Might is Right: The philosophy of the revolutionary

Blessed are the Strong

The Duke of Westminster receives from rents , alone £3,000,000 per annum.

No, no, not a bit of it. Who can are the blame him?

Thirteen millions of people in this country are living always on the verge of starvation!

Again shame!

But why?

By all the logic of nature the former is entitled to as much as he has power to grasp, while the latter deserve no more than they are willing to fight for, ay, and to conquer for themselves.

Man has a right to live only – if he can. The mightiest beast and the meanest parasite have as much right to live – and as little.
The hungry tiger strikes down the hunter and devours him – if he can, and nobody says shame! or thinks it wrong. The maggots burrow deep into the nostrils of the hartebeaste, and we say simply “Nature is cruel.”

Yet Nature is not cruel: she knows nothing of emotions. She leaves her children to fight things out for themselves, giving them one universal law : Might is Right.

“The race is to the swift,
The battle to the strong.”

Let us be strong, then, for the weak have neither right nor portion in Nature’s economy.

The wolves in sheep’s clothing, the Christian priesthood, commonly profess to hold that man has other right to live than this right of might – this elementary right of the tiger and the maggot. Of such jealous guardians of the Rights of Man this question may be asked :

What becomes of the “Right”  to live if the means by which alone it is possible to live are in the hands of others?

Clearly in this case man cannot live by any heaven bestowed “right,” but only on sufferance, So the logic of their own ethic places the Christians in contradiction to the social system which they uphold, and whole central principle – private property in the means of life – is the very denial and negation of their fundamental belief, that God having created man, man has a “right” to live.

Logic in the Making
Far nearer to the truth of things was that London magistrate who answered the pilferer’s plea that one “must live”, with the sententious announcement: “Not necessarily”. Two words sufficed to reveal the naked truth in all its frank brutality. Capitalist society recognises no “right” to live, and the cynical lawyer gives the lie to the sycophantic priest
If man has a God-given right to live, as Christians commonly hold, then it devolves upon men to secure for themselves the means by which alone they can live, in the first place, and in the second place it sets the mark of Cain upon the brows of those who have taken “the earth and the fullness thereof” from the people.

If, on the other hand, man has but the right of might – the right of tiger and of the maggot – to live, then Westminster, with his vast rent-roll, is justified, in the face of starving millions.

If it appears strange that only the ethic of the revolutionary can justify the lords of capitalism, whilst the logical conclusion of the creed that bolsters them up in their high place on their mountain of spoils, condemns them, this is only because the first is the true ethic, both of capitalism and of the revolution it is producing  – ay, and of all life, for all time – while the second is false, a soporific, the chloroform rag in the hands of the social footpad.

However, under both philosophies we proceed to the same action – to live, by our “right” or our might – and therefore to seize all those things necessary for the fullest enjoyment of life; in the one case because common property is the first essential to living by “right”, in the other case simply because it is expedient.

Down with the Meekling!
The revolutionary requires no other justification than that of expediency. No revolutionary in history ever really did. True they have paid much lip service to Justice and other figments of the popular the mind, but that has been only because they have required the assistance of those who were to gain nothing from revolution, and who had therefore to be inspired with empty phrases and confused with humbug. But the highest sanction revolutionaries ever have required has been – opportunity.
The Socialist asks no more. Let who will grovel at the feet of Justice, or slobber over the “Natural Rights of Man” – the Socialist has no use for such meaningless vapourings. Expediency is his justification for a1l things, and opportunity finds him always is the right.

Notwithstanding the prevailing cant, Machiavelism is inherent in every “State”. Wherever a “State” exists wherever, in short, society is founded upon the subjugation of a class, there the suppression of that class follows as a matter of course, and utterly without scruple.
In the Name of Law. and Order, and of Freedom and Justice and Equality, as befits a world of commodities whose freedom of motion and equality, become nature, demands at least a fictitious freedom and equality for their owners. And in the name of Christ, too, as behoves men who must seek some higher sanction than that of commodity owners to suppress commodity owners.

Any Means that are Means
The feudal lord appeared as a different order of being to the serf. They were not commensurable in the flesh, for heaven had made one noble and the other base. But under capitalism all are commodity owners – the man who holds untold stores, and the man who has only his labour-power to that sell. As commodity owners they are stand equal. Hence suppression in the name of Equality – but not on the authority of all commodity owners: oh dear no, that would nevi-r do. Nor on the authority of some commodity owners, for that would be contrary to that beautiful capitalist ideal – the Equality of all possessors of commodities.

So Christ is their refuge and their salvation; Christ the meek and lowly submissive, who recognised “constituted ” authority in the command :  “Render unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s”.

But under all this, Might is Right. A great show of “moral suasion” as exemplified in 40,000 parsons, it is true; but for every parson there is a policeman and three bluejackets and half-a dozen soldiers – for every “man of peace” ten “dogs of war”.

Much talk of loyalty and honesty and honour. Loyalty, indeed, with an army to keep us loyal; honesty, indeed, in the thieves’ kitchen of capitalism; honour where nothing is trusted to honour!

Honour and force are contradictory terms, mutually exclusive. Capitalism has no need for the first (except as a piece of humbug): it relies upon force. Among equals honour is the voluntary observance of the rules of the game; but in present-day society we are not equals, hence honour is replaced by force.

The tradesman, in his thirst for profit, gives credit. Does he trust to honour? No. He makes a calculation based on the fact that he has all the forces of the Law behind him. Can I make him pay? is the only question he is concerned with, and he acts according to his judgment of that problem, and if, leaning upon the force of the Law, he finds it a broken reed, be has made a mistake, that is all.

The rules of the game – who made the rules of the game? Those who say we shall observe them. But if a hooligan or a footpad jumps us in the street are we slavishly careful of Marquis of Queensbury rules? Not if a brick is bandy. No, any means that are means!

The Ethic of Socialism
So with the revolutionary. He takes his stand upon the same code that has served to carry so many exploiters, to power, and which last must help the workers to their emancipation. There is no right but might. We deserve nothing but what we can get with our teeth and our claws.
Against the might of the strong few shall be put the might of the many weak ones. Before that might capitalism and private ownership will go down for ever. Then, when society founded upon common property in the means of life, has become one harmonious whole, the brutal dictum, might is right, will hold good only between the social organism and external nature, while between man and man a new ethic will arise – or rather the old ethic of gentile society under a new form – that only the social good is right.


(Socialist Standard, February 1911)

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