Why not embrace the advocacy of violence of the Communists throughout? (2)
Intelligible enough as a political measure, Anarchism halts as a system of philosophy as long as it includes violence at all. To people who think government exists to suppress robbery, it is sufficient to point out that government exists by robbery, and to enlarge upon the advantages that might be expected to follow the establishment of freedom of membership in political societies. (3)
But all this involves no question as to what constitutes invasion. It is simply stated that each shall take such measures as he prefers to protect himself, and that each shall determine for himself what protection is. If, however, we go further, and lay down a formula, however defensible the formula may be ; and say that we will by violence enforce that formula, whether it be the formula of equal liberty or any other formula, I must maintain that the action is precisely parallel to the course of everybody in the past and present who have compelled others to regulate their conduct in accordance with other formulas, alleged to be moral, and held to be as irrefragable as you now hold the formula of equal liberty to be. (4)
"Do not pick people's pockets to make them pay for protection they don't want," is good enough as far as it goes.
It may perhaps be well to go no further.
But if we have to go further and ask, What is protection? or, What is invasion? the complement of protection, the only reply you can give is that invasion is infringing upon equal liberty.
Until some method is devised by which we can tell whether a given act does infringe upon equal liberty the definition is vain. (5)
For instance, in a state of liberty Mr. Yarros prints a book. You copy it. He organizes a society for the suppression of pirates and imprisons you. Your friends organize and a battle ensues.
You will doubtless say that you would not advocate violence under such circumstances to either side. I again ask. Why not?(6)
Investigate your own principles and you will find that the recognition of equal liberty rests upon the recognition of contract as supplanting violence. Although we may think it wise among cannibals to become cannibals ourselves; although when forced to it we may degrade ourselves to use violence; let us at least recognize that the state of affairs when every one shall do as he pleases can only occur when all lay aside violence and appeal only to reason. Let us at least recognize that it is for us to totally abjure violence as a principle of action; and if we at any time deem ourselves compelled to do violence let us admit that we do it under protest and not from principle. (7)
John Beverley Robinson.
(1) The chief difference between passive resistance and non-resistance is this: passive resistance is regarded by its champions as a mere policy, while non-resistance is viewed by those who favor it as a principle or universal rule. Believers in passive resistance consider it as generally more effective than active resistance, but think that there are certain cases in which the opposite is true ; believers in non-resistance consider either that it is immoral to actively resist or else that it is always unwise to do so.