This piece was written by Jo Labadie after World War I. I [ed.] have changed some spelling, corrected some grammar, and eliminated a couple of obscure references, but the piece otherwise remains as originally written.
All of this talk and legislation against the use of force and violence as means of changing sociological conditions is hypocrisy on the part of exploiters. Force and violence are at the bottom of exploitation. Government itself is force and violence. Tell me, some of you governmentalists who are so averse to the use of force and violence, not only here in American but the world over, how did you become possessed of the land on which the native races earned their living? How did England get to be ruler of India, Egypt, Ireland, Canada, Australia, and so much of the world elsewhere if not by force and violence? How did the U.S. become possessed of Hawaii, Puerto Rico, Cuba, the Philippines [and Alaska—ed.]; indeed, how did these super-Americans—the spoliators—become the owners of the land and nearly every thing else in this country? How did the robbers, the pirates, land sharks, brigands, freebooters, buccaneers—governmentalists, every one—the world over get possession of the world, if not by force and violence? Did they get it for the asking? Did the peoples of the world say: “Here, friends, you may have the world; we don’t want it?” Even [if] the people of the world at some time in the past did say so, what has that got to do with the people of the world now? The world is for the use of the people who live on it, and the dead have neither the right nor the power to give or sell it to anybody forever. They have neither the right nor the power to put the unborn into debt or to make any conditions whatsoever for them, and when the living fully realize this, then good bye national debts, good bye the laws, the titles and all of the other superstitions of the past!
The world is for the people of the world. They have only to take it and use it so long as they need. But they cannot tie the hands of the future as our hands have been tied by the past. The delusion, the superstition, the gullibility that one generation ought to or can bind the generations to come in any manner whatsoever is fast passing away, and it is to be hoped never to return. The governmental scheme has had its day. It must go. If it will not go peacefully, orderly, in obedience to the law of evolution, of right and of equity, then it will go by the fury of that ferocity born of desperation. But the time is not yet. It takes a long while to [establish] the notion that rulership is a crime, as it took a long while to [establish] the belief that human beings ought not to be property. When the time does come, in the fullness of the season, the robbed will not permit the robber to say how much loot he may take, nor will he permit the robber to choose the means by which he shall defend his home, his family and his belongings. A wise robber will get out as soon as the light is turned on.
But the robber is trying to prevent the light being turned on. For years he has been tampering with the connections. He has been by force and violence sabotaging the works. Monkey wrenches…have been thrown into the machinery. The presses have been smashed; the types have been pied; the books have been destroyed; but it is not too late.
Say, Mr. Burglar, Mr. Exploiter, Mr. Profiteer—all of you capitalistic buccaneers—get out while the getting is good. It’ll soon be daylight, and you can’t put that out. The sun is painting the eastern sky an illuminating red and flooding the western horizon. They who have been asleep are yawning. They are about ready to get up out of a long and troubled sleep. If you don’t get out soon you may be put out, and there is no guarantee that they will be overly gentle in doing the job. Safety first, you know!
We who don’t like to have the place all mussed up want the job done orderly, gently—all of us gentle anarchists do—as this will save breaking up the furniture, shooting up the windows, covering the rugs with smudge and smutch; and, also, we have some regard of our own composure, dignity, and flesh and bones. We are not insured against rough-house stuff, and so we want to preserve what we’ve got and prevent you from taking any more than you have. If you’re a real high-class bandit you’ll recognize the fact that the jig is up, make the best of a bad situation and smilingly back out and scoot around the corner before the boys get you.
You have depended upon the soldier boys, the sailor boys, the professors, teachers and students, and the professional class generally to condone your exploitations, but I tell you again, it’s too late. They are realizing what we mean when we say “the workers.” They also realize that the law of recompense to the hired worker is no respecter of persons, that it works with the High Brow as it does with Smutty Face and Muddy Boots: that the boss of Dirty Alley is also the boss in spotless Town.
The war opened the lid and they looked in. This was fatal to governments and their favorites. What they saw was convincing that war is a governmental trade; that invasion, conquest, spoliation are inseparable from government; that peoples rarely ever make war; that the desire for more rulership is the prime cause of war, and that rulership is not beneficial to the masses, but the means by which they become the tools of a class as wealth producers for that class. No, you made a mistake, dear beloved Spoliators, by promoting the World War, as this demonstrated all too clearly…your long continuance in your unholy occupation of reaping where you had not sown. You showed that you could fight internationally to maintain your grip on Labor’s throat, and showed what international direct action could do. They reason now that if that kind of co-operation can kill and destroy so effectively, it might build up and make life worth living, if the desire to be neighborly and helpful supplanted the desire to kill and rob. If international action could produce such a helluva war, by putting it to saner uses it might produce a heavenuva peace.
The World War surely uncovered a great prodigality of wrong in the world, and may also have gleamed to the world’s people that the rulership of man over man is a false doctrine that leads only to enmity, discord, and all that is eternally pernicious.
Rulership is inevitably anti-social. To love one’s master is sanely unthinkable. Only brutes do that, and those who have been brutalized. And even that which appears as love of a master is simply fear. Those who preach fear of God get further and further away from the carpenter of Nazareth. No sane person can love a fear-inspiring God. Jesus was a lover of his kind, and his love begat love. To love one’s fellows, to love truth and equity and to be on the level is to love one’s self, and self-love is the highest degree of sanity. Who hates himself can’t love anybody. Who does wrong hates himself, bars the reception of the spirit that makes great happiness possible.
He who wields physical power over his fellows is sure, sooner or later, to use it badly. It is given to but few to have the wisdom of not abusing this power. This is the truth which those who seek the powers of government fail to realize. They see the disaster that comes from the possession of this power in the hands of others and mislead themselves into the belief that they are made of sterner stuff and will resist the temptation to become despotic. Vain belief. I wouldn’t trust Jesus himself with political power over me. He who believes himself holier than others is ready for a good