Frank Lloyd Wright

On Anarchy

(1951)

 



Note

The great architect dicovered, at a certain point in his life, that he was, indeed, an anarchist. And from what we read here he was really an anarchist who had fully understood the message contained in the anarchist conception.

 


 

I have never known what my real political complexion was. I have suspected myself of being what is called an anarchist, but I was never really quite sure until I have been reading here the thought and something of the deeds of the founder of American anarchy. And I find that this is really what I am, this is really what I believe. You see, the word anarchy has been like most other words, sold down the commercial river and made into a horror by people who own property and who are afraid of its being taken away from them. So an anarchist has got to mean a man who will kill, burn, destroy, tear down governments, murder women and little children.

Now here [points to book] you see all sorts of distressing topics like the origin of the national debt, for instance, which it isn't so pleasant to read about. Another topic that would be interesting was the revolution of 1688 - the death of Charles II. This isn't the thing at all. Where is my little red book? lt is the same shape and size. I guess the great liberals are all out of fashion, such as Edmund Burke. l'll tell you a little more about Josiah Warren, who was the first great anarchist.

Warren believed anarchy could be accomplished by way of equitable commerce, by building equity villages and actually performing. He would never proselytize. They could never get his feet on a platform. But if people would come around and sit with him, he would always talk to them. And he did his propaganda in that simple way, and by performance. He was greatly against talk, because he believed that if talk could be cut off from the human animal, a great many things would be possible that are now impossible just because we talk so much. That is the kind of man he was.

He founded stores upon the simple principle that a man who had anything to sell or had his labor to sell - which is really what he has and what he is - if he can dispose of it at what it costs, that is all he has any right to ask. That when you go beyond that what you have to sell costs you, then you're on dangerous ground and you're privateering. That is the exact opposite of the principle on which we now live and work. So he issued labor notes, and out at his store he would let you have any commodity that you desired, provided that you'd sign a note. If you were a plasterer, for example, to give him so many hours plastering. There was your currency. It was founded upon the actual ability of the individuals composing a neighborhood to produce. So instead of having a gold standard, he instituted the actuality of the labor standard. Well, of course that is anarchy. That is anarchy so far as our present system goes. And so it was in all these principles and things which he advocated.

There was this element of basic simplicity, relating so called cost to actual value of performance. And so it went morally the same way. That thing to him was immoral which was founded upon the greed or covetousness. Jesus was the great anarchist, and when he said the Kingdom of God is within you, he made the great, basic anarchic statement. If the Kingdom of God is within you, it is not a government. It is not anything outside of you. It is not anything men can come together and agree upon because they desire police protection or something of that sort. So this principle of anarchy and anarchism is profound. And it does lie at the root of all moral conduct, of all basic human life, regardless of its institutions. As Jesus himself said, he didn't want any institution - he didn't want a church, for instance. He refused to consider the possibility of churches or organizations. "Where the few are gathered together in my name, there is my church."

So it is with the principle of anarchy, with Josiah Warren's principle in everything he did and everything he thought and the way he lived his life. He was an extremely ingenious man. And he was very fond of printing, because he believed that the thoughts which people talked out and talked about and talked over so much should be printed, committed to the printed page. There they would be more effective, and people would have a little more reliability in their systems when they wrote than when they talked. I think that was a mistake. But he was a great printer, and he gave us the press which today is the whole press, that is to say, the cylinder press, which would do sixty-five impressions instead of six or seven a minute. Now when he did that, the man who didn't like talk put a stream of literature in the world that the world never saw the like of before. He was very ingenious and very courageous and truly individual.

Naturally the whole basis, the norm, of his society would be what? Not committees, not associations, not institutions, nothing of that sort. It would be simply and inevitably, the individual, as an individual. You see, anarchy is the great championship of the individual, of his rights, of his responsibilities - which is the terrible part of it, you see. When you assume the rights of the individual, you cannot assume a right without a responsibility. And that's what he made so clear. That anarchism is the end of irresponsibility; it is the end of license.

Anarchy is the beginning of the era of strict individual responsibility. How different it is from the way that it is usually thought of! Well, the difficulty with it is the difficulty we have found with democracy. We can talk democracy and we haven't got it. And we aren't likely ever to get near it as we're going, because we haven't got the individual development necessary to assume the responsibilities that go with it. The great lesson that you learn from this little book that I have been reading is that, in true anarchy, there is no getting away from your individual responsibility - not only to yourself, but to everyone. Anarchy is also the capacity in yourself to allow that right to others, even though they differ from you. And it is this ability to hold your own at the same time that you allow other people to hold their own that constitutes the true individual.

You see how different that is from our concept of the party man. The party man to Josiah Warren would be the devil himself. Because there can be no party man when every man is determined that, in his own soul, every man shall have the same right that he has to his own opinion, to his own way of life, and all that. That is why the anarchistic faith is so far beyond the present circumstances. So far beyond the present circumstances that it is considered treason, even to talk about it in the face of institutions. Because this faith in the individual would reduce all institutions to a mere coming together, as we do here, to pursue a common course and common cause in friendship and tolerance - each of the other. Now a high ideal of that sort has crucified a great many men, and I guess nearly all the great ones since time began have pursued that ideal in some form of policy.

Communism is the antithesis of anarchy. And of course, communism is for child-like individuals. And institutions are for incomplete personalities who have not arrived at individuality. No individuality, no anarchy, you see. So, if you would take count among those people that you know, who you would consider capable of this self-control, of this mastery over self and circumstance which constitutes the basis of the anarchistic faith, you would see how far away it is. But it is a great ideal to hold in your minds and hearts, especially if you are architects. If you are architects, you are basic, and all that is required of you is basic in character. You must have integrity, you must have quality as an individual, you must have this innate power, in some primitive form, that can become stronger and stronger.

 

(This text has been suggested by Matthew Skjonsberg)

 


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