Free citizens who stand up against tyranny have nothing against those in power. They do nothing to them. They fight for a more just order, for their right to life, to freedom, peace and security. When nothing else helps, that is the message of Thomas More’s novel “Utopia”, then it helps to do things radically differently. (1) For the humanist scholar, the small island state was a counter-model to the decaying society of England at the time.
For the author, a liberal social order with free people is the counter-model to the present totalitarian form of rule of unfreedom, violence and exploitation. This vision of the future, for which every full-minded and unblinded citizen should fight, was already held by some mature people like Peter Kropotkin and other liberal socialists more than 100 years ago. However, since they had only anticipated and not yet recognised the emotional reactions of human beings and were also vehemently opposed by authoritarian-minded contemporaries, they were unable to put their progressive ideas into practice. Thus, man is still not free today.
Gottfried Keller: Step outside the front door yourself and see what is available!
Every individual is called upon to make his or her contribution to solving the pressing problems of our time. And of course we are able to do so if we are aware that it depends on each and every one of us. Why not muster the courage to use our own minds and not repress the monstrosities of today, but to see them and stand up against them – intellectually, emotionally, politically. Overcome the inertia of the heart and act! Against all odds, muster the determination to seek the truth and thereby preserve our dignity as human beings and create a future worth living for ourselves and our children.
The Swiss poet and novelist Gottfried Keller (1819-1890) put it this way:
“No government and no battalions (…) are able to protect law and freedom where the citizen is unable to step outside the front door himself and see what is available.” (Zurich Novellen)
Albert Camus: Every human being has a more or less large sphere of influence
Shortly after the outbreak of the Second World War, the Nobel Prize winner for literature Albert Camus (1913-1960), one of the most important intellectuals of the 20th century, commented in a “Letter to a Desperate Man” on the role of the individual in a situation perceived as hopeless. (2) These are thoughts that document and deeply touch Camus’s relevance to our own day.
The useful task that, in Camus’ view, the person seeking advice still has to fulfil after the outbreak of the Great War is also a task for every individual in our present time, the worldwide war of the ruling clique against us citizens:
“You write to me that this war depresses you, that you would be ready to die, but that you cannot bear this worldwide stupidity, this bloodthirsty cowardice and this criminal naivety that still believes human problems can be solved with blood. I read your lines and I understand you. I understand you, but I can no longer follow you when you make a rule of life out of this despair and want to retreat behind your disgust because everything is useless. For despair is a feeling and not a state. You cannot remain in it. And the feeling must give way to a clear realisation of things.” (3)
“(…) First of all, you must ask yourself whether you have really done everything to prevent this war. (…) But I am sure that you did not do everything that was necessary, any more than any of us. You were not able to prevent it? No, that’s not true. This war was not inevitable, you know that. (…) There is still a useful task to be done.” (4)
“You have a task, do not doubt it. Every person has a more or less large sphere of influence. He owes it to his shortcomings as well as to his advantages. But be that as it may, it is there and it can be used immediately. Do not drive anyone to riot. You have to be sparing with the blood and freedom of others. But you can convince ten, twenty, thirty people that this war was neither inevitable nor is it, that all means have not yet been tried to stop it, that it must be said, written if possible, shouted out if necessary! These ten or thirty people will spread the word to ten others, who will in turn spread it. If inertia holds you back, well then, start all over again with others.”
In conclusion, Camus encourages the advice-seeker not to despair of history, in which the individual is capable of everything:
“Individuals are what send us to our deaths today. Why should other individuals not succeed in giving peace to the world? Only one must begin without thinking of such great goals. Remember that war is waged as much with the enthusiasm of those who want it as with the despair of those who reject it with all the strength of their souls.” (5)
“The International”: To the final battle!
“The Internationale” is the world-famous struggle song of the socialist workers’ movement, whose call to the last stand was issued to the international workers’ movement after the violent suppression of the Paris Commune in May 1871. (6) The German version of the original French text by Emil Luckhard (1910) reads:
“Wake up, damned of this earth, who are still forced to starve! (…) Army of slaves, wake up! (…) Peoples, hear the signals! To the final battle! (…) No higher being, no god, no emperor, no tribune can save us! To deliver us from misery, that we can only do ourselves!”
After the revolt, let the people go free!
Karl Marx (1818-1883) – drawing on Ludwig Feuerbach (1804-1872) – argued that man’s consciousness is shaped by social conditions and thus brought man back to earth. His materialist conception of history was a tremendous intrusion into the emotional world of man. Marx and some liberal socialists began to see man correctly – and this man began to deal with himself. Before that, the tendency prevailed in schools and universities that man’s soul merely undergoes a trial here in this world and that eternal life only begins in heaven.
Since religion is associated with fear and terror, man believes as long as he is afraid. In the materialistic view of history, belief in gods and supernatural beings ceases. When man has more knowledge about nature and more certainty, he becomes calmer and no longer has this emotional reaction. He is a different person: he is not afraid of life, of starvation or of exploitation; he has time to develop, to read, to learn scientific knowledge and to think about the world.
The Russian anarchist, geographer and writer Prince Peter Kropotkin (1842-1921) observed both nature and natural beings and related his findings to human beings. In his book “Mutual Aid in the Animal and Human World”, Kropotkin writes that in nature and society there is by no means only a struggle of all against all (social Darwinism), but that the principle of “mutual aid” also prevails. Those living beings that implement this principle would survive more successfully.
Scientific depth psychology is based on these findings. According to this, man is a naturally social being, oriented towards the community of his fellow human beings. He also has a natural inclination towards good, towards the knowledge of truth and towards community life. We do not have to be afraid of this human being. He wants to live in freedom and peace, without violence and war – just like all of us.
Leading man to freedom!
The freedom that is to be (re)given to man, because it is his by nature, is of course not the freedom to exploit the other man and to plunder his hard-earned savings. This is the “freedom” that the ruling clique in capitalism means and that makes man involuntarily corrupt. To give man freedom is to give him the right to a decent life, to justice, security and tranquillity.
This principle of freedom means that every working person knows, should he no longer be able to work for reasons of old age or illness, that he will not then be dismissed, but can continue to live just as before: he will continue to receive his last wage, keep his flat and not have to beg for soup in the communal kitchen or at the church. If he should die unexpectedly because of an accident, his family will continue to be provided for and his children can attend a good school.
In a free society, he not only has security but also peace of mind. No so-called authority will rise to rule over him; there will be no violence, no war, no military service, no hardship, no lunatic asylum, no prisons. External freedom will also lead to internal freedom: Man will have a different consciousness, a different thinking, a different relationship with his fellow man, a different feeling towards the dear God.
How do we set up the new social order?
Will we again establish a dictatorship and force the human being? Or will we believe in man, associate ourselves with him, empathise with him, appeal to him? He wants to live well with his children and have a roof over his head. This human being will cooperate in a free society because this corresponds to his nature. We do not have to be afraid of him. We do not have to see any danger in freedom either. If someone is not willing or able to live in a community, then he will be taken along by the others. The sick will be dealt with in the same way; they will not be a nuisance. On the contrary, in a free society they will get well.
Let us leave man free and demand nothing of him! He will gladly accept this and behave differently because he finds a different social situation. Man can change, Marx said – and depth psychology confirms this. He should also be given the same freedom. The churches will not be closed like the Bolsheviks did in Russia, because that hurts people deep inside, in their faith, in their dependence, in their fear. They then feel attacked in their minds, in their souls, and are called upon to fight against it. One must not take religion away from people, but leave them free to pray. It is not the state that decides, but the individual and the community. In the present principle of violence and authority, man cannot develop.
Some mature people who have had a laid table have guessed that the prevailing capitalist system is not right. How many beneficiaries there are in this system who do not contribute to the maintenance of the community. It was Peter Kropotkin, Mikhail Bakunin and a few more rich people who have had the opportunity to educate and research. But they would not allow the liberal socialists to strive for a community in which free association prevailed, in which each person decided which path to choose, with whom to associate and how to live. That is why they were bitterly opposed.
In a free society, the consciousness of man changes
Karl Marx was right: when man has the security of his life, he thinks differently. He has different thoughts, different feelings and a different relationship to his fellow man.
Man becomes different when he has the table laid. He has different feelings than the one who lives in insecurity, is exploited, is poor, is afraid of hail and lightning that God will send him if he does not pray enough. Afraid that the good Lord will set his house on fire or send hail and smash the grain so that he starves. In his whole emotional life and thinking he is taken up by this.
If we establish a society where man has his right to life, then man has a different consciousness.
Fear in capitalism shapes the human being. Exploiters and exploited are equally poor. The church maintains this system with miracle men who are in relationship with the dear God and order everything. If we give up the capitalist system and form a community where this is not an issue, then there are no exploiters, no capitalists, no wars, no fear. Then a different human being develops.
Then there is no fear of God’s punishment and hell and therefore no religion. The person has a different consciousness, thinks for himself, trusts in his own powers, checks by experience, has different thoughts and feelings.
The sick person becomes healthy through a different social system and has a fear-free relationship with his fellow human being. He can show solidarity with him, join him and put himself on an equal footing with him. Man can develop and changes his behaviour, he no longer becomes corrupt as in the capitalist system. He educates himself and learns to read and write. He no longer waits for paradise in heaven, but wants it on earth; he decides for himself which way he will go.
In Russia, in Cuba and in the former Yugoslavia with a once very high illiteracy rate, the old people have learned to read and write. They did not have paper yet, so they practised the letters in the snow or sand.