Friday, 24 August 2007

Property is theft?

Perhaps the most basic, and paradoxically the most contentious, tenet of anarchism is its opposition to private property.

In 1840, Pierre-Joseph Proudhon wrote What is Property? Or, an Inquiry into the Principle of Right and of Government. This is considered one of the most influential works of anarchist philosophy and is the origin of the rallying cry "property is theft!" In it, Proudhon poses this question;
If I were asked to answer the following question: What is slavery? and I should answer in one word, It is murder, my meaning would be understood at once. No extended argument would be required to show that the power to take from a man his thought, his will, his personality, is a power of life and death; and that to enslave a man is to kill him. Why, then, to this other question: What is property! may I not likewise answer, It is robbery, without the certainty of being misunderstood; the second proposition being no other than a transformation of the first?
With this question in mind, I would like to expand upon the distinction between "private property" and "personal possessions" I made in What I believe in. In doing so, I would like to make particular reference to the "anarcho"-capitalists of the Austrian School of Economics.

Like most anarchists, I consider "anarcho"-capitalism to be an oxymoron, as by its very nature capitalism is not anarchic. An-caps have taken the dictionary definition of anarchy as "no government" and pasted it onto their ideology, utterly forgetting that anarchism is in fact a movement of philosophy and activism, with a long history and tradition, based upon principles of libertarian socialism and opposed to all forms of hierarchy and domination, not just the state. Going further, I would even suggest that an-caps do not want to dismantle the machinery of the state, but merely privatise it.

Murray Rothbard, for an "anarcho"-capitalist, is brilliant at inadvertently demonstrating the genuine end of his movement. The dilemma he posed was this: what if a King, responding to the threat of a strong right-wing "libertarian" movement, "employ[s] a cunning stratagem," where he "proclaims his government to be dissolved, but just before doing so he arbitrarily parcels out the entire land area of his kingdom to the 'ownership' of himself and his relatives." Rather than taxes, his subjects now pay rent and he can "regulate the lives of all the people who presume to live on" his property as he wishes. A king by another name - landlord. Rothbard's next remarks highlight precisely how close the parallel is:
Now what should be the reply of the libertarian rebels to this pert challenge? If they are consistent utilitarians, they must bow to this subterfuge, and resign themselves to living under a regime no less despotic than the one they had been battling for so long. Perhaps, indeed, more despotic, for now the king and his relatives can claim for themselves the libertarians' very principle of the absolute right of private property, an absoluteness which they might not have dared to claim before.
This glaring contradiction is again demonstrated by Rothbard when he correctly identifies the state as illegitimate because it "arrogates to itself a monopoly of force… over a given area territorial area" and yet then defends private property because "[o]bviously, in a free society, Smith has the ultimate decision-making power over his own just property, Jones over his, etc." In both cases the get out clause, the only difference Rothbard can cite between the State and private property, is that the latter was acquired "justly."

So, what makes property just? According to "anarcho"-capitalists and right-"libertarians," the Homestead Principle:
Though the earth and all inferior creatures be common to all men, yet every man has a "property" in his own "person." This nobody has any right to but himself. The "labour" of his body and the "work" of his hands, we may say, are properly his. Whatsoever, then, he removes out of the state that Nature hath provided and left it in, he hath mixed his labour with it, and joined to it something that is his own, and thereby makes it his property.
Even to me, this sounds utterly reasonable. However, that is because it doesn't sound like capitalism. In the above paragraph, we have an eloquent justification for worker-ownership of the means of production, for each community holding its land in common, and for the rejection of any claims by a landlord or employer to property on which others toil. From whence, then, does he get the justification for private property in the capitalist sense of the word?

Simply, there is no requirement under the homesteading principle that a resource is in regular use for the proprietor to retain it, only that it has been transformed once through labor. After this, the propertarian may transfer ownership to someone else, discard, or rent the property with no stipulations on any further labour input. But is that not how states came into being? The concept of nationhood arose prior to the state, and it was the rise of feudalism which used the labour of those nations to develop the lord's or king's "property" (dominion). The king, lord, or baron, as the propertarian, gained property through accumulation of wealth and power and the use of such to gain dominion over a land. Yet again, Rothbard's own words speak against "anarcho"-capitalist thought:
If the State may be said to properly own its territory, then it is proper for it to make rules for everyone who presumes to live in that area. It can legitimately seize or control private property because there is no private property in its area, because it really owns the entire land surface. So long as the State permits its subjects to leave its territory, then, it can be said to act as does any other owner who sets down rules for people living on his property.
Of course, he qualified this by saying that of course the state does not "justly" own its property but both the state and the capitalist in fact acquired property by "homesteading," however he might have used the term to (falsely) differentiate "just" private property from illegitimate state property. Returning to Proudhon in 1840, we find the Homstead Principle already effectively refuted;
If the liberty of man is sacred, it is equally sacred in all individuals; that, if it needs property for its objective action, that is, for its life, the appropriation of material is equally necessary for all . . . Does it not follow that if one individual cannot prevent another . . . from appropriating an amount of material equal to his own, no more can he prevent individuals to come. ... The purchaser draws boundaries, fences himself in . . . Here, then, is a piece of land upon which, henceforth, no one has a right to step, save the proprietor and his friends . . . Let [this]. . . multiply, and soon the people . . . will have nowhere to rest, no place to shelter, no ground to till. They will die at the proprietor's door, on the edge of that property which was their birthright; and the proprietor, watching them die, will exclaim, 'So perish idlers and vagrants.'
So, although "the liberty and security of the rich do not suffer from the liberty and security of the poor; far from that, they mutually strengthen and sustain each other" we see that "the rich man’s right of property, on the contrary, has to be continually defended against the poor man’s desire for property." The very notion of private property renders, for example, travellers' camps "illegal." Nor are they the only ones who, in the propertarian system, must contest for the "legality" of their homes or die freezing in the streets / steal from and kill others to survive because they have no home. Private property, by its very definition, needs to be enforced. Whether a state or its private equivalent in protection and security companies, the private propertarian needs someone to act against trespassing - a "crime" which, as it involves no victims, no violence, no loss of safety or liberty, should not even exist.

The anarchist's argument with private property, then, is that it is exploitative, it is coercive, and it entrenches the class system whereby the few live in privilege whilst the great many face poverty and deprivation. As the writers of An Anarchist FAQ put it, "social relations between capitalists and employees can never be equal, because private ownership of the means of production gives rise to social hierarchy and relations of coercive authority and subordination."

The an-caps contend this by defining coercion as the purely overt threat or use of physical force, ignoring economic coercion and the restriction of choice through the environment of property domination. To them, then, there is no coercion in the relationship between landlord and tenant or employer and employee. Instead, they see it is a voluntary and mutually beneficial transation.

Whilst it is true that the tenant or employee does benefit from their transaction - they now have a roof over their head or a way to provide for themselves and their family - this does not mean the transaction is non-coercive. There is no equal footing in the relationship, especially when it comes to potential loss. The landlord or employer can afford to reject a potential tenant or employee - he can always find others in such an event. But the tenant or employee has no choice.

Even if it is not that one, he must submit to some landlord or employer. If not, he is left homeless or jobless. The threat is there: work or starve, rent or be without shelter. These are choices, yes, but the choice is akin to the mugger's "give me money or die," not to the ice cream vendor's "raspberry or vanilla." Likewise, it is also true that the threat is not made by the employer or landlord themselves, but the threat nonetheless remains, created by the very system of private property they operate in. Not all heads of state are despots or tyrants, and some can even have the very best of intentions, but that does not negate the fact that the system itself is one of dominion and servility. Once again, What Is Property sums up this position perfectly;
The proprietor, the robber, the hero, the sovereign — for all these titles are synonymous — imposes his will as law, and suffers neither contradiction nor control; that is, he pretends to be the legislative and the executive power at once . . . [and so] property engenders despotism . . . That is so clearly the essence of property that, to be convinced of it, one need but remember what it is, and observe what happens around him. Property is the right to use and abuse . . . if goods are property, why should not the proprietors be kings, and despotic kings — kings in proportion to their facultes bonitaires? And if each proprietor is sovereign lord within the sphere of his property, absolute king throughout his own domain, how could a government of proprietors be any thing but chaos and confusion?

On race and nationality

As a radical left-libertarian movement, anarchism is intrinsically anti-racist. Opposing hierarchy and oppression, we of course oppose the most overt form of such. The idea that any one can be superior to any other based on race, gender, sexuality, or class is antithetical to the very concept of anarchy.

But what of the more subtle aspects of race and nationality as concepts? It is my intention to discuss these topics in more depth in the main articles of this blog. However, as a useful starting point what follows is an overview of the subject.

As Murray Bookchin states in Nationalism and the "National Question", "one of the most vexing questions that the Left faces (however one may define the Left) is the role played by nationalism in social development and by popular demands for cultural identity and political sovereignty." Whilst "the Left universally scorned the civilizatory claims of imperialists," it always "regarded nationalism as an arguable issue."

For Bookchin, the key fact is this;
That specific peoples should be free to fully develop their own cultural capacities is not merely a right but a desideratum. The world would be a drab place indeed if a magnificent mosaic of different cultures does not replace the largely decultured and homogenised world created by modern capitalism.
However, nationalists will often extend this to argue that that the cultures of different national and ethnic groups are incompatible and must be preserved as they are. Ironically, this is also the basis for the whole idea of multiculturalism. The difference is that, where nationalism would have these separate cultures "preserved" by putting clearly defined borders between them, multiculturalism argues that different cultures can exist side by side to create a richer "diversity" whilst still "preserving" them as separate identities. Essentially, multiculturalism is nationalism in microcosm, though presented as "positive" and "liberal."

As Bookchin points out, anarchists "advanced humanistic, basically ethical reasons for opposing the nation-states that fostered nationalism" recognising that "national distinctions tended to lead to state formation and to subvert the unity of humanity, to parochialize society, and to foster cultural particularities rather than universality of the human condition."

However, a distinction must be drawn between cultural freedom and cultural separatism. Errico Malatesta made the point that states are not "homogeneous ethnographic units, each having its proper interests, aspirations, and mission, in opposition to the interests, aspirations, and mission of rival units. This may be true relatively, as long as the oppressed, and chiefly the workers, have no self-consciousness, fail to recognise the injustice of their inferior position, and make themselves the docile tools of the oppressors." In such a case, it is "the dominating class only that counts" and, "owning to its desire to conserve and to enlarge its power," it "may excite racial ambitions and hatred, and send its nation, its flock, against 'foreign' countries, with a view to releasing them from their present oppressors, and submitting them to its own political and economical domination." Thus anarchists have "always fought against patriotism, which is a survival of the past, and serves well the interests of the oppressors."

This is because, as Rudolf Rocker argues, the "nation is not the cause, but the result of the state. It is the state that creates the nation, not the nation the state." And it is the ruling class whom this concept of "nation" benefits;
[W]e must not forget that we are always dealing with the organised selfishness of privileged minorities which hide behind the skirts of the nation, hide behind the credulity of the masses [when discussing Nationalism]. We speak of national interests, national capital, national spheres of interest, national honour, and national spirit; but we forget that behind all this there are hidden merely the selfish interests of power-loving politicians and money-loving business men for whom the nation is a convenient cover to hide their personal greed and their schemes for political power from the eyes of the world.
Nationalism, then, "has never been anything but the political religion of the modern state" which exists to reinforce the state by acquiring the loyalty of those who share linguistic, ethnic, and cultural affinities. These affinities are not always natural, of course, because nationalistic movements have often created them with centralised education that forces an "official" language upon the people and suppresses cultural differences that already existed - indigenously - within its borders.

So what is the anarchist's alternative? As already stated, we need to recognise the unique and diverse cultures of those peoples who, as Rocker observes, have "existed long before the state put in its appearance" and who should be allowed to "develop without the assistance of the state," as such "interferes by violence with their life and forces it into patterns which it has not known before" making them part of "a whole array of different peoples and groups of peoples who have by more or less violent means been pressed together into the frame of a common state." Hence, autonomy and freedom is vital to avoid people being forcibly homogenised either by the multiculturalists or by the nationalists.

Look at any group of individuals, and you will find a whole spectrum of contrasting and complimentary cultural loyalties that define their identity. Race, personal religious beliefs, religious heritage, nationality, ancestry, skin colour, gender, sexuality, current social class, class background, even things such as subcultural affiliations (punk, goth, hip hop, etc). Every single person has a multitude of both cultural commonalities and cultural differences with people around them, even with their own families, and between who they are now and where they come from. This is not only natural, it is an essential part of our ongoing evolution both as a species and culturally. Yet the nationalistic ethos treats people not as unique individuals but, to cite George Orwell, as though they "can be classified like insects and that whole blocks of millions or tens of millions of people can be confidently labelled ‘good’ or ‘bad’."

For anarchists, the response is not multiculturalism but the more nuanced idea of "polyculturalism;"
Multiculturalism focuses too much on "cultures" having autonomy, resources, and so on. I would say a polycultural outlook puts the focus on people and on whole societies. Polyculturalism recognizes that a single person holds multiple identities, multiple allegiances and affinities. We speak different cultural 'languages', and we can change. And to go from the individual to the society, polyculturalism recognizes that cultures overlap, they change, they evolve over time. They cross-fertilize, and all societies are in a permanent state of flux, with all kinds of often very creative exchanges and interactions happening.

So if a multiculturalist says that a society should allow all cultures to develop autonomously, a polyculturalist says fine. But the "wider society" has a culture of its own, and that culture is one that everyone would have to relate to. It is in this shared space where people of different cultures interact that the basis for solidarity can be built. So in addition to having cultural autonomy, it would be important that the shared space be representative of everyone, and be based on things that are universal (and I believe there are some universals). No one is going to live sealed off in a single culture. There is just no such thing -and there probably never was.

Likewise if a nationalist says that you should owe your primary loyalty and cultural affiliation to the nation, a polyculturalist says no, there are many loyalties and affiliations, that overlap and merge and change.
But such is not possible within rigid hierarchies of any kind, as with these come the same problems as the rigid hierarchy of the state. As long as the masses are stuck at the bottom of such a hierarchy, their individuality and their cultural evolution suppressed, then such local cultures cannot flourish. That is why, to return to the writings of Malatesta, anarchists seek "the end of all oppression and of all exploitation," and why our goal is "to awaken a consciousness of the antagonism of interests between dominators and dominated, between exploiters and workers, and to develop the class struggle inside each country, and the solidarity among all workers across the frontiers, as against any prejudice and any passion of either race or nationality."

What is crime?

Emma Goldman once said that a society gets the crime that it deserves. It is not surprising, therefore, that in our society - where property rights are considered a central guiding principle of law - that 90 percent of crime is currently motivated by evils stemming from private property such as poverty, homelessness, unemployment, and alienation. Nor that between 1979 and 1992, when Britain was governed by a government firmly comitted to the free market the crime rate more than doubled, exceeding the 5 million mark in 1992, thanks to the social disruption, atomisation of individuals, and increased poverty caused by unregulated capitalism.

So, if we accept the principle that crime does not stem from “human nature,” or the “evil gene,” and is in fact determined by root causes in society, and that by tackling the underlying causes of such problems we make 90% of crime redundant, what do we have left? What is the remaining 10%?

In my opinion, that remaining 10% all boils down to one thing - removing the liberty of others. This may vary in method and extremity (such as personal violence or incitement to such, sexual assault, enslavement, oppression, or murder) but the underlying wrong remains the same. All other “crimes,” such as drugs, are not crimes at all but syptomatic in the victims of the single crime I have mentioned above. Eric Fromm puts this better than I can:
It would seem that the amount of destructiveness to be found in individuals is proportionate to the amount to which expansiveness of life is curtailed. By this we do not refer to individual frustrations of this or that instinctive desire but to the thwarting of the whole of life, the blockage of spontaneity of the growth and expression of man’s sensuous, emotional, and intellectual capacities. Life has an inner dynamism of its own; it tends to grow, to be expressed, to be lived . . . the drive for life and the drive for destruction are not mutually interdependent factors but are in a reversed interdependence. The more the drive towards life is thwarted, the stronger is the drive towards destruction; the more life is realised, the less is the strength of destructiveness. Destructiveness is the outcome of unlived life. Those individual and social conditions that make for suppression of life produce the passion for destruction that forms, so to speak, the reservoir from which particular hostile tendencies — either against others or against oneself — are nourished.
So, how do we deal with it? One thing is for sure - police and law enforcement are not the answer. They are a part of the problem. Therefore this problem should not be entrusted, as it is today, to a special, official body because, as Peter Kropotkin said, “when we imagine that we have made great advances in introducing, for instance, the jury [or the police], all we have done is to return to the institutions of the so-called ‘barbarians’ after having changed it to the advantage of the ruling classes.”

What, then, is the solution? Who shall be in charge of justice if not the police? Simple: the people. There is a widevariety of debate as to the specifics wihin anarchist circles but, as Errico Malatesta suggested, “when differences were to arise between men, would not arbitration voluntarily accepted, or pressure of public opinion, be perhaps more likely to establish where the right lies than through an irresponsible magistrate which has the right to adjudicate on everything and everybody and is inevitably incompetent and therefore unjust?”

Thoughts on freedom of speech

There are two arguments in favour of absolute freedom of speech: the principled argument, and the pragmatic one.

The principled argument is that if, like John Milton, we are to demand “the liberty to know, to utter, and to argue freely according to conscience, above all liberties,” then it is obvious that any limitations on speech begin to erode that liberty. To be able to set such limits on speech, then one must be in a position of authority and power. Even disregarding the anarchist stance that any authority which cannot bear a strong burden of proof is illegitimate, we are still left with the fact that anybody in power is, above all else, guided by a need to preserve that power. Thus, if they are willing to limit what you can say on seemingly reasonable grounds - for example, hate speech - then it will not be too long before they extend these limits.

If we are to try and censure that which is hateful or offensive, then an obvious question arises: who is left to decide what is hateful and offensive? What safeguards do we have against these definitions encroaching too far? Quite simply, we have none, as the existence of such “crimes” as treason and blasphemy demonstrate. It is not too hard to imagine, or indeed to see in the form of today’s “anti-terror” legislation, the very notion of dissent against those with power becoming a crime. As George Washington said, “if the freedom of speech is taken away then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter.”

The most elegant summation of the principle of absolute free speech was made by Charles Bradlaugh:
Without free speech no search for truth is possible… no discovery of truth is useful… Better a thousandfold abuse of free speech than denial of free speech. The abuse dies in a day, but the denial slays the life of the people, and entombs the hope of the race.
The more pragmatic argument for absolute freedom of speech is quite simple: open and honest debate from all sides is a far more effective way of promoting good ideas and destroying bad ideas than censorship and oppression.

Too often, those who stand in opposition to bad ideas - be it fascism, racism, religious extremism, or anything else - talk about the need to deny such groups the “oxygen of publicity.” History and experience have shown, however, that publicity is only “oxygen” for good ideas that work to the benefit of people and society. To bad ideas, those that work to the detriment of liberty and progress, public exposure serves only as “poison.” They thrive underground, benefiting from their status as “martyrs” to censorship and “totalitarianism,” attracting to their cause so many who - following a human instinct to support that which is censored - would not be on their side if they truly knew the sordid details of what they are supporting.

In a world with truly free speech, however, you will encounter opinions you deem offensive to your view of the world. Because, as Salman Rushdie rightly notes, “without the freedom to offend, it [freedom of expression] ceases to exist.” Upon encountering such offence, it is your duty - and nobody elses - to oppose it; not with censorship, but with words of your own.

Any opinion that cannot withstand dissent and dissection is not worth hearing and will quickly be destroyed by reason. This is a basic principle of the Enlightenment, and an invisible regulator of discussion that makes censorship unnessecary and harmful.

Noam Chomsky has stated that “if you do not believe in freedom of speech for those you despise, then you don’t believe in it at all.” This is demonstrably true, and it is the reason why those who truly believe in free speech and freedom of conscience should repeat - even to the vilest enemy who wishes them dead - Voltaire’s maxim that “I may disagree with what you have to say, but I shall defend, to the death, your right to say it.”

Resistance and violence

There has long been a broad debate within resistance movements over the use of violence. The best example of such is within the Civil Rights Movement, and the schizm between the followers of Martin Luther King and of Malcolm X's Nation of Islam. It's an important debate, and one which must continue so that we are never complacent and so that the lines drawn are valid to ourselves rather than arbitrary.

Within anarchism, too, this issue is an important one. The most obvious reason for this is that anarchism is, in the popular imagination and the stories spun by the state and media, synonymous with terrorism. It is a common perception, indeed one that I learned in history at secondary school, that the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, which catalysed the start of the Great War, was committed by an anarchist. In fact, both Gavrilo Princip and The Black Hand organisation to which he belonged were Serbian nationalists. Similar false attachments to terrorism have followed anarchism through the twentieth century, the connection more easily made after the publication f the ridiculous Anarchist Cookbook.

However, anarchist theory and anarchists in general reject terrorism as a means to achieve their goals. According to Mikhail Bakunin "we wish not to kill persons, but to abolish status and its perquisites" and anarchism "does not mean the death of the individuals who make up the bourgeoisie, but the death of the bourgeoisie as a political and social entity economically distinct from the working class." An anarchist pamphlet from 1979, You Can't Blow Up a Social Relationship spells out the anarchist position in quite unequivocal terms:
You can't blow up a social relationship. The total collapse of this society would provide no guarantee about what would replace it. Unless a majority of people had the ideas and organization sufficient for creation of an alternative society, we would see the old world reassert itself because it is what people would be used to, what they believed in, what existed unchallenged in their own personalities.

Proponants of terrorism and guerrillaism are to be opposed because their actions are vangaurdist and authoritarian, because their ideas are wrong or unrelated to the results of their actions, because killing cannot be justified, and finally because their actions produce either repression with nothing in return or an authoritarian regime.
Anarchism did go through a well-known phase of "Propaganda of the Deed," wherein important political figures were assassinated, but this was widely recognised as counter-productive. Peter Kropotkin acknowledged that this "spate of terrorist acts" only succeeded in motivating "the authorities into taking repressive action against the movement" and that they were "not in his view consistent with the anarchist ideal and did little or nothing to promote popular revolt."

What of violence that is not terrorism, though? Where do anarchists stand in the choice between non-violent civil disobedience and violent resistance to authority? Quite simply, anarchists are in favour of direct action. Rudolph Rocker defined this as "every method of immediate warfare by the workers against their economic and political oppressors. Among these the outstanding are: the strike, in all its graduations from the simple wage struggle to the general strike; the boycott; sabotage in all its countless forms; anti-militarist propaganda, and in particularly critical cases,... armed resistance of the people for the protection of life and liberty."

Anarchists are not against reforms, as any and every improvement in the lives and freedoms of the working classes is indeed welcome, but we reject reformism, the notion that reform alone can shape society for the better. Ultimately, it is not the beneficience of the rulers but the activism of the people that will bring about the society we want to see. This is what direct action is all about, and it is neither exclusively violent nor exclusively non-violent, as Voltairine De Cleyre explained;
Every person who ever thought he had a right to assert, and went boldly and asserted it, himself, or jointly with others that shared his convictions, was a direct actionist. Some thirty years ago I recall that the Salvation Army was vigorously practicing direct action in the maintenance of the freedom of its members to speak, assemble, and pray. Over and over they were arrested, fined, and imprisoned; but they kept right on singing, praying, and marching, till they finally compelled their persecutors to let them alone. The Industrial Workers [of the World] are now conducting the same fight, and have, in a number of cases, compelled the officials to let them alone by the same direct tactics.

Every person who ever had a plan to do anything, and went and did it, or who laid his plan before others, and won their co-operation to do it with him, without going to external authorities to please do the thing for them, was a direct actionist. All co-operative experiments are essentially direct action.

Every person who ever in his life had a difference with anyone to settle, and went straight to the other persons involved to settle it, either by a peaceable plan or otherwise, was a direct actionist. Examples of such action are strikes and boycotts; many persons will recall the action of the housewives of New York who boycotted the butchers, and lowered the price of meat; at the present moment a butter boycott seems looming up, as a direct reply to the price-makers for butter.

These actions are generally not due to any one's reasoning overmuch on the respective merits of directness or indirectness, but are the spontaneous retorts of those who feel oppressed by a situation. In other words, all people are, most of the time, believers in the principle of direct action, and practicers of it.
So, anarchists do not utterly eschew violence. Indeed, it can be utterly necessary for self- and community-defence. The fight against fascism, most notably General Franco in revolutionary Spain or organised neo-Nazis in modern Russia, is testament to this. But this is far from the full extent of our arsenal. Though violence (or, more accurately, resistance against state violence) can ignite the passion of rebellion, it cannot shape a revolution. Alexander Berkman, in his ABC of Anarchism ties up this thought eloquently;
We know that revolution begins with street disturbances and outbreaks; it is the initial phase which involves force and violence. But that is merely the spectacular prologue of the real revolution. The age long misery and indignity suffered by the masses burst into disorder and tumult, the humiliation and injustice meekly borne for decades find vents in facts of fury and destruction. That is inevitable, and it is solely the master class which is responsible for this preliminary character of revolution. For it is even more true socially than individually that 'whoever sows the wind will reap the whirlwind;' the greater the oppression and wretchedness to which the masses had been made to submit, the fiercer the rage [of] the social storm. All history proves it . . .

Why I am an atheist

I see no logical or rational reason to believe in any kind of creator deity. Not only is there no solid evidence of any kind to support the existence of God (faith is, essentially, belief in spite of a complete absence of evidence) but the existence of an omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent designer raises more questions that it answers.

For me, the clincher is this: if it is highly improbable that our universe, consisting of countless stars and planets in at least 100 billion galaxies and infinitely expanding, came to be from nothing (or more accurately from the point-singularity event we call the Big Bang), how much more improbable is the supremely complex being supposed to have designed it? The existence of a God at the Beginning begs the question “who created God?” which leads us to an infinite regress that is inescapable.

That initial spark of creation (which the Large Hadron Collider attempts to emulate) was a single, simple event that had to only happen once. One-off events are far more probable if simple than if complex, tipping the odds distinctly against God who (to use the term of “Intelligent Design Theorists”) is of an irreducible complexity almost beyond comprehension. Darwinian natural selection shows us how complex processes and beings can gradually emerge from simplicity, and leads us to seek out simplicity in origins, thereby near enough ruling out God.

Although we cannot completely disprove God’s existence, this is irrelevant as we can likewise not disprove Thor, Zeus, Santa, the Easter Bunny, or any other creation of myth/fiction. We can, however, judge that his existence is so improbable that he almost certainly does not exist. We do not “know” there is no God as Carl Jung “knows” there is one, as atheism is not a faith position, but the shades of probability and reason lead us to lean strongly towards that position.