their energy to prove that they were not at all as bad as they were painted, but the very reverse. Of course, as long as woman was the slave of man, she could not be good and pure, but now that she was free and independent she would prove how good she could be and how her influence would have a purifying effect on all institutions in society. True, the movement for woman's rights has broken many old fetters, but it has also established new ones. The great movement of true emancipation has not met with a great race of women, who could look liberty in the face. Their narrow puritanical vision banished man as a disturber and doubtful character out of their emotional life. Man was not to be tolerated at any price, except perhaps as the father of a child, since a child could not very well come to life without a father. Fortunately, the most rigid puritanism never will be strong enough to kill the innate craving for motherhood. But woman's freedom is closely allied to man's freedom, and many of my so-called emancipated sisters seem to overlook the fact that a child born in freedom needs the love and devotion of each human being about him, man as well as woman. Unfortunately, it is this narrow conception of human relations that has brought about a great tragedy in the lives of the modern man and woman.
About fifteen years ago appeared a work from the pen of the brilliant Norwegian writer, Laura Marholm, called "Woman, a Character Study." She was one of the first to call attention to the emptiness and narrowness of the existing conception of woman's emancipation and its tragic effect upon the inner life of woman. In her work she speaks of the fate of several gifted women of international fame: The genius, Eleanora Duse; the great mathematician and writer, Sanja Kovalevskaja; the artist and poet nature, Marie Bashkirzeff, who died so young. Through each description of the lives of these women of such extraordinary mentality, runs a marked trail of unsatisfied craving for a full, rounded, complete and beautiful life, and the unrest and loneliness resulting from the lack of it. Through these masterly psychological sketches, one cannot help but see that the higher the mental development of woman, the less possible it is for her to meet a congenial mate, who will see in her, not only sex, but also the human being, the friend, comrade and strong individuality, who cannot and ought not lose a single trait of her character.
The average man with his self-sufficiency, his ridiculously superior airs of patronage towards the female sex, is an impossibility for woman, as depicted in the "Character Study" by Laura Marholm. Equally impossible for her is the man who can see in her nothing more than her mentality and genius, and who fails to awaken her woman nature.
A rich intellect and a fine soul are usually considered necessary attributes of a deep and beautiful personality. In the case of the modern woman, these attributes serve as a hindrance to the complete assertion of her being. For over a hundred years, the old form of marriage, based on the Bible, "till death us do part" has been denounced as an institution that stands for the sovereignty of the man over the woman, of her complete submission to his whims and commands and the absolute dependence upon his name and support. Time and again it has been conclusively proven that the old matrimonial relation restricted woman to the function of man's servant and the bearer of his children. And yet we find many emancipated women who prefer marriage with all its deficiencies to the narrowness of an unmarried life; narrow and unendurable because of the chains of moral and social prejudice that cramp and bind her nature.
The cause for such inconsistency on the part of many advanced women is to be found in the fact that they never truly understood the meaning of emancipation. They thought that all that was needed was independence from external tyrannies; the internal tyrants, far more harmful to life and growth, such as ethical and social conventions, were left to take care of themselves; and they have taken care of themselves. They seem to get along beautifully in the heads and hearts of the most active exponents of woman's emancipation, as in the heads and hearts of our grandmothers.
These internal tyrants, whether they be in the form of public opinion or what will mother say, or brother, father, aunt or relative of any sort; what will Mrs. Grundy, Mr. Comstock, the employer, the Board of Education say? All these busybodies, moral detectives, jailers of the human spirit, what will they say? Until woman has learned to defy them all, to stand firmly on her own ground and to insist upon her own unrestricted freedom, to listen to the voice of her nature, whether it call for life's greatest treasure, love for a man, or her most glorious privilege, the right to give birth to a child, she cannot call herself emancipated. How many emancipated women are brave enough to acknowledge that the voice of love is calling, wildly beating against their breasts demanding to be heard, to be satisfied.
The French novelist, Jean Reibrach, in one of his novels, "New Beauty," attempts to picture the ideal, beautiful, emancipated woman. This ideal is embodied in a young girl, a physician. She talks very clearly and wisely of how to feed infants, she is kind and administers medicines free to poor mothers. She converses with a young man of her acquaintance about the sanitary conditions of the future and how various bacilli and germs shall be exterminated by the use of stone walls and floors, and the doing away of rugs and hangings. She is, of course, very plainly and practically dressed, mostly in black. The young man, who, at their first meeting was overawed by the wisdom of his emancipated friend, gradually learns to understand her, and recognizes one fine day that he loves her. They are young and she is kind and beautiful, and though always in rigid attire, her appearance is softened by spotlessly clean white collar and cuffs. One would expect that he would tell her of his love, but he is not one to commit romantic absurdities. Poetry and the enthusiasm of love cover their blushing faces before the pure beauty of the lady. He silences the voice of his nature and remains correct. She, too, is always exact, always rational, always well behaved. I fear if they had formed a union, the young man would have risked freezing to death. I must confess that I can see nothing beautiful in this new beauty, who is as cold as the stone walls and floors she dreams of. Rather would I have the love songs of romantic ages, rather Don Juan and Madame Venus, rather an elopement by ladder and rope on a moonlight night, followed by a father's curse, mother's moans, and the moral comments of neighbors, than correctness and propriety measured by yardsticks. If love does not know how to give and take without restriction it is not love, but a transaction that never fails to lay stress on a plus and a minus.
The greatest shortcoming of the emancipation of the present day lies in its artificial stiffness and its narrow respectabilities which produce an emptiness in woman's soul that will not let her drink from the fountain of life. I once remarked that there seemed to be a deeper relationship between the old-fashioned mother and hostess, ever on the alert for the happiness of her little ones and the comfort of those she loved and the truly new woman, than between the latter and her average emancipated sister. The disciples of emancipation pure and simple declared me heathen, merely fit for the stake. Their blind zeal did not let them see that my comparison between the old and the new was merely to prove that a goodly number of our grandmothers had more blood in their veins, far more humor and wit, and certainly a greater amount of naturalness, kind-heartedness and simplicity than the majority of our emancipated professional women who fill our colleges, halls of learning, and various offices. This does not mean a wish to return to the past, nor does it condemn woman to her old sphere, the kitchen and the nursery.
Salvation lies in an energetic march onward towards a brighter and clearer future. We are in need of unhampered growth out of old traditions and habits. The movement for woman's emancipation has so far made but the first step in that direction. It is to be hoped that it will gather strength to make another. The right to vote, equal civil rights, are all very good demands, but true emancipation begins neither at the polls nor in courts. It begins in woman's soul. History tells us that every oppressed class gained its true liberation from its masters through its own efforts. It is necessary that woman learn that lesson, that she realize that her freedom will reach as far as her power to achieve her freedom reaches. It is therefore far more important for her to begin with her inner regeneration, to cut loose from the weight of prejudices, traditions, and customs. The demand for various equal rights in every vocation in life is just and fair, but, after all, the most vital right is the right to love and be loved. Indeed if the partial emancipation is to become a complete and true emancipation of woman, it will have to do away with the ridiculous notion that to be loved, to be sweetheart and mother, is synonomous with being slave or subordinate. It will have to do away with the absurd notion of the dualism of the sexes, or that man and woman represent two antagonistic worlds.
Pettiness separates, breadth unites. Let us be broad and big. Let us not overlook vital things, because of the bulk of trifles confronting us. A true conception of the relation of the sexes will not admit of conqueror and conquered; it knows of but one great thing: to give of one's self boundlessly in order to find oneself richer, deeper, better. That alone can fill the emptiness and replace the tragedy of woman's emancipation with joy, limitless joy.
By GRACE POTTER
In the human heart it lies. The key to happiness Men call the key love. In the sweet time of youth, every man and every maid knows where lies the key that will unlock happiness. Sometimes, they, laughing, hold the key in eager, willing hands and will not put it in the door for very bliss and waiting. Just outside they laugh and play and blow wild kisses to the world. The whole world of men and women, who in their youth found happiness in just that way, is gathered round to see it found again.
When at last the man and maid unlock the door and go in joy to find their happiness, the men and women who have been watching them bury their faces in their hands and weep. Why do they weep? Because they are thinking that soon other doors in life will be met by this man and maid and that there will be no keys to unlock them. They, themselves, could find no key.
They never thought of trying the key of love in all the doors of life. Long and wearily, eyes searching wide, hands eagerly groping, they have spent their time trying to find other keys. They have looked for and found knowledge. And tried that. Looked for and found fame. And tried that. Looked for and found wealth. And tried that. Looked for and found many, many other keys. And tried them all. And when at last they have lain down on their deathbeds, they have turned gray hopeless faces to the world and died saying, "We could not find the right key."
Some few, some very few, there are, who try the key of love in all life's doors. Radiant, they turn to the men and women about and cry, "Try love! It unlocks all other doors as surely as it does the first in life. Try love!"
And though their fellow beings see that these are the only ones in all the world who find happiness, they turn doubting from them. "It cannot be," they say, "that the key we used in youth should be used again in all the other doors of life." And so they keep on trying the keys that every disappointed, dying man calls out in warning voice will fail.
Only a few there are who learn—a very few—that love unlocks all other doors in life as surely as it does the first. Try love!
Japan.—A new civilization. The land of a new culture! was the cry of every penny-a-liner at the time when she began to display her battleships, cannon, and her accomplished method of drilling her soldiers. They were mocking themselves and did not know how. They talk of culture and civilization and their criterion thereof is the development of the technique of murder. Again, Japan a modern state. She can take her place in the ranks of other civilized countries. Rejoice! and then learn that victorious Japan is on the threshold of a famine. Nearly a million people, it is laconically reported, are in danger of dying of starvation. Surely, no one will possibly doubt now that Japan is a civilized country.
By MAX BAGINSKI
The gist of the anarchistic idea is this, that there are qualities present in man, which permit the possibilities of social life, organization, and co-operative work without the application of force. Such qualities are solidarity, common action, and love of justice. To-day they are either crippled or made ineffective through the influence of compulsion; they can hardly be fully unfolded in a society in which groups, classes, and individuals are placed in hostile, irreconcilable opposition to one another. In human nature to-day such traits are fostered and developed which separate instead of combining, call forth hatred instead of a common feeling, destroy the humane instead of building it up. The cultivation of these traits could not be so successful if it did not find the best nourishment in the foundations and institutions of the present social order.
On close inspection of these institutions, which are based upon the power of the State that maintains them, mankind shows itself as a huge menagerie, in which the captive beasts seek to tear the morsels from each other's greedy jaws. The sharpest teeth, the strongest claws and paws vanquish the weaker competitors. Malice and underhand dealing are victorious over frankness and confidence. The struggle for the means of existence and for the maintenance of achieved power fill the entire space of the menagerie with an infernal noise. Among the methods which are used to secure this organized bestiality the most prominent ones are the hangman, the judge with his mechanical: "In the name of the king," or his more hypocritical: "In the name of the people I pass sentence"; the soldier with his training for murder, and the priest with his: "Authority comes from God."
The exteriors of prisons, armories, and churches show that they are institutions in which the body and soul are subdued. He whose thoughts reach beyond this philosophy of the menagerie sees in them the strongest expression of the view, that it is not possible to make life worth living the more with the help of reason, love, justice, solidarity. The family and school take care to prepare man for these institutions. They deliver him up to the state, so to speak, blindfolded and with fettered limbs. Force, force. It echoes through all history. The first law which subjected man to man was based upon force. The private right of the individual to land was built up by force; force took way the claims upon homesteads from the majority and made them unsettled and transitory. It was force that spoke to mankind thus: "Come to me, humble yourself before me, serve me, bring the treasures and riches of the earth under MY roof. You are destined by Providence to always be in want. You shall be allowed just enough to maintain strength with which to enrich me infinitely by your exertions and to load me down with superfluity and luxury."
What maintains the material and intellectual slavery of the masses and the insanity of the autocracy of the few? Force. Workingmen produce in the factories and workshops the most varied things for the use of man. What is it that drives them to yield up these products for speculation's sake to those who produce nothing, and to content themselves with only a fractional part of the values which they produce? It is force.
What is it that makes the brain-worker just as dependent in the intellectual realm as the artisan in the material world? Force. The artist and the writer being compelled to gain a livelihood dare not dream of giving the best of their individuality. No, they must scan the market in order to find out what is demanded just then. Not any different than the dealer in clothes who must study the style of the season before he places his merchandise before the public. Thus art and literature sink to the level of bad taste and speculation. The artistic individuality shrinks before the calculating reckoner. Not that which moves the artist or the writer most receives expression; the vacillating demands of mediocrity of every-day people must be satisfied. The artist becomes the helper of the dealer and the average men, who trot along in the tracks of dull habit.
The State Socialists love to assert that at present we live in the age of individualism; the truth, however, is that individuality was never valued at so low a rate as to-day. Individual thinking and feeling are incumbrances and not recommendations on the paths of life. Wherever they are found on the market they meet with the word "adaptation." Adapt yourself to the demands of the reigning social powers, act the obedient servant before them, and if you produce something be sure that it does not run against the grain of your "superiors," or say adieu to success, reputation and recompense. Amuse the people, be their clown, give them platitudes about which they can laugh, prejudices which they hold as righteousness and falsehoods which they hold as truths. Paint the whole, crown it with regard for good manners, for society does not like to hear the truth about itself. Praise the men in power as fathers of the people, have the devourers of the common wealth parade along as benefactors of mankind.
Of course, the force which humbles humanity in this manner is far from openly declaring itself as force. It is masked, and in the course of time it has learned to step forward with the least possible noise. That diminishes the danger of being recognized.
The modern republic is a good example. In it tyranny is veiled so correctly, that there are really great numbers of people who are deceived by this masquerade, and who maintain that what they perceive is a true face with honest eyes.
No czar, no king. But right in line with these are the landowners, the merchants, manufacturers, landlords, monopolists. They all are in possession, which is as strong a guarantee for the continuance of their power, as a castle surrounded by thick walls. Whoever possesses can rob him who possesses nothing of his independence. If I am dependent for a living on work, for which I need contrivances and machines, which I my self cannot procure, because I am without means, I must sacrifice my independence to him who possesses these contrivances and machines. You may work here, he will tell me, but only under the condition that you will deliver up the products of your labor to me, that I may trade with and make profit on them.
The one without possessions has no choice. He may appeal to the declaration of human rights; he may point to his political rights, the equality before the law, before God and the archangels—if he wants to eat, drink, dress and have a home he must choose such work as the conditions of the industrial mercantile or agricultural plants impose upon him.
Through organized opposition the workingmen can somewhat improve this condition; by the help of trade unions they can regulate the hours of work and hinder the reduction of wages to a level too low for mere living. The trade unions are a necessity for the workingmen, a bulwark against which the most unbearable demands of the class of possessors rebound; but a complete freeing of labor—be it of an intellectual or of a physical nature—can be brought about only through the abolition of wage work and the right of private ownership of land and the sources of maintenance and nourishment of mankind. There are heart-rending cries over the blasphemous opinion that property is not as holy a thing as its possessors would like to make it. They declare that possessions must not be less protected than human life, for they are necessary foundations of society. The case is represented as though everybody were highly interested in the maintenance of the right of private property, whereas conditions are such that non-possession is the normal condition of most people.
Because few possess everything, therefore the many possess nothing. So far as possession can be considered as an oppressive measure in the hands of a few, it is a monopoly. Set in a paradox it would read: The abolition of property will free the people from homelessness and non-possession. In fact, this will happen when the earth with its treasures shall cease to be an object of trade for usurers; when it shall vouchsafe to all a home and a livelihood. Then not only the bent bodies will straighten; the intellect free itself as might the bound Prometheus rid himself of his fetters and leave the rock to which he is chained, but we shall look back on the institutions of force, the state, the hangman, et al, as ghosts of an anxious fantasy.
In free unions the trades will organize themselves and will produce the means of livelihood. Things will not be produced for profit's sake, but for the sake of need. The profit-grabber has grown superfluous just as his patron, the state, which at present serves by means of its taxes and revenues, his anti-humanitarian purposes and hinders the reasonable consumption of goods. From the governing mania the foundation will be withdrawn; for those strata in society will be lacking which therefore had grown rich and fat by monopolizing the earth and its production. They alone needed legislatures to make laws against the disinherited. They needed courts of justice to condemn; they needed the police to carry out practically the terrible social injustice, the cause of which lay in their existence and manner of living. And now the political corruptionists are lacking who served the above-mentioned classes as helpers, and therefore had to be supported as smaller drones.
What a pleasant surprise! We see now that the production and distribution of means of livelihood are a much simpler matter without government than with government. And people now realize that the governments never promoted their welfare, but rather made it impossible, since with the help of force they only allowed the right of possession to the minority.
Life is really worth living now. It ceases to be an endless, mad drudgery, a repugnant struggle for a mere existence.
Truth and beauty are enthroned upon the necessity of procuring the means of existence in a co-operative organized manner. The social motives which to-day make man ambitious, hypocritical, stealthy, are ineffective. One need not sell his individuality for a mess of pottage, as Esau sold his primogeniture.
At last the individuality of man has struck a solid social foundation on which it can prosper. The individual originality in man is valued; it fructifies art, literature, science, which now, in so far as they are dependent upon the state and ownership—which is far-reaching—must take the direction of prescribed models that are acknowledged, and must not be directed against the continuance of the leisure classes.
Love will be free. Love's favor is a free granting, a giving and taking without speculation. No prostitution; for the economic and social power of one person over another exists no longer, and with the falling off of external oppression many an internal serfdom of feeling will be done away with, which often is only the reflex of hard external compulsion. Then the longing of large hearts may take tangible shape. Utopias are arrows aimed into the future, harbingers of a new reality.
Rabelais, in his description of life in the "Thelemite Abbey," wrote:
"All their life was spent not in laws, statutes, or rules, but according to their own free will and pleasure. They rose out of their beds when they thought good; they did eat, drink, labor, sleep, when they had a mind to it, and were disposed for it. None did awake them, none did offer to constrain them to eat, drink, nor do any other thing. In all their rule and strictest tie of their order, there was but this one clause to be observed: 'Do What Thou Wilt.'
"Because men that are free, well-born, well-bred, and conversant in honest companies, have naturally an instinct and spur that prompteth them unto virtuous actions, and withdraws them from vice, which is called honor. Those same men, when by base subjection and constraint they are brought under and kept down, turn aside from that noble disposition, by which they formerly were inclined to virtue, to shake off that bond of servitude, wherein they are so tyrannously enslaved; for it is agreeable to the nature of man to long after things forbidden, and to desire what is denied us. By this liberty they entered into a very laudable emulation, to do all of them what they saw did please one. If any of the gallants or ladies should say, 'Let us drink,' they would all drink. If any one of them said, 'Let us play,' they all played. If one said, 'Let us go a walking into the fields,' they went all. If it were to go a hawking, or a hunting, the ladies mounted upon dainty well-paced nags, seated in a stately palfrey saddle, carried on their lovely fists either a sparhawk, or a laneret, or a marlin, and the young gallants carried the other kinds of hawks. So nobly were they taught, that there was neither he nor she amongst them, but could read, write, sing, play upon several musical instruments, speak five or six several languages, and compose in them all very quaintly, both in verse and prose. Never were seen so valiant knights, so noble and worthy, so dexterous and skilful both on foot and horseback, more brisk and lively, more nimble and quick, or better handling all manner of weapons, than were there. Never were seen ladies so proper and handsome, so miniard and dainty, less forward, or more ready with their hand, and with their needle, in every honest and free action belonging to that sex, than were there."
A few days ago the red ghost of revolution showed itself in the White House. The President saw it and threatened it with his boxing fists: "What are you looking for here, be off to Russia." "You are comical in your excitement," answered Revolution. "You must know, I am not only Russian, I am international, at home here as well as on the other side of the great water."
A Proposition.—Would it not be wiser to explain theories out of life and not life out of theories?
VIVE LE ROI
BY FRANCES MAULE BJORKMAN
Aye, vive le roi. The King is dead— So move our lives from day to day. The triumph of to-morrow's lord Meets for our former chief's decay.
Then love and live and laugh and sing— The world is good and life is free— There's not a single care I know That's worth a single tear from me.
What's love or fame or place or power? What's wealth when we shall come to die? What matters anything on earth So long as only I am I?
The Joy or grief or love or shame That holds its little hour of sway Is only worth its destined time— What use to try to make it stay?
Aye, let it go. The monarch dead, A better king our shouts may hail And if a worse—well, still be glad; He too will pass behind the vail.
They all must pass—fame, joy and love, The sting of grief, the blot of shame; The only thing that really counts Is how we bear the praise or blame.
I'll take the good the while it lasts And when it goes I'll learn to sing, All eager for the coming joy— "The king is dead, long live the king."
Reflections of A Rich Man
If God were not in existence we would have to order one from the Professors of Theology.
The fear, instilled in the majority of the poor, with the God, Devil, Heaven and Hell idea, is greater than their dread of a hundred thousand policemen. Had we not given God the place of Chief Gendarme of the Universe, we would need twice as many soldiers and police as we have to-day.
* * * * *
A poor devil who owns but one million dollars said to me the other day: "I, in your place, would rather contribute money towards art and literature than to donate it to the Baptist Church." What an impracticable fellow! Art and literature, among the common people, only tends to cause mischief. They are to remain our privilege. We know the demands of good taste and we can afford to pay for the aesthetic pleasures of life. The majority is unable to do that; besides, to teach them the beauty of art only means to make them discontented and rebellious against our authority.
* * * * *
I frankly admit I never had a great admiration for Jesus of Nazareth. A man of disordered circumstances arouses my disgust. Jesus was neither engaged in any kind of a business, nor did he possess as much as a bank account, nor even a steady home. He preached to the poor. What for? The poor should work and not philosophize. The Scriptures tell nowhere that Jesus returned the mule, upon which he made his entry into Jerusalem, to the owner, or that he paid him for it. I strongly suspect he did not do it. One thing is certain, I never would have taken this dreamer of the abolition of profits as my business partner.
* * * * *
It was very hot yesterday. I walked through my park, intending to betake myself to my favorite place for rest and reverie. Suddenly I stood still, arrested by the sight of a man lying under a tree. In my park? And how the fellow looked! In rags and dirty! I have been told I was kind-hearted, and I realized this myself at the moment. I walked over to the man and inquired interestedly: "Are you ill?" He grunted in reply. The wretch must have thought, in his sleep, that I was one of his kind. My generosity did not cease. "If you need money, do not feel shy about telling me. How much do you need. I am the rich X Y Z, who has a fabulous fortune, as you have undoubtedly heard." At this remark the scoundrel turned on the other side, with his back toward me, and said, while yawning: "What I want? I want to sleep. Will you be good enough to keep the mosquitoes away for two hours?" Within five minutes I had my servant kick this impertinent and ungrateful wretch out of my park. If all of the low class think as this fellow, I fear our charitable efforts in their behalf will accomplish little.
Eleven million, nine hundred and seventeen thousand, nine hundred and forty-six dollars and fifty-eight cents is what the gallant Gen. Bingham asks us for protecting us from each other for the ensuing year. With a population of four million and 4.50 members to a family, we pay a fraction less than $3 per head, and about $13.50 for a family, a year for police protection in this enlightened Christian (750,000 of us are Jews, but ours is a Christian city) city of ours. I'd give that silver watch of mine away and mind my own business if I thought it would come cheaper, but it won't do. H. H. Rogers is my brother and keeper, and he insists he needs protection, and I must pay for it, so what can I do? I've told him I'm a peaceful, propertyless man with no higher ambition than to love my fellow-man—and woman, and mind my own business; but his reply has invariably been, "I'm Dr. Tarr, and my system prevails in this lunatic asylum!" I recognize the logic of his argument all right and continue to pay for his protection and feel grateful for the privilege of grumbling a little now and again.
By JOHN R. CORYELL
Be it understood that the shocking thing which we know as Comstockery, goes back into the centuries for its origin; being, indeed, the perfect flower of that asceticism, which was engrafted on the degraded Christianity which took its name from Christ without in the least comprehending the spirit of his lofty conception.
The man Comstock, who has the shameful distinction of having lent his name to the idea of which he is the willing and probably the fit exponent, may be dismissed without further consideration, since he is, after all, only the inevitable as he is the deplorable result of that for which he stands; seemingly without any sense of the shame and the awfulness of it.
It may be said, too, in dismissing him, that it is of no consequence whether the very unpleasant stories current concerning him are true or not. It is altogether probable that a man who stands for what he does and who glories in proclaiming the things he does, will also do things for which he does not stand and which he does not proclaim. That is a characteristic of most of us and only proves that, after all, he is not less than human.
The only point that need be made in regard to the man who is proud of representing Comstockery is, that if he had not done so, some other lost soul would. In that sad stage of our social growth when death was the penalty for most infractions of the law, an executioner could always be found who took pride in his work and who seemed to be beyond the reach of the scorn, the abhorrence and the contempt of his fellows.
Comstockery, as we know it, is apparently an organized effort to regulate the morals of the people. If it were nothing more than this, it would be absurd and negligible, because futile; for what we call morals are only the observances which the conditions of life impose upon a people; and an act depends, for its moral status, upon its relation to those conditions. As, for example, horse-stealing in a closely settled community, which has its railroads and other means of communication, is a crime to be punished by a brief period of imprisonment; while in the sparsely settled sections of a country, where the horse is an imperative necessity of life, its theft becomes a hanging matter, whatever the written law for that section of the country may be as to the punishment of the crime. And men, brought up in law-abiding communities in the deepest respect for the law, will, under the changed conditions of life, not merely condone the infliction of a penalty in excess of that provided by law, but will themselves assist, virtuously satisfied with their conduct because the society of which they form a part has decided that horse-stealing shall be so punished. On the other hand, there are numerous laws on the statute books, still unrepealed and unenforceable because the acts treated of are no longer held to be offences against morality. In other words, the morals of a people can be regulated only by themselves.
What Comstockery does is bad enough, but its real awfulness lies in the fact that it seems to fairly enough represent us in our attitude toward a certain class of ideas and things. It is the expression of our essential immorality—using that word in its conventional sense—having its roots deep down in pruriency, hypocrisy and ignorance. Like the blush on the cheek of the courtesan, it deceives no one, but is none the less a truthful expression, not of the thing it simulates, but of the character of the simulator.
Comstockery was probably brought to this country by the first Anglo-Saxon, whether pirate or minister of the gospel, who set foot on this soil; certainly it was a finely blooming plant on the Mayflower, and was soon blossoming here as never elsewhere in the world, giving out such a fragrance that the peculiar odor of it has become a characteristic of this land of liberty.
When the so-called Comstock laws were passed there was a real disease to be treated: The symptoms of the disease were obscene books and pictures which were being freely circulated among the children of the land, boarding-schools, whether for girls or boys, being fairly flooded with the pernicious literature. The work of confiscation, suppression and of imprisonment was done thoroughly and conscientiously, so that in the course of a comparatively short time it was difficult to find books or pictures of the kind in question. It is said that the effectiveness of the work done is best shown by the one or more libraries of obscene books which the society, or some of its officers, have collected.
The value of the work done and the efficiency of the workers were recognized in the passage from time to time of laws giving extraordinary powers not alone to the popularly so-called "Comstock Society," but to officers of the government. A perfect fury of purity took possession of our legislators; they were determined to stamp out impurity. And perhaps they were establishing reputations for themselves. It is recorded that in the days of the Inquisition men established their orthodoxy by the loudness of their cries against heresy; that in the times of the French Revolution, men proved their patriotism by making charges of treason against their neighbors; that practicing polygamists have purified themselves by hounding a theoretical polygamist out of their legislative body. Anyhow, the laws were passed, the thing was done.
And what was the thing that was done? A moral Inquisition had been established. Arguing from a wrong premise a hideous conclusion had been reached. It was voiced only a few weeks ago by an official of the postoffice in Chicago, when confiscating a publication. He said in substance, if not literally: "Any discussion of sex is obscene."
There it is in a few words—a complete and perfect treatise on Comstockery! In the early days in some parts of New England, a man might not kiss his wife on a Sunday. On common days, the filthy act was permissible, but the Sabbath must not be so defiled. And now, any discussion of sex is obscenity!
Pause a while and consider what this means and whither it will lead, where it has already led. Discussion of sex is obscene; then sex, itself, must be obscene; life and all that pertains to it must be filthy. That is, providing it be the life of Man. The sex of flowers may be discussed frankly and freely either for the pleasure of knowledge, or in order to use knowledge for the purpose of improving the flower. The sex of animals may be discussed; it is discussed in government publications and in the many farm journals published throughout the country, because it is necessary to improve the breed of our domestic animals, because these animals are valuable. But discussion of the sex of man is obscene!
There have been some changes in public sentiment, some changes, perhaps, in the grey matter on the judicial bench, since the early days in New York when Comstockery was most rampant: for what was tolerated then is not tolerated now; some things that were judicially wrong then are judicially right now. And in this change there is hope and the promise of greater change.
In those early days a confectioner on Fulton street sought to attract customers by exhibiting in his window a painting by a great artist. If memory serves, it was "The Triumph of Charles V." by Hans Makart. Figures of nude females were in the picture, and Comstockery established in its censorship of art and solemnly unconscious of its appalling ignorance, but true to its fundamental pruriency, ordered the picture removed from the window. And it was removed. Just as Boston, finding its bronze bacchante immodest, rejected the brazen hussey. And now she stands on her pedestal in the Metropolitan Museum in New York, giving joy to the beholder, and—not ordered down by Comstockery. Why? And why is not the whole museum purged of its nude figures? It is a puzzle not even to be solved by the theory of change in public sentiment; for it is only a few months ago that the art censor in chief of Comstockery saw in the window of an art dealer on Fifth Avenue a landscape in which figured several nude children discreetly wandering away from the beholder. The picture was ordered out of the window forthwith. And went. A few blocks below, on Broadway, there were then and are now exhibited in a window, numerous photographs of nude children, not all of them discreet as to way of their going. Why? Has the art censor decided that the photographs are innocuous, or that they are art?
But these instances and the amazing expeditions made by the censor into the realm of literature are hardly more than ludicrous; and they can and will correct themselves. But the frightful results of Comstockery, as applied to life and to real purity, cannot be so lightly passed over. And let it not be forgotten that an indictment of Comstockery is an indictment of ourselves, for the prurient, hypocritical, degrading thing can exist not one instant after we have declared that it shall perish.
It is no exaggeration to say that Comstockery is the arch enemy of society. It seeks to make hypocrisy respectable; it would convert impurity into a basic virtue; it labels ignorance, innocence; it has legislated knowledge into a crime; and it seeks its perpetuation in the degradation of an enfeebled human race. And that these are not over-statements can easily be established to the satisfaction of any reasonable mind.
The most creditable work ever done by Comstockery was the practical suppression and elimination of the obscene book; but when that is said, all is said. How worse than fatuous, how absolutely fiendish that physician would be deemed who hid the signs of small-pox with paint and powder and permitted his patient to roam at will among his fellows, unwarned even of the nature of the fell disease that was devouring his life. Nay, worse! What if the physician should have himself clothed with plenary powers and should compel the poor wretch to refrain from making his case known after he had discovered its nature? But this is precisely what Comstockery does.
The obscene book was removed from circulation. In other words, the symptom of the disease was hidden. But was anything done to eliminate the disease, or to remove its cause? On the contrary, everything possible was done to perpetuate the disease; everything possible was done to prevent anyone who had suffered from the disease or who knew anything about it, from imparting his knowledge. For the disease was ignorance; ignorance of self, of life, of sex. And not only does Comstockery strive to perpetuate ignorance, not only does it glorify ignorance and miscall it innocence, not only does it elevate it into a virtue, but it has legislated knowledge into a crime. The offence of the book it had eliminated was not its vicious misinformation, but its use of sex as a subject. The postoffice has said that any discussion of sex is obscene and the courts have put one noble old man of over seventy years into prison at hard labor, and have punished an aged woman physician in some other way because they sought, in all purity and right-mindedness, to help their brothers and sisters to a knowledge of themselves.
It is true that, at last, there is a rift within the lute; or would it better be called a leak in the sewer? Comstockery has not quite the standing that it once had. When it was made generally known that a postoffice official had said that any discussion of sex was obscene, there followed such a rattling fire of reprobation and condemnation even from many startled conventionalists, who could support the thing but could not look it in the face, that the maker of the now historic phrase was moved to deny that he had said it officially. In fact, there are many signs, most of them still small, on the distant horizon, it is true, which indicate that we are becoming alive to the fact that it is imperative that sex should be discussed.
This is an age of radical ideas. Radicalism in politics, in religion, in ethics is ripe; which is only another way of saying that we are beginning to dare to think. Probably the most apparent, if not the most significant, sign of the general radicalism, is the tendency to exalt the science of life to an even higher plane than that which it occupied in the days of Hellenic supremacy. We are beginning to understand that right living is a purely physical matter, and that morals are only laws of health; and if there are yet but few who dare take so radical a view of morals as that, still there are quite as few who will not admit freely that nothing can be immoral which is beneficial to the human body.
Of course, it is unthinkable, even from the point of view of the most conventional of orthodox Christians, that there can be any immorality in sex, for sex in itself is absolutely a work of the deity, hence of the highest morality, if it can have any such attribute at all. As well might one give digestion a moral quality. Morality is surely a matter of personal conduct. One may say that it is immoral to eat so much as to injure one's health, but it is not a matter of record that any considerable body of persons declares the stomach to be an immoral organ, or the digestive function to be an immoral one, or any discussion of digestion immoral. Then why sex or sex functions?
It is true that Comstockery has us to designate our legs, limbs, though not at the present time with any legal penalty for not doing so; it prescribes the word stomach for polite usage in describing that part of the body which lies subjacent to the actual stomach, anterior to the spinal column and posterior to the abdominal wall; it forbids a visible bifurcated garment for the "limbs" of a female; and it does a variety of other absurd things, all going to show that in some singular fashion it has confounded acts with things; as one might call all knives immoral because a few knives had been used to do murder with.
By what extraordinary process does Comstockery conjure decency into the stomach and indecency into the bowels? But how rejoiced we should be that it is no worse than indecent to speak of the receptacle of the intestines by its common name. By some hocus pocus of which Comstockery is easily capable it might have been obscene to speak of the digestive process or of any of the digestive organs. We might easily have been taught that digestion was a moral matter, not to be talked of, not to be studied; ignorance of which was a virtue, knowledge of which a crime. And then, under those conditions, if a person, possessed of a little knowledge such as might have crept stealthily down the ages, were in a fine humanitarian spirit to dare to publish some of the things he knew in order to help dyspeptic humanity, he would have been robbed of his worldly goods and clapped forthwith into jail. Fancy that under such circumstances a man who had lived his three score and ten years and had learned something from his own suffering and experience, something from the secretly imparted information of others, might not say a word to help his fellows. Is it not too absurd to contemplate without both tears and laughter that that man who should plead with his fellow men to abstain from habitually living on butter cakes and coffee, should be charged with obscenity and imprisoned in consequence? And imagine some sapient postoffice official solemnly declaring that any discussion of digestion is obscene! Consider how the land would be flooded with literature describing the pleasures of gluttony and depicting impossible gastronomic feats! Consider, too, trying to cure indigestion and to suppress the orgies of our children in pies, crullers, fritters and butter cakes by the naive device of forbidding all knowledge of the digestive function and making the utterance of the name of a digestive organ an obscenity punishable by fine and imprisonment!
Digestion is a matter to be considered in the light of hygiene. So is sex. Digestion is not in itself either moral or immoral. Neither is sex. But there is the most hideous immorality in the ascription of obscenity to sex, sex function or any phase of sex life. And this is the crime of Comstockery. It has reared an awful idol to which have been sacrificed the best of our youth; with hypocrisy the high-priest, ignorance the creed, and pruriency the detective.
Comstockery strikes at the very root of life. It forbids that we shall know how to live our best; it forbids that we shall know how to save our children from the perils we have so discreditably passed through; it raises barriers of false modesty between parents and children by branding the very science of life an obscenity. Owing to the shocking suggestions of Comstockery all that relates to life is degraded into the gutter; and that which would be pure and sweet and wholesome in the home or in the school, becomes filthy Comstockery on the snickering lips of ignorant play-fellows.
The wonder is that we have endured the nasty thing for so long a time. We have been boys and girls and have gone from our parents to our school-mates and play-fellows for the information to which we are entitled by very reason of living, but, more than all; because of our need to live right. We all know the hideous untruths we were told because of Comstockery; we all know how much we had to unlearn, and how great the suffering mentally, how great the deterioration physically in the unlearning; we all know our unfitness for parentage at the time we entered it; every man knows how the brothels kept open doors and beckoning inmates by the thousand for his undoing. And yet we endure it—Comstockery.
It is such a subtly pervasive thing, this Comstockery, it steals in wherever it can and puts the taint of its own uncleanness on whatever it touches. Clothing becomes a matter of Comstockery. We do not always see it, but such is the fact. We do not wear clothing for convenience, but to cover our nakedness. You see nakedness is obscene. Not in itself, but only in man. You may take a naked dog on the street, but not a naked human being. The summer previous to the last one was a very hot one in New York, and a poor wretch of a boy of fourteen years of age, being on the top floor of a crowded tenement was half crazed by the heat and the lack of fresh air, of which there was absolutely none in the closet in which he was trying to sleep. He ran down into the street nude at two o'clock in the morning in the hope of finding a surcease of his distress. A policeman saw him, remembered his blushing Comstockery in time and haled the poor lad off to a cell. The next morning the magistrate in tones of grimmest virtue sent the boy to the reformatory, remarking with appropriate jest that the young scoundrel might have seven years in which to learn to keep his clothes on.
Theodore Roosevelt, who is at once the greatest President and the wisest man of whom we have any record, tells us that we must breed more children. But how shall our women bear more children, or presently bear any, if they are to be continually made more and more unfit for motherhood by the pitfalls into which their ignorance of the science of life leads them? Because of the Comstockery which has its felt grip upon our throats we may not instruct the little child in the way of health; or if it be said that there is nothing to prevent the parent from instructing the child, yet it must be insisted that the parent has no means of knowing since Comstockery prescribes ignorance as the only way to innocence; and innocent our girls must be at any cost. Besides, the average mother, if she will but admit the truth, is ashamed to talk with her daughter about Comstockery things. We all know that this is so. Our parents treated us in such fashion, and we are so treating our children.
The knowledge which each generation acquires at the cost of health, yes, at the cost of life even, dies with it, for the most part. The one thing we most need to know is how to live; the science of life begins with sex, goes on with sex, ends with sex; but sex we may not discuss; thus we go on in ignorance of life. Shall it remain so? Is Comstockery to be our best expression of the most vital matter of existence? Life, sex, should be and is when we recognize it, the purest, sweetest, simplest subject of discussion; and we make of it a filthy jest. We will not tell our sons the things we have learned through bitter experience, because we cannot bear the shame of discussing sex subjects with them, because of the accursed Comstockery that is within us; but we will go to the club and the bar room, or anywhere behind locked doors in the select company of our fellows, and there pour out the real essence of our Comstockery in stories which make a filthy jest of sex. Every man knows this is the truth. Perhaps women, in their Comstockery, know it too. As has been already said, treat digestion as sex is treated, and it will be sniggered over behind locked doors in precisely the same way.
Let us rid ourselves of the fatal, prurient restrictions on sex discussion and in a marvellously short time we shall have a store of sweet knowledge on the subject that will enable us to live well ourselves and fit us to bring into the world such children as will amaze us with their health of body and purity of mind. No alteration of the facts of life is necessary, but only a change of attitude. Why, when Trilby brought the bare foot into prominence, it was gravely debated whether or not such an indecency should be permitted. It was assumed that a naked foot was indecent. Why a foot more than a hand? Why any one part of the body more than another? Comstockery! Comstockery!
DON QUIXOTE AND HAMLET
In Peter Kropotkin's Book: "Russian Literature" (published by McClure, Phillips & Company), there is a quotation from Turgenieff's works, which shows the Russian poet's genius and psychological insight in all its wonderful depth. Here it is:
"Don Quixote is imbued with devotion towards his ideal, for which he is ready to suffer all possible privations, to sacrifice his life; life itself he values only so far as it can serve for the incarnation of the ideal, for the promotion of truth, of justice on earth.... He lives for his brothers, for opposing the forces hostile to mankind: the witches, the giants—that is, the oppressors.... Therefore he is fearless, patient; he is satisfied with the most modest food, the poorest cloth: he has other things to think of. Humble in his heart, he is great and daring in his mind.... And who is Hamlet? Analysis, first of all, and egotism, and therefore no faith. He lives entirely for himself, he is an egotist; but to believe in one' self—even an egotist cannot do that: we can believe only in something which is outside us and above us.... As he has doubts of everything, Hamlet evidently does not spare himself; his intellect is too developed to remain satisfied with what he finds in himself; he feels his weakness, but each self-consciousness is a force where-from results his irony, the opposite of the enthusiasm of Don Quixote.... Don Quixote, a poor man, almost a beggar, without means and relations, old, isolated—undertakes to redress all the evils and to protect oppressed strangers over the whole world. What does it matter to him that his first attempt at freeing the innocent from his oppressor falls twice as heavy upon the head of the innocent himself?... What does it matter that, thinking that he has to deal with noxious giants, Don Quixote attacks useful windmills?... Nothing of the sort can ever happen with Hamlet: how could he, with his perspicacious, refined, sceptical mind, ever commit such a mistake! No, he will not fight with windmills, he does not believe in giants ... but he would not have attacked them even if they did exist.... And he does not believe in evil. Evil and deceit are his inveterate enemies. His scepticism is not indifferentism.... But in negation, as in fire, there is a destructive power, and how to keep it in bounds, how to tell it where to stop, when that which it must destroy, and that which it must spare are often inseparably welded together? Here it is that the often-noticed tragical aspect of human life comes in: for action we require will, and for action we require thought; but thought and will have parted from each other, and separate every day more and more....
"And thus the native hue of resolution Is sickled o'er by the pale cast of thought...."
ON THE BANKS OF ACHERON
By EDWIN BJORKMAN
The air was still and full of a gray melancholy light, yet the waters of the river boiled angrily as if touched by a raging tempest. The billows rose foaming above its surface, all white with the whiteness of fear. When they sank back again, they were black—black as despair that knows of no hope.
Steep hills mounted abruptly on either side of the river until they touched the sullen, colorless cloud-banks overhead. Their sides were seamed with numberless paths, running on narrow ledges, one above the other, from the river's edge to the crest of the hill. Men were moving along those paths: they swarmed like ants across the hillside, but I could not see whence they were coming nor whither they were going. All were pushing and jostling and scratching and howling and fighting. Every one's object seemed to be to raise himself to the path above his own and to prevent all others from doing the same.
Down at the water's edge, they moved in a solid mass, arms pinned down, shoulder to shoulder and chest to back. At times a man got an arm out of the press and began to claw the up-turned, tear-stained faces of his neighbors in wild endeavors to lift his whole body. But soon his madness subsided, the writhing arm sank back, and the man vanished out of sight. The mass once more moved stolidly, solidly onward. Once in a great while its surface of heads would begin to boil like the waters of the river near by, and a man would be spouted into the air, landing on one of the paths above. Then each face would be turned toward him for a breathless moment, at the end of which the mass glided slowly onward as before.
The crush on the paths higher up on the hillside was not so great, but the fighting of man against man was incessant and bitter. I could see them clambering up the steep sides of the ledges, with bleeding nails, distorted features and locked teeth. Waving arms and clutching fingers pursued them from below; ironshod heels trampled them from above. Ninety-nine out of the hundred ended their struggles with a fall, and in their rapid descent they swept others with them. But rising or falling, they all pushed onward, onward—from nowhere to nowhere, as it seemed to me. I watched them for hours, for days, for years—always the same wandering, the same scrambling, the same tumbling, without apparent purpose or result. Then my blood rose hotly to my heart and head. A scarlet mist floated before my eyes and my soul swelled within me almost unto bursting.
"Why?" I cried, and the word rolled back and forth between the hillsides until its last echo was swallowed by the murmur that hovered over the wrathful river. The strugglers on the hillside paths, each and all, turned toward me. On every face I read astonishment.
"Why?" I yelled at them again, and the sound of my voice lingered above the waters like a distant thunder. Gradually the expression on all those staring faces changed from wonder to scorn. A man on one of the paths near the crest of the hill laughed aloud. Two more joined him. It became contagious and spread like wildfire. All those millions were laughing into my face, laughing like demons rather than men.
My frown only increased the mirth of that grinning multitude. I shook my clenched, up-stretched fists against them. And when at last their ghastly merriment ceased, I raised my voice once more in defiance.
As when on a bleak winter day the black snow clouds suddenly begin to darken the sky, so hatred and rage spread over their faces. Crooked, bony fingers were pointed at me. Men leaned recklessly from their narrow ledges to shout abuse at me. Stones and mud were flung at me. A hundred arms seized me and tossed my body in a wide curve from the hillside out over the river. For one long minute I struggled to keep myself above the yawning waters. Then I sank. All grew dark about me. A strange fullness in my chest seemed to rise up toward my head. There was a last moment of consciousness in which I heard a single word uttered by a ringing, bell-like voice that came from within myself. That last word was:
The British Elections and the Labor Parties
By H. KELLY
"We are a left-center country; we live by compromise."
The above statement was made by an aged member of Parliament to Kropotkin some years ago, and the present elections testify strongly to the truth of that remark. For a country which produced the father of political economy, Adam Smith—for Scotland is included in our generalization—Robert Owen, the father of libertarian Socialism, which in the forties stood almost at the head of the Socialist movement in Europe, which has been the scene of so many Socialist and workingmen's congresses and has furnished a refuge for so many distinguished exiles, it is passing strange, to say the least, that up to the present no one has been elected to Parliament on a purely Socialist platform; this notwithstanding that, in the elections just past, of forty-three labor members elected nineteen are members of the Independent Labor Party and one of the Social Democratic Federation. John Burns was elected to Parliament just after the great Dock Strike on his trade-union record and has been elected regularly ever since, although he has long since ceased to be a Socialist. Keir Hardie was elected for West Ham as a Radical, and when he stood for re-election as a Socialist was defeated. In 1900 he was elected again as member for Merthyr Tydfill, a radical mining district in Wales, on a trade union-Socialist platform, and undoubtedly received a large number of votes on the ground of having been a miner once himself. R. B. Cunningham-Graham, probably the ablest Socialist who has yet sat in the British Parliament, was elected as a Radical, announcing himself a Socialist some time after his election.
The British workman, true to his traditions, has consistently demanded compromise before electing anyone, and where that has been refused, the candidates have gone down to defeat. Hyndman, founder of the Social Democratic Federation and the ablest Socialist in public life; Quelch, editor of "Justice," the official organ of that party, for more than a decade, and Geo. Lansbury, one of their oldest, ablest and most respected members, refused to compromise in the recent election, and paid the inevitable penalty. Hyndman's case was really remarkable, he is a man of exceptional ability, has devoted himself for twenty-five years to the Socialist and labor movement, was endorsed by all the labor bodies of Burnley, and Mr. Phillip Stanhope, recently created a lord and one of the ablest Liberal politicians in the country, did him the honor of declining to stand against him. Still he was defeated—while politicians of an inferior stamp like John Burns, Keir Hardie, J. R. MacDonald and two score of others were triumphantly elected on a labor platform. Therein lies the secret, they were elected on a "Labor Platform!" Eight-hour day, trade-union rate of wages, better factory legislation, secular education, annual sessions of Parliament, paid members, one man, one vote, etc. All excellent things in themselves, but not Socialism and in no way disputing the right of one man to exploit another and leaving untouched the basic principle of Socialism, real Socialism, the right of labor to the fruits of its toil.
Under conditions such as those described, is it to be wondered at that many Anarchists are frankly cynical as to the benefits labor will derive from the labor parties? There will be at least two, that have suddenly forced the gilded doors of the "Mother of Parliaments" and about which the guilty middle class grew nervous. We know that men like T. Burt, H. Broadhurst, W. Abraham, F. Madison and a score of others are but nominal labor men not having worked at their various trades for years and are middle class by training and income, that others like Keir Hardie, J. R. MacDonald, John Ward and many more are at best labor politicians so steeped in political bargaining and compromising that the net results to labor from them will be very small indeed. It is not necessary nor would it be just to question the honesty or well-meaning of many of the forty-three labor members, to prove that a distinct disappointment awaits those who elected them. Past history foretells the future clearly enough. We have seen John Burns, hero of the Dock Strike, who entered Parliament as a Revolutionary Socialist, becoming in a few short years as docile as a lamb to those above him in power and as autocratic as a Russian provincial governor to those who needed his assistance, finally enter a Liberal Cabinet with the "hero of Featherstone," H. H. Asquith, by whose orders striking miners were shot down in real American fashion, Sir Edward Grey, and other Jingo Imperialists—and the end is not yet. There are our other friends (?). H. Broadhurst, special favorite of the King; W. Abraham, ex-coal miner, who so endeared himself to the coal operators of Wales in his capacity as official of the Miners' Union and Scale Committee that when his daughter was married several years ago she received a cheque for L100 from one of the aforesaid operators, and others whom space forbids mentioning. Such is the material of which the labor parties now in the House of Commons is formed, and it requires a violent stretch of imagination to see any real, lasting benefit can accrue from the forty-three men now sitting there as representatives of the oppressed masses. An inability to see this, however, by no means implies a lack of inherent good in the formation of the Labor Representation Committee and the Miners' Federation, their fraternization with the Socialists and the forces which impelled that organization and fraternization. It is the agitation which preceded it, and we hope will continue, and the growing desire on the part of the workers for a larger share of the product of their toil and a part in the management of industry that we see hope. The form that movement has taken or the beneficial results from the efforts of the elected are details. It is scarcely five years since the Labor Representation Committee sprang into existence, and it says much for the solidarity of labor that over a million trade unionists, thirteen thousand members of the Independent Labor Party and eight hundred Fabians could be got together on a political program in so short a time.
For good or ill the British workingman has gone in for political action and will have a try at that before he listens to the Anarchists. Slow of thought and used to compromise, he is a stern taskmaker and will exact a rigid account of the stewardship entrusted to those who sought his suffrage. When the disillusionment comes, as it surely will, real progress may come. The process of disillusionment does not come with geometrical precision. To some it comes over night, to others it is a process of years, and to some it is denied altogether. For years the Anarchists have been scoffed at as impossible dreamers for advocating the General Strike as the only effective means of overthrowing the present system. The glorious fight of the Russian people for freedom has changed all this, and we find even Bebel threatening the German Government with a general strike if they attempt to withdraw the franchise; and Hyndman, who opposed it for years, has finally admitted its effectiveness. The effect has been felt in Great Britain in the shape of the unemployed agitations and demonstrations, and although temporarily allayed by the elections, it will blossom forth again.