Archive for the 'Anarchism' Category

Bakunin in Paris, February 1848

At last the February revolution burst forth. No sooner had I learned that they were fighting in Paris than, taking an acquaintance’s passport against any contingency, I set out again for France. But the passport was not necessary; the first word that greeted us at the border was: “La Republique est proclamee a Paris.”* [“The Republic is proclaimed in Paris.”] Chills ran up my spine when I heard this news. I arrived in Valenciennes on foot because the railroad had been cut. Everywhere there were crowds, wild shouts, red banners in all the streets and squares and on all public buildings. I had to go a roundabout way; the railroad was cut in many places. I arrived in Paris on 26 February, the third day after the proclamation of the republic. I enjoyed the trip. Now what shall I say to you, Sire, of the impression produced on me by Paris! This huge city, the center of European enlightenment, had suddenly been turned into the wild Caucasus: on every street, almost everywhere, barricades had been piled up like mountains, reaching the roofs, and on them, among rocks and broken furniture, like Lezghians* [A tribe of the Caucasus Mountains] in ravines, workers in their colorful blouses, blackened from powder and armed from head to foot. Fat shopkeepers,  épiciers*  [Grocers] with faces stupid from terror, timidly looked out of the windows. On the streets and boulevards not a single carriage. And the dandies, young and old, all the hated social lions with their walking sticks and lorgnettes, had disappeared and in their place MY NOBLE OUVRIERS in rejoicing, exulting crowds, with red banners and patriotic songs, reveling in their victory! And in the midst of this unlimited freedom, this mad rapture, all were so forgiving, sympathetic, loving of their fellow man—upright, modest, courteous, amiable, witty—that only in France, and in France only in Paris, could one see such a thing! Later I lived for more than a week with some workers in the Caserne de Tournon, two steps from the Luxembourg Palace. These barracks were formerly the barracks of the Municipal Guard; at this time they with many others were turned into a red republican fortress, into barracks for Caussidiere’s guard. Now I lived in them at the invitation of an acquaintance, a democrat who commanded a detachment of five hundred workers. Thus I had an opportunity to see and study these last from morning till night. Sire! I assure you, in no class, never, and nowhere have I found so much noble selflessness, so much truly touching integrity, such sincerely considerate good manners, and so much amiable gaiety combined with such heroism as I found in these simple, uneducated people, who always were and always will be a thousand times better than all their leaders! What is so striking about them is their deep instinct for discipline; in their barracks no established regimen, no Jaws, no compulsion could exist, but God grant that any disciplined soldier could so precisely obey, anticipate the wishes of his officers, and observe order as religiously as these free men. They demanded orders, they demanded leadership, they obeyed with punctiliousness, with fevor; they would perform heavy work for twenty-four hours at a stretch without eating and never grow despondent, but were always cheerful and amiable. If these people, if the French workers in general, found a leader worthy of them, one who was able to understand and love them, he could work wonders with them.

Sire! I am in no condition to give you a clear account of the month I spent in Paris, for it was a month of spiritual intoxication. Not only I but everyone was intoxicated: some from reckless fear, others from reckless rapture, from reckless hopes. I got up at five or even four in the morning and went to bed at two. I was on my feet all day, participated vigorously in all the meetings, gatherings, clubs, processions, outings, demonstrations; in a word, I imbibed with all my senses, through all my pores, the ecstatic atmosphere of revolution. It was a feast without beginning and without end. Here I saw everyone and saw no one because all were lost in one infinite, aimless crowd. I spoke with everyone, but I do not remember either what I said to them or what they said to me because at every step there were new topics, new adventures, new information. News that was arriving continually from the rest of Europe also helped no little to maintain and strengthen the general delirium. One constantly heard such things as, “On se bat a Berlin; Ie roi a pris Ia fuite, apres avoir prononce un discours! On s’est battu a Vienne, Metternich s’est enfui, Ia Republique y est proclamee! Toute l’Allemagne se souleve. Les italiens ont triomphe a Milan, a Venise; les autrichiens ont subi une honteuse defaite! La Republique y est proclamee; toute !’Europe devient Republique. Vive Ia Republique!”* [“They are fighting in Berlin; the King has taken flight after having made a speech! They have fought in Vienna, Metternich has fled, the Republic has been proclaimed there! All Germany is rising. The Italians have triumphed  in Milan, in Venice; the Austrians have suffered a shameful defeat! The Republic has been proclaimed there; all Europe is becoming a republic. Long live the Republic!”] It seemed that the whole world had been turned upside down.

The inconceivable had become the usual, the impossible possible, and the possible and the usual unthinkable. In a word, minds were in such a state that if someone had arrived and said, “le bon Dieu vient d’etre chasse du ciel, Ia Republique y est proclamee!”* [“The good Lord has just been chased out of heaven, the Republic has been proclaimed there!”] then everyone would have believed him and no one would have been amazed. And it was not only the democrats who were in such a state of intoxication; on the contrary, the democrats were the first to become sober, for they had to get down to work and secure the power that had fallen into their hands by some unexpected miracle. The conservative party and the dynastic opposition, which in one day had become more conservative than the conservatives themselves—in a word, people of the old order believed in all miracles and all impossibilities more than did the democrats. They really thought that two times two had ceased to be four, and Thiers himself announced that “il ne nous reste plus qu’une chose, c’est de nous faire oublier.”* [“Only one thing remains for us: to make ourselves forgotten.”]  This alone explains the haste and unanimity with which all cities, provinces, and classes in France accepted the republic. (46)

endnote 46: The anarchist and Bakunin scholar Max Nettlau, commenting on the preceding pages, maintained that “This veritable poem to Paris of the February barricades…, sung in the face of the Tsar” should put to rest the insinuations that Bakunin had abased himself before the Tsar and compromised himself by writing the Confession (notes to the French edition of the Confession [1932; reprint Paris, 1974], p. 218….)

= = =

From The Confession of Mikhail Bakunin, with marginal comments of Tsar Nicholas I, trans. Robert C. Howes, introduction and notes by Lawrence D. Orton (Ithaca & London: Cornell University Press, 1977), pp. 54–57. Written by Bakunin in 1851 while imprisoned in Tsarist Russia after the failure of the democractic revolts in the West, and before his political transformation to anarchism.

Mina Graur: Rudolf Rocker debates Otto Strasser

In 1930 the FAUD [the anarcho-syndicalist Free Workers’ Union of Germany] accepted an invitation from Otto Strasser, an activist in the National Socialist Party [e.g., the Nazi party], to a series of debates. It was an interesting challenge for the syndicalists, and Fritz Kater suggested that Rocker should represent their camp. (fn90) Otto Strasser belonged to a faction within the National Socialist Party that differed in many respects from Hitler’s mainstream. Indeed, Strasser’s disagreements with Hitler led to his expulsion from the party in June 1930. After his expulsion, he founded the “Revolutionary National Socialists” organization, later known as the “Black Front.” (fn91) The debate was conducted, therefore, just before Strasser was driven out of the Nazi party.

Three meetings were arranged, each dedicated to a different topic. At the first, Rocker debated Strasser on the issue of nationalism and race, and the role they play in the shaping of history. Rocker claimed that since nationality is not known to be an inherited trait, it follows that the idea of nationality is enforced on men by their surroundings. (fn92) The second session was dedicated to the meaning of socialism. Since Strasser could not attend the meeting due to illness, his place was taken by Dr. Herbert Blank. Blank argued that the historical importance of the National Socialist Party was that it had discovered the true foundations of socialism, since what passed until then as socialism was only the Marxist interpretation. Rocker ridiculed the argument, pointing to the obvious fact that the Nazis had probably never heard of libertarian socialism and its many thinkers, who were in no way connected to Marx and his followers, and who rejected Marxism altogether. At the third debate, Rocker was replaced by Erich Mühsam at the request of Strasser, who felt threatened by Rocker’s rhetorical tactics. Rocker, however, was asked to deliver the closing remarks. Although both camps knew that the differences between them were too wide to be bridged over, and that no side was going to win new converts, the series of debates constituted an interesting experience. The debates were the only time that the anarchists aired their opinions freely in front of a Nazi audience. After the National Socialists came to power, the anarchist movement was extinguished, its members exiled, imprisoned, or sent to concentration camps.


90. Rocker dated the event at around 1928 or later. According to the articles in Fanal reporting the event, it occurred in 1930.
91. Allan Bullock, Hitler, A Study in Tyranny (New York: Harper, 1964), pp. 156-158.
92. Rocker, Revolutsie un Regresie, Vol. 2, p. 29. The issue is elaborated upon in Nationalism and Culture.

= = =

from Mina Graur, An Anarchist “Rabbi”: The Life and Teachings of Rudolf Rocker (New York: St. Martins Press / Jerusalem: The Magnes Press, 1997), pp. 174-75.

Murray Bookchin: Anarchism vs Syndicalism (1992)

[Graham] Purchase [in “Social Ecology, Anarchism and Trades Unionism”] not only ignores these momentous developments and the analyses that I and others have advanced; he grossly misinterprets and demagogically redefines any criticism of syndicalism, indeed, trade-unionism, as an expression of hostility toward anarchism as such. Assuming that Purchase knows very much about the history of anarchism and syndicalism, this line of argument is manipulative and an outright distortion; but to be generous, I will say that it reveals a degree of ignorance and intolerance that deserves vigorous reproval. In fact, in the late nineteenth century, when syndicalism emerged as an issue among anarchists, it was furiously debated. The outstanding luminaries of the anarchist movement at the the turn of the century — such as Errico Malatesta, Elisee Reclus, Emma Goldman, Sebastian Faure, and others — initially opposed syndicalism for a variety of reasons, many of which show a great deal of prescience on their part. And in time, when they came to accept it, many of them did so in a highly prudent manner. Malatesta, in his fundamental criticism of syndicalism, argued that the generation of a revolutionary spirit ‘cannot be the normal, natural definition of the Trade Union’s function’. Although he eventually accepted anarchosyndicalism with apparent reluctance, he continued to call for a far more expansive form of anarchist organization and practice than many syndicalists were prepared to accept.

In practice, anarchist groups often came into outright conflict with anarchosyndicalist organizations — not to speak of syndicalist organizations, many of which eschewed anarchism. Early in the century, the Spanish anarchocommunists, influenced primarily by Juan Baron and Francisco Cardinal, the editors of Tierra y Libertad, furiously denounced the anarchosyndicalists who were later to form the CNT as ‘deserters’ and ‘reformists’. Similar conflicts developed in Italy, France, and the United States, and perhaps not without reason. The record of the anarchosyndicalist movement has been one of the most abysmal in the history of anarchism generally. In the Mexican Revolution, for example, the anarchosyndicalist leaders of the Casa del Obrero Mundial shamefully placed their proletarian ‘Red Battalions’ at the service of Carranza, one of the revolution’s most bloodthirsty thugs, to fight the truly revolutionary militia of Zapata — all to gain a few paltry reforms, which Carranza withdrew once the Zapatista challenge had been broken with their collaboration. The great Mexican anarchist Ricardo Flores Magon justly denounced their behaviour as a betrayal.

Nor can much be said in defence of the leaders of the CNT in Spain. They swallowed their libertarian principles by becoming ‘ministers’ in the Madrid government late in 1936, not without the support of many of their followers, I should add, and in May 1937 they used their prestige to disarm the Barcelona proletariat when it tried to resist the Stalinist counterrevolution in the Catalan capital. In the United States, lest present-day anarchosyndicalists get carried away by legendary movements like the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW), they should be advised that this syndicalist movement, like others elsewhere, was by no means committed to anarchism. ‘Big Bill’ Haywood, its most renowned leader, was never an anarchist. Still other IWW leaders, many of whom tilted toward an anarchist outlook, not only became Communists in the 1920s but became ardent Stalinists in the 1930s and later. It is worth noting that serious Spanish anarchists, even those who joined the CNT, regarded the influence of the CNT’s trade-unionist mentality on the FAI (Iberian Anarchist Federation) as deleterious and ultimately disastrous. Toward the end of the civil war, it was questionable whether the FAI controlled the CNT or, more likely, whether the CNT, with its strong trade-union mentality, had essentially diluted the FAI’s anarchist principles. As Malatesta had so perceptively declared, even as he cautiously accepted the amalgamation of anarchist with syndicalist principles under the pressure of a growing syndicalist movement in Europe, ‘trade unions are, by their nature, reformist and never revolutionary’ (emphasis added). For an oaf like Graham Purchase to bombastically equate syndicalism with anarchism — an act of arrogance that is as fatuous as it is ignorant — and then to go on and essentially equate trade unionism with syndicalism deserves only disdain.

The authentic locus of anarchists in the past was the commune or municipality, not the factory, which was generally conceived as only part of a broader communal structure, not its decisive component. Syndicalism, to the extent that it narrowed this broader outlook by singling out the proletariat and its industrial environment as its locus, also crucially narrowed the more sweeping social and moral landscape that traditional anarchism had created. In large part, this ideological retreat reflected the rise of the factory system in the closing years of the last century in France and Spain, but it also echoed the ascendancy of a particularly vulgar form of economistic Marxism (Marx, to his credit, did not place much stock in trade unionism), to which many naive anarchists and nonpolitical trade unionists succumbed. After the Revolution by Abad de Santillan, one of the movers and shakers of Spanish anarchosyndicalism, reflects this shift toward a pragmatic economism in such a way that makes his views almost indistinguishable from those of the Spanish socialists — and, of course, that brought him into collusion with the Catalan government, literally one of the grave-diggers of Spanish anarchism. Syndicalism — be it anarchosyndicalism or its less libertarian variants — has probably done more to denature the ethical content of anarchism than any other single factor in the history of the movement, apart from anarchism’s largely marginal and ineffectual individualist tendencies. Indeed, until anarchism shakes off this syndicalist heritage and expands its communalistic and communistic heritage, it will be little more than a rhetorical and mindless echo of vulgar Marxism and the ghost of an era that has long passed into history.

= = =

from “Deep Ecology, Anarcho-Syndicalism and the Future of Anarchist Thought,” 1992. Full text of both Bookchin’s piece and the Purchase article he is replying to, is available here in the Freedom Press book Deep Ecology & Anarchism: A Polemic.

Anti-Authoritarians Anonymous – Adventures in Subversion: Flyers and Posters, 1981-85

This classic booklet of post-Situ flyers was made by John Zerzan and Dan Todd, probably in 1985. The version this is made from lists the publisher as Oh! Press in San Francisco.

6 MB version

14 MB version

 Note: if you are using Firefox, you may have trouble viewing these documents; try a different browser.

Malatesta on Bakunin as “too marxist”

“Today I find that Bakunin in political economy and in interpretation of history, was too marxist; I find that his philosophy was conducted without possible issue in the contradiction between the mechanical concept of the universe and the faith in will over the fate of mankind.”

“Though none of us had read Marx, we were still too Marxist.'” [ie in the period of the First International]

= = =

from “Notes for a Biography” in Errico Malatesta’s Life and Ideas, edited by Vernon Richards (London: Freedom Press, 1977), page 209.

Eric Hobsbawn on anarchism, theory and intellectuals

As an ideology, anarchism did not decline so dramatically because it had never had anything like as much success, at least among intellectuals who are the social stratum most interested in ideas. There have probably always been eminent figures in the world of culture who called themselves anarchists (except, curiously enough, in Spain), but most of them seem to have been artists in the wider — or like Pissarro and Signac, the narrower — sense of the word. In any case, anarchism never had an attraction comparable to, say marxism, for intellectuals even before the October revolution. With the exception of Kropotkin, it is not easy to think of an anarchist theorist who could be read with real interest by non-anarchists. There seemed, indeed, no real intellectual room for anarchist theory. The belief in the libertarian communism of self-governing cooperatives as the final aim of revolutionaries, it shared with marxism. The old Utopian socialists had thought more deeply and concretely about the nature of such communities than most anarchists. Even the strongest point in the anarchists’ intellectual armoury, their awareness of the dangers of dictatorship and bureaucracy implicit in marxism, was not peculiar to them. This type of critique was made with equal effect and greater intellectual sophistication both by ‘unofficial’ marxists and by opponents of all kinds of socialism.

In brief, the main appeal of anarchism was emotional and not intellectual.

Anarchism is therefore today [1969] once again a political force. Probably it has no mass basis outside the movement of students and intellectuals and even within the movement it is influential rather as a persistent current of ‘spontaneity’ and activism rather than through the relatively few people who claim to be anarchists. The question is therefore once again worth asking what is the value of the anarchist tradition today?

In terms of ideology, theory and programmes, that value remains marginal. Anarchism is a critique of the dangers of authoritarianism and bureaucracy in states, parties and movements, but this is primarily a symptom that these dangers are widely recognized. If all anarchists had disappeared from the face of the earth the discussion about these problems would go on much as it does. Anarchism also suggests a solution in terms of direct democracy and small self-governing groups, but I do not think its own proposals for the future have so far been either very valuable or very fully thought out. To mention only two considerations. First, small self-governing direct democracies are unfortunately not necessarily libertarian. They may indeed function only because they establish a consensus so powerful that those who do not share it voluntarily refrain from expressing their dissent; alternatively, because those who do not share the prevailing view leave the community, or are expelled. There is a good deal of information about the operation of such small communities, which I have not seen realistically discussed in anarchist literature. Second, both the nature of the modern social economy and of modern scientific technology raise problems of considerable complexity for those who see the future as a world of self-governing small groups. These may not be insoluble, but unfortunately they are certainly not solved by the simple call for the abolition of the state and bureaucracy, nor by the suspicion of technology and the natural sciences which so often goes with modern anarchism. It is possible to construct a theoretical model of libertarian anarchism which will be compatible with modern scientific technology, but unfortunately it will not be socialist. It will be much closer to the views of Mr Goldwater and his economic adviser Professor Milton Friedman of Chicago than to the views of Kropotkin. For (as Bernard Shaw pointed out long ago in his pamphlet on the Impossibilities of Anarchism), the extreme versions of individualist liberalism are logically as anarchist as Bakunin.

It will be clear that in my view anarchism has no significant contribution to socialist theory to make, though it is a useful critical element. If socialists want theories about the present and the future, they will still have to look elsewhere, to Marx and his followers, and probably also to the earlier Utopian socialists, such as Fourier. To be more precise: if anarchists want to make a significant contribution they will have to do much more serious thinking than most of them have recently done.

= = =

from E. J. Hobsbawn, “Reflections on Anarchism” in Revolutionaries (New York: Meridian, 1975), pp 82-83, 87-89. The essay originally appeared 1969. Full text of this is available here.

Revolutionary Anarchist #3 (1973)

Seattle’s Revolutionary Anarchist #3 was a tight, action-packed issue that I found in the archives. This July 1973 issue was a “joint publishing project of the Seattle section of the Social Revolutionary Anarchist Federation and the Revolutionary Anarchist Print Fund, and is edited by David Brown”.

The articles are:

Dan Raphael, “Taking the Left to Task”

Dan Raphael, “Another Letter to the Left”

Black Rose Anarcho-Feminists, “Blood of the Flower: An Anarchist-Feminist Statement”

“Who We Are: An Anarcho-Feminist Manifesto” (from Siren)

“Free Martin Sostre”

Shawn Crowley, “Red and Black Books: An Alternative to That Warehouse Feeling”

Andy Crusciel, “Report On Toronto Anarchist Conference”


click on the image below to see the PDF of the entire issue

Oswald Spengler on anarchists (1918)

“Truly our future lies on one hand in Prussian conservatism after it has been cleansed of all feudal-agrarian narrowness and on the other in the working people after they have freed themselves from the anarchist-radical masses.”


cited in Jeffrey Herf, Reactionary Modernism: Technology, Culture, and Politics in Weimer and the Third Reich (Cambridge, UK, et. al.: Cambridge University Press, 1984), page 49. He cites Walter Struve, “Oswald Spengler: Caesar and Croesus,” in Elites Against Democracy (Princeton, NJ, 1973), pages 236-37, whose source in turn is apparently a “Letter of December 27, 1918 to Hans Klores” in Briefe 1913–1936, ed. Anton M. Koktanek and Manfred Schroter (Munich 1963), page 115.

This is of particular interest as Spengler has been cited favorably by John Zerzan, Green Anarchy, and Dwight Macdonald, and the neo-Spenglerian historian Arnold Toynbee was a strong influence on Fredy Perlman.

Pernicone on Italian “individualist” anarchists (1993)

[Luigi] Galleani, [Pietro] Gori, and the others restored a measure of activism among a militant minority of the rank and file, reestablished a following among workers in several regions, and generally fostered a resurgence of the movement discernible by the end of decade. Unquestionably, they represented the best of the new generation. But the 1880s also produced another element that represented anarchism at its worst, a group of fanatics whose intolerance and fractious behavior operated to the complete detriment of the movement­—the so-called individualists.

The individualists were not disciples of Max Stirner, Benjamin Tucker, John Henry Mackay, or other theorists of individualist anarchism, none of whom were known in Italy until the twentieth century. The Italian individualists of this period were an evolutionary offshoot of the antiorganizationalist current, a spontaneous mutation amounting to a new breed. Although they frequently called themselves anarchist communists, the individualists defied description in standard ideological terms. Basically, they were amoralists who embodied the worst attitudes and propensities of the antiorganizationalist current: egoistic preoccupation with individual autonomy and free initiative; unwavering rejection of organization of any form; isolation from and contempt for the masses; and, in some cases, a strong tendency toward individual acts of violence.

= = =

from Nunzio Pernicone, Italian Anarchism, 1864–1892 (Oakland & Edinburgh: AK Press, 1993/2009), page 239.

RADICAL ARCHIVES NOTE: The similarities between the late 19th / early 20th Italian anti-organizationalist anarchists and today’s insurrectionist current has not received the attention it deserves.

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!!