Frequently Asked Questions about Anarchism

Frequently Asked Questions about Anarchism

This FAQ is a smaller version of the Anarchist FAQ. It contains an edited, stand alone version of Section A of that FAQ (What is Anarchism?). This gives an introduction to basic anarchist ideas, anarchist history, anarchist writers and what anarchism actually stands for. While it covers the two main trends of anarchism (individualist and social anarchism) it does so from a social anarchist perspective (just to lay our cards on the table, and, no, "anarcho"-capitalism is not a form of individualist anarchism - see sections F and G of the full FAQ on why this is the case)

We hope that this short version of the Anarchist FAQ covers the basics of what anarchism. If you wish to contact the FAQ maintainers then contact us at this address.


A.1 What is anarchism?

    A.1.1 What does "anarchy" mean?
    A.1.2 What does "anarchism" mean?
    A.1.3 Why is anarchism also called libertarian socialism?
    A.1.4 Are anarchists socialists?
    A.1.5 Where does anarchism come from?

A.2 What does anarchism stand for?

    A.2.1 What is the essence of anarchism?
    A.2.2 Why do anarchists emphasise liberty?
    A.2.3 Are anarchists in favour of organisation?
    A.2.4 Are anarchists in favour of "absolute" liberty?
    A.2.5 Why are anarchists in favour of equality?
    A.2.6 Why is solidarity important to anarchists?
    A.2.7 Why do anarchists argue for self-liberation?
    A.2.8 Is it possible to be an anarchist without opposing hierarchy?
    A.2.9 What sort of society do anarchists want?
    A.2.10 What will abolishing hierarchy mean and achieve?
    A.2.11 Why do anarchists support direct democracy?
    A.2.12 Why is voluntarism not enough?
    A.2.13 What about Human Nature?
    A.2.14 Do anarchists support terrorism?

A.3 What types of anarchism are there?

    A.3.1 What are the differences between individualist and social anarchists?
    A.3.2 Are there different types of social anarchism?
    A.3.3 What kinds of Green anarchism is there?
    A.3.4 Is anarchism pacifist?
    A.3.5 What is anarcha-feminism?

A.4 Who are the major anarchist thinkers?

A.5 What are some examples of "Anarchy in Action"?

    A.5.1 The Paris Commune.
    A.5.2 Anarchists in the Russian Revolution.
    A.5.3 Anarchism and the Spanish Revolution.

Section A - What is Anarchism?

Modern civilization faces three potentially catastrophic crises: (1) social breakdown, a shorthand term for rising rates of poverty, homelessness, crime, violence, alienation, drug and alcohol abuse, social isolation, political apathy, dehumanization, the deterioration of community structures of self-help and mutual aid, etc.; (2) destruction of the planet's delicate ecosystems on which all complex forms of life depend; and (3) the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, particularly nuclear weapons.

Orthodox opinion, including that of Establishment "experts," mainstream media, and politicians, generally regards these crises as separable, each having its own causes and therefore capable of being dealt with on a piecemeal basis, in isolation from the other two. Obviously, however, this "orthodox" approach isn't working, since the problems in question are getting worse. Unless some better approach is taken soon, we are clearly headed for disaster, either from catastrophic war, ecological Armageddon, or a descent into urban savagery -- or all of the above.

Anarchism offers a unified and coherent way of making sense of these crises, by tracing them to a common source. This source is the principle of hierarchical authority, which underlies the major institutions of all "civilized" societies, whether capitalist or "communist." Anarchist analysis therefore starts from the fact that all of our major institutions are in the form of hierarchies, i.e. organizations that concentrate power at the top of a pyramidal structure, such as corporations, government bureaucracies, armies, political parties, religious organizations, universities, etc. It then goes on to show how the authoritarian relations inherent in the such hierarchies negatively affect individuals, their society, and culture.

It should not be thought, however, that anarchism is just a critique of modern civilization, just "negative" or "destructive." Because it is much more than that. For one thing, it is also a proposal for a free society. Emma Goldman expressed what might be called the "anarchist question" as follows: "The problem that confronts us today. . . is how to be one's self and yet in oneness with others, to feel deeply with all human beings and still retain one's own characteristic qualities" [Red Emma Speaks, pp. 133-134]. In other words, how can we create a society in which the potential for each individual is realised but not at the expense of others? In order to achieve this, anarchists envision a society in which, instead of being controlled "from the top down" through hierarchical structures of centralized power, the affairs of humanity will "be managed by individuals or voluntary associations" [Ben Tucker, Anarchist Reader, p. 149].

As Clifford Harper elegantly puts it, "Like all great ideas, anarchism is pretty simple when you get down to it -- human beings are at their best when they are living free of authority, deciding things among themselves rather than being ordered about." [Anarchy: A Graphic Guide, p. vii]. Due to their desire to maximise individual and therefore social freedom, anarchists wish to dismantle all institutions that repress people.

"Common to all Anarchists is the desire to free society of all political and social coercive institutions which stand in the way of the development of a free humanity" [Rudolf Rocker, Anarcho-Syndicalism]

As we'll see, all such institutions are hierarchies, and their repressive nature stems directly from their hierarchical form.

Anarchism is a socioeconomic and political theory, but not an ideology. The difference is very important. Basically, theory means you have ideas; an ideology means ideas have you. Anarchism is a body of ideas, but they are flexible, in a constant state of evolution and flux, and open to modification in light of new data. As society changes and develops, so does anarchism. An ideology, in contrast, is a set of "fixed" ideas which people believe dogmatically, usually ignoring reality or "changing" it so as to fit with the ideology, which is (by definition) correct. All such "fixed" ideas are the source of tyranny and contradiction, leading to attempts to make everyone fit onto a Procrustean Bed. This will be true regardless of the ideology in question -- Leninism, Objectivism, "Libertarianism," or whatever -- all will all have the same effect: the destruction of real individuals in the name of a doctrine, a doctrine that usually serves the interest of some ruling elite. Or, as Mikhail Bakunin states it:

"Until now all human history has been only a perpetual and bloody immolation of millions of poor human beings in honor of some pitiless abstraction -- God, country, power of state, national honor, historical rights, judicial rights, political liberty, public welfare".

Dogmas are static and deathlike in their rigidity, often the work of some dead "prophet," religious or secular, whose followers erect his or her ideas into an idol, immutable as stone. Anarchists want the living to bury the dead so that the living can get on with their lives. The living should rule the dead, not vice versa. Ideologies are the nemesis of critical thinking and consequently of freedom, providing a book of rules and "answers" which relieve us of the "burden" of thinking for ourselves.

In producing this FAQ on anarchism it is not our intention to give you the "correct" answers or a new rule book. We will explain a bit about what anarchism has been in the past, but we will focus more on its modern forms and why we are anarchists today. The FAQ is an attempt to provoke thought and analysis on your part. If you looking for a new ideology, then sorry, anarchism is not for you.

While anarchists try to be realistic and practical, we are not "reasonable" people. "Reasonable" people uncritically accept what the "experts" and "authorities" tell them is true, and so they will always remain slaves! Anarchists know that, as Bakunin wrote:

"[a] person is strong only when he stands upon his own truth, when he speaks and acts from his deepest convictions. Then, whatever the situation he may be in, he always knows what he must say and do. He may fall, but he cannot bring shame upon himself or his causes" [Statism and Anarchy].

What Bakunin describes is the power of independent thought, which is the power of freedom. We encourage you not to be "reasonable," not to accept what others tell you, but to think and act for yourself!

One last point: to state the obvious, this is not the final word on anarchism. Many anarchists will disagree with much that is written here, but this is to be expected when people think for themselves. All we wish to do is indicate the basic ideas of anarchism and give our analysis of certain topics based on how we understand and apply these ideas. We are sure, however, that all anarchists will agree with the core ideas we present, even if they may disagree with our application of them here and there.

A.1 What is anarchism?

"Anarchism" and "anarchy" are undoubtedly the most misrepresented ideas in political theory. Generally, the words are used to mean "chaos" or "without order," and so, by implication, anarchists desire social chaos and a return to the "laws of the jungle."

This process of misrepresentation is not without historical parallel. For example, in countries which have considered government by one person (monarchy) necessary, the words "republic" or "democracy" have been used precisely like "anarchy," to imply disorder and confusion. Those with a vested interest in preserving the status quo will obviously wish to imply that opposition to the current system cannot work in practice, and that a new form of society will only lead to chaos. Or, as Errico Malatesta expresses it:

"If it is believed that government is necessary and that without government there must be disorder and confusion, it is natural and logical to suppose that anarchy, which signifies absence of government, must also mean absence of order." [Anarchy].

Anarchists want to change this "commonsense" idea of "anarchy," so people will see that government and other hierarchical social relationships are both harmful and unnecessary. For when "opinion is changed, and the public are convinced that government is not necessary, but extremely harmful, the word 'anarchy', precisely because it signifies 'without government,' will become equal to saying "natural order, harmony of needs and interests of all, complete liberty with complete solidarity." [Ibid.].

This FAQ is part of the process of changing the commonsense idea of anarchy.

A.1.1 What does "anarchy" mean?

The word "anarchy" is from Greek, prefix a, meaning "not," "the want of," "the absence of," or "the lack of", plus archos, meaning "a ruler," "director", "chief," "person in charge," "commander." The Greek words anarchos, and anarchia meant "having no government -- being without a government" [Angeles, Peter A.; The Harper Collins Dictionary of Philosophy, Second Edition, pp. 11-12.].

As can be seen, the strict, original meaning of anarchism was not simply "no government." "An-archy" means "without a ruler," or more generally, "without authority," and it is in this sense that anarchists have continually used the word. For this reason, rather than being purely anti-government or anti-state, anarchism is primarily a movement against hierarchy. Why? Because hierarchy is the organizational structure that embodies authority. Since the state is the "highest" form of hierarchy, anarchists are, by definition, anti-state; but this is not a sufficient definition of anarchism.

Reference to "hierarchy" in this context is a fairly recent development -- the "classical" anarchists did not use the word. However, it's clear from their writings that theirs was a philosophy against hierarchy, against any inequality of power or privileges between individuals. Bakunin spoke of this when attacked "official" authority but defended "natural influence," and also when he said:

"Do you want to make it impossible for anyone to oppress his fellow-man? Then make sure that no one shall possess power" [Maximoff, G. P., ed., The Political Philosophy of Bakunin: Scientific Anarchism, p. 271].

As Jeff Draughn notes, "while it has always been a latent part of the 'revolutionary project,' only recently has this broader concept of anti-hierarchy arisen for more specific scrutiny. Nonetheless, the root of this is plainly visible in the Greek roots of the word 'anarchy'" [Jeff Draughn, Between Anarchism and Libertarianism: Defining a New Movement]

A.1.2 What does "anarchism" mean?

To quote Peter Kropotkin, Anarchism is "the no-government system of socialism. . . ." [Anarchist Communism: Its Basis and Principles]. Anarchists maintain that anarchy, the absence of rulers, is a viable form of social system and works for the maximisation of individual liberty and social equality. They see the goals of liberty and equality as mutually self-supporting. Or, in Bakunin's famous dictum:

"We are convinced that freedom without Socialism is privilege and injustice, and that Socialism without freedom is slavery and brutality."

The history of human society proves this point. Liberty without equality is only liberty for the powerful, and equality without liberty is impossible and a justification for slavery.

Therefore, anarchism is a political theory which advocates the creation of anarchy, a society based on the maxim of "no rulers." To achieve this, "[i]n common with all socialists, the anarchists hold that the private ownership of land, capital, and machinery has had its time; that it is condemned to disappear: and that all requisites for production must, and will, become the common property of society, and be managed in common by the producers of wealth. And. . . they maintain that the ideal of the political organization of society is a condition of things where the functions of government are reduced to minimum. . . (and) that the ultimate aim of society is the reduction of the functions of government to nil -- that is, to a society without government, to an-archy" [Rudolf Rocker, Anarcho-syndicalism].

Thus anarchism is both positive and negative. It analyses and critiques current society while at the same time offering a vision of a potential new society -- a society that maximises certain human needs which the current one denies. These needs, at their most basic, are liberty, equality and solidarity, which will be discussed in section A.2.

Anarchism unites critical analysis with hope, for, as Bakunin pointed out, "the urge to destroy is a creative urge." One cannot build a better society without understanding what is wrong with the present one.

A.1.3 Why is anarchism also called libertarian socialism?

Many anarchists, seeing the negative nature of the definition of "anarchism," have used other terms to emphasize the inherently positive and constructive aspect of their ideas. The most common terms used are "free socialism," "free communism," "libertarian socialism," and "libertarian communism." For anarchists, libertarian socialism, libertarian communism, and anarchism are virtually interchangeable.

Considering definitions from the American Heritage Dictionary, we find:

LIBERTARIAN: one who believes in freedom of action and thought; one who believes in free will.

SOCIALISM: a social system in which the producers possess both political power and the means of producing and distributing goods.

Just taking those two first definitions and fusing them yields:

LIBERTARIAN SOCIALISM: a social system which believes in freedom of action and thought and free will, in which the producers possess both political power and the means of producing and distributing goods.

However, due to the creation of the Libertarian Party in the USA, many people now consider the idea of "libertarian socialism" to be a contradiction in terms. Indeed, many "Libertarians" think anarchists are just attempting to associate the "anti-libertarian" ideas of "socialism" (as Libertarians conceive it) with Libertarian ideology in order to make those "socialist" ideas more "acceptable" -- in other words, trying to steal the "libertarian" label from its rightful possessors.

Nothing could be further from the truth. Anarchists have been using the term "libertarian" to describe themselves and their ideas since the 1890's. It was first used in France in an attempt to get round anti-anarchist laws. Since then, particularly outside America, it has always been associated with anarchist ideas and movements. Sebastien Faure and Louise Michel published the paper Le Libertaire (The Libertarian) in France in 1895, over 70 years before the US Libertarian Party was created. Taking a more recent example, in the USA, anarchists organised "The Libertarian League" in July 1954, which had staunch anarcho-syndicalist principles and lasted until 1965. The US-based "Libertarian" Party, on the other hand has only existed since the early 1970's. It is that party, not the anarchists, who have "stolen" the word. Later, in Section B, we will discuss why the idea of a "libertarian" capitalism (as desired by the Libertarian Party) is a contradiction in terms.

As we will also explain in Section I, only a libertarian-socialist system of ownership can maximise individual freedom. Needless to say, state ownership -- what is commonly called "socialism" -- is, for anarchists, not socialism at all. In fact, as we will elaborate in Section H, state "socialism" is just a form of capitalism, with no socialist content whatever.

A.1.4 Are anarchists socialists?

Yes. All the major branches of anarchism are opposed to capitalism, because the latter is based on domination and exploitation (see sections B and C).

Individualists like Ben Tucker along with social anarchists like Proudhon and Bakunin proclaimed themselves "socialists." They did so because the word "socialist" was originally defined to include "all those who believed in the individual's right to possess what he or she produced" ["Ayn Rand and the Perversion of Libertarianism," in Anarchy: A Journal of Desire Armed, no. 34]. In order to achieve this, socialists desire a society within which the producers own and control the means of production. Under capitalism, workers do not govern themselves during the production process nor have control over the product of their labour. Such a situation is hardly based on equal freedom for all and is so opposed by anarchists.

Therefore all anarchists are anti-capitalist. Ben Tucker, for example -- the anarchist most influenced by liberalism -- denounces the capitalist as "the usurer, the receiver of interest, rent and profit." Tucker held that in an anarchist, non-capitalist, free-market society, capitalists will become redundant, since "labour. . . will. . . secure its natural wage, its entire product." Such an economy will be based on mutual banking and the free exchange of products between cooperatives, artisans and peasants. Even Max Stirner, the arch-egoist, had nothing but scorn for capitalist society and its various "spooks," which for him meant ideas that are treated as sacred or religious, such as private property, competition, division of labour, and so forth.

So anarchists consider themselves as socialists, but socialists of a specific kind - libertarian socialists. As the individualist anarchist Joseph A. Labadie puts it (echoing both Tucker and Bakunin):

"[i]t is said that Anarchism is not socialism. This is a mistake. Anarchism is voluntary Socialism. There are two kinds of Socialism, archistic and anarchistic, authoritarian and libertarian, state and free. Indeed, every proposition for social betterment is either to increase or decrease the powers of external wills and forces over the individual. As they increase they are archistic; as they decrease they are anarchistic." [Anarchism: What It Is and What It Is Not]

While social and individualist anarchists do disagree on many issues -- for example, whether a free market would be the best means of maximising liberty -- they agree that capitalism is to be opposed and that an anarchist society must, by definition, be based on associated, not wage, labour. Only associated labour will "decrease the powers of external wills and forces over the individual" during working hours and such self-management of work by those who do it is the core ideal of real socialism. However, the meanings of words change over time. Today "socialism" almost always refers to state socialism, a system that all anarchists have opposed as a denial of freedom and genuine socialist ideals. All anarchists would agree with Noam Chomsky's statement on this issue:

"If the left is understood to include 'Bolshevism,' then I would flatly dissociate myself from the left. Lenin was one of the greatest enemies of socialism" [Red and Black Revolution, issue 2].

Anarchism developed in constant opposition to the ideas of Marxism, social democracy and Leninism. Long before Lenin rose to power, Mikhail Bakunin warned the followers of Marx against the "Red bureaucracy" that would institute "the worst of all despotic governments" if Marx's state-socialist ideas were ever implemented.

Nevertheless, being socialists, anarchists do share some ideas with some Marxists (though none with Leninists). Both Bakunin and Tucker accepted Marx's analysis and critique of capitalism as well as his labour theory of value. Marx himself was heavily influenced by Max Stirner's book The Ego and Its Own, which contains a brilliant critique of what Marx called "vulgar" communism as well as state socialism. There have also been elements of the Marxist movement holding views very similar to social anarchism (particularly the anarcho-syndicalist branch of social anarchism) -- for example, Anton Pannekoek, Rosa Luxembourg, Paul Mattick and others, who are very far from Lenin. Karl Korsch and others wrote sympathetically of the anarchist revolution in Spain. There are many continuities from Marx to Lenin, but there are also continuities from Marx to more libertarian Marxists, who were harshly critical of Lenin and Bolshevism and whose ideas approximate anarchism's desire for the free association of equals.

Therefore anarchism is basically a form of socialism, one that stands in direct opposition to what is usually defined as "socialism" (i.e. state control). As Daniel Guerin pointed out in his book Anarchism, "Anarchism is really a synonym for socialism. The anarchist is primarily a socialist whose aim is to abolish the exploitation of man by man." Instead of "central planning," anarchists advocate free association and oppose "state" socialism as a form of state capitalism..

A.1.5 Where does anarchism come from?

Where does anarchism come from? We can do no better than quote the The Organisational Platform of the Libertarian Communists produced by participants of the Makhnovist movement in the Russian Revolution (see Section A.5.2). They point out that:

"[t]he class struggle created by the enslavement of workers and their aspirations to liberty gave birth, in the oppression, to the idea of anarchism: the idea of the total negation of a social system based on the principles of classes and the State, and its replacement by a free non-statist society of workers under self-management.

"So anarchism does not derive from the abstract reflections of an intellectual or a philosopher, but from the direct struggle of workers against capitalism, from the needs and necessities of the workers, from their aspirations to liberty and equality, aspirations which become particularly alive in the best heroic period of the life and struggle of the working masses.

"The outstanding anarchist thinkers, Bakunin, Kropotkin and others, did not invent the idea of anarchism, but, having discovered it in the masses, simply helped by the strength of their thought and knowledge to specify and spread it."

Like the anarchist movement in general, the Makhnovists were a mass movement of working class people resisting the forces of authority, both Red (Communist) and White (Tzarist/Capitalist) in the Ukraine from 1917 to 1921. As Peter Marshall notes "anarchism . . . has traditionally found its chief supporters amongst workers and peasants." [Demanding the Impossible, p. 652]

Anarchism was created in, and by, the struggle of the oppressed for freedom. It comes from the fight for liberty and our desires to lead a fully human life, one in which we have time to live, to love and to play. It was not created by a few people divorced from life, in ivory towers looking down upon society and making judgments upon it based on their notions of what is right and wrong.

In other words, anarchism is an expression of the struggle against oppression and exploitation, a generalisation of working people's experiences and analyses of what is wrong with the current system and an expression of our hopes and dreams for a better future.

A.2 What does anarchism stand for?

These words by Percy Bysshe Shelley gives an idea of what anarchism stands for in practice and what ideals drive it:

The man
Of virtuous soul commands not, nor obeys:
Power, like a desolating pestilence,
Pollutes whate'er it touches, and obedience,
Bane of all genius, virtue, freedom, truth,
Makes slaves of men, and, of the human frame,
A mechanized automaton.

As Shelley's lines suggest, anarchists place a high priority on liberty, desiring it both for themselves and others. They also consider individuality -- that which makes one a unique person -- to be a most important aspect of humanity. They recognize, however, that individuality does not exist in a vacuum but is a social phenomenon. Outside of society, individuality is impossible, since one needs other people in order to develop, expand, and grow.

Moreover, between individual and social development there is a reciprocal effect: individuals grow within and are shaped by a particular society, while at the same time they help shape and change aspects of that society (as well as themselves and other individuals) by their actions and thoughts. A society not based on free individuals, their hopes, dreams and ideas would be hollow and dead. Thus, "the making of a human being. . . is a collective process, a process in which both community and the individual participate" [Murray Bookchin, The Modern Crisis, p. 79]. Consequently, any political theory which bases itself purely on the social or the individual is false.

In order for individuality to develop to the fullest possible extent, anarchists consider it essential to create a society based on three principles: liberty, equality and solidarity, which are interdependent.

Liberty is essential for the full flowering of human intelligence, creativity, and dignity. To be dominated by another is to be denied the chance to think and act for oneself, which is the only way to grow and develop one's individuality. Domination also stifles innovation and personal responsibility, leading to conformity and mediocrity. Thus the society that maximises the growth of individuality will necessarily be based on voluntary association, not coercion and authority. To quote Proudhon, "All associated and all free." Or, as Luigi Galleani puts it, anarchism is "the autonomy of the individual within the freedom of association" [The End of Anarchism?, p. 35] (See further section A.2.2 - Why do anarchists emphasise liberty?).

If liberty is essential for the fullest development of individuality, then equality is essential for genuine liberty to exist. There can be no real freedom in a class-stratified, hierarchical society riddled with gross inequalities of power, wealth, and privilege. For in such a society only a few -- those at the top of the hierarchy -- are relatively free, while the rest are semi-slaves. Hence without equality, liberty becomes a mockery -- at best the "freedom" to choose one's master (boss), as under capitalism. Moreover, even the elite under such conditions are not really free, because they must live in a stunted society made ugly and barren by the tyranny and alienation of the majority. And since individuality develops to the fullest only with the widest contact with other free individuals, members of the elite are restricted in the possibilities for their own development by the scarcity of free individuals with whom to interact. (See also section A.2.5 - Why are anarchists in favour of equality?)

Finally, solidarity means mutual aid: working voluntarily and cooperatively with others who share the same goals and interests. But without liberty and equality, society becomes a pyramid of competing classes based on the domination of the lower by the higher strata. In such a society, as we know from our own, it's"dominate or be dominated," "dog eat dog," and "everyone for themselves." Thus "rugged individualism" is promoted at the expense of community feeling, with those on the bottom resenting those above them and those on the top fearing those below them. Under such conditions, there can be no society-wide solidarity, but only a partial form of solidarity within classes whose interests are opposed, which weakens society as a whole. (See also section A.2.6 - Why is solidarity important to anarchists?)

It should be noted that solidarity does not imply altruism. As Errico Malatesta makes clear:

"we are all egoists, we all seek our own satisfaction. But the anarchist finds his greatest satisfaction in struggling for the good of all, for the achievement of a society in which he [sic] can be a brother among brothers, and among healthy, intelligent, educated, and happy people. But he who is adaptable, who is satisfied to live among slaves and draw profit from the labour of slaves, is not, and cannot be, an anarchist" [Life and Ideas, page 23].

For anarchists, real wealth is other people and the planet on which we live.

Also, honouring individuality does not mean that anarchists are idealists, thinking that people or ideas develop outside of society. Individuality and ideas grow and develop within society, in response to material and intellectual interactions and experiences, which people actively analyze and interpret. Anarchism, therefore, is a materialist theory, recognising that ideas develop and grow from social interaction and individuals' mental activity (see Mikhail Bakunin's God and the State for the classic discussion of materialism verses idealism).

This means that an anarchist society will be the creation of human beings, not some deity or other transcendental principle, since:

"[n]othing ever arranges itself, least of all in human relations. It is men [sic] who do the arranging, and they do it according to their attitudes and understanding of things" [Alexander Berkman, ABC of Anarchism, page 42].

Therefore, anarchism bases itself upon the power of ideas and the ability of people to act and transform their lives based on what they consider to be right. In other words, liberty.

A.2.1 What is the essence of anarchism?

As we have seen, "an-archy" implies "without (hierarchical) authority." Anarchists are not against "authorities" in the sense of experts who are particularly knowledgeable, skillful, or wise, though they believe that such authorities should have no power to force others to follow their recommendations (see section B.1 for more on this distinction). In a nutshell, then, anarchism is anti-authoritarianism.

Anarchists are anti-authoritarians because they believe that no human being should dominate another. Domination is inherently degrading and demeaning, since it submerges the will and judgment of the dominated to the will and judgment of the dominators, thus destroying the dignity and self-respect that comes only from personal autonomy. Moreover, domination makes possible and generally leads to exploitation, which is the root of inequality, poverty, and social breakdown.

While being anti-authoritarians, anarchists recognise that human beings have a social nature and that they mutually influence each other. We cannot escape the "authority" of this mutual influence, because, as Bakunin reminds us:

"[t]he abolition of this mutual influence would be death. And when we advocate the freedom of the masses, we are by no means suggesting the abolition of any of the natural influences that individuals or groups of individuals exert on them. What we want is the abolition of influences which are artificial, privileged, legal, official" -- in other words which stem from hierarchical authority [quoted by Malatesta, in Anarchy]

A.2.2 Why do anarchists emphasize liberty?

An anarchist can be regarded, in Bakunin's words, as a "fanatic lover of liberty, considering it as the unique condition under which intelligence, dignity and human happiness can develop and grow. . . . " [The Paris Commune and the Idea of the State]. Because human beings are thinking creatures, to deny them liberty is to deny them the opportunity to think for themselves, which is to deny their very existence as humans. For anarchists, freedom is a product of our humanity, because:

"the very fact. . .that a person has a consciousness of self, of being different from others, creates a desire to act freely. The craving for liberty and self-expression is a very fundamental and dominant trait" [Emma Goldman, Red Emma Speaks, p. 393].

For this reason, anarchism "proposes to rescue the self-respect and independence of the individual from all restraint and invasion by authority. Only in freedom can man [sic] grow to his full stature. Only in freedom will he learn to think and move, and give the very best of himself. Only in freedom will he realise the true force of the social bonds which tie men together, and which are the true foundations of a normal social life" [Ibid., p. 59].

As noted already, liberty is the precondition for the maximum development of one's individual potential, which is also a social product and can be achieved only in and through community. A healthy, free community will produce free individuals, who in turn will shape the community and enrich the social relationships between the people of whom it is composed. Liberties, being socially produced, "do not exist because they have been legally set down on a piece of paper, but only when they have become the ingrown habit of a people, and when any attempt to impair them will meet with the violent resistance of the populace. . . One compels respect from others when one knows how to defend one's dignity as a human being. This is not only true in private life; it has always been the same in political life as well" [Rudolf Rocker, Anarcho-syndicalism]

In short, liberty develops only within society, not in opposition to it. Thus Murray Bookchin writes: "What freedom, independence, and autonomy people have in a given historical period is the product of long social traditions and. . . a collective development -- which is not to deny that individuals play an important role in that development, indeed are ultimately obliged to do so if they wish to be free" [Social Anarchism or Lifestyle Anarchism].

But freedom requires the right kind of social environment in which to grow and develop. Such an environment must be decentralised and based on the direct management of work by those who do it. For centralisation means coercive authority, whereas self-management is the essence of freedom.

Capitalism, however, is based on centralised authority, the very purpose of which is to keep the management of work out of the hands of those who do it. This means "that the serious, final, complete liberation of the workers is possible only upon one condition: that of the appropriation of capital, that is, of raw material and all the tools of labor, including land, by the whole body of the workers" [Michael Bakunin, in Dolgoff, ed., Bakunin on Anarchism, p. 255.].

Hence, as Noam Chomsky argues, a "consistent anarchist must oppose private ownership of the means of production and the wage slavery which is a component of this system, as incompatible with the principle that labor must be freely undertaken and under the control of the producer" [Notes on Anarchism].

Thus, liberty for anarchists means a non-authoritarian society in which individuals and groups practice self-management, i.e. they govern themselves. The implications of this are important. First, it implies that an anarchist society will be non-coercive, that is, one in which violence or the threat of violence will not be used to "convince" individuals to do anything. Second, it implies that anarchists are firm supporters of individual sovereignty, and that, because of this support, they also oppose institutions based on coercive authority, i.e. hierarchy. And finally, it implies that anarchists' opposition to "government" means only that they oppose centralized, hierarchical, bureaucratic organisations or government. They do not oppose self-government through confederations of decentralized, grassroots organizations, so long as these are based on direct democracy rather than the delegation of power to "representatives." For authority is the opposite of liberty, and hence any form of organisation based on the delegation of power is a threat to the liberty and dignity of the people subjected to that power.

Anarchists consider freedom to be the only social environment within which human dignity and diversity can flower. Under capitalism and statism, however, there is no freedom for the majority, as private property and hierarchy ensure that the inclination and judgment of most individuals will be subordinated to the will of a master, severely restricting their liberty and making impossible the "full development of all the material, intellectual and moral powers that are latent in each person" [Bakunin, Op. Cit.] (See section B for further discussion of the hierarchical and authoritarian nature of capitalism and statism.)

A.2.3 Are anarchists in favour of organisation?

Yes. Without association, a truly human life is impossible. Liberty cannot exist without society and organisation. As George Barrett, in Objections to Anarchism, points out:

"[t]o get the full meaning out of life we must co-operate, and to co-operate we must make agreements with our fellow-men. But to suppose that such agreements mean a limitation of freedom is surely an absurdity; on the contrary, they are the exercise of our freedom.

"If we are going to invent a dogma that to make agreements is to damage freedom, then at once freedom becomes tyrannical, for it forbids men to take the most ordinary everyday pleasures. For example, I cannot go for a walk with my friend because it is against the principle of Liberty that I should agree to be at a certain place at a certain time to meet him. I cannot in the least extend my own power beyond myself, because to do so I must co-operate with someone else, and co-operation implies an agreement, and that is against Liberty. It will be seen at once that this argument is absurd. I do not limit my liberty, but simply exercise it, when I agree with my friend to go for a walk."

As far as organisation goes, anarchists think that "far from creating authority, [it] is the only cure for it and the only means whereby each of us will get used to taking an active and conscious part in collective work, and cease being passive instruments in the hands of leaders" [Errico Malatesta, Life and Ideas].

The fact that anarchists are in favor of organisation may seem strange at first, but this is because we live in a society in which virtually all forms of organisation are authoritarian, making them appear to be the only kind possible. What is usually not recognized is that this mode of organization is historically conditioned, arising within a specific kind of society -- one whose motive principles are domination and exploitation. According to archaeologists and anthropologists, this kind of society has only existed for about 5,000 years, having appeared with the first primitive states based on conquest and slavery, in which the labor of slaves created a surplus which supported a ruling class.

Prior to that time, for hundreds of thousands of years, human and proto-human societies were what Murray Bookchin calls "organic," that is, based on cooperative forms of economic activity involving mutual aid, free access to productive resources, and a sharing of the products of communal labor according to need. Although such societies probably had status rankings based on age, there were no hierarchies in the sense of institutionalized dominance-subordination relations enforced by coercive sanctions and resulting in class-stratification involving the economic exploitation of one class by another [see Murray Bookchin, The Ecology of Freedom].

It must be emphasized, however, that anarchists do not advocate going "back to the Stone Age." We merely note that since the hierarchical-authoritarian mode of organization is a relatively recent development in the course of human social evolution, there is no reason to suppose that it is somehow "fated" to be permanent. We do not think that human beings are genetically "programmed" for authoritarian, competitive, and aggressive behavior, as there is no credible evidence to support this claim. On the contrary, such behavior is socially conditioned, or learned, and as such, can be unlearned [see Ashley Montagu, The Nature of Human Aggression]. We are not fatalists or genetic determinists, but believe in free will, which means that people can change the way they do things, including the way they organise society.

And there is no doubt that society needs to be better organised, because presently most of its wealth -- which is produced by the majority -- and power gets distributed to a small, elite minority at the top of the social pyramid, causing deprivation and suffering for the rest, particularly for those at the bottom. Yet because this elite controls the means of coercion through its control of the state, it is able to suppress the majority and ignore its suffering -- a phenomenon that occurs on a smaller scale within all hierarchies. Little wonder, then, that people within authoritarian and centralised structures come to hate them as a denial of their freedom. As Alexander Berkman puts it:

"capitalist society is so badly organised that its various members suffer: just as when you have a pain in some part of you, your whole body aches and you are ill. . . , not a single member of the organisation or union may with impunity be discriminated against, suppressed or ignored. To do so would be the same as to ignore an aching tooth: you would be sick all over" [Alexander Berkman, ABC of Anarchism, p. 53].

Yet this is precisely what happens in capitalist society, with the result that it is, indeed, "sick all over."

For these reasons, anarchists reject authoritarian forms of organisation and instead support associations based on free agreement. Free agreement is important because, in Berkman's words, "[o]nly when each is a free and independent unit, cooperating with others from his own choice because of mutual interests, can the world work successfully and become powerful" [Op. Cit., p. 53]. In the "political" sphere, this means direct democracy and confederation, which are the expression and environment of liberty. Direct (or participatory) democracy is essential because liberty and equality imply the need for forums within which people can discuss and debate as equals and which allow for the free exercise of what Murray Bookchin calls "the creative role of dissent."

Anarchist ideas on libertarian organisation and the need for direct democracy and confederation will be discussed further in sections A.2.9 and A.2.10.

A.2.4 Are anarchists in favour of "absolute" liberty?

No. Anarchists do not believe that everyone should be able to "do whatever they like," because some actions invariably involve the denial of the liberty of others.

For example, anarchists do not support the "freedom" to rape, to exploit, or to coerce others. Neither do we tolerate authority. On the contrary, since authority is a threat to liberty, equality, and solidarity (not to mention human dignity), anarchists recognise the need to resist and overthrow it.

The exercise of authority is not freedom. No one has a "right" to rule others. As Malatesta points out, anarchism supports "freedom for everybody. . .with the only limit of the equal freedom for others; which does not mean. . . that we recognise, and wish to respect, the 'freedom' to exploit, to oppress, to command, which is oppression and certainly not freedom." [Errico Malatesta, Life and Ideas, p. 53].

In a capitalist society, resistance to all forms of hierarchical authority is the mark of a free person -- be it private (the boss) or public (the state). As Henry David Thoreau pointed out in his essay on "Civil Disobedience" (1847)

"Disobedience is the true foundation of liberty. The obedient must be slaves."

A.2.5 Why are anarchists in favour of equality?

As mentioned in above, anarchists are dedicated to social equality because it is the only context in which individual liberty can flourish. However, there has been much nonsense written about "equality," and much of what is commonly believed about it is very strange indeed. Before discussing what anarchist do mean by equality, we have to indicate what we do not mean by it.

Anarchists do not believe in "equality of endowment," which is not only non-existent but would be very undesirable if it could be brought about. Everyone is unique. Biologically determined human differences not only exist but are "a cause for joy, not fear or regret." Why? Because "life among clones would not be worth living, and a sane person will only rejoice that others have abilities that they do not share" [Noam Chomsky Red and Black Revolution, No. 2].

That some people seriously suggest that anarchists means by "equality" that everyone should be identical is a sad reflection on the state of present-day intellectual culture and the corruption of words -- a corruption used to divert attention from an unjust and authoritarian system and sidetrack people into discussions of biology.

Nor are anarchists in favor of so-called "equality of outcome." We have no desire to live in a society were everyone gets the same goods, lives in the same kind of house, wears the same uniform, etc. Part of the reason for the anarchist revolt against capitalism and statism is that they standardise so much of life [see George Reitzer's The McDonaldisation of Society on why capitalism is driven towards standardisation and conformity].

"Equality of outcome" can only be introduced and maintained by force, which would not be equality anyway, as some would have more power than others! "Equality of outcome" is particularly hated by anarchists, as we recognise that every individual has different needs, abilities, desires and interests. To make all consume the same would be tyranny. Obviously, if one person needs medical treatment and another does not, they do not receive an "equal" amount of medical care. The same is true of other human needs.

For anarchists, these "concepts" of "equality" are meaningless. Equality, in anarchist theory, does not mean denying individual diversity or uniqueness. As Bakunin observes:

"once equality has triumphed and is well established, will there be no longer any difference in the talents and degree of application of the various individuals? There will be a difference, not so many as exist today, perhaps, but there will always be differences. Of that there can be no doubt. This is a proverbial truth which will probably never cease to be true -- that no tree ever brings forth two leaves that are exactly identical. How much more will this be true of men, men being much more complicated creatures than leaves. But such diversity, far from constituting an affliction is. . . one of the assets of mankind. Thanks to it, the human race is a collective whole wherein each human being complements the rest and has need of them; so that this infinite variation in human beings is the very cause and chief basis of their solidarity -- an important argument in favour of equality" [Integral Education]

Equality for anarchists means social equality, or, to use Murray Bookchin's term, the "equality of unequals." By this he means that hierarchical social relationships are abolished in favour of ones that encourage participation and are based on the principle of "one person, one vote." Therefore, social equality in the workplace, for example, means that everyone has an equal say in the policy decisions on how the workplace develops and changes. Anarchists are strong believers in the maxim "that which touches all, is decided by all."

This does not mean, of course, that expertise will be ignored or that everyone will decide everything. As far as expertise goes, different people have different interests, talents, and abilities, so obviously they will want to study different things and do different kinds of work. It is also obvious that when people are ill they consult a doctor -- an expert -- who manages his or her own work rather than being directed by a committee. We are sorry to have to bring these points up, but once the topics of social equality and workers' self-management come up, some people start to talk nonsense. It is common sense that a hospital managed in a socially equal way will not involve non-medical staff voting on how doctors should perform an operation!

In fact, social equality and individual liberty are inseparable. Without the collective self-management of decisions that affect a group (equality) to complement the individual self-management of decisions that affect the individual (liberty), a free society is impossible. For without both, some will have power over others, making decisions for them (i.e. governing them), and thus some will be more free than others.

A.2.6 Why is solidarity important to anarchists?

Solidarity, or mutual aid, is a key idea of anarchism. It is the link between the individual and society, the means by which individuals can work together to meet their common interests in an environment that supports and nurtures both liberty and equality. For anarchists, mutual aid is a fundamental feature of human life, a source of both strength and happiness and a fundamental requirement for a fully human existence.

Erich Fromm, noted psychologist and socialist humanist, points out that the "human desire to experience union with others is rooted in the specific conditions of existence that characterise the human species and is one of the strongest motivations of human behaviour" [To Be or To Have, p.107].

Therefore anarchists consider the desire to form "unions" (to use Max Stirner's term) with other people to be a natural need. These unions, or associations, must be based on equality and individuality in order to be fully satisfying to those who join them -- i.e. they must be organised in an anarchist manner, i.e. voluntary, decentralised, and non-hierarchical.

Solidarity -- cooperation between individuals -- is necessary for life and is far from a denial of liberty. "What wonderful results this unique force of man's individuality has achieved when strengthened by cooperation with other individualities," Emma Goldman observes. "Cooperation -- as opposed to internecine strife and struggle -- has worked for the survival and evolution of the species. . . . [O]nly mutual aid and voluntary cooperation. . . can create the basis for a free individual and associational life" [Red Emma Speaks, p. 95].

Solidarity means associating together as equals in order to satisfy our common interests and needs. Forms of association not based on solidarity (i.e. those based on inequality) will crush the individuality of those subjected to them. As Ret Marut points out, liberty needs solidarity, the recognition of common interests:

"The most noble, pure and true love of mankind is the love of oneself. I want to be free! I hope to be happy! I want to appreciate all the beauties of the world. But my freedom is secured only when all other people around me are free. I can only be happy when all other people around me are happy. I can only be joyful when all the people I see and meet look at the world with joy-filled eyes. And only then can I eat my fill with pure enjoyment when I have the secure knowledge that other people, too, can eat their fill as I do. And for that reason it is a question of my own contentment, only of my own self, when I rebel against every danger which threatens my freedom and my happiness. . ." [Ret Marut (a.k.a. B. Traven), The BrickBurner magazine]

To practice solidarity means that we recognise, as in the slogan of Industrial Workers of the World, that "an injury to one is an injury to all."

Under a hierarchical society, solidarity is important not only because of the satisfaction it gives us, but also because it is necessary to resist those in power. By standing together, we can increase our strength and get what we want. Eventually, by organising into groups, we can start to manage our own collective affairs together and so replace the boss once and for all. "Unions will. . . multiply the individual's means and secure his assailed property" [Max Stirner, The Ego and Its Own, p. 258]. By acting in solidarity, we can also replace the current system with one more to our liking. There is power in "union."

Solidarity is thus the means by which we can obtain and ensure our own freedom. We agree to work together so that we will not have to work for another. By agreeing to share with each other we increase our options so that we may enjoy more, not less. Mutual aid is in my self-interest -- that is, I see that it is to my advantage to reach agreements with others based on mutual respect and social equality; for if I dominate someone, this means that the conditions exist which allow domination, and so in all probability I too will be dominated in turn.

As Max Stirner saw, solidarity is the means by which we ensure that our liberty is strengthened and defended from those in power who want to rule us: "Do you yourself count for nothing then?", he asks. "Are you bound to let anyone do anything he wants to you? Defend yourself and no one will touch you. If millions of people are behind you, supporting you, then you are a formidable force and you will win without difficulty" [Ibid.].

Solidarity, therefore, is important to anarchists because it is the means by which liberty can be created and defended against power. Solidarity is strength and a product of our nature as social beings. However, solidarity should not be confused with "herdism," which implies passively following a leader. In order to be effective, solidarity must be created by free people, cooperating together as equals. The "big WE" is not solidarity, although the desire for "herdism" is a product of our need for solidarity and union. It is a "solidarity" corrupted by hierarchical society, in which people are conditioned to blindly obey leaders.

A.2.7 Why do anarchists argue for self-liberation?

Liberty, by its very nature, cannot be given. An individual cannot be freed by another, but must to break his or her own chains through their own effort. Of course, self-effort can also be part of collective action, and in many cases it has to be in order to attain its ends. As Emma Goldman points out:

"history tells us that every oppressed class [or group or individual] gained true liberation from its masters by its own efforts" [Red Emma Speaks, p. 142].

Anarchists have long argued that people can only free themselves by their own actions. The various methods anarchists suggest to aid this process will be discussed in section J ("What Do Anarchists Do?") and will not be discussed here. However, these methods all involve people organising themselves, setting their own agendas, and acting in ways that empower them and eliminate their dependence on leaders to do things for them. Anarchism is based on people "acting for themselves" (performing what anarchists call "direct action").

Direct action has an empowering and liberating effect on those involved in it. Self-activity is the means by which the creativity, initiative, imagination and critical thought of those subjected to authority can be developed. It is the means by which society can be changed. As Errico Malatesta points out "Between man and his social environment there is a reciprocal action. Men make society what it is and society makes men what they are, and the result is therefore a kind of vicious circle. . . . Fortunately existing society has not been created by the inspired will of a dominating class, which has succeeded in reducing all its subjects to passive and unconscious instruments. . . . It is the result of a thousand internecine struggles, of a thousand human and natural factors. . . . " [Life and Ideas, p. 188]

Society, while shaping all individuals, is also created by them, through their actions, thoughts, and ideals. Challenging institutions that limit one's freedom is mentally liberating, as it sets in motion the process of questioning authoritarian relationships in general. This process gives us insight into how society works, changing our ideas and creating new ideals. To quote Emma Goldman again: "True emancipation begins. . . in woman's soul." And in a man's too, we might add. It is only here that we can "begin [our] inner regeneration, [cutting] loose from the weight of prejudices, traditions and customs" [Op. Cit., page 142]. But this process must be self-directed, for as Max Stirner notes, "the man who is set free is nothing but a freed man. . . a dog dragging a piece of chain with him" [Max Stirner, The Ego and Its Own, p. 168]

In an interview during the Spanish Revolution, the Spanish anarchist militant Durutti said, "we have a new world in our hearts." Only self-activity and self-liberation allows us to create such a vision in our hearts and gives us the confidence to try to actualize it in the real world.

Anarchists, however, do not think that self-liberation must wait for the future, after the "glorious revolution." The personal is political, and given the nature of society, how we act in the here and now will influence the future of our society and our lives. Therefore, even in pre-anarchist society anarchists try to create, as Bakunin puts it, "not only the ideas but also the facts of the future itself." We can do so by creating alternative social relationships and organisations, acting as free people in a non-free society. Only by our actions in the here and now can we lay the foundation for a free society.

Revolution is a process, not an event, and every "spontaneous revolutionary action" is usually results from and is based upon the patient work of many years of organization and education by people with "utopian" ideas. The process of "creating the new world in the shell of the old" (to use another IWW expression), by building alternative institutions and relationships, is but one component of what must be a long tradition of revolutionary commitment and militancy.

As Malatesta made clear, "to encourage popular organisations of all kinds is the logical consequence of our basic ideas, and should therefore be an integral part of our programme. . . anarchists do not want to emancipate the people; we want the people to emancipate themselves. . . , we want the new way of life to emerge from the body of the people and correspond to the state of their development and advance as they advance" [Life and Ideas, p. 90].

A.2.8 Is it possible to be an anarchist without opposing hierarchy?

No. We have seen that anarchists abhore authoritarianism. But if one is an anti-authoritarian, one must oppose all hierarchical institutions, since they embody the principle of authority. The argument for this (if anybody needs one) is as follows:

A hierarchy is a pyramidally-structured organization composed of a series of grades, ranks, or offices of increasing power, prestige, and (usually) remuneration. Scholars who have investigated the hierarchical form have found that the two primary principles it embodies are domination and exploitation. For example, in his article "What Do Bosses Do?" (Review of Radical Political Economics, 6, 7), a study of the modern factory, Steven Marglin found that the main function of the corporate hierarchy is not greater productive efficiency (as capitalists claim), but greater control over workers, the purpose of such control being more effective exploitation.

Control in a hierarchy is maintained by coercion, that is, by the threat of negative sanctions of one kind or another: physical, economic, psychological, social, etc. Such control, including the repression of dissent and rebellion, therefore necessitates centralisation: a set of power relations in which the greatest control is exercised by the few at the top (particularly the head of the organization), while those in the middle ranks have much less control and the many at the bottom have virtually none.

Since domination, coercion, and centralisation are essential features of authoritarianism, and as those features are embodied in hierarchies, all hierarchical institutions are authoritarian. Moreover, for anarchists, any organisation marked by hierarchy, centralism and authoritarianism is state-like, or "statist." And as anarchists oppose both the state and authoritarian relations, anyone who does not seek to dismantle all forms of hierarchy cannot be called an anarchist.

We are sorry to belabor this point, but some capitalist apologists, apparently wanting to appropriate the "anarchist" name because of its association with freedom, have recently claimed that one can be both a capitalist and an anarchist at the same time (as in so-called "anarcho" capitalism). It should now be clear that since capitalism is based on hierarchy (not to mention statism and exploitation), "anarcho"-capitalism is a contradiction in terms. (For more on this, see Section F)

A.2.9 What sort of society do anarchists want?

Anarchists desire a decentralised society, based on free association. We consider this form of society the best one for maximising the values we have outlined above -- liberty, equality and solidarity. Only by a rational decentralisation of power, both structurally and territorially, can individual liberty be fostered and encouraged. The delegation of power into the hands of a minority is an obvious denial of individual liberty and dignity. Rather than taking the management of their own affairs away from people and putting it in the hands of others, anarchists favour organisations which miminalise authority, keeping power at the base, in the hands of those who are affected by any decisions reached.

Free association is the cornerstone of an anarchist society. Individuals must be free to join together as they see fit, for this is the basis of freedom and human dignity. However, any such free agreement must be based on decentralisation of power; otherwise it will be a sham (as in capitalism), as only equality provides the necessary social context for freedom to grow and development. Therefore anarchists support directly democratic collectives, based on "one person one vote" (for the rationale of direct democracy as the political counterpart of free agreement, see section A.2.11 - Why do anarchists support direct democracy?).

In other words, associations would be run by mass assemblies of all involved, with purely administrative tasks being handled by elected committees. These community committees would be made up of mandated, recallable and temporary delegates who carry out their tasks under the watchful eyes of the assembly which elected them. If the delegates act against their mandate or try to extend their influence or work beyond that already decided by the assembly (i.e. if they start to make policy decisions), they can be instantly recalled and their decisions abolished. In this way, the organisation remains in the hands of the union of individuals who created it.

This power of recall is an essential tenet of any anarchist organisation. The key difference between a statist or hierarchical system and an anarchist community is who wields power. In a parliamentary system people give power to a group of representatives to make decisions for them for a fixed period of time. Whether they carry out their promises is irrelevant as people cannot recall them till the next election. Power lies at the top and those at the base are expected to obey. In an anarchist society this relationship is reversed. No one individual or group (elected or unelected) holds power in an anarchist community. Instead decisions are made using direct democratic principles and, when required, the community can elect or appoint delegates to carry out these decisions. There is a clear distinction between policy making (which lies with everyone who is affected) and the coordination and administration of any adopted policy (which is the job for delegates).

These egalitarian communities, founded by free agreement, also freely associate together in confederations. Such a free confederation would be run from the bottom up, with decisions following from the elemental assemblies upwards. The confederations would be run in the same manner as the collectives. There would be regular local regional, "national" and international conferences in which all important issues and problems affecting the collectives involved would be discussed. In addition, the fundamental, guiding principles and ideas of society would be debated and policy decisions made, put into practice, reviewed, and coordinated.

Action committees would be formed, if required, to coordinate and administer the decisions of the assemblies and their congresses, under strict control from below as discussed above. . Delegates to such bodies would have a limited tenure and have a fixed mandate - they are not able to make decisions on behalf of the people they are delegates for.

Most importantly, the basic community assemblies can overturn any decisions reached by the conferences and withdraw from any confederation. Any compromises that are made by a delegate during negotiations have to go back to a general assembly for ratification. Without that ratification any compromises that are made by a delegate are not binding on the community that has delegated a particular task to a particular individual or committee. In addition, they can call confederal conferences to discuss new developments and to inform action committees about changing wishes and to instruct them on what to do about any developments and ideas.

By organising in this manner, hierarchy is abolished, because the people at the base of the organisation are in control, not their delegates. Only this form of organisation can replace government (the initiative and empowerment of the few) with anarchy (the initiative and empowerment of all). This form of organisation would exist in all activities which required group work and the coordination of many people. It would be, as Bakunin said, the means "to integrate individuals into structures which they could understand and control." For individual initiatives, the individual involved would manage them.

As can be seen, anarchists wish to create a society based upon structures that ensure that no individual or group is able to wield power over others. Free agreement, confederation and the power of recall, fixed mandates and limited tenure are mechanisms by which power is removed from the hands of governments and placed in the hands of those directly affected by the decisions. For a fuller discussion on what an anarchist society would look like see section I.

A.2.10 What will abolishing hierarchy mean and achieve?

The creation of a new society based upon libertarian organisations will have an incalculable effect on everyday life. The empowerment of millions of people will transform society in ways we can only guess at now. However, many consider these forms of organisation as impractical and doomed to failure.

To those who say that such confederal, non-authoritarian organisations would produce confusion and disunity, anarchists maintain that the statist, centralised and hierarchical form of organisation produces indifference instead of involvement, heartlessness instead of solidarity, uniformity instead of unity, and privileged elites instead of equality. More importantly, such organisations destroy individual initiative and crush independent action and critical thinking.

That libertarian organisation can work and is based upon (and promotes) liberty was demonstrated in the Spanish Anarchist movement. Fenner Brockway, Secretary of the British Independent Labour Party, when visiting Barcelona during the 1936 revolution, noted that "the great solidarity that existed among the Anarchists was due to each individual relying on his [sic] own strength and not depending upon leadership. . . . The organisations must, to be successful, be combined with free-thinking people; not a mass, but free individuals" [quoted by Rudolf Rocker, Anarcho-syndicalism, p. 58]

As sufficiently indicated already, hierarchical, centralised structures restrict freedom. As Proudhon noted: "the centralist system is all very well as regards size, simplicity and construction: it lacks but one thing -- the individual no longer belongs to himself in such a system, he cannot feel his worth, his life, and no account is taken of him at all" [quoted in Paths in Utopia, Martin Buber, p. 33].

The effects of hierarchy can be seen all around us. It does not work. Hierarchy and authority exist everywhere, in the workplace, at home, in the street. As Bob Black puts it, "If you spend most of your waking life taking orders or kissing ass, if you get habituated to hierarchy, you will become passive-aggressive, sado-masochistic, servile and stupefied, and you will carry that load into every aspect of the balance of your life." [The Libertarian as Conservative].

This means that the end of hierarchy will mean a massive transformation in everyday life. It will involve the creation of individual-centred organisations within which all can exercise their abilities to the fullest.

Only self-determination and free agreement on every level of society can develop the responsibility, initiative, intellect and solidarity of individuals and society as a whole. Only anarchist organisation allows the vast talent which exists within humanity to be accessed and used, enriching society by the very process of enriching and developing the individual. Only by involving everyone in the process of thinking, planning, coordinating and implementing the decisions that affect them can freedom blossom and individuality be fully developed and protected. Anarchy will release the creativity and talent of the mass of people enslaved by hierarchy.

Anarchy will even be of benefit for those who are said to benefit from capitalism and its authority relations. Anarchists "maintain that both rulers and ruled are spoiled by authority; both exploiters and exploited are spoiled by exploitation" [Peter Kropotkin, Act for Yourself, p. 83]. This is because "[i]n any hierarchical relationship the dominator as well as the submissive pays his dues. The price paid for the 'glory of command' is indeed heavy. Every tyrant resents his duties. He is relegated to drag the dead weight of the dormant creative potential of the submissive all along the road of his hierarchical excursion" [The Right to Be Greedy, For Ourselves].

A.2.11 Why are anarchists in favour of direct democracy?

For anarchists, direct democratic voting on policy decisions within free associations is the political counterpart of free agreement. The reason is that "many forms of domination can be carried out in a 'free, 'non-coercive, contractual manner. . . and it is naive. . . to think that mere opposition to political control will in itself lead to an end of oppression" [John P. Clark, Max Stirner's Egoism, page 93].

Once an individual joins a community or workplace, he or she becomes a "citizen" (for want of a better word) of that association. The association is organised around an assembly of all its members (in the case of large workplaces and towns, this may be a functional sub-group such as a specific office or neighbourhood). In this assembly, in concert with others, the content of his or her political obligations are defined. In acting within the association, people must exercise critical judgment and choice, i.e. manage their own activity. This means that political obligation is not owed to a separate entity above the group or society, such as the state or company, but to one's fellow "citizens."

Although the assembled people collectively legislate the rules governing their association, and are bound by them as individuals, they are also superior to them in the sense that these rules can always be modified or repealed. Collectively, the associated "citizens" constitute a political authority, but as this authority is based on horizontal relationships between themselves rather than vertical ones between themselves and an elite, the "authority" is non-hierarchical ("rational" or "natural").

Of course it could be argued that if you are in a minority, you are governed by others. Now, the concept of direct democracy as we have described it is not necessarily tied to the concept of majority rule. If someone finds themselves in a minority on a particular vote, he or she is confronted with the choice of either consenting or refusing to recognise it as binding. To deny the minority the opportunity to exercise its judgment and choice is to infringe its autonomy and to impose obligation upon it which it has not freely accepted. The coercive imposition of the majority will is contrary to the ideal of self-assumed obligation, and so is contrary to direct democracy and free association. Therefore, far from being a denial of freedom, direct democracy within the context of free association and self-assumed obligation is the only means by which liberty can be nurtured. Needless to say, a minority, if it remains in the association, can argue its case and try to convince the majority of the error of its ways.

The links between associations follow the same outlines as for the associations themselves. Instead of individuals joining an association, we have associations joining confederations. The links between associations in the confederation are of the same horizontal and voluntary nature as within associations, with the same rights of "voice and exit" for members. The workings of such a confederation are outlined in section A.2.9 ( What sort of society do anarchists want?).

A.2.12 Why is voluntarism not enough?

Voluntarism means that association should be voluntary in order maximise liberty. Anarchists are, obviously, voluntarists, thinking that only in free association, created by free agreement, can individuals develop, grow, and express their liberty. However, it is evident that under capitalism voluntarism is not enough in itself to maximise liberty. Voluntarism implies promising (i.e. the freedom to make contracts), and promising implies that individuals are capable of independent judgment and rational deliberation. In addition, it presupposes that they can evaluate and change their actions and relationships. Contracts under capitalism, however, contradict these implications of voluntarism. For, while technically "voluntary" (though as we show in section B.4, this is not really the case), capitalist contracts result in a denial of liberty. This is because the social relationship of wage-labour involves promising to obey in return for payment. However, as Carole Patemen points out in The Problem of Political Obligation, "to promise to obey is to state, that in certain areas, the person making the promise is no longer free to exercise her capacities and decide upon her own actions, and is no longer equal, but subordinate" [page 19].

In effect, under capitalism you are only free to the extent that you can choose whom you will obey! Freedom, however, must mean more than the right to change masters. Voluntary servitude is still servitude. Therefore anarchists stress the need for direct democracy in voluntary associations in order to ensure that the concept of "freedom" is not a sham and a justification for domination, as it is under capitalism.

Any social relationships based on abstract individualism are likely to be based upon force, power, and authority, not liberty. This of course assumes a definition of liberty according to which individuals exercise their capacities and decide their own actions. Therefore, voluntarism is not enough to create a society that maximises liberty.

Of course, it could be objected that anarchists value some forms of social relationships above others and that a true libertarian must allow people the freedom to select their own social relationships. To answer the second objection first, in a society based on private property (and so statism), those with property have more power, which they can use to perpetuate their authority. And why should we excuse servitude or tolerate those who desire to restrict the liberty of others? The "liberty" to command is the liberty to enslave, and so is actually a denial of liberty.

Regarding the first objection, anarchists plead guilty. We are prejudiced against the reduction of human beings to the status of robots. We are prejudiced in favour of human dignity and freedom. We are prejudiced, in fact, in favour of humanity and individuality.

Section A.2.11 discusses why direct democracy is the necessary social counterpart to voluntarism (i.e. free agreement). Section B.4 discusses why capitalism cannot be based on equal bargaining power between property owners and the propertyless.

A.2.13 What about "human nature"?

Anarchists, far from ignoring "human nature," have the only political theory that gives this concept deep thought and reflection. Too often, "human nature" is flung up as the last line of defence in an argument against anarchism, because it is thought to be beyond reply. This is not the case, however.

First of all, human nature is a complex thing. If, by human nature, it is meant "what humans do," it is obvious that human nature is contradictory -- love and hate, compassion and heartlessness, peace and violence, and so on, have all been expressed by people and so are all products of "human nature." Of course, what is considered "human nature" can change with changing social circumstances. For example, slavery was considered part of "human nature" and "normal" for thousands of years, and war only become part of "human nature" once states developed. Therefore, environment plays an important part in defining what "human nature" is.

This does not mean that human beings are infinitely plastic, with each individual born a tabula rasa (blank slate) waiting to be formed by "society" (which in practice means those who run it). We do not wish to enter the debate about what human characteristics are and are not "innate." All we will say is that human beings have an innate ability to think and learn -- that much is obvious, we feel -- and that humans are sociable creatures, needing the company of others to feel complete and to prosper.

These two features, we think, suggest the viability of an anarchist society. The innate ability to think for oneself automatically makes all forms of hierarchy illegitimate, and our need for social relationships implies that we can organise without the state. The deep unhappiness and alienation afflicting modern society reveals that the centralisation and authoritarianism of capitalism and the state is denying some innate needs within us.

In fact, as mentioned earlier, for the great majority of its existence the human race has lived in anarchic communities, with little or no hierarchy. That modern society calls such people "savages" or "primitive" is pure arrogance. So who can tell whether anarchism is against "human nature"? Anarchists have accumulated much evidence to suggest that it may not be.

As for the charge the anarchists demand too much of "human nature," it is often non anarchists who make the greatest claims on it. For "while our opponents seem to admit there is a kind of salt of the earth -- the rulers, the employers, the leaders -- who, happily enough, prevent those bad men -- the ruled, the exploited, the led -- from becoming much worse than they are. . . , there is [a] difference, and a very important one. We admit the imperfections of human nature, but we make no exception for the rulers. They make it, although sometimes unconsciously" [Peter Kropotkin, Act for Yourself, p. 83] If human nature is so bad, then giving some people power over others and hoping this will lead to justice and freedom is hopelessly utopian.

Today, however, with the rise of "sociobiology," some claim (with very little real evidence) that capitalism is a product of our "nature," which is determined by our genes. These claims have been leapt upon by the powers that be. Considering the dearth of evidence, their support for this "new" doctrine must be purely the result of its utility to those in power -- i.e. the fact that it is useful to have an "objective" and "scientific" basis to rationalise that power. Like the social Darwinism that preceded it, sociobiology proceeds by first projecting the dominant ideas of current society onto nature (often unconsciously, so that scientists mistakenly consider the ideas in question as both "normal" and "natural"). Then the theories of nature produced in this manner are transferred back onto society and history, being used to "prove" that the principles of capitalism (hierarchy, authority, competition, etc.) are eternal laws, which are then appealed to as a justification for the status quo! Amazingly, there are many supposedly intelligent people who take this slight-of-hand seriously.

This sort of apologetics is natural, of course, because every ruling class has always claimed that their right to rule was based on "human nature," and hence supported doctrines that defined the latter in ways appearing to justify elite power -- be it sociobiology, divine right, original sin, etc. Obviously, such doctrines have always been wrong . . . until now, of course, as it is obvious our current society truly conforms to "human nature" and it has been scientifically proven by our current scientific priesthood!

The arrogance of this claim is truly amazing. History hasn't stopped. One thousand years from now, society will be completely different from what it is presently or from what anyone has imagined. No government in place at the moment will still be around, and the current economic system will not exist. The only thing that may remain the same is that people will still be claiming that their new society is the "One True System" that completely conforms to human nature, even though all past systems did not.

Of course, it does not cross the minds of supporters of capitalism that people from different cultures may draw different conclusions from the same facts -- conclusions that may be more valid. Nor does it occur to capitalist apologists that the theories of the "objective" scientists may be framed in the context of the dominant ideas of the society they live in. It comes as no surprise to anarchists, however, that scientists working in Tzarist Russia developed a theory of evolution based on cooperation within species, quite unlike their counterparts in capitalist Britain, who developed a theory based on competitive struggle within and between species. That the latter theory reflected the dominant political and economic theories of British society (notably competitive individualism) is pure coincidence, of course. Kropotkin's Mutual Aid was written in response to the obvious inaccuracies that British Social Darwinism projected onto nature and human life.

A.2.14 Do anarchists support terrorism?

No, and this is for two reasons. Terrorism means either targeting or not worrying about killing innocent people. For anarchy to exist, it must be created by ordinary people. One does not convince people of one's ideas by blowing them up. Secondly, anarchism is about self-liberation. One cannot blow up a social relationship. Freedom cannot be created by the actions of an elite few destroying rulers on behalf of the majority. For so long as people feel the need for rulers, hierarchy will exist. As we have stressed earlier, freedom cannot be given, only taken.

Moreover anarchists are not against individuals but the instutitions and social relationships that cause certain individuals to have power over others and abuse (i.e. use) that power. Therefore the anarchist revolution is about destroying structures, not people. As Bakunin pointed out, "we do not want the death of men but the abolition of positions and things" [The Lullers].

How is it, then, that anarchism is associated with violence? Partly this is because the state and media insist on referrring to terrorists who are not anarchists as anarchists. For example, the German Bader-Meinhoff gang were often called "anarchists" dispite their self-proclaimed Marxist-Leninism. Smears, unfortunately, work. But the main reason for the association of terrorism with anarchism is because of the "propaganda by deed" period in the anarchist movement.

This period -- roughly from 1880 to 1890 -- was marked by a small number of individual anarchists assassinating members of the ruling class (royalty, politicians and so forth). This was done for two reasons: firstly, in revenge for the 20,000-plus deaths due to the French state's brutal suppression of the Paris Commune, in which many anarchists were killed (propaganda by the deed began and was most frequent in France); and secondly, as a means to encourage people to revolt by showing that their oppressers could be defeated.

It must be noted that the majority of anarchists did not support this tactic, which in any case was a failure, as it gave the state an excuse to clamp down on both the anarchist and labour movments as well as giving the media a chance to associate anarchism with mindless violence, thus alienating much of the population from the movement.

In addition, the assumption behind propaganda by the deed, i.e. that everyone was waiting for a chance to rebel, was false. In fact, people are products of the system in which they live; hence they accepted most of the myths used to keep that system going. With the failure of propanganda by deed, anarchists turned back to what most of the movement had been doing anyway: encouraging the class struggle and the process of self-liberation. This turn back to the roots of anarchism can be seen from the rise in anarchosyndicalist unions after 1890.

Despite most anarchists' tactical disagreement with propaganda by deed, few would consider it to be terrorism or rule out assassination under all circumstances. Bombing a village because there might be an enemy in it is terrorism, whereas taking out a murdering dictator is defense at best and revenge at worst. As anarchists have long pointed out, if by terrorism it is meant "killing innocent people," then the state is the greatest terrorist of them all. If the people committing "acts of terror" are really anarchists, they would do everything possible to avoid harming innocent people and never use the statist line that "collateral damage" is regrettable but inevitable.

So, to summarise. Terrorism has been used by anarchists. It has also been used by many other political, social and religious groups and parties. For example, Christians, Marxists, Hindus, Nationalists, Republicans, Mohammedans, Sikhs, Marxists, Fascists, Jews and Patriots have all committed acts of terrorism. Few of these movements or ideas have been labeled as "terrorist by nature" - which shows anarchism`s threat to the status quo. There is nothing more likely to discredit and marginalise an idea than for malicious and/or ill-informed persons to portray those who believe and practice it as "mad bombers" with no opinions or ideals at all, just an insane urge to destroy.

Of course, the vast majority of Christians and so on have opposed terrorism as morally repugnant and counter-productive. As have the vast majority of anarchists, at all times and places. However, it seems that in our case it is necessary to state our opposition to terrorism time and time again.

So, to summarise - only a small minority of terrorists have ever been anarchists, and only a small minority of anarchists have ever been terrorists. The anarchist movement as a whole has always recognised that social relationships cannot be assassinated or bombed out of existence.

A.3 What types of anarchism are there?

Anarchists, while all sharing a few key ideas, can be grouped into broad categories, depending on the economic arrangements that they consider to be most suitable to human freedom.

However, to quote Rudolf Rocker, "[i]n common with founders of Socialism, Anarchists demand the abolition of all economic monopolies and the common ownership of the soil and all other means of production, the use of which must be available to all without distinction. . . .the Anarchists represent the viewpoint that the war against capitalism must be at the same time a war against all institutions of political power, for in history economic exploitation has always gone hand in hand with political and social oppression. The exploitation of man by man and the domination of man over man are inseparable, and each is the condition of the other" [Anarcho-syndicalism].

It is within this context that anarchists disagree. The main differences are between "individualist" and "social" anarchists, although the economic arrangements each desire are not mutually exclusive. Of the two, social anarchists have always been the vast majority, with individualist anarchism being restricted mostly to the United States. In addition, anarchists disagree over syndicalism, pacifism, "lifestylism," animal rights and a whole host of other ideas, but these, while important, are only different aspects of anarchism. Beyond a few key ideas, the anarchist movement (like life itself) is in a constant state of change, discussion and thought -- as would be expected in a movement that values freedom so highly.

To put our cards on the table, the writers of this FAQ place themselves firmly in the "social" strand of anarchism. This does not mean that we ignore the many important ideas associated with individualist anarchism, only that we think social anarchism is more appropriate for modern society, that it creates a stronger base for individual freedom, and that it more closely reflects the sort of society we would like to live in.

A.3.1 What are the differences between individualist and social anarchists?

While there is a tendency for individuals in both camps to claim that the proposals of the other camp would lead to the creation of some kind of state, the differences between individualists and social anarchists are not very great. Both are anti-state, anti-authority and anti-capitalist. The major differences are twofold.

The first is in regard to the means of action in the here and now. Individualists generally prefer education and the creation of alternative institutions, such as mutual banks, unions, communes, etc. They usually support strikes and other nonviolent forms of social protest. They are primarily evolutionists, not revolutionists, and dislike social anarchists' use of direct action to create revolutionary situations. Most social anarchists recognise the need for education and to create alternatives, but they disagree that this is enough in itself. They do not think capitalism can be reformed piece by piece into anarchy, although they do not ignore the importance of reforms in social struggle.

The second major difference concerns the form of anarchist economy proposed. Individualists perfer a market-based system of distribution to the social anarchists use-based system. Both agree that use rights must replace property rights, but the individualist denies that this should include the product of the workers labour. In addition, they accept that people should be able to sell the means of production they use, if they so desire. If the means of production, say land, is not in use, it reverts back to common ownership and is available to others for use. They think this system, called mutualism, will result in workers control of production and the end of capitalist exploitation and usury.

This second difference is the most important. The individualist fears being forced to join a collective and thus losing his or her freedom to exchange freely with others. However, social anarchists have always recognised the need for voluntary collectivisation. If people desire to work by themselves, this is not seen as a problem. In addition, a collective exists solely for the benefit of the individuals that compose it; it is the means by which people cooperate to meet their common needs. Therefore, all anarchists emphasise the importance of free agreement as the basis of an anarchist society. "In a free community, collectivism can only come about through the pressure of circumstances, not by imposition from above but by a free spontaneous movement from below" [Bakunin on Anarchism, p. 200].

If individualists desire to work for themselves and exchange goods with others, social anarchists have no objection. However, if in the name of freedom they wished to claim property rights so as to exploit the labour of others, social anarchists would quickly resist this attempt to recreate statism in the name of "liberty." Anarchists do not respect the "freedom" to be a ruler! As Luigi Galleni pointed out in The End of Anarchism?: "No less sophistical is the tendency of those who, under the comfortable cloak of anarchist individualism, would welcome the idea of domination. . . . But the heralds of domination presume to practice individualism in the name of their ego, over the obedient, resigned, or inert ego of others."

Moreover, for social anarchists, the idea that the means of production can be sold implies that private property could be reintroduced in an anarchist society. This, in all likelihood, "opens. . . the way for reconstituting under the heading of 'defense' all the functions of the State" [Peter Kropotkin, Revolutionary Pamphlets, p. 297].

Ben Tucker, the anarchist most influenced by free market ideas, also faced the problems associated with all schools of abstract individualism -- in particular, the acceptance of authoritarian social relations as an expression of "liberty." As Albert Melzter points out, this can have statist implications, because "the school of Benjamin Tucker -- by virtue of their individualism -- accepted the need for police to break strikes so as to guarantee the employer's 'freedom.' All this school of so-called Individualists accept. . . the necessity of the police force, hence for government, and the prime definition of anarchism is no government" [Anarchism: Arguments for and Against, p. 8].

This problem can be "got round" by accepting, along with Proudhon (the source of Tucker's Mutualist ideas), the need for cooperatives to run non-artisan workplaces. And while the individualists attack "usury," they ignore the problem of capital accumulation, which results in natural barriers of entry into markets and so recreates usury in new forms.

Hence a "free market" in banks, as advocated by Tucker, would result in a few big banks dominating, with a direct economic interest in supporting capitalist rather than cooperative investment. The only real solution to this problem would be to ensure community ownership and management of banks, as originally desired by Proudhon.

It is this recognition of the developments within the capitalist economy which make social anarchists reject individualist anarchism in favour of communalising, and so decentralising, production by freely associated and cooperative labour. (For more discussion on the ideas of the Individualist anarchists, see section G - "Does individualist anarchism have anything in common with capitalism?")

A.3.2 Are there different types of social anarchism?

Yes. Social anarchism has four major trends -- mutualism, collectivism, communism and syndicalism. The differences are not great and simply involve differences in strategy. The one major difference that does exist is between mutualism and the other kinds of social anarchism. Mutualism is based around a form of market socialism - workers cooperates exchanging the product of their labour via a system of community banks. This mutual bank network would be "formed by the whole community, not for the especial advantage of any individual or class, but for the benefit of all . . . [with] no interest . . . exacted on loans, except enough to cover risks and expenses." [Charles A. Dana, Proudhon and his "Bank of the People", pp. 44-45] Such a system would end capitalist exploitation and oppression for by "introducing mutualism into exchange and credit we introduce it everywhere, and labour will assume a new aspect and become truly democratic." [Op. Cit., p. 45] The social anarchist version of mutualism differs from the individualist form by having the mutual banks owned by the local community instead of being independent cooperatives.

The other forms of social anarchism do not share the mutualists support for markets, even non-capitalist ones. Instead they think that freedom is best served by communalising production and sharing information and products freely between cooperatives. Only by extending the principle of cooperation beyond individual workplaces can individual liberty be maximised (see section I.1.3 for why most anarchists are opposed to markets). These anarchists share the mutualists support for workers' self-management of production within cooperatives but see confederations of these associations as being the focual point for expressing mutual aid, not a market.

Social anarchists share a firm commitment to common ownership of the means of production (excluding those used purely by individuals) and reject the individualist idea that these can be "sold off" by those who use them. The reason, as noted earlier, is because if this could be done, capitalism and statism could regain a foothold in the free society. In addition, other social anarchists do not agree with the mutualist idea that capitalism can be reformed into libertarian socialism by introducing mutual banking. For them capitalism can only be replaced by a free society by social revolution.

The major difference between collectivists and communists is over the question of "money" after a revolution. Anarcho-communists consider the abolition of money to be essential, while anarcho-collectivists consider the end of private ownership of the means of production to be the key.

Most anarcho-collectivists think that, over time, as production increases and the sense of community becomes stronger, money will disappear. Both agree that, in the end, society would be run along the lines suggested by the maxim, "From each according to their abilities, to each according to their needs." They just disagree on how quickly this will come about.

Syndicalism is the other major form of social anarchism. Anarcho-syndicalists, like other syndicalists, want to create an industrial union movement based on anarchist ideas. Therefore they advocate decentralised, federated unions that use direct action to get reforms under capitalism until they are strong enough to overthrow it.

Thus, even under capitalism, anarcho-syndicalists seek to create "free associations of free producers." They think that these associations would serve as "a practical school of anarchism" and they take very seriously Bakunin's remark that the workers' organizations must create "not only the ideas but also the facts of the future itself" in the pre-revolutionary period.

Anarcho-syndicalists, like all social anarchists, "are convinced that a Socialist economic order cannot be created by the decrees and statutes of a government, but only by the solidaric collaboration of the workers with hand and brain in each special branch of production; that is, through the taking over of the management of all plants by the producers themselves under such form that the separate groups, plants, and branches of industry are independent members of the general economic organism and systematically carry on production and the distribution of the products in the interest of the community on the basis of free mutual agreements" [Rudolf Rocker, Anarcho-syndicalism, p. 94].

The difference between syndicalists and other revolutionary social anarchists is slight and purely revolves around the question of anarcho-syndicalist unions. Both collectivists and communists think that syndicalistic organisations will be created by workers in struggle, and so consider encouraging the "spirit of revolt" as more important than creating syndicalist unions and hoping workers will join them. They also do not place as great an emphasis on the workplace, considering struggles within it to be equal in importance to other struggles against hierarchy and domination outside the workplace.

Both communist and collectivist anarchists recognise the need for anarchists to unite together in purely anarchist organisations. They think it is essential that anarchists work together as anarchists to clarify and spread their ideas to others. Syndicalists often deny the importance of anarchist groups and federations, arguing that revolutionary industrial unions are enough in themselves. Syndicalists think that the anarchist and union movements can be fused into one, but most other anarchists disagree. Non-syndicalists point out the reformist nature of unionism and urge that to keep syndicalist unions revolutionary, anarchists must work within them. Most non-syndicalists consider the fusion of anarchism and unionism a source of potential confusion that would result in both movements failing to do their respect work correctly.

In practice, few anarcho-syndicalists totally reject the need for an anarchist federation, while few anarchists are totally anti-syndicalist. For example, Bakunin inspired both anarcho-communist and anarcho-syndicalist ideas, and anarcho-communists like Kropotkin, Malatesta, Berkman and Goldman were all sympathetic to anarcho-syndicalist movements and ideas.

A.2.3 What kinds of green anarchism are there?

An emphasis on anarchist ideas as a solution to the ecological crisis is a common thread in most forms of anarchism today. The trend goes back to the important work done by Peter Kropotkin in arguing that the anarchist society would be based on a confederation of communities that would unite manual and brain work plus industry and argiculture [see Fields, Factories, and Workshops]. This idea of an economy in which "small is beautiful" was proposed nearly 100 years before it was taken up by what was to become the green movement. In addition, in Mutual Aid Kropotkin documented how cooperation within species and between them and their environment is often of more benefit to them than competition. Kropotkin's work, combined with that of William Morris, the Reclus brothers (both of whom, like Kropotkin, were world-renowned geographers), and many others laid the foundations for the current anarchist interest in ecological issues.

The eco-anarchist thread within anarchism has two main focal points: social ecology and "primativist" anarchism. Social Ecology is associated with the ideas and works of Murray Bookchin, who has been writing on ecology and anarchism since the 1950's and has been, more than anyone else, the person who has placed ecology at the heart of anarchism.

"Primativist" anarchism is associated with a range of magazines, mostly US -based, like Fifth Estate, which emphasise the anti-ecological nature of capitalism and take a frankly anti-civilisation and anti-technology position. They are usually very hostile to social ecology, which they regard as not getting to the root of the problem -- namely modern "industrial society"-- and think that social ecology's desire to retain certain types of technology will result in "civilisation" growing again to destroy ourselves and the planet.

Social Ecology locates the roots of the ecological crisis firmly in relations of domination between people. The domination of nature is seen as a product of domination within society. Therefore social ecologists consider it essential to attack hierarchy, not civilisation as such. In addition, social ecology considers the use of appropriate technology essential in order to liberate humanity and the planet. By being against technology as such, people will spend all their time working, and so hierarchical structures will start to develop again.

Lastly, there is "deep ecology," which, because of its bio-centric nature, many anarchists reject as anti-human. There are few anarchists who think that people, as people, are the cause of the ecological crisis, which many deep ecologists seem to suggest. Murray Bookchin, for example, has been particularly outspoken in his criticism of deep ecology and the anti-human ideas that are often associated with it. Most anarchists would argue that it is not people but the system which is the problem, and that only people can change it. Deep ecology, particularly the organization Earth First! (EF!), has changed considerably over time, and EF! now has a close working relationship with the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW), a syndicalist union. While deep ecology is not a thread of eco-anarchism, it shares ideas and is becoming more accepted by anarchists as EF! rejects its few misanthropic ideas and starts to see that hierarchy, not the human race, is the problem.

A.3.4 Is anarchism pacifistic?

Although many anarchists reject violence and proclaim pacifism, the movement is not essentially pacifistic. However, a pacifist strand has long existed in anarchism, with Leo Tolstoy being its major figure. Most anarchists, though, do support the use of revolutionary violence, holding that physical force will be required to overthrow entrenched power and to resist state aggression. The question of violence is relatively unimportant to most anarchists, as they do not glorify it and think that it should be kept to a minimum. As Alexander Berkman pointed out, those who emphasise violence are like those who think "it's the same as if rolling up your sleeves for work should be considered the work itself." To the contrary, "[t]he fighting part of revolution is merely rolling up your sleeves. The real, actual task is ahead" [ABC of Anarchism].

Nevertheless, all anarchists are anti-militarists and oppose capitalist wars, often being jailed for their activities. Emma Goldman and Alexander Berkman where both arrested and deported from America for organising a No-Conscription League in 1917. The anarcho-syndicalist IWW was crushed by a ruthless wave of government repression due to the threat its organising and anti-war message presented to the powerful elites who favored war.

The attraction of pacifism to anarchists is clear. Violence is authoritarian and coercive, and so its use seems to contradict anarchist principles. Many anarchists who are not strict pacifists agree with pacifist-anarchists when they argue that violence can often be counterproductive, alienating people and giving the state an excuse to repress the movement. All anarchists support nonviolent direct action and civil disobedience, which often provide better roads to radical change. Many anarchists, such as Noam Chomsky and Paul Goodman, have been key figures of the peace movement.

However, anarchists who are pure pacifists are rare. Most accept the use of violence as a necessary evil and advocate minimising its use. All agree that a revolution which institutionalises violence will just recreate the state in a new form. They argue, however, that it is not authoritarian to destroy authority or to use violence to resist violence. Therefore, although most anarchists are not pacifists, most reject it except in self-defense.

A.3.5 What is Anarcha-Feminism?

Although opposition to the state and all forms of authority had a strong voice among the early feminists of the19th century, the more recent feminist movement which began in the 1960's was founded upon anarchist practice. This is where the term anarcha-feminism came from, referring to women anarchists who act within the larger feminist and anarchist movements to remind them of their principles.

Anarchism and feminism have always been closely linked. Many outstanding feminists have also been anarchists, including the pioneering Mary Wollstonecraft (author of A Vindication of the Rights of Woman), the Communard Louise Michel, and the tireless champion of women's freedom, Emma Goldman. Freedom, the world's oldest anarchist newspaper, was founded by Charlotte Wilson in 1886. In addition, all the major anarchist thinkers (bar Proudhon) were supporters of women's equality. The "Free Women" movement in Spain during the Spanish revolution is a classic example of women anarchists organising themselves to defend their basic freedoms and create a society based on women's equality. (See The Free Women of Spain by Martha Ackelsberg for more details on this important organisation.)

Cathy Levine points out that in the sixties, "independent groups of women began. . . creating. . . organisations similar to those of anarchists of many decades and regions. No accident, either."

It is no accident because, as feminist scholars have noted, women were among the first victims of hierarchical society, which is thought to have begun with the rise of patriarchy and ideologies of domination during the late Neolithic era. Marilyn French argues [in Beyond Power] that the first major social stratification of the human race occurred when men began dominating women, with women becoming in effect a "lower" and "inferior" social class.

Peggy Kornegger has drawn attention to the strong connections between feminism and anarchism, both in theory and practice. "The radical feminist perspective is almost pure anarchism," she writes. "The basic theory postulates the nuclear family as the basis of all authoritarian systems. The lesson the child learns. . . is to obey the great anonymous voice of Authority. To graduate from childhood to adulthood is to become a full-fledged automaton, incapable of questioning or even of thinking clearly."

Anarcha-feminists point out that authoritarian traits and values, e.g. domination, exploitation, aggressiveness, competitiveness, desensitization etc., are highly valued in hierarchical civilizations and are traditionally referred to as "masculine." In contrast, non-authoritarian traits and values such as cooperation, sharing, compassion, sensitivity, warmth, etc., are traditionally regarded as "feminine" and are devalued. Feminist scholars have traced this phenomenon back to the growth of patriarchal societies during the early Bronze Age and their conquest of cooperatively based "organic" societies in which "feminine" traits and values were prevalent and respected. Following these conquests, however, such values came to be regarded as "inferior," especially for a man, since men were in charge of domination and exploitation under patriarchy. (See e.g. Riane Eisler, The Chalice and the Blade; Elise Boulding, The Underside of History). Hence anarcha-feminists have referred to the creation of a non-authoritarian, anarchist society based on cooperation, sharing, mutual aid, etc. as the "feminization of society."

Anarcha-feminists have noted that "feminizing" society cannot be achieved without both direct democracy and decentralisation. This is because the patriarchal-authoritarian values and traditions they wish to overthrow are embodied and reproduced in hierarchies. Thus feminism implies decentralisation, which in turn implies direct democracy. Many feminists have recognized this, as reflected in their experiments with collective forms of feminist organizations that eliminate hierarchical structure and competitive forms of decision making. Some feminists have even argued that directly democratic organizations are specifically female political forms [see e.g. Nancy Hartsock "Feminist Theory and the Development of Revolutionary Strategy," in Zeila Eisenstein, ed., Capitalist Patriarchy and the Case for Socialist Feminism, pp. 56-77]. Like all anarchists, anarcha-feminists recognise that self-liberation is the key to women's equality and thus, freedom.

Anarcha-feminism tries to keep feminism from becoming influenced and dominated by authoritarian ideologies or either the right or left. It proposes direct action and self-help instead of the mass reformist campaigns favoured by the "official" feminist movement, with its creation of hierarchical and centralist organisations and its illusion that having more women bosses, politicians, and soldiers is a move towards "equality." Anarcha-feminists would point out that the so-called "management science" which women have to learn in order to become mangers in capitalist companies is essentially a set of techniques for controlling and exploiting wage workers in corporate hierarchies, whereas "feminizing" society requires the elimination of capitalist wage-slavery and managerial domination altogether. Anarcha-feminists realise that learning how to become an effective exploiter is not the path to equality.

Anarcha-feminists have much to contribute to our understanding of the origins of the ecological crisis in the authoritarian values of hierarchical civilization. For example, a number of feminist scholars have argued that the domination of nature has paralleled the domination of women, who have been identified with nature throughout history (See e.g. Carline Merchant, The Death of Nature, 1980). Both women and nature are victims of the obsession with control that characterizes the authoritarian personality. For this reason, a growing number of both radical ecologists and feminists are recognizing that hierarchies must be dismantled in order to achieve their respective goals.

A.4 Who are the major anarchist thinkers?

Although Gerard Winstanley (The Law of Freedom, 1652) and William Godwin (Enquiry Concerning Political Juistice, 1793) had begun to unfold the philosophy of anarchism in the 17th and 18th centuries, it was not until the second half of the 19th century that anarchism emerged as a coherent theory with a systematic, developed programme. This work was mainly started by four people -- a German, Max Stirner (1806-1856), a Frenchman, Pierre-Joseph Proudhon (1809-1865), and two Russians, Mikhail Bakunin (1814-1876) and Peter Kropotkin (1842-1921). They took the ideas in common circulation within sections of the working population and expressed them in written form.

Born in the atmosphere of German romantic philosophy, Stirner's anarchism (set forth in The Ego and Its Own) was an extreme form of individualism, or egoism, which placed the unique individual above all else -- state, property, law or duty. His ideas remain a cornerstone of anarchism. Stirner attacked both capitalism and state socialism, laying the foundations of both communist and individualist anarchism by his egoist critique of capitalism and the state that supports it.

In place of capitalism, Max Stirner urges the "union of egoists," free associations of unique indviduals who cooperate as equals in order to maximise their freedom and satisfy their desires (including emotional ones for solidarity, or "intercourse" as Stirner called it).

Individualism by definition includes no concrete programme for changing social conditions. This was attempted by Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, the first to describe himself openly as an anarchist. His theories of mutualism and federalism had a profound effect on the growth of anarchism as a mass movement and spelled out clearly how an anarchist world could function and be coordinated. Proudhon's ideas are the immediate source for both social and individualist anarchism,with each thread emphasising different aspects of mutualism. Proudhon's major works include What is Property, Economic Contradictions, and The Political Capacity of the Working Classes.

Mikhail Bakunin, the central figure in the development of modern anarchist activism and ideas, emphasized the role of collectivism, mass insurrection, and spontaneous revolt in the launching of a free, classless society. He also emphasised the social nature of humanity and individuality, rejecting the abstract individualism of liberalism as a denial of freedom. His ideas become dominant in the 20th century among large sections of the radical labour movement. Many of his ideas are almost identical to what would later be called syndicalism. Bakunin influenced many union movements -- especially in Spain, where a major anarchist social revolution took place. His works include God and the State, The Paris Commune and the Idea of the State, and many others. Bakunin on Anarchism, edited by Sam Dolgoff is an excellent collection of his major writings.

Peter Kropotkin, a scientist by training, fashioned a sophisticated and detailed anarchist analysis of modern conditions linked to a thorough-going prescription for a future society -- communist-anarchism -- which continues to be the most widely-held theory among anarchists. He identified mutual aid as the best means by which individuals can develop and grow, pointing out that competition within humanity (and other species) was often not in the best interests of those involved. His major works included Mutual Aid, The Conquest of Bread, Fields, Factories, and Workshops, Modern Science and Anarchism, Act for Yourself, The State: Its Historic Role, and many others.

The various theories proposed by these "founding anarchists" are not, however, mutually exclusive: they are interconnected in many ways, and to some extent refer to different levels of social life. Individualism relates closely to the conduct of our private lives: only by recognising the uniqueness and freedom of others and forming unions with them can we protect and maximise our own uniqueness and liberty; mutualism relates to our general relations with others: by mutually working together and cooperating we ensure that we do not work for others. Production under anarchism would be collectivist, with people working together for their own, and the common, good, and in the wider political and social world decisions would be reached communally.

Anarchist ideas of course did not stop developing when Kropotkin died. Neither are they the products of just four men. Anarchism is by its very nature an evolving theory, with many different thinkers and activists. Of the many other anarchists who could be mentioned here, we can mention but a few.

In the United States Emma Goldman and Alexander Berkman were two of the leading anarchist thinkers and activists. Goldman united Stirner's egoism with Kropotkin's communism into a passionate and powerful theory which combined the best of both. She also placed anarchism at the centre of feminist theory and activism (see Anarchism and Other Essays and Red Emma Speaks). Alexander Berkman, Emma's lifelong companion, produced a classic introduction to anarchist ideas called What is Communist Anarchism? (also known as the ABC of Anarchism). Both he and Goldman were expelled by the US government to Russia after the 1917 revolution there as they were considered too dangerous to be allowed to remain in the land of the free. Voltairine de Cleyre also played an important role in the US anarchist movement, enriching both US and international anarchist theory with her articles, poems and speaches. Her work includes such classics as Anarchism and American Traditions and Direct Action.

Italy, with its strong and dynamic anarchist movement, has produced some of the best anarchist writers. Errico Malatesta spent over 50 years fighting for anarchism across the world and his writings are amongst the best in anarchist theory (see Anarchy or The Anarchist Revolution and Malatesta: Life and Ideas, both edited by Vernon Richards). Luigi Galleani produced a very powerful anti-organisational anarchist-communism which proclaimed that "Communism is simply the economic foundation by which the individual has the opportunity to regulate himself and carry out his functions" [The End of Anarchism?]. Camillo Berneri, before being murdered by the Communists during the Spanish Revolution, continued the fine tradition of critical, practical anarchism associated with Italian anarchism.

As far as individualist anarchism goes, the undoubted "king" was Ben Tucker. Tucker in his Instead of Book used his intellect and wit to attack all who he considered enemies of freedom (mostly capitalists, but also a few social anarchists as well!). Tucker was followed by Laurance Labadie who carried the individualist-anarchist torch after Tucker's death, believing that "that freedom in every walk of life is the greatest possible means of elevating the human race to happier conditions."

More recently, Noam Chomsky (in Deterring Democracy, Necessary Illusions, World Orders, Old and New and many others) and Murray Bookchin (Post-Scarcity Anarchism, The Ecology of Freedom, Towards an Ecological Society, and Remaking Society, among others) have kept the social anarchist movement at the front of political theory and analysis. Bookchin's work has placed anarchism at the centre of green thought and has been a constant threat to those wishing to mystify or corrupt the movement to create an ecological society. Colin Ward in Anarchy in Action and elsewhere has updated Kropotkin's Mutual Aid by uncovering and documenting the anarchistic nature of everyday life even within capitalism. His work on housing has emphasised the importance of collective self-help and social management of housing against the twin evils of privatisation and nationalisation.

We could go on; there are many more writers we could mention. But besides these, there are the thousands of "ordinary" anarchist militants who have never written books but whose common sense and activism have encouraged the spirit of revolt within society and helped build the new world in the shell of the old. As Kropotkin noted, "anarchism originated among the people, and it will preserve its vitality and creative force so long as it remains a movement of the people."

A.5 What are some examples of "Anarchy in Action"?

Anarchism, more than anything else, is about the efforts of millions of revolutionaries changing the world in the last two centuries. Here we will discuss some of the high points of this movement, all of them of a profoundly anti-capitalist nature.

Anarchism is about radically changing the world, not just making the present system less inhuman by encouraging the anarchistic tendencies within it to grow and develop. While no purely anarchist revolution has taken place yet, there have been numerous ones with a highly anarchist character and level of participation. And while these have all been destroyed, in each case it has been at the hands of outside force brought against them (backed either by Communists or Capitalists), not because of any internal problems in anarchism itself. These revolutions, despite their failure to survive in the face of overwhelming force, have been both an inspiration for anarchists and proof that anarchism is a viable social theory and can be practised on a large scale.

It is important to point out that these examples are of wide-scale social experiments and do not imply that we ignore the undercurrent of anarchist practice which exists in everyday life, even under capitalism. Both Peter Kropotkin (in Mutual Aid) and Colin Ward (in Anarchy in Action) have documented the many ways in which ordinary people, usually unaware of anarchism, have worked together as equals to meet their common interests. As Colin Ward argues, "an anarchist society, a society which organises itself without authority, is always in existence, like a seed beneath the snow, buried under the weight of the state and its bureaucracy, capitalism and its waste, privilege and its injustices, nationalism and its suicidal loyalities, religious differences and their superstitous seperatism" [Anarchy in Action, page 14].

Anarchism is not only about a future society, it is also about the social struggle happening today. It is not a condition but a process, which we create by our self-activity and self-liberation.

By the 1960's, however, many commentators were writing off the anarchist movement as a thing of the past. Not only had fascism finished off European anarchist movements in the years before and during the war, but in the postwar period these movements were prevented from recovering by the capitalist West on one hand and the Leninist East on the other. Over the same period of time, anarchism had been repressed in the US, Latin America, China, Korea (where a social revolution with anarchist content was put down before the Korean War), and Japan. Even in the one or two countries that escaped the worst of the repression, the combination of the Cold War and international isolation saw libertarian unions like the Swedish SAC become reformist.

But the 60's were a decade of new struggle, and all over the world the 'New Left' looked to anarchism as well as elsewhere for its ideas. Many of the prominent figures of the massive explosion of May 1968 in France considered themselves anarchists. Although these movements themselves degenerated, those coming out of them kept the idea alive and began to construct new movements. The death of Franco in 1976 saw a massive rebirth of anarchism in Spain, with up to 500,000 people attending the CNT's first post-Franco rally. The return to a limited democracy in some South American countries in the late 70's and 80's saw a growth in anarchism there. Finally, in the late 80's it was anarchists who struck the first blows against the Leninist USSR, with the first protest march since 1928 being held in Moscow by anarchists in 1987.

Today the anarchist movement, although still weak, organises tens of thousands of revolutionaries in many countries. Spain, Sweden and Italy all have libertarian union movements organising some 250,000 between them. Most other European countries have several thousand active anarchists. Anarchist groups have appeared for the first time in other countries, including Nigeria and Turkey. In South America the movement has recovered massively. A contact sheet circulated by the Venezuelan anarchist group Corrio A lists over 100 organisations in just about every country.

Perhaps the recovery is slowest in North America, but there, too, all the libertarian organisations seem to be undergoing significant growth. As this growth accelerates, many more examples of anarchy in action will be created and more and more people will take part in anarchist organisations and activities, making this part of the FAQ less and less important.

However, it is essential to highlight mass examples of anarchism working on a large scale in order to avoid the specious accusation of "utopianism." As history is written by the winners, these examples of anarchy in action are often hidden from view in obscure books. Rarely are they mentioned in the schools and universities (or if mentioned, they are distorted). Needless to say, the few examples we give are just that, a few.

Anarchism has a long history in many countries, and we cannot attempt to document every example, just those we consider to be important. We are also sorry if the examples seem Eurocentric. We have, due to space and time considerations, had to ignore the Haymarket events of 1886, the building of the anarcho-syndicalist unions across the world, the syndicalist revolt (1910 to 1914) and the shop steward movement (1917-21) in Britain, Germany (1919-21), the Italian factory occupations of 1920, Paris 1968, Portugal (1974), the Mexican revolution, anarchists in the Cuban revolution, the struggle in Korea against Japanese (then US and Russian) imperialism during and after the Second World War, Hungary (1956), the "the refusal of work" revolt in the late 1960's (particularly in "the hot Autumn" in Italy, 1969), the UK miner's strike (1984-85), the struggle against the Poll Tax in Britain (1988-92), the strikes in France in 1986 and 1995, the Italian COBAS movement in the 80's and 90's, and numerous other major struggles that have involved anarchist ideas of self-management (ideas that usually develop from the movement themselves, without anarchists necessarily playing a major, or "leading", role).

For anarchists, revolutions and mass struggles are "festivals of the oppressed," when ordinary people start to act for themselves and change both themselves and the world.

A.5.1 The Paris Commune

The Paris Commune of 1871 played an important role in the development of both anarchist ideas and the movement. As Bakunin commented at the time, "revolutionary socialism [i.e. anarchism] has just attempted its first striking and practical demonstration in the Paris Commune" [Bakunin on Anarchism, p. 263].

The Paris Commune was created after France was defeated by Prussia in the Franco-Prussian war. The French government tried to send in troops to regain the Parisian National Guard's cannon to prevent it from falling into the hands of the population. The soldiers refused to fire on the jeering crowd and turned their weapons on their officers. This was March 18th; the Commune had begun.

In the free elections called by the Parisian National Guard, the citizens of Paris elected a council made up of a majority of Jacobins and Republicans and a minority of socialists (mostly Blanquists -- authoritarian socialists -- and followers of the anarchist Proudhon). This council proclaimed Paris autonomous and desired to recreate France as a confederation of communes (i.e. communities). Within the Commune, the elected council people were recallable and paid an average wage. In addition, they had to report back to the people who had elected them.

Why this development caught the imagination of anarchists is clear -- it has strong similarities with anarchist ideas. In fact, the example of the Paris Commune was in many ways similar to how Bakunin had predicted that a revolution would have to occur -- a major city declaring itself autonomous, organising itself, leading by example, and urging the rest of the planet to follow it. (See "Letter to Albert Richards" in Bakunin on Anarchism). The Paris Commune began the process of creating a new society, one organised from the bottom up.

Many anarchists played a role within the Commune -- for example Louise Michel, the Reclus brothers, and Eugene Varlin (the latter murdered in the repression afterwards). As for the reforms initiated by the Commune, such as the re-opening of workplaces as cooperatives, anarchists can see their ideas of associated labour beginning to be realised. In the Commune's call for federalism and autonomy, anarchists see their "future social organisation. . . [being] carried out from the bottom up, by the free association or federation of workers, starting with associations, then going into the communes, the regions, the nations, and, finally, culminating in a great international and universal federation" [Bakunin,ibid., p. 270].

However, for anarchists the Commune did not go far enough. It did not abolish the state within the Commune, as it had abolished it beyond it. The Communards organised themselves "in a Jacobin manner" (to use Bakunin's cutting term). As Peter Kropotkin pointed out, it did not "break with the tradition of the State, of representative government, and it did not attempt to achieve within the Commune that organisation from the simple to the complex it inaugurated by proclaiming the independence and free federation of the Communes" [Fighting the Revolution, p. 16]. In addition, its attempts at economic reform did not go far enough, making no attempt to turn all workplaces into cooperatives and forming associations of these cooperatives to coordinate and support each other's economic activities. However, as the city was under constant siege by the French army, it is understandable that the Communards had other things on their minds.

Instead of abolishing the state within the commune by organising federations of directly democratic mass assemblies, like the Parisian "sections" of the revolution of 1789-93 (see Kropotkin's Great French Revolution for more on these), the Paris Commune kept representative government and suffered for it. "Instead of acting for themselves. . .the people, confiding in their governors, entrusted them the charge of taking the initiative" [Kropotkin, Revolutionary Pamphlets, p.19], and so the council became "the greatest obstacle to the revolution" [Bakunin, Op. Cit., p. 241].

The council become more and more isolated from the people who elected it, and thus more and more irrelevant. And as its irrelevance grew, so did its authoritarian tendencies, with the Jacobin majority creating a "Committee of Public Safety" to "defend" (by terror) the "revolution." The Committee was opposed by the libertarian socialist minority and was, fortunately, ignored in practice by the people of Paris as they defended their freedom against the French army, which was attacking them in the name of capitalist civilisation and "liberty." On May 1st, government troops entered the city, followed by seven days of bitter street fighting. Squads of soldiers and armed members of the bourgeoisie roamed the streets, killing and maiming at will. Over 25,000 people were killed in the street fighting, many murdered after they had surrendered, and their bodies dumped in mass graves.

For anarchists, the lessons of the Paris Commune were threefold. Firstly, a decentralised confederation of communities is the necessary political form of a free society. Secondly, "there is no more reason for a government inside a Commune than for government above the Commune" [Peter Kropotkin, Fighting the Revolution, p. 19]. This means that an anarchist community will be based on a confederation of neighbourhood and workplace assemblies freely cooperating together. Thirdly, it is critically important to unify political and economic revolutions into a social revolution. "They tried to consolidate the Commune first and put off the social revolution until later, whereas the only way to proceed was to consolidate the Commune by means of the social revolution!" [Peter Kropotkin, Op. Cit., p. 19]

A.5.2 Anarchists in the Russian Revolution.

The Russian revolution of 1917 saw a huge growth in anarchism in that country and many experiments in anarchist ideas. However, in popular culture the Russian Revolution is seen not as a mass movement by ordinary people struggling towards freedom but as the means by which Lenin imposed his dictatorship on Russia. The Russian Revolution, like most history, is a good example of the maxim "history is written by those who win." Both capitalist and Leninist histories of the period between 1917 and 1921 ignore what the anarchist Voline called "the unknown revolution" -- the revolution called forth from below by the actions of ordinary people.

The initial overthrow of the Tzar came from the direct action of the masses, and the revolution carried on in this vein until the new, "socialist" state was powerful enough to stop it. For the Left, the end of Tzarism was the culmination of years of effort by socialists and anarchists everywhere, representing the progressive wing of human thought overcoming traditional oppression, and as such was duly praised by leftists around the world.

In the workplaces and streets and on the land, more and more people became convinced that abolishing feudalism politically was not enough. The overthrow of the Tzar made little real difference if feudal exploitation still existed in the economy, so workers started to seize their workplaces and peasants, the land. All across Russia, ordinary people started to build their own organisations, unions, cooperatives, factory committees and councils (or "soviets" in Russian). These organisations were initially organised in anarchist fashion, with recallable delegates and being federated with each other.

The anarchists participated in this movement, encouraging all tendencies to self-management. As Jacques Sadoul (a French officer) noted in early 1918, "The anarchist party is the most active, the most militant of the opposition groups and probably the most popular. . . .The Bolsheviks are anxious" [quoted by Daniel Guerin, Anarchism, pp. 95-6]. Anarchists were particularly active in the movement for workers self-management of production (see M. Brinton, The Bolsheviks and Workers Control).

But by early 1918, the authoritarian socialists of the Bolshevik party, once they had seized power, began the physical suppression of their anarchist rivals. Initially, anarchists had supported the Bolsheviks, since the Bolshevik leaders had hidden their state-building ideology behind support for the soviets.

However, this support quickly "withered away" as the Bolsheviks showed that they were, in fact, not seeking true socialism but were instead securing power for themselves and pushing not for collective ownership of land and productive resources but for government ownership. The Bolsheviks, for example, systematically destroyed the workers' control movement, even though it was successfully increasing production in the face of difficult circumstances.

Lenin suppressed workers' control on the spurious grounds that it would reduce the productivity of labor -- an argument that has subsequently been shown to be false by cases where workers' control has been established. It's interesting to note that today's capitalist apologists, who often claim workers' control would reduce productivity, are actually using a discredited Leninist argument.

While eliminating the workers' control movement, the Bolsheviks also systematically undermined, arrested, and killed their most vocal opponents, the anarchists, as well as restricting the freedom of the masses they claimed to be protecting. Independent unions, political parties, the right to strike, self-management in the workplace and on the land -- all were destroyed in the name of "socialism." For insiders, the Revolution had died a few months after the Bolsheviks took over. To the outside world, the Bolsheviks and the USSR came to represent "socialism" even as they systematically destroyed the basis of real socialism. The Bolsheviks put down the libertarian socialist elements within their country, the crushing of the uprisings at Kronstadt and in the Ukraine being the final nails in the coffin of socialism and the subjugation of the soviets.

The Kronstadt uprising of February, 1921, was, for anarchists, of immense importance. This is because it was the first major uprising of ordinary people for real socialism.

"Kronstadt was the first entirely independent attempt of the people to free themselves of all control and carry out the social revolution: this attempt was made directly. . . by the working classes themselves, without political shepherds, without leaders, or tutors" [Voline, The Unknown Revolution, quoted by Guerin, Ibid., p.105].

In the Ukraine, anarchist ideas were most successfully applied. In areas under the protection of the Makhnovist movement, working class people organised their own lives directly, based on their own ideas and needs -- true social self-determination. Under the leadership of Nestor Makhno, a self-educated peasant, the movement not only fought against both Red and White dictatorships but resisted the Ukrainian nationalists.

In opposition to the call for "national self-determination," i.e. a new Ukrainian state, Makhno called instead for working class self-determination in the Ukraine and across the world. The Makhnovists organised worker and peasant conferences (some of which the Boksheviks tried to ban) as well as free soviets, unions and communes. He became known as the Ukrainian "Robin Hood."

The Makhnovists argued that the "freedom of the workers and peasants is their own, and not subject to any restriction. It is up to the workers and peasants themselves to act, to organize themselves, to agree among themselves in all aspects of their lives, as they see fit and desire. . .The Makhnovists can do no more that give aid and counsel. . .In no circumstances can they, nor do they wish to, govern." [Peter Ashinov, quoted by Guerin, Ibib., p. 99]

In Alexandrovsk, the Bolsheviks proposed to the Makhnovists spheres of action - their Revkom (Revolutionary Committee) would handle political affairs and the Makhnovists military ones. Makhno advised them "to go and take up some honest trade instead of seeking to impose their will on the workers." [Peter Ashinov in The Anarchist Reader, p. 141]

The Makhnovists rejected the Bokshevik corruption of the soviets and instead proposed "the free and completely independent soviet system of working people without authorities and their arbitrary laws." Their proclamations stated that the "working people themselves must freely choose their own soviets, which carry out the will and desires of the working people themselves, that is to say. ADMINISTRATIVE, not ruling soviets." Economically, capitalism would be abolished along with the state - the land and workshops "must belong to the working people themselves, to those who work in them, that is to say, they must be socialised." [The History of the Makhnovist Movement, p. 271 and p. 273]

The anarchist experiment of self-management in the Ukraine came to a bloody end when the Bolsheviks turned on the Makhnovists (their former allies against the "Whites," or pro-Tzarists) when they were no longer needed.

The last anarchist march in Moscow until 1987 took place at the funeral of Kropotkin in 1921, when some 10,000 marched behind his coffin. Many of these had been released from prison for the day and were to be murdered by Leninists in later years. From about 1921 on, anarchists started describing the USSR as a "state-capitalist" nation to indicate that although individual bosses might have been eliminated, the Soviet state bureaucracy played the same role as individual bosses do in the West.

For more information on the Russian Revolution and the role played by anarchists, the following books are recommended: The Unknown Revolution by Voline; The Guillotine at Work by G.P. Maximov; The Bolshevik Myth and The Russian Tragedy, both by Alexander Berkman; The Bolsheviks and Workers Control by M. Brinton; The Kronstadt Uprising by Ida Mett; The History of the Makhnovist Movement by Peter Ashinov. Many of these books were written by anarchists active during the revolution, many imprisoned by the Bolsheviks and deported to the West due to international pressure exerted by anarcho-syndicalist delegates to Moscow who the Bolsheviks were trying to win over to Leninism. The majority of such delegates stayed true to their libertarian politics and convinced their unions to reject Bolshevism and break with Moscow. By the early 1920's all the anarcho-syndicalist union confederations had joined with the anarchists in rejecting the "socialism" in Russia as state capitalism and party dictatorship.

A.5.4 Anarchism and the Spanish Revolution.

Spain in the 1930's had the largest anarchist movement in the world. At the start of the Spanish "Civil" war, over one and one half million workers and peasants were members of the CNT (the National Confederation of Labour), an anarcho-syndicalist union federation, and 30,000 were members of the FAI (the Anarchist Federation of Iberia). The total population of Spain at this time was 24 million.

The social revolution which met the Fascist coup on July 18th, 1936, is the greatest experiment in libertarian socialism to date. Here the last mass syndicalist union, the CNT, not only held off the fascist rising but encouraged the widespread takeover of land and factories. Over seven million people, including about two million CNT members, put self-management into practise in the most difficult of circumstances and actually improved both working conditions and output.

In the heady days after the 19th of July, the initiative and power truly rested in the hands of the rank-and-file members of the CNT and FAI. It was ordinary people, undoubtedly under the influence of Faistas (members of the FAI) and CNT militants, who, after defeating the fascist uprising, got production, distribution and consumption started again (under more egalitarian arrangements, of course), as well as organising and volunteering (in their tens of thousands) to join the militias, which were to be sent to free those parts of Spain that were under Franco. In every possible way the working class of Spain were creating by their own actions a new world based on their own ideas of social justice and freedom -- ideas inspired, of course, by anarchism and anarchosyndicalism.

George Orwell's eye-witness account of revolutionary Barcelona in late December, 1936, gives a vivid picture of the social transformation that had begun:

"The Anarchists were still in virtual control of Catalonia and the revolution was still in full swing. To anyone who had been there since the beginning it probably seemed even in December or January that the revolutionary period was ending; but when one came straight from England the aspect of Barcelona was something startling and overwhelming. It was the first time that I had ever been in a town where the working class was in the saddle. Practically every building of any size had been seized by the workers and was draped with red flags or with the red and black flag of the Anarchists; every wall was scrawled with the hammer and sickle and with the initials of the revolutionary parties; almost every church had been gutted and its images burnt. Churches here and there were being systematically demolished by gangs of workman. Every shop and cafe had an inscription saying that it had been collectivised; even the bootblacks had been collectivized and their boxes painted red and black. Waiters and shop-walkers looked you in the face and treated you as an equal. Servile and even ceremonial forms of speech had temporarily disappeared. Nobody said 'Señor' or 'Don' or even 'Usted'; everyone called everyone else 'Comrade' or 'Thou', and said 'Salud!' instead of 'Buenos dias'. . . Above all, there was a belief in the revolution and the future, a feeling of having suddenly emerged into an era of equality and freedom. Human beings were trying to behave as human beings and not as cogs in the capitalist machine." [Homage to Catalonia]

The full extent of this historic revolution cannot be covered here. It will be discussed in more detail in Section I.8 of the FAQ. All that can be done is to highlight a few points of special interest in the hope that these will give some indication of the importance of these events and encourage people to find out more about it.

All industry in Catalonia was placed either under workers' self-management or workers' control (that is, either totally taking over all aspects of management, in the first case, or, in the second, controlling the old management). In some cases, whole town and regional economies were transformed into federations of collectives. The example of the Railway Federation (which was set up to manage the railway lines in Catalonia, Aragon and Valencia) can be given as a typical example. The base of the federation was the local assemblies:

"All the workers of each locality would meet twice a week to examine all that pertained to the work to be done... The local general assembly named a committee to manage the general activity in each station and its annexes. At [these] meetings, the decisions (direccion) of this committee, whose members continued to work [at their previous jobs], would be subjected to the approval or disapproval of the workers, after giving reports and answering questions."

The delegates on the committee could be removed by an assembly at any time and the highest coordinating body of the Railway Federation was the "Revolutionary Committee," whose members were elected by union assemblies in the various divisions. The control over the rail lines, according to Gaston Leval, "did not operate from above downwards, as in a statist and centralized system. The Revolutionary Committee had no such powers. . . The members of the. . . committee being content to supervise the general activity and to coordinate that of the different routes that made up the network." [Gaston Leval, Collectives in the Spanish Revolution, p. 255].

On the land, tens of thousands of peasants and rural day workers created voluntary, self-managed collectives. The quality of life improved as cooperation allowed the introduction of health care, education, machinery and investment in the social infrastructure. As well as increasing production, the collectives increased freedom. As one member puts it, "it was marvellous. . . to live in a collective, a free society where one could say what one thought, where if the village committee seemed unsatisfactory one could say. The committee took no big decisions without calling the whole village together in a general assembly. All this was wonderful." [Ronald Frazer, Blood of Spain, p. 360]

On the social front, anarchist organisations created rational schools, a libertarian health service, social centres, and so on. The Mujeres Libres (free women) combatted the traditional role of women in Spanish society, empowering thousands both inside and outside the anarchist movement (see The Free Women of Spain by Martha A. Ackelsberg for more information on this very important organisation). This activity on the social front only built on the work started long before the outbreak of the war; for example, the unions often funded rational schools, workers centres, and so on.

In Spain, however, as elsewhere, the anarchist movement was smashed between Leninism (the Communist Party) and Capitalism (Franco) on the other. Unfortunately, the anarchists placed anti-fascist unity before the revolution, thus helping their enemies to defeat both them and the revolution. Whether they were forced by circumstances into this position or could have avoided it is still being debated.

Orwell's account of his experiences in the militia's indicates why the Spanish Revolution is so important to anarchists:

"I had dropped more or less by chance into the only community of any size in Western Europe where political consciousness and disbelief in capitalism were more normal than their opposites. Up here in Aragon one was among tens of thousands of people, mainly though not entirely of working-class origin, all living at the same level and mingling on terms of equality. In theory it was perfect equality, and even in practice it was not far from it. There is a sense in which it would be true to say that one was experiencing a foretaste of Socialism, by which I mean that the prevailing mental atmosphere was that of Socialism. Many of the normal motives of civilized life -- snobbishness, money-grubbing, fear of the boss, etc. -- had simply ceased to exist. The ordinary class- division of society had disappeared to an extent that is almost unthinkable in the money-tainted air of England; there was no one there except the peasants and ourselves, and no one owned anyone else as his master. . . One had been in a community where hope was more normal than apathy or cynicism, where the word 'comrade' stood for comradeship and not, as in most countries, for humbug. One had breathed the air of equality. I am well aware that it is now the fashion to deny that Socialism has anything to do with equality. In every country in the world a huge tribe of party-hacks and sleek little professors are busy 'proving' that Socialism means no more than a planned state-capitalism with the grab-motive left intact. But fortunately there also exists a vision of Socialism quite different from this. The thing that attracts ordinary men to Socialism and makes them willing to risk their skins for it, the 'mystique' of Socialism, is the idea of equality; to the vast majority of people Socialism means a classless society, or it means nothing at all . . . In that community where no one was on the make, where there was a shortage of everything but no boot-licking, one got, perhaps, a crude forecast of what the opening stages of Socialism might be like. And, after all, instead of disillusioning me it deeply attracted me. . ." [Op. Cit.]

For more information on the Spanish Revolution, the following books are recommended: Lessons of the Spanish Revolution by Vernon Richards; Anarchists in the Spanish Revolution by Jose Peirats; Free Women of Spain by Martha A. Ackelsberg; The Anarchist Collectives edited by Sam Dolgoff; "Objectivity and Liberal Scholarship" by Noam Chomsky (in The Chomsky Reader); The Anarchists of Casas Viejas by Jerome R. Mintz; and Homage to Catalonia by George Orwell.