Laurance Labadie was the last true exponent of nineteenth-century Tuckerite anarchism.
Laurance Labadie was born in Detroit, in the summer of 1898, the son of the famously affable anarchist Joseph A. Labadie. Jo, as he was called, neither pressed anarchism on his children nor seems to have done very much pressing or parenting at all, preferring to allow the Labadie brood space to learn and grow on their own terms. That they, to his disappointment, never found much happiness or success suggests, perhaps, that the anarchist’s aversion to hierarchical relationships is ill-suited to the business of raising children into content and independent adults. Though certainly independent of thought and action, Joseph’s son Laurance was anything but content. Even to those who loved him and considered him family, the younger Labadie did not inherit his father’s easy, obliging way. In her book All-American Anarchist: Joseph A. Labadie and the Labor Movement, Laurance’s niece, Carlotta Anderson, writes that he “bitterly disappointed both parents,” never marrying or achieving career or financial success.
Laurance was, by all accounts, a classic curmudgeon, quick to find fault and disinclined to suffer fools gladly. Marked by a deep and pronounced contempt for his fellow man, Labadie’s political writings reflect his apparently lifelong feelings of depression and detachment. Aspects of Arthur Schopenhauer’s thought seem to have penetrated Labadie’s psyche rather deeply. Schopenhauer’s work emphasizes the human will, its arbitrariness and irrationality, from which came Labadie’s conclusion that individual lives and the projects attached thereto are pointless. Schopenhauer’s The World as Will and Representation brought to Labadie’s attention the rather “precarious position,” in Schopenhauer’s words, of being stranded “on one of those numberless spheres freely floating in boundless space.” Labadie wondered how human beings, products of a “moldy film” budding on one of these many planets, could have any significance at all, any cosmic importance. Labadie regularly returned to this, the nagging feeling that nothing matters or could matter.
When historian Paul Avrich interviewed him just months prior to his death, holed up in a disheveled stone house with only a stove for heat, Labadie referred to himself as a recluse and reiterated his lack of faith in the prospects for liberty and humanity. Despondent to the last, Labadie told Avrich that “anarchism is a pipe-dream,” unattainable for a human animal that is, in Labadie’s estimation, merely “an animated alimentary canal,” different “from the worm only by the appendages which have developed on him.”
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