J.A. Andrews — What Is Communism?

Portrait of J.A. AndrewsWe neglected to set a reading at the last reading group, so here is one out of left field. It’s J.A. Andrews’ ‘What Is Communism?’

John Arthur ‘Jack’ Andrews (1865–1903) was born in Bendigo, Victoria. In the short biography of Andrews written by Bob James in the introduction to collection of essays, it accounts Andrews’ trial on the “trumped up charges” of sedition and his lengthy sentence of 18 months, likely for his connections to anarchists overseas and tireless propaganda. He died tragically early at the age of 37 of tuberculosis.

This essay was Andrews’ attempt to prove that the positions of Individualism and Collectivism, a tension that ultimately led to the split of the original Melbourne Anarchist Club in the late 19th Century, were in his opinion a false dichotomy. While his journey into mathematics and metaphysics might seem strange to us now, the context in which it was written make it all the more interesting. It is also notably a dilemma that still effects anarchists today! From the text:

There are only two primary views possible — the community of rights, or the division of rights by numbers. If rights are divided by numbers, the more individuals there are living the less rights each individual possesses both absolutely and in proportion to the aggregate. The primary view of Communism is therefore the basis of the genuine Individualist hypothesis. This I have endeavoured to demonstrate, along with the necessary truth of the Communist view, by an analysis of principles. and also, by an analysis of results, to prove (what necessarily follows from the acceptance of this theory) that Communism alone is the true Individualism.

Copies of What Is Communism? and Other Essays by J. A. Andrews are available from Anarres Books (the site is terribly out of date and will be updated soon!) and will be made available at the reading group for a very nominal price.

You can download the reading from here.


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