A Beautiful Mind-Voltairine de Cleyre

Voltairine was born on November 17th, 1866 to a French father and a puritan mother. She graduated from grammar school at the age of 12. Her father recanted his libertarian ideal and become religious, by sending Voltairine to a convent in Canada, which she lamented. The repressive atmosphere was not good for health, her fragile state will remain with her despite her high productivity. She died in Chicago on 20th of June, 1912. Her work survived and I will present her best works in this post.(Note: she’s not the best writer but she did have important messages).

The Free Thinker’s plea:

Slaves that suffer in your self-forged chains,

Praying your Christ to touch and heal your pains,

Tear off your shackling irons, unbind your eyes,

Seize the grand hopes that along the skies!

The poem is written as a plea to free her from the bound of her time in the convent, she wanted to break free. The poem used many allusions of naturalistic imagery to heaven, there are also many metaphors of liberty such as the action of breaking the chain and unjust laws.

The Dominant Idea:

If the doctrine of free-will has raised up fanatics and persecutors, who, assuming that men may be good under all conditions if they merely wish to be so, have sought to persuade other men’s wills with threats, fines, imprisonments, torture, the spike, the wheel, the axe, the fagot, in order to make them good and save them against their obdurate wills; if the doctrine of Spiritualism, the soul supreme, has done this, the doctrine of Materialistic Determinism has produced shifting, self-excusing, worthless, parasitical characters, who are this now and that at some other time, and anything and nothing upon principle. “My conditions have made me so,” they cry, and there is no more to be said; poor mirror-ghosts! how could they help it!

If you choose the liberty and pride and strength of the single soul, and the free fraternization of men, as the purpose which your life is to make manifest then do not sell it for tinsel.

Let us have Men, Men who will say a word to their souls and keep it-keep it not when it is easy, but keep it when it is hard-keep it when the storm roars and there is a white-streaked sky and blue thunder before and one’s eyes are blinded and one’s ears are deafened with the war of opposing things; and keep it under the long leaden sky and the gray dreariness that never lifts. Hold unto the last, that is what it means to have a Dominant Idea, where the same idea has been worked out by a whole an unmake Circumstance.

The essay is mainly a discussion between free will and determinism. She also stressed the importance of having liberty than simple pursuit of wealth and the material (in an actual physical sense) goods.

The Economic Tendency of Free Thought:

Note the difference between a right and a privilege. A right, in the abstract, is a fact; it is not a thing to be given, established, or conferred; it is.Of the exercise of a right power may deprive me; of the right itself, never.Privilege, in the abstract, does not exist; there is no such thing. Rights recognized, privilege is destroyed.
But, in the practical, the moment you admit a supreme authority, you have denied rights. Practically the supremacy has all the rights, and no matter what the human race possesses, it does so merely at the caprice of that authority.

This is a beautiful smack down on the SJW’s victimhood over the faux idea of equality.

An agent is usually held accountable to his principals. If you do not know the individuals who voted for you, then you do not know for whom you are acting, nor to whom you are accountable. If any body of persons has delegated to you any authority, the disposal of any right or part of a right (supposing a right to be transferable), you must have received it from the individuals composing that body; and you must have some means of learning who those individuals are, or you cannot know for whom you act, and you are utterly irresponsible as an agent.

Politicians often say they represent the people but unless they actually know the people, they cannot claim to act on their behalf.

A man won’t steal, ordinarily, unless that which he steals is something he cannot as easily get without stealing; in liberty the cost of stealing would involve greater difficulties than producing, and consequently he would not be apt to steal. But suppose a man steals. Today you go to a representative of that power which has robbed you of the earth, of the right of free contract of the means of exchange, taxes you for everything you eat or wear (the meanest form of robbery), — you go to him for redress from a thief!

Taxation is worst theft of them all but a lot of us gladly accept this fate and call it protection.

Sex Slavery:

Now for the remedy. It is in one word, the only word that ever brought equity anywhere — LIBERTY! Centuries upon centuries of liberty is the only thing that will cause the disintegration and decay of these pestiferous ideas. Liberty was all that calmed the bloodwaves of religious persecution! You cannot cure serfhood by any other substitution. Not for you to say “in this way shall the race love.” Let the race alone.
Will there not be atrocious crimes? Certainly. He is a fool who says there will not be. But you can’t stop them by committing the arch-crime and setting a block between the spokes of Progress-wheels. You will never get right until you start right.
As for the final outcome, it matters not one iota. I have my ideal, and it is very pure, and very sacred to me. But yours, equally sacred, may be different and we may both be wrong. But certain am I that with free contract, that form of sexual association will survive which is best adapted to time and place, thus producing the highest evolution of the type. Whether that shall be monogamy, variety, or promiscuity matters naught to us; it is the business of the future, to which we dare not dictate.

Voltairine was one of the proto-femininists (not in the sense of today’s feminism which is collective nightmare of delusion), her idea of feminist liberation was of true fairness to both genders to earn a living and be independent.

In Defense of Emma Goldman and the Right of Expropriation:

Humanity can not be made equal by declarations on paper. Unless the material conditions for equality exist, it is worse than mockery to pronounce men equal. And unless there is equality (and by equality I mean equal chances for every one to make the most of himself) unless, I say, these equal chances exist, freedom, either of thought, speech, or action, is equally a mockery.

No one is equal, equal is unfair. A piece of paper does not make everyone equal, only when one can fulfill their potential shall they be equal.

Miss Goldman is a communist; I am an individualist. She wishes to destroy the right of property, I wish to assert it. I make my war upon privilege and authority, whereby the right of property, the true right in that which is proper to the individual, is annihilated. She believes that co-operation would entirely supplant competition; I hold that competition in one form or another will always exist, and that it is highly desirable it should. But whether she or I be right, or both of us be wrong, of one thing I am sure; the spirit which animates Emma Goldman is the only one which will emancipate the slave from his slavery, the tyrant from his tyranny — the spirit which is willing to dare and suffer.

Only property rights can lift people up from slavery, Voltairine made it quite clear where she stands but she appreciates the intention of Emma Goldman even though her idea was evil. This does not mean we should compromise, simply we should fight the common enemy- the State.

Anarchism and the American Tradition:

Among the fundamental likeness between the Revolutionary Republicans and the Anarchists is the recognition that the little must precede the great; that the local must be the basis of the general; that there can be a free federation only when there are free communities to federate…Though largely unsuccessful, it is to the measure of success they did achieve that we are indebted for such liberties as we do retain, and not to the general government.

Again, we are seeing Voltairine becoming more of her later proclaimed position of “Anarchist without adjectives”. We often ignore little battles that we’ve won against the State but the little success are just as important in order to build up greatness in the scale of civil war.

The love of material ease has been, in the mass of men and permanently speaking, always greater than the love of liberty.Nine hundred and ninety nine women out of a thousand are more interested in the cut of a dress than in the independence of their sex; nine hundred and ninety nine men out of a thousand are more interested in drinking a glass of beer than in questioning the tax that is laid on it; how many children are not willing to trade the liberty to play for the promise of a new cap or a new dress? That it is which begets the complicated mechanism of society; that it is which, by multiplying the concerns of government, multiplies the strength of government and the corresponding weakness of the people; this it is which begets indifference to public concern, thus making the corruption of government easy.
As to the essence of Commerce and Manufacture, it is this: to establish bonds between every corner of the earths surface and every other corner, to multiply the needs of mankind, and the desire for material possession and enjoyment.

People are accustomed to the being enslaved, similar to Rand’s idea of secondhandedness, we must recognise our rights are slowly being chipped away, stop being complacent and act instead of loitering with our days.

Anarchism says, Make no laws whatever concerning speech, and speech will be free; so soon as you make a declaration on paper that speech shall be free, you will have a hundred lawyers proving that “freedom does not mean abuse, nor liberty license”; and they will define and define freedom out of existence. Let the guarantee of free speech be in every man’s determination to use it, and we shall have no need of paper declarations. On the other hand, so long as the people do not care to exercise their freedom, those who wish to tyrannize will do so; for tyrants are active and ardent, and will devote themselves in the name of any number of gods, religious and otherwise, to put shackles upon sleeping men.

This is very much a warning to what’s happening today regarding the bathroom debate, no one really cared about the bathrooms until governmental officials enacted a regulation on it.

As to the American tradition of non-meddling, Anarchism asks that it be carried down to the individual himself. It demands no jealous barrier of isolation; it knows that such isolation is undesirable and impossible; but it teaches that by all men’s strictly minding their own business, a fluid society, freely adapting itself to mutual needs, wherein all the world shall belong to all men, as much as each has need or desire, will result.
And when Modern Revolution has thus been carried to the heart of the whole world — if it ever shall be, as I hope it will — then may we hope to see a resurrection of that proud spirit of our fathers which put the simple dignity of Man above the gauds of wealth and class, and held that to be an American was greater than to be a king.
In that day there shall be neither kings nor Americans — only Men; over the whole earth, MEN.

This is her most important quote of them all, it outlines the basic non-aggression principle that only when we stop meddling with others will the humanity flourish.

Direct Action:

The Puritans had accused the Quakers of “troubling the world by preaching peace to it.” They refused to pay church taxes; they refused to bear arms; they refused to swear allegiance to any government. (In so doing they were direct actionists, what we may call negative direct actionists.) So the Puritans, being political actionists, passed laws to keep them out, to deport, to fine, to imprison, to mutilate, and finally, to hang them. And the Quakers just kept on coming (which was positive direct action); and history records that after the hanging of four Quakers, and the flogging of Margaret Brewster at the cart’s tail through the streets of Boston, “the Puritans gave up trying to silence the new missionaries”; that “Quaker persistence and Quaker non-resistance had won the day.”

Only peaceful resistance can speak louder than violence, Voltairine was critical of the violent “revolutionaries” of her time. But little did she know history would always repeat itself in today’s leftists.


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