Thoughts of Anarchist Voltairine de Cleyre

voltairineThe Leader of the Trumpeteers (LOT) says he is too busy to read books. His actions in the past and his present appointments show that is a fact. I expect there will be a rise in anarchist activities in this country as I noted yesterday. It will be popular among the youth who mostly have been alienated by LOT. Dollars to doughnuts LOT’s reaction will be to brutally suppress any type of demonstrations in part because he does not read and have a historic understanding that one way not to deal with anarchists is to be more violent than them.

Had he read about history he would know whether the cause fails or succeeds is determined in large part by the reaction of the public to it. Bloody bodies lying in the street because of police action is something Americans will not accept even if they are anarchists. LOT may not understand this; or, worse he may think that is what Americans want to see.

I am no fan of anarchism. It is a dastardly philosophy that has as its basis the destruction of things: first property as we have seen whenever anarchists participate in a movement and ultimately all government. After that is accomplished they propose that — well they have no real proposals.

The anarchists know what they see of present day society they don’t like and seek to change it. When that happens they will figure out what to do. In a sense that is the situation facing the United States today: the people wanted change and ended up with LOT who is trying to figure out what to do.

I thought de Cleyre’s writings since she was the first American female and most brilliant exponents of the anarchist ideas in America might be useful to understand how anarchists think are important to read. She dedicated part of her life to working among the poor, especially the poor Jews in Philadelphia, teaching English and music. She taught herself to read Yiddish and became a translator of Yiddish for those who did not understand it.

She was an anarchist before America understood anarchism. She was motivated by a deep concern for those who had been abused by our society which was especially true at the turn into the  20th century with the heavy influx of immigrants to our shores. She despaired at the conditions under which people lived writing:

“In the last analysis it is life itself that I hate, not a fat bourgeois. Life, life this fiendish thing which brings millions of little creatures forth mercilessly, only to hunger, pain, madness. There is not a day when the suffering of the little waif animals in the street does not create in one a bitter rage against life.”

Fortunately America has gone beyond those dark days when the immigrants cowered in hovels on the edge of starvation with little help. It is good to call to mind how far we have come. Although it is hard not to wonder whether those are the days that LOT thought America was great.

Voltairine wanted to tear everything down, much like the present day anarchists who seem to show up in their black colors and masks at every demonstration. Unlike them, she did not believe in wanton destruction. Like all anarchists her idea that mankind would be better off without any bosses whether in government, business or family was good in theory; in reality she should have known that even after doing away with all the bosses she would still be left with humans and that they would unite together to come up with different kinds of bosses.

de Cleyre was also America’s first feminist. In a letter to her male friend in America when she was in England she wrote: I will never, let come what will, accept the conditions of married slavery again. I will not do things for you, I will not live with you, for if I do I suffer the tortures of owning and being owned. I will serve you as a friend, on the terms of friendship, if you will allow me. But I will not mix pocketbooks, nor do services for you which end in wanting to possess you. All the repressed individualism in me has escaped now. I want what I always wanted in the days before we tried living together. I want separate house; I want the respect between you and me that there is between us and everyone else. I don’t want our love for one another to be an excuse for breaking down the barriers of individual ownership, whereby love is strained till it is lost. I shall not inquire into your actions outside of myself; I don’t want you to inquire into mine. 

There is much more but space is limited. For those who read you know where to look.



15 replies on “Thoughts of Anarchist Voltairine de Cleyre”

  1. Mr. Barthe :

    Your posts have a usually acerbic tone. I understand that. I know that you like to muck around in the ideological swamp with the Red Menacer Professor Khalid. This is where Khalid lives and he will continue to roll you in a crocodile’s death spiral if you humor his facile shapeshifting … dialectical diatribes .. but, this is your folly. So folly on my friend if it pleases you.

    You are articulate. Rather than posting this squib of yours apropos my post, describe, thoughtfully and in some … creative … fashion and detail, just what the ” Lesson ” is. Otherwise you are just another in the peanut gallery.

    1. I know that, but thanks. Res ipsa loquitur.

      The lesson is that, as Marlon Brandon demonstrated, butter is better for you than margarine.

  2. Yep … He’s a multimillionaire … didn’t really need saying did it … but you did. Talk about a slippery slope eh 🙂

  3. Johnny Lydon ended up selling butter in TV commercials.

    There’s a lesson there.

    I liked him what he said ‘Never trust a hippie.’

  4. Well … Let’s fire off the opening salvo from the SEX PISTOLS …..


    Right Now

    I am an antichrist
    I am an anarchist
    Don’t know what I want
    But I know how to get it
    I wanna destroy

    Cause I
    wanna be
    No dogs body

    …… John Lydon aka Johnny Rotten …

    So, There is nothing new Under the Sun as the old saying has it …. ” God save the Queen … She ain’t no human being …A fascist regime “….. I confess to A CLOCKWORK ORANGE and the SEX PISTOLS having been curiously formative cultural influences on me as a young lad. I created rather an anarchic … body of work . Anger is indeed an ENERGY, and it sustained me then, and sustains me still in a vital pact with conscience and experience.

    But here is the difference from then and now : EXPERIENCE 🙂 … Life is a tough gig …For many many people …We all will lie beneath Old Stony Lonesome eventually … As you get older you realize perhaps that destroying is relatively simple in its ideology … It is the ability to create Order from Chaos that distinguishes the real Anarchist from the disillusioned plaything of the gods. Sure …tear it all the ” F ” down if it needs tearing down. But remember the Old Gypsy curse that ” may all your wishes come true .” …. ANARRRRRRCHYYYYYYYY…….

  5. Good post.

    One thing, though. Don’t equate nihilism with anarchism. They are not the same philosophy.

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