To mark volume 2 of An Anarchist FAQ being published, there is an event at Housmans bookshop in London on Wednesday 20th March, 7pm. The meeting will start off by flying through a brief history of Anarchism and highlighting the major traditions within it, before opening it up to the floor for questions and discussion. Event details are:
‘Everything you ever wanted to know about Anarchism, but were afraid to ask’
Wednesday 20th March
5 Caledonian Road
King's Cross ,
London N1 9DX
There is an entry fee of £3 but it is redeemable against any purchase.
The aim of the introduction talk will be to sketch the history of anarchism as a named socio-economic theory and movement and explaining why it cannot be meaningfully understood in any other ways. This means that while there are definitely anarchistic thinkers and movements before 1840 and the publication of Proudhon's seminal What is Property? they did not have any impact on the rise of anarchism in the mid- to late-nineteenth century.
So regardless of how interesting the likes of Godwin or Stirner and their ideas are, they were rediscovered in the 1890s by a movement which had existed for five decades and had already went through two revolutions (1848 and the 1871 communal uprisings) and defining conflicts and polemics within an international organisation (namely, the International Working Men's Association). Similarly, while some popular movement were labelled anarchist by their enemies (most obviously, “the anarchists” Kropotkin discussed in his classic history Great French Revolution) and while many of their ideas were most definitely anarchistic, they did not have a direct impact on the rise of anarchism (although Proudhon was indebted to the ideas of the French Revolution and so we should not dismiss an indirect influence).
Given this, the introduction will start with Proudhon and his ideas, sketch their impact and evolution as well as influences (while many view the Frenchman as an isolated figure, he was in fact very much part of the wider socialist and workers’ movement and his ideas and works reflect that). Then it will be a case of moving onto the rise of revolutionary anarchism in the International Working Men's Association and its links with Proudhon’s reformist anarchism before discussing the development of communist-anarchism in the 1870s and 1880s. This will mention developments in America, notably the Chicago Anarchists and Individualist Anarchism. Then, based on research done for the new Kropotkin anthology Direct Struggle Against Capital, it will move onto revolutionary syndicalism and its links with revolutionary anarchism. The rediscovery of the term “libertarian” in the 1890s will probably be mentioned as well. Then it will be a case of sketching anarchism in the 1905 and 1917 Russian Revolutions, the Italian Factory Occupations and the Spanish Revolution. Finally, the post-Second World War anarchism will be covered (including Bookchin, Ward and Paris 1968) and ending with a sketch of anarchism now.
So quite a lot to cover and as it is a brief history of anarchism, it can be reasonably sure that the final talk may note equal the hopes expressed here. Suffice to say, the focus will be on the positive aspects of each period and the various dead-ends the movement has experienced will not feature much (best to leave that to the enemies of libertarian ideas to do!).
Hopefully see yous there…