Archive for the 'Anarchism' Category

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]

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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.

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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.

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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!!

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.