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This article describes a political philosophy that opposes the state, capitalism, and all forms of social hierarchy. For a more general use of the term, see anarchism (disambiguation).

Anarchism is a term which encompasses a variety of political philosophies, social movements, and political ideologies that advocate the abolition of all forms of imposed or involuntary authority including social hierarchy and coercive power. Proponents of anarchism argue that relations based upon voluntary cooperation and mutual aid will lead to a society characterised by the ability of each actor to have a say in outcomes proportionate to the degree they are affected by them, a society consisting of free individuals

Individual freedom and opposition to the state are the unvarying principles of anarchism; less agreed upon are such matters as the role of violence in changing society, the preferred type of economic system, hierarchy and social status, the interpretation of egalitarian ideals, and the degree of organization, manner of incentive and the division of labour. Because the types of anarchism vary so largely, anarchism cannot be considered an ideology in the ordinary sense. Rather it is a set of ideas from which ideologies are drawn. On its own anarchism does not provide a world view beyond the idea that imposed authority is undesirable and unnecessary.

The terms "anarchy" and "anarchism" are derived from the Greek αναρχία ("without rulers"). The word "anarchy", as most anarchists use it, does not imply chaos or anomie, but rather an egalitarian form of human relations that is intentionally established and maintained.


History of anarchism

Precursors of anarchism

Anarcho-primitivists assert that, for the longest period before recorded history, human society was organized on anarchist principles. There is debate over the anthropological evidence on this issue.

Some anarchists have embraced Taoism, which developed in Ancient China, as a source of anarchistic attitudes [1]. Similarly, anarchistic tendencies can be traced to the philosophers of Ancient Greece, such as Zeno, the founder of the Stoic philosophy, and Aristippus, who said that the wise should not give up their liberty to the state [2]. Later movements – such as Stregheria in the 1300's, the Free Spirit in the Middle Ages, the Anabaptists, and The Diggers – have also expounded ideas that have been interpreted as anarchist.

The first known usage of the word anarchy appears in the play Seven Against Thebes by Aeschylus, dated 467 BC. There, Antigone openly refuses to abide by the rulers' decree to leave her brother Polyneices' body unburied, as punishment for his participation in the attack on Thebes, saying that "even if no one else is willing to share in burying him I will bury him alone and risk the peril of burying my own brother. Nor am I ashamed to act in defiant opposition to the rulers of the city (ekhous apiston tênd anarkhian polei)".

Ancient Greece also saw the first western instance of anarchism as a philosophical ideal, in the form of the stoic philosopher Zeno of Citium, who was, according to Kropotkin, "[t]he best exponent of Anarchist philosophy in ancient Greece". As summarized by Kropotkin, Zeno "repudiated the omnipotence of the state, its intervention and regimentation, and proclaimed the sovereignty of the moral law of the individual". Within Greek philosophy, Zeno's vision of a free community without government is opposed to the state-Utopia of Plato's Republic. Zeno argued that although the necessary instinct of self-preservation leads humans to egotism, nature has supplied a corrective to it by providing man with another instinct — sociability. Like many modern anarchists, he believed that if people follow their instincts, they will have no need of law courts or police, no temples and no public worship, and use no money (a gift economy taking the place of the exchanges). Zeno's beliefs have only reached us as fragmentary quotations. [3]

In Athens, the year 404 BC was commonly referred to as "the year of anarchy". According to the historian Xenophon, this happened even though Athens was at the time under the rule of the oligarchy of "The Thirty", installed by the Spartans following their victory in the second Peloponnesian war, and despite the presence of an Archon, nominated by the oligarchs, in the person of Pythodorus. However, Athenians refused to apply here their custom of calling the year by that archon's name, since he was elected during the oligarchy, and "preferred to speak of it as the 'year of anarchy'".

The Greek philosophers Plato and Aristotle used the term anarchy negatively, in association with democracy which they mistrusted as inherently vulnerable and prone to deteriorate into tyranny. Plato believed that the corruption created by democracy loosens the "natural" hierarchy between social classes, genders and age groups, to the extent that "anarchy finds a way into the private houses, and ends by getting among the animals and infecting them". ('Republic', book 8). Aristotle spoke of it in book 6 of the 'Politics' when discussing revolutions, saying that the upper classes may be motivated to stage a coup by their contempt for the prevailing "disorder and anarchy (ataxias kai anarkhias)" in the affairs of the state. He also claimed it would give, "license among slaves (anarkhia te doulôn)" as well as among women and children. "A constitution of this sort", he concludes, "will have a large number of supporters, as disorderly living (zên ataktôs) is pleasanter to the masses than sober living".

The Anabaptists of 16th century Europe are sometimes considered to be religious forerunners of modern anarchism. Bertrand Russell, in his History of Western Philosophy, writes that the Anabaptists "repudiated all law, since they held that the good man will be guided at every moment by the Holy Spirit...[f]rom this premiss they arrive at communism...."

Gerrard Winstanley, who published a pamphlet calling for communal ownership and social and economic organization in small agrarian communities in the 17th century, is considered another of the forerunners of modern anarchism. The first modern author to have published a treatise explicitly advocating the absence of government was William Godwin in An Enquiry Concerning Political Justice (1793); though he did not use the word anarchism, some today regard him as the "founder of philosophical anarchism"[4]. The term "anarchist" was used during the French Revolution as an insult against the left, but Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, adopted the term to describe his political philosophy in the 1840s.

Liberals were often labeled "anarchists" by monarchists, even though they did not call for the abolition of hierarchy. Still, they did promote the idea of human equality, individual rights, and the responsibility of the people to judge their governments, which provided a groundwork for the development of anarchist thought. As American political society developed along the liberal model, anarchist thoughts were expressed in the writings of Henry David Thoreau (Civil Disobedience).

Modern anarchism

In 1793 William Godwin published An Enquiry Concerning Political Justice , in which he presents his vision of a free society alongside a critique of government. Some consider this the first anarchist treatise, crediting Godwin with founding modern philosophical anarchism . He is also considered a forebear of utilitarianism. It wasn't until Pierre-Joseph Proudhon published What is Property? in 1840 that the term "anarchist" was adopted as a self-description. It is for this reason that some claim Proudhon as the founder of modern anarchist theory.

Individualists, taking much from the writings of Max Stirner, among others, demanded the utmost respect for the liberty of the individual.

Later in the 19th century, Anarchist communist theorists like Mikhail Bakunin and Peter Kropotkin built on the Marxist critique of capitalism and synthesized it with their own critique of the state, emphasizing the importance of a communal perspective to maintain individual liberty in a social context, and the critical role of workers self-managed organs of production and creation.

The International Workingmen's Association, at its founding, was an alliance of socialist groups, including both anarchists and Marxists. Both sides had a common aim (stateless communism) and common political opponents (conservatives and other right-wing elements). But each was critical of the other, and the inherent conflict between the two groups soon embodied itself in an ongoing argument between Mikhail Bakunin, representative of anarchist ideas, and Karl Marx himself. Generally Marx wanted to work within the system, use hierarchal organizational structures, and run people in elections. Bakunin hated these ideas, and predicted that if a revolution was won under a Marxist revolutionary party, they would end up being as bad as the ruling class that they fought against. In 1872, the conflict in the First International climaxed with the expulsion of Bakunin and those who had become known as the "Bakuninists" when they were outvoted by the Marx party at the Hague Congress . This is often cited as the origins of the conflict between anarchists and Marxists.

Mikhail Bakunin saw a need to defend the working class against oppression and overthrow the ruling class as a means to dissolve the state. Peter Kropotkin's anarchist communism developed from his scientific theory based on evolution in which co-operation equaled or surpassed competition in importance, as illustrated in Mutual Aid: A Factor in Evolution (1897).

Some revolutionaries of this time encouraged acts of political violence such as bombings and the assassinations of heads of state to further anarchism. However, these actions were regarded by many anarchists as counter-productive or ineffective (see "Violence and non-violence", below).

In the late 19th century anarcho-syndicalism developed as the industrialized form of libertarian communism, emphasizing industrial actions, especially the general strike, as the primary strategy to achieve anarchist revolution, and "build the new society in the shell of the old".

Anarchists played a role in many of the labour movements, uprisings, and revolutions of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, including the Russian Revolution (1917). In the United States, many new immigrants were anarchists; an especially notable group was the large number of Jewish immigrants who had left Russia and Eastern Europe during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. These groups were disrupted by the Red Scare of 1919.

Emma Goldman was a very influential anarchist and feminist during this period. She traveled the country and the world spreading anarchist ideas and attempting to live an anarchist life.

The anarcho-syndicalist orientation of many early American labor unions played a large part in the formation of the American political spectrum. The United States is the only industrialized former British colony to not have a labor-based political party. In Mexico, anarcho-syndicalists like Richard Flores-Magon led various revolts and uprisings, that would help overthrow the dictator Diaz, and lead the way for the growth of anarchism in Latin America, (and also go on to influence the modern day Zapatista rebellion).

In Europe, in the first quarter of the 20th century, anarchist movements achieved relative, if short-lived, successes and were violently repressed by states. However, in the 1920s and 1930s the conflict between anarchism and the state was eclipsed by the one among liberal democracy, fascism and communism, which ended with the defeat of fascism in World War II. During the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939), a widely popular anarchist movement supported by militias loyal to the republic took control of rural areas of north-east Spain in 1936-1937 and collectivized the land, being crushed in short order by the Communist-controlled republican army.

At the end of World War II Europe was mostly divided into a liberal region under United States influence and a communist region under control of the Soviet Union, and the major political dichotomy became that between capitalism and communism. The philosophical influence of anarchism remained latent until it resurfaced in the 1960s.

A surge of popular interest in anarchism occurred during the 1960s and 1970s. In the UK this was associated with the punk rock movement; the band Crass is celebrated for its anarchist and pacifist ideas. In Denmark, the Freetown Christiania was created in downtown Copenhagen. The housing and employment crisis in most of Western Europe led to the formation of communes and squatter movements like the one still thriving in Barcelona, Catalunya. Militant resistance to neo-Nazi groups in places like Germany, and the uprisings of autonomous Marxism , situationist, and Autonomist groups in France and Italy also helped to give popularity to anti-authoritarian, non-capitalist ideas.

Beginning in the later part of the 20th century anarchist primitivists like John Zerzan began to proclaim that civilization — not just the state — would need to fall for anarchy to be achieved. A rejection of industrial technology is also prominent in the views of many green anarchists. This worldview was associated with the growth of the anti-roads movement in the UK, Earth First! and the Earth Liberation Front in the US, and the actions of Theodore Kaczynski (aka the "Unabomber").

Through the 20th century anarchists were actively involved in the labour, animal-rights, radical ecological, feminist movements, and later in the fight against fascism. The influence of this on anarchist thought is apparent, as most of the traditional anarchist philosophies emphasize the economic implications of anarchism, or arrive at anarchism from economic arguments. Since the mid-1960s, anarchists have been involved in student protest movements, peace movements, squatter movements, and the anti-globalization movement, among others.

There has long been an association between anarchism and the arts. Like socialism, communism and even fascism, anarchism has a plethora of imagery and has developed an anarchist symbolism which has become associated with a variety of groups and movements, and co-opted (or "recuperated") by capitalist industry. The influence of anarchism is not always directly a matter of specific imagery or public figures, but may be seen in a certain stance towards the liberation of the total human being and the imagination. In visual art, strains of anarchism have been noted in French Symbolism, Dadaism, the Ashcan School of American realism, and the mail art movement. Surrealism in particular was actually equated with anarchism by its founder André Breton. In music, anarchism has been associated with punk rock, the more explicitly political anarcho-punk, and the techno music scene.

In the latter part of the 20th century, and the start of the 21st century, anarchism, (or anti-authoritarianism), has been seen to have the same influence as Marxism did during the protest movements of the 1960's. With the uprising of anti-authoritarian movements in the Zapatista communities in Mexico, and the people's uprising starting in 2001 in Argentina, and the global growth and interest in non-statist, anti-capitalist beliefs and organizing have given anarchism a new life within various movements. Anarchists, (although generally against violence against people except in self-defense), have also been at the forefront of militant resistance against capital and the state, engaging in property destruction against various corporations, militant street battles with police, confronting neo-Nazi and far-right groups, and also having a strong militant presence at anti-globalization protests.

Anarchism today

Today, traditional anarchist organizations continue to exist across the globe.

Feminism arose early in the history of anarchism in the form of anarcha-feminism. North American anarchism also takes strong influences from the American Civil Rights Movement and the movement against the Vietnam War. European anarchism has developed out of the labour movement, and both have incorporated animal rights and environmental activism from a direct action approach which gave growth the anti-roads movement, and Reclaim the Streets. Globally, anarchism has also grown in popularity and influence as part of the anti-war, anti-capitalist, and anti-globalisation movements. Recently, anarchists have been known for their involvement in protests against World Trade Organization and Group of Eight meetings, and the World Economic Forum; protests which are generally portrayed in mainstream media coverage as violent riots. Many anarchists are part of the black blocs, (a tactic in which all people within the bloc wear black and cover their faces to avoid police identification, and to create one large solid mass), at these protests, and engage in protecting various non-violent protesters, setting up barricades, vandalism and sometimes corporate property destruction, and confronting and defending people from the police. Many anarchists are critical of the black bloc because some blocs have engaged in property destruction against multi-national corporations and have thus gotten a label as "violent", and "adventurists" from media and large scale liberal organizations. Although black bloc anarchists are often the only visible anarchists at large protests, large scale protests are often constructed and organized through anarchist structures. Affinity groupings, spokescouncils, and networking all have lead to the success of various large scale anti-war and anti-globalization mobilizations, (such as the protests against the WTO Meeting of 1999 in Seattle, and the Bay Area shut-down during the start of the second Iraq war). Anarchists have also been involved heavily with underground direct action movements such as the Animal Liberation Front, and the Earth Liberation Front, which are considered "eco-terrorist" by federal authorities and some liberal organizations.

Anarchism is not constrained to political protest, however. Anarchists also engage in building parallel structures and organizations, such as Food Not Bombs, radical labor unions, infoshop and radical social centers, new sets of schooling systems, media in various forms, organizing around housing and land issues, and work toward accountability with police and other institutions through such tools as consensus decision-making. This is in line with the general anarchist concept of creating "dual-power ", which is the idea of creating the structures for a new anti-authoritarian society in the shell of the old, hierarchal one.

Some have said that recent technological developments have made the anarchist cause both easier to advance and more conceivable to people. Many people use cell phones or the Internet to form loose communities which could be said to be organized along anarchist lines. Some of these communities have as their purpose the production of information in a non-commodified or use-value format, a goal made attainable by the availability of personal computing, desktop publishing and digital media. These things have made it possible for individuals to share music files over the Internet, without economic incentive, and even with a certain amount of risk. There are also open source programming communities, who donate their time, and offer their product freely as well. Examples include Usenet, the free software movement (including the GNU/Linux community and the wiki paradigm), and Indymedia. A book analyzing how this new "anarchic" mode of production is possible is Eric S. Raymond's The Cathedral and the Bazaar. Traditional historical materialist analysis, used by many libertarian socialists, is one means of interpreting the above, and would describe it as a "political economy of non-commodity information production". There also exists, however, recognition that such technologies, as society currently exists, are dependent on a centralized and hierarchical industrial system, with laborers and non-human life at the bottom.

Here are some examples of major groupings of anarchist collectives and groups throughout the world:

  • Africa: Anarchist organizing is mostly being done through the Southern African Anarchist Federation . Which is a platformist anarcho-communist group.
  • Eur-Asia: Various european anarchist groups exist. Networks of collectives like Food Not Bombs, Indymedia, Reclaim the Streets, Critical Mass, Anti-Racist Action, and many more. Large scale anarchist federation like the Anarchist Federation, Class War, and anarcho-syndicalist unions do exist. In Spain, large scale anarcho-syndicalist unions like the CNT and CGT have millions of members. Green anarchists and anarcho-primitivists are also gaining ground, working in a large amounts of radical environmental campaigns. Eco-anarchists played a huge role in the anti-roads movement in the 1990's. Radical animal liberation groups are also very strong, with many campaigns against vivisection and hunting gaining large scale public support. Squatting is also a large scale movement connected with anarchism. Large scale social and political centers have evolved out of squats, which are a major part of the anarchist movement. Greece has perhaps one of the most militant anarchist movements, with groups engaging in street battles and bombing attacks on police stations, corporations, and state institutions.
  • Asia: While anarchism once had a large influence in China in the 1900's, and Korea in the 1920's, anarchism today in Asia is only being followed by small amounts of collectives. However, in the Philippines, many new and organized anarchist groups are starting to form. New infoshops , collectives, Food Not Bombs collectives, Indymedia Centers, publications, and other projects are forming. Anarcho-punks and youth make up a large part of this movement.
  • New Zealand/Austrialia: New Zealand has a wide range of anarchist collectives, working on various projects. Infoshops, Food Not Bombs collectives, publications, and other groups can be found. Austrialia has small groups of various collectives, and radical infoshops and spaces.
  • South America: South America has some large anarchist federations, mostly anarcho-communist. There are also hosts of Indymedia centers, infoshops and radical spaces, and various autonomous groups working within an anarchist framework. Mexico has various radical infoshops and anarchist establishments, and many anarchist collectives work to support the Zapatista movement.
  • North America: Many collectives and anarchist groups exist within the United States. Food Not Bombs, Indymedia Centers, ARA Chapters, etc exist in large amounts. Large scale American anarchist groups include Green Anarchy, NEFAC, IWW, and others. Canada also has members of NEFAC, and has its own host of anarchist groups and collectives.
  • Middle East: Anarchist groups in this area continue to grow. One of the largest is Anarchists Against the Wall, a largely Jewish group opposed to the Israeli occupation of Palestine. Turkey also has a very large anarchist movement, with groups taking to the streets often and in large numbers.

Historical examples

Various examples of societies which have been organized by anarchist principles, examples of societies which have been created in the event of anarchist revolution, and also uprisings, revolts and attempted revolutions that have involved anarchist and anti-authoritarians which have proved successful.

See Past and present anarchist communities

Schools of anarchist thought

From William Godwin's utilitarian anarchism to Pierre-Joseph Proudhon's mutualism, to Max Stirner's egoism, to Benjamin Tucker's radical individualism , to Peter Kropotkin's anarchist communism, the roots of anarchist thought in modern political philosophy are varied, with many different views of what a society without government should be like. Primitivism, advocating the dissolution of civilization, is reminiscent of, if not inspired by, the early 19th century Luddite movement. There are also a number of feminist anarchist theories, including anarcha-feminism, eco-feminism, and individualist feminism. Another tradition in anarchism follows from individuals like Errico Malatesta and Voltairine de Cleyre in claiming no adjective. These "anarchists without adjectives" seek to unify all anarchists around the basic shared principles of being anti-state and anti-capitalism, arguing that the diverse forms of anarchism can work together in relative harmony.

The following schools of thought are shown in alphabetical order.


Main article: Anarcha-Feminism

Anarcha-feminism is a kind of radical feminism that espouses the belief that patriarchy is a fundamental problem in our society. Feminist anarchism, or anarcha-feminism (a term allegedly created during the 1960s' second-wave feminism), views patriarchy as the first manifestation of hierarchy in human history; thus, the first form of oppression occurred in the dominance of male over female. Anarcha-feminists then conclude that if feminists are against patriarchy, they must also be against all forms of hierarchy, and therefore must reject the authoritarian nature of the state and capitalism.

Anarcho-primitivists see the creation of gender roles and patriarchy a creation of the start of civilization, and therefore consider primitivism to also be a anarchist school of thought which addresses feminist concerns. Eco-feminism is often considered a feminist varient of green anarchist feminist thought.

Anarcha-feminism is most often associated with early 20th-century authors and theorists such as Emma Goldman and Voltairine de Cleyre, although even early first-wave feminist Mary Wollstonecraft held proto-anarchist views. In the Spanish Civil War, an anarcha-feminist group, "Free Women", organized to defend both anarchist and feminist ideas.

In the modern day anarchist movement, most anarchists, male or female, consider themselves feminists, and anarcha-feminist ideas are growing. The publishing of Quiet Rumors , an anarcha-feminist reader has helped to spread various kinds of anti-authoritarian and anarchist feminist ideas to the broader movement.


Main article: Anarcho-Communism

Anarcho-communism shares many things in common with anarcho-syndicalism, but generally strives for a society without markets, an elimination of all private property, (as in the means of production), any kind of money system or wages, and proposes instead societies based on direct workers control, gift economies, self-managament over community institutions, and mutual aid based upon the idea of "from each according to their ability, from each according to need". Anarcho-communists also propose large and small scale connections of communities, groups, and workplaces through federations and networks created by free association and popular affinity. Anarcho-communists want direct worker control over production, and have decisions made through workers councils and assemblies. Communities would be organized through systems of direct democracy, and through various organizations and collectives to carry out various tasks.

Peter Kropotkin, Emma Goldman, Alexander Berkman, and most recently, groups like NEFAC (North Eastern Federation of Anarcho-Communists), have advocated various forms of anarcho-communism. Historically, anarcho-communism has been said to have been put into practice by millions of people in the anarchist collectives and communes of the anarchist-controlled region of Ukraine during the Russian Revolution, and during the Spanish Civil War in the Aragon and Catalonia regions of Spain.

Anarcho-communists are split generally on the Platform, or the "Organizational Platform of Libertarian Communists", written by Ukrainian anarchist militant, Nestor Makhno. The platform calls for various forms of structures within the anarchist movement, and has been accepted by some anarchists and scorned by others.

Anarcho-communists today are involved in various broad labor and community issues; generally revolving around housing, labor struggles/strikes, anti-racism, and building the anarchist movement. Anarcho-communists have generally called for more cohesive groups and structures of anarchist groups and thereby garnered criticism from other anarchist sects. Various large scale groups of anarcho-communists exist today with the larger groups existing throughout various countries.


Main article: Anarcho-syndicalism

The red-and-black flag, coming from the experience of anarchists in the labour movement, is particularly associated with anarcho-syndicalism.
The red-and-black flag, coming from the experience of anarchists in the labour movement, is particularly associated with anarcho-syndicalism.

Anarcho-syndicalism is the anarchist wing of the labor union movement. Its primary aim is the end of the wage system. It functions on principles of workers solidarity, direct action, and self-management.

Workers' solidarity means that anarcho-syndicalists believe all workers, no matter what their race, gender, or ethnic group are in a similar situation vis-a-vis their bosses. Furthermore, it means that, within capitalism, any gains or losses made by some workers in their relation to bosses will eventually impact all workers. Therefore, it says that in order to gain liberation, all workers must support one another in their struggle against bosses.

Anarcho-syndicalists only believe in direct action — that is, action directly designed to confront a problem. Direct action can range from traditional strike action to active sabotage.

Furthermore, anarcho-syndicalists believe that workers' organizations — the organizations which struggle against the wage system and which, in anarcho-syndicalist theory, will eventually form the basis of a new society – should be self-managing. They should not have bosses or "business agents"; rather, the workers should be able to make decisions that affect them amongst themselves.

The International Workers Association is an international anarcho-syndicalist federation of various labor unions from different countries. The Industrial Workers of the World, a once-powerful, still active, and again growing labor union, is considered a leading organ of the anarcho-syndicalist philosophy in the United States. The Spanish Confederación Nacional del Trabajo played a major role in the Spanish Civil War and today, the Confederación General del Trabajo is the third biggest union in Spain. Other major anarcho-syndicalist organizations include the Workers Solidarity Alliance, and the Solidarity Federation in the UK.

Some critics of anarcho-syndicalism contend that its focus on proletarian class struggle overlooks the needs of segments of society such as parents or others occupied with child-rearing or domestic labor, although some anarcho-syndicalist thought attempts to address other sectors of economic life. Some primitivist authors, notably Bob Black, contend that an anarcho-syndicalist revolution would leave in place social systems they find oppressive (work and workplaces, for example), although anarcho-syndicalists contend that worker self-management would render those systems fundamentally more humane.

Ecological anarchism

Eco-anarchism generally is a beleif in deep ecology, direct action against earth destorying insitutions and systems, and generally a critique of industrial capitalism, although generally not against civilization per say.

There is a significant anarchist element to the environmental movement, including those that are known as eco-anarchists and green-anarchists. Eco-anarchism is generally a broad term that broadly refers to anarchists engaged in the earth liberation movement. The largest segment of 'eco-anarchists' are those involved in the Earth First! movement, which is a network of various collectives formed along anarchist principles. Earth First! generally engages in direct action and eco-defense, such as tree sitting and 'locking down'. In the modern anarchist movement, eco-anarchists generally adhear to deep ecology, which is a world view that embraces biodiversity and sustainability. Eco-feminism is also sometimes considered the form of eco-anarchist feminism.

Insurrectionary anarchism

Insurrectionary anarchism is critical of formal anarchist labor unions and federations. Instead, insurrectionary anarchists advocate informal organization, including small affinity groups, carrying out acts of resistance in various struggles, and mass organizations called base structures, which can include exploited individuals who are not anarchists. Here, Wolfi Landstreicher writes some of the basis points of its praxis.

Insurrectionary anarchism is not an ideological solution to all social problems, a commodity on the capitalist market of ideologies and opinions, but an on-going praxis aimed at putting an end to the domination of the state and the continuance of capitalism, which requires analysis and discussion to advance. We don’t look to some ideal society or offer an image of utopia for public consumption. Throughout history, most anarchists, except those who believed that society would evolve to the point that it would leave the state behind, have been insurrectionary anarchists. Most simply, this means that the state will not merely wither away, thus anarchists must attack, for waiting is defeat; what is needed is open mutiny and the spreading of subversion among the exploited and excluded. Here we spell out some implications that we and some other insurrectionary anarchists draw from this general problem: if the state will not disappear on its own, how then do we end its existence? It is, therefore, primarily a practice, and focuses on the organization of attack...The State of capital will not “wither away,” attack is the refusal of mediation, pacification, sacrifice, accommodation, and compromise. [Landstreicher, Wolfi]

Alfredo M. Bonanno, an Italian insurrectionary anarchist also had a great impact on this specific tendency, writing such works as "Armed Joy," "The Anarchist Tension," and others. In the US, Willful Disobedience , Killing King Abacus , and other magazines caused interest in insurrectionary anarchism to grow. Although insurrectionary anarchists are generally interested in class struggle anarchism, in the US, many insurrectionary anarchists consider themselves to be primitivists, or green anarchists, as well.

Post-left anarchy

Main article: Post-left anarchy

Post-left anarchy (anarchy often used instead of "anarchism" to avoid the connotations of doctrine that the -ism suffix brings) is a more recent current in anarchist thought that seeks to distance itself from the traditional "left" - communists, liberals, social democrats, etc. - and to escape the confines of ideology in general. It has rapidly developed since the fall of the Soviet Union, which many view as the death of authoritarian leftism; however, its roots are clearly visible in the ideas of the 1960s Situationists. It is not an independent "movement" as such but rather a critical way of thinking about anarchist ideas.

Post-leftists argue that anarchism has been weakened by its long attachment to contrary "leftist" movements and single issue causes (anti-war, anti-nuclear , etc.). It calls for a synthesis of anarchist thought and a specifically anti-authoritarian revolutionary movement outside of the leftist milieu. It often focuses on the individual rather than speaking in terms of class or other broad generalizations and shuns organizational tendencies in favor of the complete absence of hierarchy. Total individual liberation is a key focus, rather than merely economic liberation.

The Left, even the revolutionary left, post-leftists argue, is anachronistic and incapable of creating change. It offers critiques of radical strategies and tactics which it considers antiquated; the demonstration, class-oriented struggle, focus on tradition and the inability to escape the confines of history. The book Anarchy in the Age of Dinosaurs, for example, critiques traditional leftist ideas and classical anarchism while calling for a rejuvenated anarchist movement. The widely read CrimethInc essay Your Politics Are Boring as Fuck is another critique of "leftist" movements: "Why has the oppressed proletariat not come to its senses and joined you in your fight for world liberation? ... [Because] they know that your antiquated styles of protest—your marches, hand held signs, and gatherings—are now powerless to effect real change because they have become such a predictable part of the status quo. They know that your post-Marxist jargon is off-putting because it really is a language of mere academic dispute, not a weapon capable of undermining systems of control..."

The ideas associated with Post-left anarchy have been criticized by other anarchists, notably Murray Bookchin. Bookchin's polemic, Social Anarchism or Lifestyle Anarchism, attacks these recent trends in anarchist thinking, and advocates a traditional focus on class struggle. Bob Black wrote a book in response to Bookchin's arguments called Anarchy After Leftism, an important post-leftist work. Anarcho-communists have also criticized post-leftist thinking. Many primitivists, including John Zerzan, can be said to be post-leftists (Zerzan himself has claimed to be “anti-leftist”); however, most proponents of Post-left anarchy are not necessarily primitivists.

Important groups and individuals associated with Post-left anarchy include: CrimethInc, the magazine Anarchy: A Journal of Desire Armed and its editor Jason McQuinn, Bob Black, and others. For more information, see's Anarchy After Leftism section, and the Post-left section on


Main article: Primitivism

Primitivism is a philosophy advocating a return to a pre-industrial and usually pre-agricultural society, and a critique of industrial civilization, and the alienation that technology, progress, etc, have created between people and the natural world. Primitivism believes that industrial society inevitably produces oppressive structures through specialization of tasks or division of labor, and that technology has similar negative implications. Most forms of primitivism question civilization itself. Primitivism generally sees that by the birth of agriculture, and the birth of cities and the creating of production surplus, gave rise to structures of hierarchy, and later statism. Anarcho-primitivists point to the anti-authoritarian nature of many 'primitive' or hunter gather socities throughout the world's history, as examples of anarchist socities.

The primitivist movement has connections to radical environmentalism movements such as the Earth Liberation Front and Earth First!. Primitivism has been notably advocated by John Zerzan, and to some extent by Theodore Kaczynski (the Unabomber) and Derrick Jensen.

Technological anarchism

Some anarchists see information technology as the way to replace hierarchy, defeat monopoly, and prevent war, and support culture jamming in particular as a way to do so. Some writers — particularly Iain M. Banks, who has written quite extensively in the science fiction genre about The Culture, a futuristic society which has disposed of government — have theorised that anarchism would be inevitable with the technological advances that would make travelling and living in space plausible [5]. The Electro-anarchy Collective poses a similar theory that technological power will naturally overthrow human government (although some question their anarchist credentials, claiming that technological governance is no less oppressive than human governance).

It has also been argued that the free software movement is an example of anarchic organization, this being an example not of hierarchical business, but of voluntary association for the production of a good.

See also Crypto-anarchism and Cypherpunk.

Utopian anarchism

Main article: Utopian anarchism

A Utopian anarchist believes, primarily, that nothing is static, everything is relative, and constantly affecting everything else. However, purpose is important, as is progress of purpose, and progress towards fufillment of purpose. A utopian anarchist is always thinking of the end desire, and makes decisions through life keeping this context in mind.

Much stress is put upon developing education and evolution. Through free association, a complex web of desires and goals will be strived for, each influencing and perhaps assisting one another in our paths.

The system strives for perfection, through unified diversity. Any static system will have flaws, and flaws fester. If one brushes one's teeth the same way every day, what happens to the missed spot?

Some critics perceive a lack of safety in the absence of enforced moral judgement. One utopian anarchist response would be to consider this an issue with ego and desire for personal power and appreciation.

Conceptions of an anarchist society

Main article: Anarchism and Society

Many political philosophers justify support of the state as a means of regulating violence, so that the destruction caused by human conflict is minimized and fair relationships are established. Anarchists argue that pursuit of these ends do not justify the establishment of a state, and in fact many argue that the state is incompatible with those goals. In fact, anarchists argue that the state helps to create a monopoly on violence, and uses force and violence to expand and protects the elite's interests. Much effort has been dedicated to explaining how anarchist societies would promote these values. While anarchists recognize that the use of violence is ultimately an individual decision, some have proposed mechanisms by which an anarchist society would help to fix problems, and end tensions within communities.

Anarchist economic organization

Main article: Anarchist economics

The modern state is deeply involved in society's economic activities, ranging from the protection of property, to the regulation of markets, and even the provision of goods. Most anarchists would agree that radical restructuring of existing economic systems is necessary, wage-labor must end, markets must be abolished, capitalism unsustainability must be halted, and labor exchange must be destroyed. For example, Bob Black proposed that anarchy would allow for "the abolition of work"[6].

Major conflicts within anarchist thought

Violence and non-violence

Anarchists have often been portrayed as dangerous and violent, due mainly to a number of high-profile violent acts including riots, assassinations, and insurrections involving anarchists. Since the 1970s, the punk image of irresponsible youths has also been associated with anarchist symbolism, so furthering the association with violence.

The use of terrorism and assassination, however, is condemned by most anarchist ideology, though there remains no consensus on the legitimacy or utility of violence.

Some anarchists share Leo Tolstoy's Christian anarchist belief in nonviolence. These anarcho-pacifists advocate nonviolent resistance as the only method of achieving a truly anarchist revolution. They often see violence as the basis of government and coercion and argue that, as such, violence is illegitimate, no matter who is the target. Some of Proudhon's French followers even saw strike action as coercive and refused to take part in such traditional socialist tactics.

Other anarchists advocate Marshall Rosenberg's non-violent communication that relates to peoples fundamental needs and feelings using strategies of requests, observations and empathy yet providing for the use of protective force while rejecting pacifism as a compromising strategy of the left that just perpetuates violence.

Other anarchists, such as Mikhail Bakunin and Errico Malatesta saw violence as a necessary and sometimes desirable force. Malatesta took the view that it is "necessary to destroy with violence, since one cannot do otherwise, the violence which denies [the means of life and for development] to the workers" (Umanità Nova , number 125, September 6, 1921[7]).

Between 1894 and 1901, individual anarchists assassinated numerous heads of state, including:

Such "propaganda of the deed" was not popular among anarchists, and many in the movement condemned the tactic. For example, McKinley's assassin, Leon Czolgosz, claimed to be a disciple of Emma Goldman, but she disavowed any association with him.

Goldman included in her definition of anarchism the observation that all governments rest on violence, and this is one of the many reasons they should be opposed. Goldman herself didn't oppose tactics like assassination until she went to Russia, where she witnessed the violence of the Russian state and the Red Army. From then on she condemned the use of terrorism, especially by the state, and advocated violence only as a means of self-defense.

Depictions in the press and popular fiction (for example, a malevolent bomb-throwing anarchist in Joseph Conrad's The Secret Agent) helped create a lasting public impression that anarchists are violent terrorists. This perception was enhanced by events such as the Haymarket Riot, where anarchists were blamed for throwing a bomb at police who came to break up a public meeting in Chicago.

More recently, anarchists have been involved in protests against World Trade Organization (WTO) and International Monetary Fund (IMF) meetings across the globe, which the media has described as violent or riots. Traditionally, May Day in London has also been a day of marching, but in recent years the Metropolitan Police have warned that a "hardcore of anarchists" are intent on causing violence. Anarchists often respond that it is the police who initiate violence at these demonstrations, with the anarchist intent being only to defend themselves. The anarchists involved in such protests often formed black blocs at these protests and some engaged in property destruction, vandalism, or in violent conflicts with police, though others stuck to non-violent principles.

Those participating in black blocs distinguish between "violence" and "property destruction": they claim that violence is when a person inflicts harm to another person, while property destruction or property damage is not violence, although it can have indirect harm such as financial harm.


Some anarchists consider Pacifism (opposition to war) to be inherent in their philosophy. Some anarchists take it further and follow Leo Tolstoy's belief in non-violence (note, however, that these anarcho-pacifists are not necessarily Christian anarchists as Tolstoy was), advocating non-violent resistance as the only method of achieving a truly anarchist revolution.

Anarchist literature often portrays war as an activity in which the state seeks to gain and consolidate power, both domestically and in foreign lands. Many anarchists subscribe to Randolph Bourne's view that "war is the health of the state"[8]. Anarchists believe that if they were to support a war they would be strengthening the state — indeed, Peter Kropotkin was alienated from other anarchists when he expressed support for the British in World War I.

Just as they are critical and distrustful of most government endeavours, anarchists often view the stated reasons for war with a cynical eye. Since the Vietnam War protests in North America and, most recently, the protests against the war in Iraq, much anarchist activity has been anti-war based.

Many anarchists in the current movement however, reject complete pacifism, (although groups like Earth First!, and Food Not Bombs are based on principles of non-violence), and instead are in favor of self-defense, and sometimes violence against oppressive and authoritarian forces which they in fact also consider as defensive violence. Anarchists are skeptical however of winning a direct armed conflict with the state, and instead concern themselves mostly with organizing. Most anarchists however, do not consider the destruction of property to be violent, as do most activists who believe in non-violence.


See Criticisms of Socialism for general critique of socialism, some of which may apply to anarchism. There is also some specific criticism of anarchism.


Some critics claim that lack of police and military would leave the anarchist communities defenseless against organized internal and external aggressors like pirates, terrorists, or military imperialism. An officerless militia or guerrilla is sometimes proposed as a solution but some express doubts concerning the effectiveness against a ruthless modern military using weapons of mass destruction and hierarchical structure. Critics also argue that historical examples, like the Spanish Civil War, do not support the theory that anarchist communities can defend themselves. Also, critics see violence among hunter-gatherers [9] as evidence that anarchist societies will be violent.

See also

Historical events





Main article: List of anarchist concepts

Anarchist organizations

Main article: List of anarchist organizations

While all of these organizations have anarchists as members, many are inclusive beyond anarchist and include anti-authoritarians and greens.

Anarchism by region/culture

External links

Opposing Views

Last updated: 10-17-2005 19:45:34
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