I intend to start a new series of posts called Reading Notes where I publish notes, excerpts, and thoughts on what I’m currently reading. My goals are to better document my notes and thoughts on what I’m reading for my future self, and give myself a reason to write more blog posts (in general, but also more non-technical ones). I also hope to inspire you, dear reader, to read some of these books and essays.

Today’s reading is The Individual, Society and the State, by Emma Goldman. You can find the full essay here, at The Anarchist Library.

The minds of men are in confusion, for the very foundations of our civilization seem to be tottering. People are losing faith in the existing institutions, and the more intelligent realize that capitalist industrialism is defeating the very purpose it is supposed to serve.

The world is at a loss for a way out. Parliamentarism and democracy are on the decline. Salvation is being sought in Fascism and other forms of “strong” government.

The struggle of opposing ideas now going on in the world involves social problems urgently demanding a solution. The welfare of the individual and the fate of human society depend on the right answer to those questions. The crisis, unemployment, war, disarmament, international relations, etc., are among those problems.

These opening paragraphs are remarkably prescient. Goldman wrote this in 1940. If she had mentioned global warming, I would have assumed this was written today. How far have we actually come almost 80 years later in terms of addressing the atrocities of capitalism? Not very.

In other words, shall we cure the evils of democracy by more democracy, or shall we cut the Gordian knot of popular government with the sword of dictatorship?

My answer is neither the one nor the other. I am against dictatorship and Fascism as I am opposed to parliamentary regimes and so-called political democracy.

As I’ve written before, the true problems we are facing are not just failures of the system, but the system itself. Our capitalist democracy could not deliver freedom and equity in 1940, it cannot now, nor will it in the future.