Archive for December, 2011

Murray Bookchin: anarchism vs anarcho-syndicalism (1992)

“Presyndicalist forms of anarchism were occupied with human liberation, in which the interests of the proletariat were not neglected, to be sure, but were fused in a generalized social interest that spanned a broad horizon of needs, concerns, and problems. Ultimately the satisfaction and resolution of these needs, concerns, and problems could be met only in the commune, not in a part of it, such as the factory, workshop, or farm.”


in “The Ghost of Anarcho-Syndicalism,” available here.

RADICAL ARCHIVES NOTE: We’ll stop with the Bookchin after this!!

Murray Bookchin: anarchism is “simply not a social theory” (2002)

“By the same token, anarchism – which, I believe, represents in its authentic form a highly individualistic outlook that fosters a radically unfettered lifestyle, often as a substitute for mass action – is far better suited to articulate a Proudhonian single-family peasant and craft world than a modern urban and industrial environment. I myself once used this political label, but further thought has obliged me to conclude that, its often-refreshing aphorisms and insights notwithstanding, it is simply not a social theory. Its foremost theorists celebrate its seeming openness to eclecticism and the liberatory effects of “paradox” or even “contradiction,” to use Proudhonian hyperbole. Accordingly, and without prejudice to the earnestness of many anarchistic practices, a case can made that many of the ideas of social and economic reconstruction that in the past have been advanced in the name of “anarchy” were often drawn from Marxism (including my own concept of “post-scarcity,” which understandably infuriated many anarchists who read my essays on the subject). Regrettably, the use of socialistic terms has often prevented anarchists from telling us or even understanding clearly what they are: individualists whose concepts of autonomy originate in a strong commitment to personal liberty rather than to social freedom, or socialists committed to a structured, institutionalized, and responsible form of social organization. Anarchism’s idea of self-regulation (auto-nomos) led to a radical celebration of Nietzsche’s all-absorbing will. Indeed the history of this “ideology” is peppered with idiosyncratic acts of defiance that verge on the eccentric, which not surprisingly have attracted many young people and aesthetes.

In fact anarchism represents the most extreme formulation of liberalism’s ideology of unfettered autonomy, culminating in a celebration of heroic acts of defiance of the state. Anarchism’s mythos of self-regulation (auto nomos) – the radical assertion of the individual over or even against society and the personalistic absence of responsibility for the collective welfare – leads to a radical affirmation of the all-powerful will so central to Nietzsche’s ideological peregrinations. Some self-professed anarchists have even denounced mass social action as futile and alien to their private concerns and made a fetish of what the Spanish anarchists called grupismo, a small-group mode of action that is highly personal rather than social.”


from “The Communalist Project” which is available online here, where it indicates that the essay was first published in Communalism: International Journal for a Rational Society, 2 (November 2002).



Obviously this piece belongs to Bookchin’s post-anarchist Communalist period. Here, as with the works of many politically-engaged intellectuals, one should be sure to untangle the author’s perceptive historical and philosophical insights from their polemics.

Errico Malatesta: nineteenth-century anarchism impregnated with marxism

“Almost all the anarchist literature of the nineteenth century was impregnated with Marxism.”

= = =

cited in Daniel Guerin’s “Marxism and Anarchism,” in David Goodway (ed), For Anarchism: History, Theory and Practice (London & NY: Routledge, 1989), p 117.

Albert Meltzer: variants of anarchism dreamed up by professors (1996)

“In other words, there were entirely different philosophies referred to as anarchism. It took me a time to find there were two contradictory theories, one working class and revolutionary, the other an offshoot of liberalism. Now there are a great many variants, some dreamed up by the press or professors. When there were only two, some activist anarchists did not see it that way, and thought of the undoubted differences between the two conceptions as different degrees of commitment and action. They were doomed to frustration or else gave up the struggle in despair trying to reconcile the two.”


from Albert Meltzer, I Couldn’t Paint Golden Angels (SF/London/Edinburgh: AK Press, 1996), p 174.


RADICAL ARCHIVES NOTE: While I certainly don’t agree that there are two “entirely different philosophies referred to as anarchism” (and if I did, one of them would not be “an offshoot of liberalism”!), I have come to appreciate Meltzer’s insightful wisdom that professors are apt to dream up new variant theories of anarchism.

Louis Adamic: Workers Against Machines (excerpt from ‘Dynamite!’) (1931)

In a shoe factory in Milwaukee a man was pointed out to me who was known among some of his fellow workers to be a saboteur. An eccentric-looking person, he hated the machines and had all sorts of devices to damage them. He was an indefinite sort of radical, and he considered the machines a great curse to humanity. I have encountered this hate for machines elsewhere. People vent it in various forms of sabotage, which has no connection with I.W.W.-ism or Communism, but is purely a matter of personal resentment and vindictiveness. I have seen people who – sometimes drunk, sometimes sober – cursed the machine and, passing by, shook their fists at the mills, declaring they were not their slaves. Every big industrial town seems to have ‘nuts’ who believe that machines are alive and hold them – the workers – in their power.

Shortly after the war I read – I forget where – about an American soldier – “a nut” – who believed that machines were killing people in revenge for the work that they were made to do. “Stop the machines,” he would cry, lying wounded in a hospital, “and there’ll be no more war. Machines make war – machines kill us!”


from Louis Adamic, Dynamite! The Story of Class Violence in America (Oakland & Edinburgh: AK Press, 1931/2008), p 279.