Support C4SS with Voltairine de Cleyre’s “The Dominant Idea”

C4SS has teamed up with the Distro of the Libertarian Left. The Distro produces and distribute zines and booklets on anarchism, market anarchist theory, counter-economics, and other movements for liberation. For every copy of Voltairine de Cleyre‘s “The Dominant Idea” that you purchase through the Distro, C4SS will receive a percentage. Support C4SS with Voltairine de Cleyre‘s “The Dominant Idea“.

domi

$1.50 for the first copy. $0.75 for every additional copy.

“The Dominant Idea” first appeared as a serialized article in Alexander Berkman and Emma Goldman’s influential anarchist magazine, Mother Earth, with the first instalment in May 1910. Soon after, the Mother Earth Publishing Association printed a booklet edition of the article, which they sold through their catalogue from 1910 onward.

“Regnant ideas, everywhere! Did you ever see a dead vine bloom? I have seen it. Last summer I trained some morn­ing-glory vines up over a second story balcony; and every day they blew and curled in the wind, their white, purple-dashed faces wink­ing at the sun, radiant with climbing life. Then all at once some mis­chance hap­pened, some cut worm or some mis­chiev­ous child tore one vine off below. The sappy stem wilt­ed and began to wither; in a day it was dead, — all but the top which still clung longingly to its sup­port, with bright head lifted. But the next night there was a storm, a heavy, driving storm, with beat­ing rain and blind­ing lightning. I rose to watch the flashes, and lo! the won­der of the world! In the black­ness of the mid-night, in the fury of wind and rain, the dead vine had flower­ed. Five white, moon-faced blossoms blew gaily round the skel­e­ton vine, shining back triumphant at the red lightning. I gazed at them in dumb wonder. Dear, dead vine, whose will had been so strong to bloom, that in the hour of its sudden cut-off from the feed­ing earth, it sent the last sap to its blos­soms; and, not waiting for the morn­ing, brought them forth in storm and flash, as white night- glories, which should have been the child­ren of the sun. Over death and decay the Dominant Idea smiled: the vine was in the world to bloom, to bear white trumpet blossoms dash­ed with purple; and it held its will beyond death.

“Ithink this unqualified determinism of the material is a great, lamentable error in our modern progressive move­ment; the absolute sway of Matter is quite as mischievous an error as the unrelated nature of Mind; in its direct action upon personal con­duct, it has the more ill effect of the two. What we need is a true appraise­ment of the power and rôle of the Idea. Against the accept­ed form­u­l­a of modern Materialism, ‘Men are what circum­stances make them,’ I set the opposing declaration, ‘Circumstances are what men make them’; and I contend that both these things are true, up to the point where the combating powers are equalized, or one is overthrown….”

Voltairine de Cleyre (1866-1912) was a popular Anarchist and feminist writer, speaker and activist. Her contemporary and friend Emma Goldman called her “the most gifted and brilliant anarch­ist woman America ever produced.” She published articles in Liberty, Twentieth Century, Free Society and Mother Earth, and worked closely with libertarian com­mun­ists, market anarch­ists, and mutualists within the Phila­delphia social an­arch­ist move­ment, but refused to commit herself to economic blueprints, adopting a pluralistic view of economic arrangements in any future free society.

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The Dominant Idea (1910)

“The Dominant Idea” first appeared as a serialized article in Alexander Berkman and Emma Goldman’s influential anarchist magazine, Mother Earth, with the first instalment in May 1910. Soon after, the Mother Earth Publishing Association printed a booklet edition of the … Continue reading

Support C4SS With Voltairine de Cleyre’s “to try all strange sensations…”

C4SS has teamed up with the Distro of the Libertarian Left. The Distro produces and distribute zines and booklets on anarchism, market anarchist theory, counter-economics, and other movements for liberation. For every copy of Voltairine de Cleyre’s “to try all strange sensations…“ that you purchase through the Distro, C4SS will receive a percentage. Support C4SS with Voltairine de Cleyre’s “to try all strange sensations…

to try

$1.50 for the first copy. $0.75 for every additional copy.

The essay reprinted in this booklet was originally published as “Anarchism,” in the October 13, 1901 edition of the Anarchist movement newspaper FREE SOCIETY (ed. Abe Isaak). I’ve retitled it because that’s a boring title for an essay about Anarchism in an Anarchist newspaper, or in an Anarchist pamphlet series.

But the content is anything but: A startling, provocative, and moving statement of de Cleyre’s emerging re-conception of anarchy herself as “an Anarchist, simply, without economic label attached,” — and of anarchy as a pluralistic process of social experimentation and self-exploration, — the essay has been retitled with two of the most striking phrases appearing in the text, speaking of the freedom “to try. . .” and of the anarchic, un-ruly self as a bottomless depth of “all strange sensations.”

“I have now presented the rough skeleton of four different economic schemes entertained by Anarch­ists. Re­mem­ber that the point of agreement in all is: no com­puls­ion. Those who favor one method have no intention of forcing it upon those who favor another, so long as equal tolerance is exercised toward them­selves. . . . For myself, I believe that all these and many more could be advantageously tried in different localities; I would see the habits of the people express them­selves in a free choice in every com­mun­ity; and I am sure that distinct envi­on­ments would call out distinct adaptations. My ideal would be a con­di­t­ion in which all natural re­sources would be forever free to all, and the work­er individually able to produce for him­self sufficient for all his vital needs, if he so chose, so that he need not govern his working or not work­ing by the times and sea­s­ons of his fellows. I think that time may come; but it will only be through the dev­el­op­ment of the modes of pro­duc­t­ion and the taste of the people. Meanwhile we all cry with one voice for the free­dom to try. . . .”

“Are these all the aims of Anarchism? They are just the beginning. They outline what is demanded for the material producer. Immeasurably deeper, immeasurably higher, dips and soars the soul which has come out of its case­ment of custom and cow­ardice, and dared to claim its Self. Ah, once to stand unflinchingly on the brink of that dark gulf of passions and desires, once at last to send a bold, straight-driven gaze down into the volcanic Me, once, and in that once forever, to throw off the command to cover and flee from the knowledge of that abyss, – . . . to realize that one is. . . a bottomless, bottomless depth of all strange sensations . . . quakings and shud­der­ings of love that drives to madness and will not be controlled, hunger­ings and meanings and sobbing that smite upon the inner ear . . . To look down into that, to know the blackness, the midnight, the dead ages in oneself, to feel the jungle and the beast within, . . . — to see, to know, to feel the uttermost, – and then to look at one’s fellow, sitting across from one in the street-car, . . . and to wonder what lies beneath that commonplace exterior — to picture the cavern in him which somewhere far below has a narrow gallery running into your own. . . . Letting oneself go free, go free beyond the bounds of what fear and custom call the ‘possible,’ — this too Anarchism may mean to you, if you dare to apply it so.”

Voltairine de Cleyre (1866-1912) was a popular Anarchist and feminist writer, speaker and activist. Her contemporary and friend Emma Goldman called her “the most gifted and brilliant anarchist woman America ever produced.” She published articles in Liberty, Twentieth Century, Free Society and Mother Earth, and worked closely with libertarian communists, market anarchists, and mutualists within the Philadelphia social anarchist movement, but refused to commit herself to economic blueprints, adopting a pluralistic view of economic arrangements in any future free society.

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to try all strange sensations… (1901)

The essay reprinted in this booklet was originally published as “Anarchism,” in the October 13, 1901 edition of the Anarchist movement newspaper FREE SOCIETY (ed. Abe Isaak). I’ve retitled it because that’s a boring title for an essay about Anarchism … Continue reading

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They Who Marry Do Ill (1908)

“The question now becomes: What is the growing ideal of human society, unconsciously indicated and un­con­scious­ly discerned and illuminated? By all the readings of progress, this indication appears to be the free individual; a society whose economic, political, social and … Continue reading

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Anarchism and American Traditions (1909)

One of de Cleyre’s key later essays, “Anarchism and American Traditions” (1909) offers a critical reflection on freedom, equality, government, and the American Revolution. To the average American of today, the Revolution means the battles fought by the patriot army … Continue reading

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A Catechism of Anarchy (1902)

This lost classic was first published anonymously in 1902 by the Social Science Club of Philadelphia, whose members included Voltairine de Cleyre, Mary Hansen, Natasha Notkin, and other Mutualists, Individualists, and Communists from the Philadelphia social movement. The “Catechism,” drafted by Hansen and finished by the Club collect­ive­ly, presents a dialogue on the fundamentals of Anarchistic philo­sophy; discusses the commonality and the disagree­ments among Socialist, Indiv­id­u­al­ist, Com­mun­ist, and Mutu­al­ist forms of Anarchism; and offers a pluralistic, experimental vision of the free society, in which free people can try out any peaceful econ­omic arrangement, and in which a wealth of Anarchistic econ­omic systems peacefully co-exist, compete, and flourish side-by-side.

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Competition Not Domination (1892)

A follow-up to de Cleyre and Rosa Slobodinsky’s classic The Individualist and the Communist (Market Anarchy Zine Series #2, Capitalistic Anarchism?), in which de Cleyre looks at the egalitarianism of competition, and the invasiveness and domination involved in Communist attempts to control economic life according to anti-competitive blueprints.

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Markets Not Capitalism (2011)

Published in November 2011 by Minor Compositions, an imprint of Autonomedia. Now available directly through this Distro. Individualist anarchists believe in mutual exchange, not economic privilege. They believe in freed markets, not capitalism. They defend a distinctive response to the … Continue reading

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Capitalistic Anarchism? (1891)

A dialogue between an individualist anarchist and a communist anarchist on freedom, competition, equality, and a world without rulers.