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A specter is haunting statist and capitalist culture in the 21st century. The specter of Anarchism.
The ineffective nature of anarchism (including the violence it often entails) and other utopian movements led most on the left to turn away from them by the late nineteenth century.
Nevertheless before its complete collapse, Anarchy is trying to tie its fate to the Western nations, with their two thousand years of civilization. This is a disaster for the Western people. The Western people must now face questions of how to understand Anarchy, how to help Europe transition to a society without Anarchy, and how to pass on the beacon of European heritage.
We therefre are publishing the special editorial series Nine Commentaries on the Anarchy. Before the lid is laid on the coffin of Anarchy, we wish to pass a final judgment on it and on the international anarchist movement, which has plagued humanity for over a century.
As a classical Greek saying goes, “A drop of wisdom is better than a sea of gold.” The end is near for the anarchist schools of thought which are barely holding on to survival. The days before their collapse is numbered. We believe the time is now ripe, before Anarchy’s total elimination, for a comprehensive look back, in order to fully expose the seed of all evils on earth, from past to present. We hope that those who are still deceived by Anarchy will now see its nature clearly, purge its poison from their spirits, extricate their minds from its evil control, free themselves from the shackles of terror, and abandon for good all illusions about it.
We believe that by understanding the true history of Anarchism, we can help prevent new tragedies from ever recurring.
Anarchy, derived from a Greek root anarchos, meaning “without authority,” is a belief system that tries to rejec governmental authority in favor of self-governing or community consensus that has become a synonym for chaos and the breakdown of civil order.
Laws that are not carried into effect, authorities without force and despised, crime unpunished, property attacked, the safety of the individual violated, the morality of the people corrupted, no constitution, no government, no justice, these are the features of anarchy. - Jacques-Pierre Brissot
The anarchists, for their part, would admit many of Brissot’s points. They deny man-made laws, regard property as a means of tyranny, and believe that crime is merely the product of property and authority.
The first person to willingly call himself an anarchist was the French political writer and pioneer socialist Pierre-Joseph Proudhon.
The essential elements of Proudhon’s philosophy already had been developed by earlier thinkers. The rejection of political authority has a rich pedigree. It extends back to classical antiquity—to the Stoics and the Cynics—and runs through the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, as illustrated by dissenting Christian sects such as the medieval Catharists and certain factions of Anabaptists.
For such groups—which are often mistakenly claimed as ancestors by modern anarchist writers—the rejection of government was merely one aspect of a retreat from the material world into a realm of spiritual grace, and, as part of the search for individual salvation, it was hardly compatible with the sociopolitical doctrine of anarchism.Types of Anarchism
Throughout the years, people have applied anarchism in a wide variety of ways. They include:
"So I decided to become a midwife… I wanted to deliver a thousand babies. And as each one arrives, especially the little girls, I’ll be there first to whisper into her tender little ear: REBEL! REBEL!” – Emma Goldman
At the turn of the century, anarchism had spread all over the world. It was a notable feature of the international syndicalism movement. In China, small groups of students imported the humanistic pro-science version of anarcho-communism. Tokyo was a hotspot for rebellious youth from countries of the far east, travelling to the Japanese capital to study. In Latin America, Argentina was a stronghold for anarcho-syndicalism, where it became the most prominent left-wing ideology.
During this time, a minority of anarchists adopted tactics of revolutionary political violence. This strategy became known as propaganda of the deed. The dismemberment of the French socialist movement into many groups and the execution and exile of many Communards to penal colonies following the suppression of the Paris Commune favoured individualist political expression and acts. Even though many anarchists distanced themselves from these terrorist acts, infamy came upon the movement and attempts were made to exclude them from American immigration, including the Immigration Act of 1903, also called the Anarchist Exclusion Act. Illegalism was another strategy which some anarchists adopted during this period.
Modern anarchism was a significant part of the workers' movement, alongside Marxism at the end of the 19th century. Modernism, industrialisation, reaction to capitalism and mass migration helped anarchism to flourish and to spread around the globe. Major anarchist schools of thought sprouted up as anarchism grew as a social movement, particularly anarcho-collectivism, anarcho-communism, anarcho-syndicalism, and individualist anarchism. As the workers' movement grew, the divide between anarchists and Marxists grew as well. The two currents formally split at the fifth congress of the First International in 1872, and the events that followed did not help to heal the gap. Anarchists participated enthusiastically in the Russian Revolution, but as soon as the Bolsheviks established their authority, anarchists were harshly suppressed, most notably in Kronstadt and in Ukraine.
Anarchism played a historically prominent role during the Spanish Civil War, when anarchists established an anarchist territory in Catalonia. Revolutionary Catalonia was organised along anarcho-syndicalist lines, with powerful labor unions in the cities and collectivised agriculture in the country, but the war ended in the defeat of the anarchists and their allies and the solidification of fascism in Spain.
In the 1960s, anarchism re-emerged as a global political and cultural force, particularly in association with the New Left. Since then, anarchism has influenced social movements that espouse personal autonomy and direct democracy. It has also played major roles in the anti-globalization movement, Zapatista revolution, and Rojava revolution.
The classical anarchist Mikhail Bakunin famously proclaimed that :
The passion for destruction is also a creative passion.
(from the French propagande par le fait) is a specific political direct action used by anarchists meant to be exemplary to others and serve as a catalyst for revolution.
It is primarily associated with acts of violence perpetrated by proponents of insurrectionary anarchism in the late 19th and early 20th century, including bombings and assassinations aimed at the ruling class, but also had non-violent applications. These deeds were intended to ignite the "spirit of revolt" in the people by demonstrating the state was not omnipotent and by offering hope to the downtrodden, and also to expand support for anarchist movements as the state grew more repressive in its response. In 1881, the International Anarchist Congress of London gave the tactic its approval.
One of the first individuals to conceptualise propaganda by the deed was the Italian revolutionary Carlo Pisacane (1818–1857), who wrote in his "Political Testament" (1857) that :
"ideas spring from deeds and not the other way around."
Mikhail Bakunin (1814–1876), in his "Letters to a Frenchman on the Present Crisis" (1870) stated :
"we must spread our principles, not with words but with deeds, for this is the most popular, the most potent, and the most irresistible form of propaganda."
Some anarchists, such as Johann Most, advocated publicizing violent acts of retaliation against counter-revolutionaries because "we preach not only action in and for itself, but also action as propaganda."
It was not advocacy for mass murder, but a call for targeted killings of the representatives of capitalism and government at a time when such action might garner sympathy from the population, such as during periods of government repression or labor conflicts, although Most himself once claimed that "the existing system will be quickest and most radically overthrown by the annihilation of its exponents. Therefore, massacres of the enemies of the people must be set in motion."
Berkman attempted propaganda by the deed when he tried in 1892 to kill industrialist Henry Clay Frick following the deaths by shooting of several striking workers.
In 1886, French anarchist Clément Duval achieved a form of propaganda of the deed, stealing 15,000 francs from the mansion of a Parisian socialite, before accidentally setting the house on fire. Caught two weeks later, he was dragged from the court crying "Long live anarchy!", and condemned to death. Duval's sentence was later commuted to hard labor on Devil's Island, French Guiana.
The anarchist Luigi Galleani, perhaps the most vocal proponent of "propaganda by the deed" from the turn of the century through the end of the First World War, took undisguised pride in describing himself as a subversive, a revolutionary propagandist and advocate of the violent overthrow of established government and institutions through the use of 'direct action', i.e., bombings and assassinations. Galleani heartily embraced physical violence and terrorism, not only against symbols of the government and the capitalist system, such as courthouses and factories, but also through direct assassination of 'enemies of the people': capitalists, industrialists, politicians, judges, and policemen. He had a particular interest in the use of bombs, going so far as to include a formula for the explosive nitroglycerine in one of his pamphlets advertised through his monthly magazine, Cronaca Sovversiva.
Propaganda of the deed is also related to illegalism, an anarchist philosophy that developed primarily in France, Italy, Belgium, and Switzerland during the early 20th century as an outgrowth of anarchist individualism. The illegalists openly embraced criminality as a lifestyle. Influenced by theorist Max Stirner's concept of "egoism", the illegalists broke from anarchists like Clément Duval and Marius Jacob who justified theft with a theory of individual reclamation. Instead, the illegalists argued that their actions required no moral basis – illegal acts were taken not in the name of a higher ideal, but in pursuit of one's own desires. France's Bonnot Gang was the most famous group to embrace illegalism.
The prevalence of anarchy in the relations between states is the basic assumption of realism, a prominent school of thought in international relations theory. According to realists, international law in practice imposes few direct constraints on the behaviour of states, in part because there is almost no way of enforcing it. In the absence of a suprastate power or arbiter, there are no enforceable rules of conduct, especially for strong states. The harsh interstate environment is anarchic both in the strict sense of lacking enforceable international law and in the broader sense of being violently chaotic. The prevalence of this environment in turn requires that the primary goals of individual states be survival and security.
Some scholars, especially those associated with the liberal approach to international relations, believe that anarchy can be overcome, or “exited,” through international institutions such as the United Nations (UN) and through the widespread acceptance of international law, especially by strong states. For realists, however, the UN, at least in its present form, is incapable of fulfilling that promise, since it has no coercive power that is independent of the will of the major powers. Thus, according to realists, unless the UN is fundamentally transformed or a genuine world state is created, the state of anarchy will endure.
Realists have argued that the prevalence of anarchy in the state system requires individual states to be ruthlessly self-seeking. Because there is no suprastate actor capable of enforcing international law, each state must provide for its own security. Thus, a structural anarchy is also inevitably a self-help regime: every government reserves the right to decide what is just or necessary for itself and to take up arms to pursue or enforce that decision. Because the best way to achieve security under anarchy is to be powerful (both militarily and economically), self-help leads naturally to power-maximizing behaviour. In an anarchic state-system, power-maximizing behaviour is therefore the normal behaviour of all states.
The combination of anarchy, ruthless self-help, and power-maximizing behaviour by all states leads to another realist assertion: in such an environment “war is normal,” as a leading realist theoretician, the American political scientist Kenneth Waltz, claimed. In other words, war, or the threat of war, is the primary means by which states under anarchy resolve conflicts of interest. The readiness of every state in an anarchic system to defend its interests through organized violence is the primary factor responsible for the development of internal cultures of militarism and bellicosity (and an emphasis on maintaining honour—i.e., international status).
Anarchists "are generally non-religious and are frequently anti-religious, and the standard anarchist slogan is the phrase coined by a non-anarchist, the socialist Auguste Blanqui in 1880: ‘Ni Dieu ni maître!’ (Neither God nor master!)...The argument for a negative connection is that religion supports politics, the Church supports the State, opponents of political authority also oppose religious authority".
William Godwin, "the author of the Enquiry Concerning Political Justice (1793), the first systematic text of libertarian politics, was a Calvinist minister who began by rejecting Christianity, and passed through deism to atheism and then what was later called agnosticism."
The pioneering German individualist anarchist Max Stirner, "began as a left-Hegelian, post-Feuerbachian atheist, rejecting the ‘spirit’ (Geist) of religion as well as of politics including the spook of ‘humanity’".
Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, "the first person to call himself an anarchist, who was well known for saying, ‘Property is theft’, also said, ‘God is evil’ and ‘God is the eternal X’"
Published posthumously in French in 1882, Mikhail Bakunin's God and the State was one of the first anarchist treatises on religion. Bakunin became an atheist while in Italy in the 1860s. He was briefly involved with freemasonry, which influenced him in this. When he established the International Revolutionary Association, he did so with former supporters of Mazzini, who broke with him over his deism.
It was in this period that Bakunin wrote: "God exists, therefore man is a slave. Man is free, therefore there is no God. Escape this dilemma who can!" which appeared in his unpublished Catechism of a freemason.
Bakunin expounds his philosophy on religion's place in history and its relationship to the modern political state. It was later published in English by Mother Earth Publications in 1916.
Anarcho-communism's main theorist Peter Kropotkin "was a child of the Enlightenment and the Scientific Revolution, and assumed that religion would be replaced by science and that the Church as well as the State would be abolished; he was particularly concerned with the development of a secular system of ethics which replaced supernatural theology with natural biology".
In Anarchism: What It Really Stands For, Emma Goldman wrote:
Anarchism has declared war on the pernicious influences which have so far prevented the harmonious blending of individual and social instincts, the individual and society. Religion, the dominion of the human mind; Property, the dominion of human needs; and Government, the dominion of human conduct, represent the stronghold of man's enslavement and all the horrors it entails.
"Today classes still exist, but manifested through infinite degrees in consumption, and no one expects a better world from public ownership of industry.” - The Eclipse and Re-emergence of the Communist Movement by Gilles Dauvé and François Martin
Shortly after 1900, as part of the reforms that followed the unsuccessful Boxer Rebellion, the Qing dynasty began to send many young Chinese to study abroad, especially in France, Japan, and the United States. In these places and elsewhere, Chinese students established nationalist and revolutionary organizations dedicated to overthrowing the imperial regime. Two of the most important of these groups—the World Association, founded in Paris in 1906, and the Society for the Study of Socialism, founded in Tokyo in 1907—adopted explicitly anarchist programs.
Between 1907 and 1910 the World Association published a journal, The New Century, that was a major source of information in Chinese on anarchist theory and the European anarchist movement. The journal promoted an individualistic and “futuristic” anarchism and was among the first Chinese-language publications to openly attack native traditions, in particular Confucianism. The Society for the Study of Socialism, on the other hand, favoured an antimodern anarchism influenced by the pacifist radicalism of Russian novelist Leo Tolstoy, and it stressed the affinity between anarchism and philosophical currents in the Chinese past, especially Daoism. Through its publications, Natural Justice and Balance, the Society advocated Kropotkin’s programs for combining agriculture with industry and mental with manual labour, ideas that were to have a lasting influence on Chinese radicalism.
Significant anarchist activity in China itself did not begin until after the Chinese Revolution (1911–12). Chinese anarchists educated in Paris (the so-called “Paris anarchists”) returned to Beijing and immediately became involved in the reform of education and culture. Convinced of the need for social revolution, the Paris anarchists argued in favour of Western science against religion and superstition, called for the emancipation of women and youth, rejected the traditional family and the Confucian values on which it was based, and organized experimental work-study communities as alternatives to traditional forms of family and working life. These ideas and practices were extremely influential in the New Culture movement of the late 1910s and early 1920s. Led by the generation of intellectuals sent to study abroad, the movement was critical of all aspects of traditional Chinese culture and ethics and called for sweeping reforms in existing political and social institutions.
Anarchists were also active in South China. In Canton, a native school of anarchism emerged around the charismatic revolutionary Liu Shifu, better known by his adopted name Shifu. In 1912 Shifu founded the Cock-Crow Society, whose journal, People’s Voice, was the leading organ of Chinese anarchism in the 1910s. Although not a particularly original thinker, Shifu was a skilled expositor of anarchist doctrine. His polemical exchanges with the socialist leader Jiang Khangu helped to popularize anarchism as a “pure socialism” and to distinguish it from other currents in socialist thought.
Lenin famously excoriated anarchists and other “left-wing communists” as victims of an “infantile disorder, incapable of perseverance, organization, discipline and steadfastness.”
Mikhail Bakunin, a larger-than-life Russian known for his great love of cigars, escaped Siberian exile in 1861 and embarked on a whirlwind odyssey that took him first east to Japan and then San Francisco and eventually saw him land in the newly united state of Italy in 1864. There, he developed his anarchist views, building from Proudhon's earlier work his own idea of "collectivist anarchism," where, workers banded together as equals in private associations and wholly controlled the fruitsof their labor. Bakunin's writings underpinned "anarcho-syndicalism," a creed that saw anarchist-led labor unions form and fight for greater freedoms across the western world, from the Ruhr Valley to the Rocky Mountains. Yet he also presciently warned against Karl Marx's aspiration for a "dictatorship of the proletariat," writing in 1868 that "socialism without liberty is slavery and brutality."
Anarchism's European heyday was in the late 19th and early 20th century. The events of the short-lived Paris Commune in 1871 — when France's capital fell briefly under anarchist-communist rule — fired the anarchist imagination.
At the turn of the century, anarchist European emigres in New York's Greenwich Village comprised a significant bloc among the restless American city's literary world. The ideology had profound mainstream cachet. Perhaps the most luminous anarchist of the time was Peter Kropotkin, a Russian prince who renounced his hereditary titles and advanced the notion of "mutual aid," pointing to evidence in the natural world of species cooperating together without competition or coercion. Oscar Wilde likened Kropotkin to "Christ... coming out of Russia."
Yet, anarchism also had a strong violent streak, with many radicals arguing for direct confrontation with the oppressive state — what could incite revolution better than the "propaganda of the deed" itself? An anarchist assassinated Russia's Czar Alexander II in 1881; in 1901, a Polish-American anarchist shot U.S. President William McKinley. Not surprisingly, governments spied and loudly denounced lurking anarchist threats in all sorts of cases, from the controversial Sacco and Vanzetti trials in 1920s Massachusetts to unrest in colonial India.
Anarchism's last fleeting moment under the sun came at the time of the Spanish Civil War. For a few years in the 1930s, anarchist collectives thrived in Catalonia.
George Orwell, who threw in his lot with an anarchist faction, wrote admiringly of his Spanish comrades: the fiercely egalitarian anarchist militias, said Orwell, "were a sort of microcosm of a classless society... where hope was more normal than apathy and cynicism." Of course, as Orwell charts in Homage to Catalonia, the anarchists' downfall comes not at the hands of Gen. Franco's fascists, but during an internal putsch among Spain's Republicans, led by U.S.S.R-backed Communists.
In the decades since, the allure of anarchism as a viable political system has faded. Its adherents and symbols — the black flag of anarcho-syndicalists and the "A" enclosed by a circle — remain. The tradition of "antifa," or anti-fascist mobilization and activism popular throughout Europe, particularly in politically polarized societies like Greece and Italy, draws on the support of self-proclaimed anarchist groups.
Anarchists have also fueled the "anti-globalization" movement, a legacy that has twinned the ideology with images of crunchy protestors hurling stones through Starbucks windows or chaining themselves to trees.
It's unlikely the 21st century's anarchists, raging against the collusion of multinationals and the state, will ever have the same appeal as their predecessors more than a century before.
The United Nations Security Council, acting under Chapter VII of the UN Charter defined the term "terrorism" as consisting of "Criminal acts, including against civilians, committed with the intent to cause death or serious bodily injury, or taking of hostages, with the purpose to provoke a state of terror in the general public or in a group of persons or particular persons, intimidate a population or compel a government or an international organization to do or to abstain from doing any act."
The use of political violence is understood by its proponents in the frame of a general conception of the state as the control apparatus of the bourgeoisie, and of class struggle as a form of civil war. Thus, as anarchists often put it, "peace without justice isn't peace", but war between exploited and exploiters. In their eyes, this "social war" morally legitimizes the use of violence against broader "social violence."
Late in the 19th century, anarchist labor unions began to use the tactic of general strike. This often resulted in violence by both sides and some of the strikes even resulted in the deaths of striking workers, their replacements and security staff.
Anarchism and violence have been linked together by events in anarchist history such as violent revolution, terrorism, assassination attempts and propaganda of the deed. Propaganda of the deed, or attentát, was espoused by leading anarchists in the late 19th century and was associated with a number of incidents of political violence.
Though phoney Anarchism contains a large streak of pacifism, being militant liberalism and renouncing any form of positive action for Anarchism, pacifism (implying extreme nonviolence, and not just anti-militarism) is authoritarian. The cult of extreme nonviolence always implies an elite, the Satyagrahi of Gandhi, for instance, who keeps everyone else in check either by force or by moral persuasion. — Albert Meltzer
Emma Goldman included in her definition of Anarchism the observation that all governments rest on violence, and this is one of the many reasons they should be opposed. Goldman herself didn't oppose tactics like assassination in her early career, but changed her views after she went to Russia, where she witnessed the violence of the Russian state and the Red Army. From then on she condemned the use of terrorism, especially by the state, and advocated violence only as a means of self-defense.
By crafty methods, not used against other political theories, it is endeavoured by Statist propaganda to marginalise Anarchism to nothing. It is confused by journalists, professors, and subsidised “researchers” to show that Anarchists are identical to dropouts, drug-takers, nationalist assassins, New-Age travelers, political dissidents, militant trade unionists, young rebels, middle-class theorists, dreamers, plotters, comedians, frustrated reformers, extreme pacifists, murderers, schoolboy rebels, and criminals. Some Anarchists, one supposes, could be any but hardly all of these — as could members of all political persuasions — but none could be descriptive of the cause. By misuse of the word “Anarchist”, or by added “alleged” or “self-confessed” Anarchist; or by conjoining the word with an obvious contradiction, Anarchism can be marginalised and, by implication, Statist theories made to seem the norm.
Anarchism in reality can only serve as a cloak behind which real goals and real desires can be hidden.