No gods, no masters
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No gods, no masters is an anarchist and labour slogan. It has been in common use by anarchists in England since the late 19th century. The journal Commonweal, for instance, includes an article by John Creaghe from Sheffield in which he records that the Sheffield Telegraph newspaper "was furious when it found we were Anarchists with 'Neither God nor Master' for our motto" (11 July 1891, p. 76). An early 20th century usage is evident in a pamphlet handed out by the Industrial Workers of the World during the 1912 Lawrence Textile Strike. The phrase is derived from the French slogan "Ni dieu ni maître !" (literally 'Neither god nor master') coined by the socialist Louis Auguste Blanqui in 1880, when he published a journal by that name.[unreliable source] In Joseph Conrad's novel The Secret Agent, first published in 1907, the anarchist character The Professor says: "My device is: No God! No master."
Its first use can be traced back to the French journal Ni Dieu ni maître, published in 1880 by Auguste Blanqui. The French phrase appears twice in Friedrich Nietzsche's 1886 work Beyond Good and Evil. It appears first in Section 22, in a critique of the notion that nature dictates a morality of equality before the law. It appears again in section 202 where he identifies it with the anarchists and as indicative of their "herd" mentality, which he is criticizing. It is also the inspiration behind English poet A.E. Housman's "The laws of God, the laws of man", which was published in 1922 in his final collection, Last Poems. The poem effectively dramatises the psychological urge behind the saying, but also ends with a reflection on the impracticality criticism often levelled at anarchist philosophy.
In 1914, Margaret Sanger launched The Woman Rebel, an eight-page monthly newsletter which promoted contraception using the slogan "No Gods, No Masters". Sanger insisted that every woman was the mistress of her own body.
Today the slogan continues to find use in anarchist politics. An anthology of anarchist writing was collected under the title No Gods, No Masters: An Anthology of Anarchism.
The slogan has also found use in musical cultures, largely associated with the punk movement. But it was first used in the French chanson field, by the anarchist poet and singer-songwriter Léo Ferré who released the song "Ni Dieu ni maître" on an EP in 1965. This song, metaphorically depicting the French death penalty procedure, ends with these verses: "This slogan that breaks all the rules / Made for the benefit of fools / Rejecting all authority / Unless respecting liberty / This principle of human rights / I recommend it for your fights / We shall proclaim it to the last / No God no master!".
The slogan was also chosen as a song title by the English crust punk/heavy metal band Amebix on their EP Who's the Enemy, Swedish death metal band Arch Enemy on their album Khaos Legions, Luxembourgish neofolk/martial band Rome on their album Confessions d'Un Voleur d'Âmes, and Chicago-based hardcore band Harm's Way, who released an EP entitled No Gods, No Masters in 2010. The slogan is used as the main chorus in the song "Religious Cancer" by Nailbomb on their album Point Blank.
Canadian female punk band Pantychrist released their song "No Gods No Masters" in 2014 with lyrics espousing the pro-feminist usage of the phrase that was used as the byline of the 1914 Margaret Sanger newsletter The Woman Rebel.
The phrase has also been modified by religious anarchists, who combine neopagan religiosity and anarchist ideas, to be "Many Gods, No masters".
- Anarchism and religion
- An injury to one is an injury to all
- No God, No Master, a 2014 film based on the First Red Scare
- Question authority
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- (Joseph Conrad, The Secret Agent, Pan Classics, 1975 edition, p. 228)
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