Although Gerard Winstanley (The New Law of Righteousness, 1649) and William Godwin (Enquiry Concerning Political Justice, 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, Michael 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 social and individualist anarchism by his egoist critique of capitalism and the state that supports it. In place of the state and capitalism, Max Stirner urges the "union of egoists," free associations of unique individuals who co-operate as equals in order to maximise their freedom and satisfy their desires (including emotional ones for solidarity, or "intercourse" as Stirner called it). Such a union would be non-hierarchical, for, as Stirner wonders, "is an association, wherein most members allow themselves to be lulled as regards their most natural and most obvious interests, actually an Egoist's association? Can they really be 'Egoists' who have banded together when one is a slave or a serf of the other?" [No Gods, No Masters, vol. 1, p. 24]
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, federalism and workers' self-management and association 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 co-ordinated. It would be no exaggeration to state that Proudhon's work defined the fundamental nature of anarchism as both an anti-state and anti-capitalist movement and set of ideas. Bakunin, Kropotkin and Tucker all claimed inspiration from his ideas and they are the immediate source for both social and individualist anarchism, with each thread emphasising different aspects of mutualism (for example, social anarchists stress the associational aspect of them while individualist anarchists the non-capitalist market side). Proudhon's major works include What is Property, System of Economical Contradictions, The Principle of Federation and, and The Political Capacity of the Working Classes. His most detailed discussion of what mutualism would look like can be found in his The General Idea of the Revolution. His ideas heavily influenced both the French Labour movement and the Paris Commune of 1871.
Proudhon's ideas were built upon by Michael Bakunin, who humbly suggested that his own ideas were simply Proudhon's "widely developed and pushed right to . . . [their] final consequences." [Michael Bakunin: Selected Writings, p. 198] However, he is doing a disservice to his own role in developing anarchism. For Bakunin is the central figure in the development of modern anarchist activism and ideas. He emphasised the importance of collectivism, mass insurrection, revolution and involvement in the militant labour movement as the means of creating a free, classless society. Moreover, he repudiated Proudhon's sexism and added patriarchy to the list of social evils anarchism opposes. Bakunin 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. Indeed, many of his ideas are almost identical to what would later be called syndicalism or anarcho-syndicalism. Bakunin influenced many union movements -- especially in Spain, where a major anarchist social revolution took place in 1936. His works include Anarchy and Statism (his only book), 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. Brian Morris' Bakunin: The Philosophy of Freedom is an excellent introduction to Bakunin's life and ideas.
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. Like Bakunin, he stressed the importance of direct, economic, class struggle and anarchist participation in any popular movement, particularly in labour unions. Taking Proudhon's and Bakunin's idea of the commune, he generalised their insights into a vision of how the social, economic and personal life of a free society would function. He aimed to base anarchism "on a scientific basis by the study of the tendencies that are apparent now in society and may indicate its further evolution" towards anarchy while, at the same time, urging anarchists to "promote their ideas directly amongst the labour organisations and to induce those union to a direct struggle against capital, without placing their faith in parliamentary legislation." [Anarchism, p. 298 and p. 287] Like Bakunin, he was a revolutionary and, like Bakunin, his ideas inspired those struggle for freedom across the globe. His major works included Mutual Aid, The Conquest of Bread, Field, Factories, and Workshops, Modern Science and Anarchism, Act for Yourselves, The State: Its Historic Role, Words of a Rebel, and many others. A collection of his revolutionary pamphlets is available under the title Anarchism and is essential reading for anyone interested in his ideas. In Addition, Graham Purchase's Evolution and Revolution and Kropotkin: The Politics of Community by Brain Morris are both excellent evaluations of his ideas and how they are still relevant today.
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 co-operating 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.
It should also be stressed that anarchist schools of thought are not named after individual anarchists. Thus anarchists are not "Bakuninists", "Proudhonists" or "Kropotkinists" (to name three possibilities). Anarchists, to quote Malatesta, "follow ideas and not men, and rebel against this habit of embodying a principle in a man." This did not stop him calling Bakunin "our great master and inspiration." [Errico Malatesta: Life and Ideas, p. 199 and p. 209] Equally, not everything written by a famous anarchist thinker is automatically libertarian. Bakunin, for example, only became an anarchist in the last ten years of his life (this does not stop Marxists using his pre-anarchist days to attack anarchism!). Proudhon turned away from anarchism in the 1850s before returning to a more anarchistic (if not strictly anarchist) position just before his death in 1865. Similarly, Kropotkin's or Tucker's arguments in favour of supporting the Allies during the First World War had nothing to do with anarchism. Thus to say, for example, that anarchism is flawed because Proudhon was a sexist pig simply does not convince anarchists. No one would dismiss democracy, for example, because Rousseau opinions on women were just as sexist as Proudhon's. As with anything, modern anarchists analyse the writings of previous anarchists to draw inspiration, but a dogma. Consequently, we reject the non-libertarian ideas of "famous" anarchists while keeping their positive contributions to the development of anarchist theory. We are sorry to belabour the point, but much of Marxist "criticism" of anarchism basically involves pointing out the negative aspects of dead anarchist thinkers and it is best simply to state clearly the obvious stupidity of such an approach.
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. When Bakunin and Kropotkin were alive, for example, they drew aspects of their ideas from other libertarian activists. Bakunin, for example, built upon the practical activity of the followers of Proudhon in the French labour movement in the 1860s. Kropotkin, while the most associated with developing the theory communist-anarchism, was simply the most famous expounder of the ideas that had developed after Bakunin's death in the libertarian wing of the First International and before he became an anarchist. Thus anarchism is the product of tens of thousands of thinkers and activists across the globe, each shaping and developing anarchist theory to meet their needs as part of the general movement for social change. Of the many other anarchists who could be mentioned here, we can mention but a few.
Stirner is not the only famous anarchist to come from Germany. It also produced a number of original anarchist thinkers. Gustav Landauer was expelled from the Marxist Social-Democratic Party for his radical views and soon after identified himself as an anarchist. For him, anarchy was "the expression of the liberation of man from the idols of state, the church and capital" and he fought "State socialism, levelling from above, bureaucracy" in favour of "free association and union, the absence of authority." His ideas were a combination of Proudhon's and Kropotkin's and he saw the development of self-managed communities and co-operatives as the means of changing society. He is most famous for his insight that the "state is a condition, a certain relationship among human beings, a mode of behaviour between them; we destroy it by contracting other relationships, by behaving differently towards one another." [quoted by Peter Marshall, Demanding the Impossible, p. 410 and p. 411] He took a leading part in the Munich revolution of 1919 and was murdered during its crushing by the German state. His book For Socialism is an excellent summary of his main ideas.
Other notable German anarchists include Johann Most, originally a Marxist and an elected member of the Reichstag, he saw the futility of voting and became an anarchist after being exiled for writing against the Kaiser and clergy. He played an important role in the American anarchist movement, working for a time with Emma Goldman. More a propagandist than a great thinker, his revolutionary message inspired numerous people to become anarchists. Then there is Rudolf Rocker, a bookbinder by trade who played an important role in the Jewish labour movement in the East End of London (see his autobiography, The London Years, for details). He also produced the definite introduction to Anarcho-syndicalism as well as analysing the Russian Revolution in articles like Anarchism and Sovietism and defending the Spanish revolution in pamphlets like The Tragedy of Spain. His Nationalism and Culture is a searching analysis of human culture through the ages, with an analysis of both political thinkers and power politics. He dissects nationalism and explains how the nation is not the cause but the result of the state as well as repudiating race science for the nonsense it is.
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 as well as being an advocate of syndicalism (see her book Anarchism and Other Essays and the collection of essays, articles and talks entitled Red Emma Speaks). Alexander Berkman, Emma's lifelong companion, produced a classic introduction to anarchist ideas called What is Anarchism? (also known as What is Communist Anarchism? and the ABC of Anarchism). Like Goldman, he supported anarchist involvement in the labour movement was a prolific writer and speaker (the book Life of An Anarchist gives an excellent selection of his best articles, books and pamphlets). Both were involved in editing anarchist journals, with Goldman most associated with Mother Earth (see Anarchy! An Anthology of Emma Goldman's Mother Earth edited by Peter Glassgold) and Berkman The Blast (reprinted in full in 2005). Both journals were closed down when the two anarchists were arrested in 1917 for their anti-war activism.
In December 1919, both he and Goldman were expelled by the US government to Russia after the 1917 revolution had radicalised significant parts of the American population. There as they were considered too dangerous to be allowed to remain in the land of the free. Exactly two years later, their passports arrived to allow them to leave Russia. The Bolshevik slaughter of the Kronstadt revolt in March 1921 after the civil war ended had finally convinced them that the Bolshevik dictatorship meant the death of the revolution there. The Bolshevik rulers were more than happy to see the back of two genuine revolutionaries who stayed true to their principles. Once outside Russia, Berkman wrote numerous articles on the fate of the revolution (including The Russian Tragedy and The Kronstadt Rebellion) as well as publishing his diary in book from as The Bolshevik Myth. Goldman produced her classic work My Disillusionment in Russia as well as publishing her famous autobiography Living My Life. She also found time to refute Trotsky's lies about the Kronstadt rebellion in Trotsky Protests Too Much.
As well as Berkman and Goldman, the United States also produced other notable activists and thinkers. Voltairine de Cleyre played an important role in the US anarchist movement, enriching both US and international anarchist theory with her articles, poems and speeches. Her work includes such classics as Anarchism and American Traditions, Direct Action, Sex Slavery and The Dominant Idea. These are included, along with other articles and some of her famous poems, in The Voltairine de Cleyre Reader. These and other important essays are included in Exquisite Rebel, another anthology of her writings, while Eugenia C. Delamotte's Gates of Freedom provides an excellent overview of her life and ideas as well as selections from her works. In addition, the book Anarchy! An Anthology of Emma Goldman's Mother Earth contains a good selection of her writings as well as other anarchists active at the time. Also of interest is the collection of the speeches she made to mark the state murder of the Chicago Martyrs in 1886 (see the First Mayday: The Haymarket Speeches 1895-1910). Every November the 11th, except when illness made it impossible, she spoke in their memory. For those interested in the ideas of that previous generation of anarchists which the Chicago Martyrs represented, Albert Parsons' Anarchism: Its Philosophy and Scientific Basis is essential reading. His wife, Lucy Parsons, was also an outstanding anarchist activist from the 1870s until her death in 1942 and selections of her writings and speeches can be found in the book Freedom, Equality & Solidarity (edited by Gale Ahrens).
Elsewhere in the Americas, Ricardo Flores Magon helped lay the ground for the Mexican revolution of 1910 by founding the (strangely named) Mexican Liberal Party in 1905 which organised two unsuccessful uprising against the Diaz dictatorship in 1906 and 1908. Through his paper Tierra y Libertad ("Land and Liberty") he influenced the developing labour movement as well as Zapata's peasant army. He continually stressed the need to turn the revolution into a social revolution which will "give the lands to the people" as well as "possession of the factories, mines, etc." Only this would ensure that the people "will not be deceived." Talking of the Agrarians (the Zapatista army), Ricardo's brother Enrique he notes that they "are more or less inclined towards anarchism" and they can work together because both are "direct actionists" and "they act perfectly revolutionary. They go after the rich, the authorities and the priestcraft" and have "burnt to ashes private property deeds as well as all official records" as well as having "thrown down the fences that marked private properties." Thus the anarchists "propagate our principles" while the Zapatista's "put them into practice." [quoted by David Poole, Land and Liberty, p. 17 and p. 25] Ricardo died as a political prisoner in an American jail and is, ironically, considered a hero of the revolution by the Mexican state. A substantial collection of his writings are available in the book Dreams of Freedom (which includes an impressive biographical essay which discusses his influence as well as placing his work in historical context).
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. For those interested in his practical and inspiring ideas then his short pamphlet Anarchy cannot be beaten. Collections of his articles can be found in The Anarchist Revolution and Errico Malatesta: His Life and Ideas, both edited by Vernon Richards. A favourite writing technique was the use of dialogues, such as At the Cafe: Conversations on Anarchism. These, using the conversations he had with non-anarchists as their basis, explained anarchist ideas in a clear and down to Earth manner. Another dialogue, Fra Contadini: A Dialogue on Anarchy, was translated into many languages, with 100,000 copies printed in Italy in 1920 when the revolution Malatesta had fought for all his life looked likely. At this time Malatesta edited Umanita Nova (the first Italian daily anarchist paper, it soon gained a circulation of 50 000) as well as writing the programme for the Unione Anarchica Italiana, a national anarchist organisation of some 20 000. For his activities during the factory occupations he was arrested at the age of 67 along with 80 other anarchists activists. Other Italian anarchists of note include Malatesta's friend Luigi Fabbri (sadly little of his work has been translated into English bar Bourgeois Influences on Anarchism and Anarchy and 'Scientific' Communism) Luigi Galleani produced a very powerful anti-organisational anarchist-communism which proclaimed (in The End of Anarchism?) that "Communism is simply the economic foundation by which the individual has the opportunity to regulate himself and carry out his functions." Camillo Berneri, before being murdered by the Communists during the Spanish Revolution, continued the fine tradition of critical, practical anarchism associated with Italian anarchism. His study of Kropotkin's federalist ideas is a classic (Peter Kropotkin: His Federalist Ideas). His daughter Marie-Louise Berneri, before her tragic early death, contributed to the British anarchist press (see her Neither East Nor West: Selected Writings 1939-48 and Journey Through Utopia).
In Japan, Hatta Shuzo developed Kropotkin's communist-anarchism in new directions between the world wars. Called "true anarchism," he created an anarchism which was a concrete alternative to the mainly peasant country he and thousands of his comrades were active in. While rejecting certain aspects of syndicalism, they organised workers into unions as well as working with the peasantry for the "foundation stones on which to build the new society that we long for are none other than the awakening of the tenant farmers" who "account for a majority of the population." Their new society was based on decentralised communes which combined industry and agriculture for, as one of Hatta's comrade's put it, "the village will cease to be a mere communist agricultural village and become a co-operative society which is a fusion of agriculture and industry." Hatta rejected the idea that they sought to go back to an ideal past, stating that the anarchists were "completely opposite to the medievalists. We seek to use machines as means of production and, indeed, hope for the invention of yet more ingenious machines." [quoted by John Crump, Hatta Shuzo and Pure Anarchism in Interwar Japan, p. 122-3, and p. 144]
As far as individualist anarchism goes, the undoubted "pope" was Benjamin 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! For example, Tucker excommunicated Kropotkin and the other communist-anarchists from anarchism. Kropotkin did not return the favour). Tucker built on the such notable thinkers as Josiah Warren, Lysander Spooner, Stephen Pearl Andrews and William B. Greene, adapting Proudhon's mutualism to the conditions of pre-capitalist America (see Rudolf Rocker's Pioneers of American Freedom for details). Defending the worker, artisan and small-scale farmer from a state intent on building capitalism by means of state intervention, Tucker argued that capitalist exploitation would be abolished by creating a totally free non-capitalist market in which the four state monopolies used to create capitalism would be struck down by means of mutual banking and "occupancy and use" land and resource rights. Placing himself firmly in the socialist camp, he recognised (like Proudhon) that all non-labour income was theft and so opposed profit, rent and interest. he translated Proudhon's What is Property and System of Economical Contradictions as well as Bakunin's God and the State. Tucker's compatriot, Joseph Labadie was an active trade unionist as well as contributor to Tucker's paper Liberty. His son, Lawrence Labadie 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."
Undoubtedly the Russian Leo Tolstoy is the most famous writer associated with religious anarchism and has had the greatest impact in spreading the spiritual and pacifistic ideas associated with that tendency. Influencing such notable people as Gandhi and the Catholic Worker Group around Dorothy Day, Tolstoy presented a radical interpretation of Christianity which stressed individual responsibility and freedom above the mindless authoritarianism and hierarchy which marks so much of mainstream Christianity. Tolstoy's works, like those of that other radical libertarian Christian William Blake, have inspired many Christians towards a libertarian vision of Jesus' message which has been hidden by the mainstream churches. Thus Christian Anarchism maintains, along with Tolstoy, that "Christianity in its true sense puts an end to government" (see, for example, Tolstoy's The Kingdom of God is within you and Peter Marshall's William Blake: Visionary Anarchist).
More recently, Noam Chomsky (in such works as Deterring Democracy, Necessary Illusions, World Orders, Old and New, Rogue States, Hegemony or Survival 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. The Murray Bookchin Reader contains a representative selection of his writings. Sadly, a few years before his death Bookchin distanced himself from the anarchism he spent nearly four decades advocating (although he remained a libertarian socialist to the end). Chomsky's well documented critiques of U.S. imperialism and how the media operates are his most famous works, but he has also written extensively about the anarchist tradition and its ideas, most famously in his essays "Notes on Anarchism" (in For Reasons of State) and his defence of the anarchist social revolution against bourgeois historians in "Objectivity and Liberal Scholarship" (in American Power and the New Mandarins). These and others of his more explicitly anarchist essays and interviews can be found in the collection Chomsky on Anarchism. Other good sources for his anarchist ideas are Radical Priorities, Language and Politics and the pamphlet Government in the Future. Both Understanding Power and The Chomsky Reader are excellent introductions to his thought.
Britain has also seen an important series of anarchist thinkers. Hebert Read (probably the only anarchist to ever accept a knighthood!) wrote several works on anarchist philosophy and theory (see his Anarchy and Order compilation of essays). His anarchism flowered directly from his aesthetic concerns and he was a committed pacifist. As well as giving fresh insight and expression to the tradition themes of anarchism, he contributed regularly to the anarchist press (see the collection of articles A One-Man Manifesto and other writings from Freedom Press). Another pacifist anarchist was Alex Comfort. As well as writing the Joy of Sex, Comfort was an active pacifist and anarchist. He wrote particularly on pacifism, psychiatry and sexual politics from a libertarian perspective. His most famous anarchist book was Authority and Delinquency and a collection of his anarchist pamphlets and articles was published under the title Writings against Power and Death.
However, the most famous and influential British anarchist must be Colin Ward. He became an anarchist when stationed in Glasgow during the Second World War and came across the local anarchist group there. Once an anarchist, he has contributed to the anarchist press extensively. As well as being an editor of Freedom, he also edited the influential monthly magazine Anarchy during the 1960s (a selection of articles picked by Ward can be found in the book A Decade of Anarchy). However, his most famous single book is Anarchy in Action where he has updated Kropotkin's Mutual Aid by uncovering and documenting the anarchistic nature of everyday life even within capitalism. His extensive writing on housing has emphasised the importance of collective self-help and social management of housing against the twin evils of privatisation and nationalisation (see, for example, his books Talking Houses and Housing: An Anarchist Approach). He has cast an anarchist eye on numerous other issues, including water use (Reflected in Water: A Crisis of Social Responsibility), transport (Freedom to go: after the motor age) and the welfare state (Social Policy: an anarchist response). His Anarchism: A Very Short Introduction is a good starting point for discovering anarchism and his particular perspective on it while Talking Anarchy provides an excellent overview of both his ideas and life. Lastly we must mention both Albert Meltzer and Nicolas Walter, both of whom contributed extensively to the anarchist press as well as writing two well known short introductions to anarchism (Anarchism: Arguments for and against and About Anarchism, respectively).
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 put it, "anarchism was born among the people; and it will continue to be full of life and creative power only as long as it remains a thing of the people." [Anarchism, p. 146]
So we hope that this concentration on anarchist thinkers should not be taken to mean that there is some sort of division between activists and intellectuals in the movement. Far from it. Few anarchists are purely thinkers or activists. They are usually both. Kropotkin, for example, was jailed for his activism, as was Malatesta and Goldman. Makhno, most famous as an active participate in the Russian Revolution, also contributed theoretical articles to the anarchist press during and after it. The same can be said of Louise Michel, whose militant activities during the Paris Commune and in building the anarchist movement in France after it did not preclude her writing articles for the libertarian press. We are simply indicating key anarchists thinkers so that those interested can read about their ideas directly.
Yes. There are numerous thinkers who are close to anarchism. They come from both the liberal and socialist traditions. While this may be considered surprising, it is not. Anarchism has links with both ideologies. Obviously the individualist anarchists are closest to the liberal tradition while social anarchists are closest to the socialist.
Indeed, as Nicholas Walter put it, "Anarchism can be seen as a development from either liberalism or socialism, or from both liberalism and socialism. Like liberals, anarchists want freedom; like socialists, anarchists want equality." However, "anarchism is not just a mixture of liberalism and socialism . . . we differ fundamentally from them." [About Anarchism, p. 29 and p. 31] In this he echoes Rocker's comments in Anarcho-Syndicalism. And this can be a useful tool for seeing the links between anarchism and other theories however it must be stressed that anarchism offers an anarchist critique of both liberalism and socialism and we should not submerge the uniqueness of anarchism into other philosophies.
Section A.4.2 discusses liberal thinkers who are close to anarchism, while section A.4.3 highlights those socialists who are close to anarchism. There are even Marxists who inject libertarian ideas into their politics and these are discussed in section A.4.4. And, of course, there are thinkers who cannot be so easily categorised and will be discussed here.
Economist David Ellerman has produced an impressive body of work arguing for workplace democracy. Explicitly linking his ideas the early British Ricardian socialists and Proudhon, in such works as The Democratic Worker-Owned Firm and Property and Contract in Economics he has presented both a rights based and labour-property based defence of self-management against capitalism. He argues that "[t]oday's economic democrats are the new abolitionists trying to abolish the whole institution of renting people in favour of democratic self-management in the workplace" for his "critique is not new; it was developed in the Enlightenment doctrine of inalienable rights. It was applied by abolitionists against the voluntary self-enslavement contract and by political democrats against the voluntary contraction defence of non-democratic government." [The Democratic Worker-Owned Firm, p. 210] Anyone, like anarchists, interested in producer co-operatives as alternatives to wage slavery will find his work of immense interest.
Ellerman is not the only person to stress the benefits of co-operation. Alfie Kohn's important work on the benefits of co-operation builds upon Kropotkin's studies of mutual aid and is, consequently, of interest to social anarchists. In No Contest: the case against competition and Punished by Rewards, Kohn discusses (with extensive empirical evidence) the failings and negative impact of competition on those subject to it. He addresses both economic and social issues in his works and shows that competition is not what it is cracked up to be.
Within feminist theory, Carole Pateman is the most obvious libertarian influenced thinker. Independently of Ellerman, Pateman has produced a powerful argument for self-managed association in both the workplace and society as a whole. Building upon a libertarian analysis of Rousseau's arguments, her analysis of contract theory is ground breaking. If a theme has to be ascribed to Pateman's work it could be freedom and what it means to be free. For her, freedom can only be viewed as self-determination and, consequently, the absence of subordination. Consequently, she has advocated a participatory form of democracy from her first major work, Participation and Democratic Theory onwards. In that book, a pioneering study of in participatory democracy, she exposed the limitations of liberal democratic theory, analysed the works of Rousseau, Mill and Cole and presented empirical evidence on the benefits of participation on the individuals involved.
In the Problem of Political Obligation, Pateman discusses the "liberal" arguments on freedom and finds them wanting. For the liberal, a person must consent to be ruled by another but this opens up the "problem" that they might not consent and, indeed, may never have consented. Thus the liberal state would lack a justification. She deepens her analysis to question why freedom should be equated to consenting to be ruled and proposed a participatory democratic theory in which people collectively make their own decisions (a self-assumed obligation to your fellow citizens rather to a state). In discussing Kropotkin, she showed her awareness of the social anarchist tradition to which her own theory is obviously related.
Pateman builds on this analysis in her The Sexual Contract, where she dissects the sexism of classical liberal and democratic theory. She analyses the weakness of what calls 'contractarian' theory (classical liberalism and right-wing "libertarianism") and shows how it leads not to free associations of self-governing individuals but rather social relationships based on authority, hierarchy and power in which a few rule the many. Her analysis of the state, marriage and wage labour are profoundly libertarian, showing that freedom must mean more than consenting to be ruled. This is the paradox of capitalist liberal, for a person is assumed to be free in order to consent to a contract but once within it they face the reality subordination to another's decisions (see section A.4.2 for further discussion).
Her ideas challenge some of Western culture's core beliefs about individual freedom and her critiques of the major Enlightenment political philosophers are powerful and convincing. Implicit is a critique not just of the conservative and liberal tradition, but of the patriarchy and hierarchy contained within the Left as well. As well as these works, a collection of her essays is available called The Disorder of Women.
Within the so-called "anti-globalisation" movement Naomi Klein shows an awareness of libertarian ideas and her own work has a libertarian thrust to it (we call it "so-called" as its members are internationalists, seeking a globalisation from below not one imposed from above by and for a few). She first came to attention as the author of No Logo, which charts the growth of consumer capitalism, exposing the dark reality behind the glossy brands of capitalism and, more importantly, highlighting the resistance to it. No distant academic, she is an active participant in the movement she reports on in Fences and Windows, a collection of essays on globalisation, its consequences and the wave of protests against it.
Klein's articles are well written and engaging, covering the reality of modern capitalism, the gap, as she puts it, "between rich and power but also between rhetoric and reality, between what is said and what is done. Between the promise of globalisation and its real effects." She shows how we live in a world where the market (i.e. capital) is made "freer" while people suffer increased state power and repression. How an unelected Argentine President labels that country's popular assemblies "antidemocratic." How rhetoric about liberty is used as a tool to defend and increase private power (as she reminds us, "always missing from [the globalisation] discussion is the issue of power. So many of the debates that we have about globalisation theory are actually about power: who holds it, who is exercising it and who is disguising it, pretending it no longer matters"). [Fences and Windows, pp 83-4 and p. 83]
And how people across the world are resisting. As she puts it, "many [in the movement] are tired of being spoken for and about. They are demanding a more direct form of political participation." She reports on a movement which she is part of, one which aims for a globalisation from below, one "founded on principles of transparency, accountability and self-determination, one that frees people instead of liberating capital." This means being against a "corporate-driven globalisation . . . that is centralising power and wealth into fewer and fewer hands" while presenting an alternative which is about "decentralising power and building community-based decision-making potential -- whether through unions, neighbourhoods, farms, villages, anarchist collectives or aboriginal self-government." All strong anarchist principles and, like anarchists, she wants people to manage their own affairs and chronicles attempts around the world to do just that (many of which, as Klein notes, are anarchists or influenced by anarchist ideas, sometimes knowing, sometimes not). [Op. Cit., p. 77, p. 79 and p. 16]
While not an anarchist, she is aware that real change comes from below, by the self-activity of working class people fighting for a better world. Decentralisation of power is a key idea in the book. As she puts it, the "goal" of the social movements she describes is "not to take power for themselves but to challenge power centralisation on principle" and so creating "a new culture of vibrant direct democracy . . . one that is fuelled and strengthened by direct participation." She does not urge the movement to invest itself with new leaders and neither does she (like the Left) think that electing a few leaders to make decisions for us equals "democracy" ("the goal is not better faraway rules and rulers but close-up democracy on the ground"). Klein, therefore, gets to the heart of the matter. Real social change is based on empowering the grassroots, "the desire for self-determination, economic sustainability and participatory democracy." Given this, Klein has presented libertarian ideas to a wide audience. [Op. Cit., p. xxvi, p. xxvi-xxvii, p. 245 and p. 233]
Other notable libertarian thinkers include Henry D. Thoreau, Albert Camus, Aldous Huxley, Lewis Mumford, Lewis Mumford and Oscar Wilde. Thus there are numerous thinkers who approach anarchist conclusions and who discuss subjects of interest to libertarians. As Kropotkin noted a hundred years ago, these kinds of writers "are full of ideas which show how closely anarchism is interwoven with the work that is going on in modern thought in the same direction of enfranchisement of man from the bonds of the state as well as from those of capitalism." [Anarchism, p. 300] The only change since then is that more names can be added to the list.
Peter Marshall discusses the ideas of most, but not all, of the non-anarchist libertarians we mention in this and subsequent sections in his book history of anarchism, Demanding the Impossible. Clifford Harper's Anarchy: A Graphic Guide is also a useful guide for finding out more.
As noted in the last section, there are thinkers in both the liberal and socialist traditions who approach anarchist theory and ideals. This understandable as anarchism shares certain ideas and ideals with both.
However, as will become clear in sections A.4.3 and A.4.4, anarchism shares most common ground with the socialist tradition it is a part of. This is because classical liberalism is a profoundly elitist tradition. The works of Locke and the tradition he inspired aimed to justify hierarchy, state and private property. As Carole Pateman notes, "Locke's state of nature, with its father-rulers and capitalist economy, would certainly not find favour with anarchists" any more than his vision of the social contract and the liberal state it creates. A state, which as Pateman recounts, in which "only males who own substantial amounts of material property are [the] politically relevant members of society" and exists "precisely to preserve the property relationships of the developing capitalist market economy, not to disturb them." For the majority, the non-propertied, they expressed "tacit consent" to be ruled by the few by "choosing to remain within the one's country of birth when reaching adulthood." [The Problem of Political Obligation, p. 141, p. 71, p. 78 and p. 73]
Thus anarchism is at odds with what can be called the pro-capitalist liberal tradition which, flowing from Locke, builds upon his rationales for hierarchy. As David Ellerman notes, "there is a whole liberal tradition of apologising for non-democratic government based on consent -- on a voluntary social contract alienating governing rights to a sovereign." In economics, this is reflected in their support for wage labour and the capitalist autocracy it creates for the "employment contract is the modern limited workplace version" of such contracts. [The Democratic Worker-Owned Firm, p. 210] This pro-capitalist liberalism essentially boils down to the liberty to pick a master or, if you are among the lucky few, to become a master yourself. The idea that freedom means self-determination for all at all times is alien to it. Rather it is based on the idea of "self-ownership," that you "own" yourself and your rights. Consequently, you can sell (alienate) your rights and liberty on the market. As we discuss in section B.4, in practice this means that most people are subject to autocratic rule for most of their waking hours (whether in work or in marriage).
The modern equivalent of classical liberalism is the right-wing "libertarian" tradition associated with Milton Friedman, Robert Nozick, von Hayek and so forth. As they aim to reduce the state to simply the defender to private property and enforcer of the hierarchies that social institution creates, they can by no stretch of the imagination be considered near anarchism. What is called "liberalism" in, say, the United States is a more democratic liberal tradition and has, like anarchism, little in common with the shrill pro-capitalist defenders of the minimum state. While they may (sometimes) be happy to denounce the state's attacks on individual liberty, they are more than happy to defend the "freedom" of the property owner to impose exactly the same restrictions on those who use their land or capital.
Given that feudalism combined ownership and rulership, that the governance of people living on land was an attribute of the ownership of that land, it would be no exaggeration to say that the right-wing "libertarian" tradition is simply its modern (voluntary) form. It is no more libertarian than the feudal lords who combated the powers of the King in order to protect their power over their own land and serfs. As Chomsky notes, "the 'libertarian' doctrines that are fashionable in the US and UK particularly . . . seem to me to reduce to advocacy of one or another form of illegitimate authority, quite often real tyranny." [Marxism, Anarchism, and Alternative Futures, p. 777] Moreover, as Benjamin Tucker noted with regards their predecessors, while they are happy to attack any state regulation which benefits the many or limits their power, they are silent on the laws (and regulations and "rights") which benefit the few.
However there is another liberal tradition, one which is essentially pre-capitalist which has more in common with the aspirations of anarchism. As Chomsky put it:
"These ideas [of anarchism] grow out the Enlightenment; their roots are in Rousseau's Discourse on Inequality, Humbolt's The Limits of State Action, Kant's insistence, in his defence of the French Revolution, that freedom is the precondition for acquiring the maturity for freedom, not a gift to be granted when such maturity is achieved . . . With the development of industrial capitalism, a new and unanticipated system of injustice, it is libertarian socialism that has preserved and extended the radical humanist message of the Enlightenment and the classical liberal ideals that were perverted into an ideology to sustain the emerging social order. In fact, on the very same assumptions that led classical liberalism to oppose the intervention of the state in social life, capitalist social relations are also intolerable. This is clear, for example, from the classic work of [Wilhelm von] Humboldt, The Limits of State Action, which anticipated and perhaps inspired [John Stuart] Mill . . . This classic of liberal thought, completed in 1792, is in its essence profoundly, though prematurely, anticapitalist. Its ideas must be attenuated beyond recognition to be transmuted into an ideology of industrial capitalism." ["Notes on Anarchism", For Reasons of State, p. 156]
Chomsky discusses this in more detail in his essay "Language and Freedom" (contained in both Reason of State and The Chomsky Reader). As well as Humbolt and Mill, such "pre-capitalist" liberals would include such radicals as Thomas Paine, who envisioned a society based on artisan and small farmers (i.e. a pre-capitalist economy) with a rough level of social equality and, of course, a minimal government. His ideas inspired working class radicals across the world and, as E.P. Thompson reminds us, Paine's Rights of Man was "a foundation-text of the English [and Scottish] working-class movement." While his ideas on government are "close to a theory of anarchism," his reform proposals "set a source towards the social legislation of the twentieth century." [The Making of the English Working Class, p. 99, p. 101 and p. 102] His combination of concern for liberty and social justice places him close to anarchism.
Then there is Adam Smith. While the right (particularly elements of the "libertarian" right) claim him as a classic liberal, his ideas are more complex than that. For example, as Noam Chomsky points out, Smith advocated the free market because "it would lead to perfect equality, equality of condition, not just equality of opportunity." [Class Warfare, p. 124] As Smith himself put it, "in a society where things were left to follow their natural course, where there is perfect liberty" it would mean that "advantages would soon return to the level of other employments" and so "the different employments of labour and stock must . . . be either perfectly equal or continually tending to equality." Nor did he oppose state intervention or state aid for the working classes. For example, he advocated public education to counter the negative effects of the division of labour. Moreover, he was against state intervention because whenever "a legislature attempts to regulate differences between masters and their workmen, its counsellors are always the masters. When regulation, therefore, is in favour of the workmen, it is always just and equitable; but it is otherwise when in favour of the masters." He notes how "the law" would "punish" workers' combinations "very severely" while ignoring the masters' combinations ("if it dealt impartially, it would treat the masters in the same manner"). [The Wealth of Nations, p. 88 and p. 129] Thus state intervention was to be opposed in general because the state was run by the few for the few, which would make state intervention benefit the few, not the many. It is doubtful Smith would have left his ideas on laissez-faire unchanged if he had lived to see the development of corporate capitalism. It is this critical edge of Smith's work are conveniently ignored by those claiming him for the classical liberal tradition.
Smith, argues Chomsky, was "a pre-capitalist and anti-capitalist person with roots in the Enlightenment." Yes, he argues, "the classical liberals, the [Thomas] Jeffersons and the Smiths, were opposing the concentrations of power that they saw around them . . . They didn't see other forms of concentration of power which only developed later. When they did see them, they didn't like them. Jefferson was a good example. He was strongly opposed to the concentrations of power that he saw developing, and warned that the banking institutions and the industrial corporations which were barely coming into existence in his day would destroy the achievements of the Revolution." [Op. Cit., p. 125]
As Murray Bookchin notes, Jefferson "is most clearly identified in the early history of the United States with the political demands and interests of the independent farmer-proprietor." [The Third Revolution, vol. 1, pp. 188-9] In other words, with pre-capitalist economic forms. We also find Jefferson contrasting the "aristocrats" and the "democrats." The former are "those who fear and distrust the people, and wish to draw all powers from them into the hands of the higher classes." The democrats "identify with the people, have confidence in them, cherish and consider them as the honest & safe . . . depository of the public interest," if not always "the most wise." [quoted by Chomsky, Powers and Prospects, p. 88] As Chomsky notes, the "aristocrats" were "the advocates of the rising capitalist state, which Jefferson regarded with dismay, recognising the obvious contradiction between democracy and the capitalism." [Op. Cit., p. 88] Claudio J. Katz's essay on "Thomas Jefferson's Liberal Anticapitalism" usefully explores these issues. [American Journal of Political Science, vol. 47, No. 1 (Jan, 2003), pp. 1-17]
Jefferson even went so far as to argue that "a little rebellion now and then is a good thing . . . It is a medicine necessary for the sound health of government . . . The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants." [quoted by Howard Zinn, A People's History of the United States, p. 94] However, his libertarian credentials are damaged by him being both a President of the United States and a slave owner but compared to the other "founding fathers" of the American state, his liberalism is of a democratic form. As Chomsky reminds us, "all the Founding Fathers hated democracy -- Thomas Jefferson was a partial exception, but only partial." The American state, as a classical liberal state, was designed (to quote James Madison) "to protect the minority of the opulent from the majority." Or, to repeat John Jay's principle, the "people who own the country ought to govern it." [Understanding Power, p. 315] If American is a (formally) democracy rather than an oligarchy, it is in spite of rather than because of classical liberalism.
Then there is John Stuart Mill who recognised the fundamental contradiction in classical liberalism. How can an ideology which proclaims itself for individual liberty support institutions which systematically nullify that liberty in practice? For this reason Mill attacked patriarchal marriage, arguing that marriage must be a voluntary association between equals, with "sympathy in equality . . . living together in love, without power on one side or obedience on the other." Rejecting the idea that there had to be "an absolute master" in any association, he pointed out that in "partnership in business . . . it is not found or thought necessary to enact that in every partnership, one partner shall have entire control over the concern, and the others shall be bound to obey his rule." ["The Subjection of Women," quoted by Susan L. Brown, The Politics of Individualism, pp. 45-6]
Yet his own example showed the flaw in liberal support for capitalism, for the employee is subject to a relationship in which power accrues to one party and obedience to another. Unsurprisingly, therefore, he argued that the "form of association . . . which is mankind continue to improve, must be expected in the end to predominate, is not that which can exist between a capitalist as chief, and workpeople without a voice in management, but the association of the labourers themselves on terms of equality, collectively owning the capital . . . and working under managers elected and removable by themselves." [The Principles of Political Economy, p. 147] Autocratic management during working hours is hardly compatible with Mill's maxim that "[o]ver himself, over his own body and mind, the individual is sovereign." Mill's opposition to centralised government and wage slavery brought his ideas closer to anarchism than most liberals, as did his comment that the "social principle of the future" was "how to unite the greatest individual liberty of action with a common ownership in the raw materials of the globe, and equal participation of all in the benefits of combined labour." [quoted by Peter Marshall, Demanding the Impossible, p. 164] His defence of individuality, On Liberty, is a classic, if flawed, work and his analysis of socialist tendencies ("Chapters on Socialism") is worth reading for its evaluation of their pros and cons from a (democratic) liberal perspective.
Like Proudhon, Mill was a forerunner of modern-day market socialism and a firm supporter of decentralisation and social participation. This, argues Chomsky, is unsurprising for pre-capitalist classical liberal thought "is opposed to state intervention in social life, as a consequence of deeper assumptions about the human need for liberty, diversity, and free association. On the same assumptions, capitalist relations of production, wage labour, competitiveness, the ideology of 'possessive individualism' -- all must be regarded as fundamentally antihuman. Libertarian socialism is properly to be regarded as the inheritor of the liberal ideals of the Enlightenment." ["Notes on Anarchism", Op. Cit., p. 157]
Thus anarchism shares commonality with pre-capitalist and democratic liberal forms. The hopes of these liberals were shattered with the development of capitalism. To quote Rudolf Rocker's analysis:
"Liberalism and Democracy were pre-eminently political concepts, and since the great majority of the original adherents of both maintained the right of ownership in the old sense, these had to renounce them both when economic development took a course which could not be practically reconciled with the original principles of Democracy, and still less with those of Liberalism. Democracy, with its motto of 'all citizens equal before the law,' and Liberalism with its 'right of man over his own person,' both shipwrecked on the realities of the capitalist economic form. So long as millions of human beings in every country had to sell their labour-power to a small minority of owners, and to sink into the most wretched misery if they could find no buyers, the so-called 'equality before the law' remains merely a pious fraud, since the laws are made by those who find themselves in possession of the social wealth. But in the same way there can also be no talk of a 'right over one's own person,' for that right ends when one is compelled to submit to the economic dictation of another if he does not want to starve." [Anarcho-Syndicalism, p. 10]
Anarchism developed in response to the development of capitalism and it is in the non-anarchist socialist tradition which anarchism finds most fellow travellers.
The earliest British socialists (the so-called Ricardian Socialists) following in the wake of Robert Owen held ideas which were similar to those of anarchists. For example, Thomas Hodgskin expounded ideas similar to Proudhon's mutualism while William Thompson developed a non-state, communal form of socialism based on "communities of mutual co-operative" which had similarities to anarcho-communism (Thompson had been a mutualist before becoming a communist in light of the problems even a non-capitalist market would have). John Francis Bray is also of interest, as is the radical agrarianist Thomas Spence who developed a communal form of land-based socialism which expounded many ideas usually associated with anarchism (see "The Agrarian Socialism of Thomas Spence" by Brian Morris in his book Ecology and Anarchism). Moreover, the early British trade union movement "developed, stage by stage, a theory of syndicalism" 40 years before Bakunin and the libertarian wing of the First International did. [E.P. Thompson, The Making of the English Working Class, p. 912] Noel Thompson's The Real Rights of Man is a good summary of all these thinkers and movements, as is E.P. Thompson's classic social history of working class life (and politics) of this period, The Making of the English Working Class.
Libertarian ideas did not die out in Britain in the 1840s. There was also the quasi-syndicalists of the Guild Socialists of the 1910s and 1920s who advocated a decentralised communal system with workers' control of industry. G.D.H. Cole's Guild Socialism Restated is the most famous work of this school, which also included author's S.G. Hobson and A.R. Orage (Geoffrey Osteregaard's The Tradition of Workers' Control provides an good summary of the ideas of Guild Socialism). Bertrand Russell, another supporter of Guild Socialism, was attracted to anarchist ideas and wrote an extremely informed and thoughtful discussion of anarchism, syndicalism and Marxism in his classic book Roads to Freedom.
While Russell was pessimistic about the possibility of anarchism in the near future, he felt it was "the ultimate idea to which society should approximate." As a Guild Socialist, he took it for granted that there could "be no real freedom or democracy until the men who do the work in a business also control its management." His vision of a good society is one any anarchist would support: "a world in which the creative spirit is alive, in which life is an adventure full of joy and hope, based upon the impulse to construct than upon the desire to retain what we possess or to seize what is possessed by others. It must be a world in which affection has free play, in which love is purged of the instinct for domination, in which cruelty and envy have been dispelled by happiness and the unfettered development of all the instincts that build up life and fill it with mental delights." [quoted by Noam Chomsky, Problems of Knowledge and Freedom, pp. 59-60, p. 61 and p. x] An informed and interesting writer on many subjects, his thought and social activism has influenced many other thinkers, including Noam Chomsky (whose Problems of Knowledge and Freedom is a wide ranging discussion on some of the topics Russell addressed).
Another important British libertarian socialist thinker and activist was William Morris. Morris, a friend of Kropotkin, was active in the Socialist League and led its anti-parliamentarian wing. While stressing he was not an anarchist, there is little real difference between the ideas of Morris and most anarcho-communists (Morris said he was a communist and saw no need to append "anarchist" to it as, for him, communism was democratic and liberatory). A prominent member of the "Arts and Crafts" movement, Morris argued for humanising work and it was, to quoted the title of one of his most famous essays, as case of Useful Work vrs Useless Toil. His utopia novel News from Nowhere paints a compelling vision of a libertarian communist society where industrialisation has been replaced with a communal craft-based economy. It is a utopia which has long appealed to most social anarchists. For a discussion of Morris' ideas, placed in the context of his famous utopia, see William Morris and News from Nowhere: A Vision for Our Time (Stephen Coleman and Paddy O'Sullivan (eds.))
Also of note is the Greek thinker Cornelius Castoriadis. Originally a Trotskyist, Castoriadis evaluation of Trotsky's deeply flawed analysis of Stalinist Russia as a degenerated workers' state lead him to reject first Leninism and then Marxism itself. This led him to libertarian conclusions, seeing the key issue not who owns the means of production but rather hierarchy. Thus the class struggle was between those with power and those subject to it. This led him to reject Marxist economics as its value analysis abstracted from (i.e. ignored!) the class struggle at the heart of production (Autonomist Marxism rejects this interpretation of Marx, but they are the only Marxists who do). Castoriadis, like social anarchists, saw the future society as one based on radical autonomy, generalised self-management and workers' councils organised from the bottom up. His three volume collected works (Political and Social Writings) are essential reading for anyone interested in libertarian socialist politics and a radical critique of Marxism.
Special mention should also be made of Maurice Brinton, who, as well as translating many works by Castoriadis, was a significant libertarian socialist thinker and activist as well. An ex-Trotskyist like Castoriadis, Brinton carved out a political space for a revolutionary libertarian socialism, opposed to the bureaucratic reformism of Labour as well as the police-state "socialism" of Stalinism and the authoritarianism of the Leninism which produced it. He produced numerous key pamphlets which shaped the thinking of a generation of anarchists and other libertarian socialists. These included Paris: May 1968, his brilliant eyewitness account of the near-revolution in France, the essential The Bolsheviks and Workers' Control in which he exposed Lenin's hostility to workers' self-management, and The Irrational in Politics, a restatement and development of the early work of Wilhelm Reich. These and many more articles have been collected in the book For Workers' Power: The Selected Writings of Maurice Brinton, edited by David Goodway.
The American radical historian Howard Zinn has sometimes called himself an anarchist and is well informed about the anarchist tradition (he wrote an excellent introductory essay on "Anarchism" for a US edition of a Herbert Read book) . As well as his classic A People's History of the United States, his writings of civil disobedience and non-violent direct action are essential. An excellent collection of essays by this libertarian socialist scholar has been produced under the title The Zinn Reader. Another notable libertarian socialists close to anarchism are Edward Carpenter (see, for example, Sheila Rowbotham's Edward Carpenter: Prophet of the New Life) and Simone Weil (Oppression and Liberty)
It would also be worthwhile to mention those market socialists who, like anarchists, base their socialism on workers' self-management. Rejecting central planning, they have turned back to the ideas of industrial democracy and market socialism advocated by the likes of Proudhon (although, coming from a Marxist background, they generally fail to mention the link which their central-planning foes stress). Allan Engler (in Apostles of Greed) and David Schweickart (in Against Capitalism and After Capitalism) have provided useful critiques of capitalism and presented a vision of socialism rooted in co-operatively organised workplaces. While retaining an element of government and state in their political ideas, these socialists have placed economic self-management at the heart of their economic vision and, consequently, are closer to anarchism than most socialists.
None of the libertarian socialists we highlighted in the last section were Marxists. This is unsurprising as most forms of Marxism are authoritarian. However, this is not the case for all schools of Marxism. There are important sub-branches of Marxism which shares the anarchist vision of a self-managed society. These include Council Communism, Situationism and Autonomism. Perhaps significantly, these few Marxist tendencies which are closest to anarchism are, like the branches of anarchism itself, not named after individuals. We will discuss each in turn.
Council Communism was born in the German Revolution of 1919 when Marxists inspired by the example of the Russian soviets and disgusted by the centralism, opportunism and betrayal of the mainstream Marxist social-democrats, drew similar anti-parliamentarian, direct actionist and decentralised conclusions to those held by anarchists since Bakunin. Like Marx's libertarian opponent in the First International, they argued that a federation of workers' councils would form the basis of a socialist society and, consequently, saw the need to build militant workplace organisations to promote their formation. Lenin attacked these movements and their advocates in his diatribe Left-wing Communism: An Infantile Disorder, which council communist Herman Gorter demolished in his An Open Letter to Comrade Lenin. By 1921, the council communists broke with the Bolshevism that had already effectively expelled them from both the national Communist Parties and the Communist International.
Like the anarchists, they argued that Russia was a state-capitalist party dictatorship and had nothing to be with socialism. And, again like anarchists, the council communists argue that the process of building a new society, like the revolution itself, is either the work of the people themselves or doomed from the start. As with the anarchists, they too saw the Bolshevik take-over of the soviets (like that of the trade unions) as subverting the revolution and beginning the restoration of oppression and exploitation.
To discover more about council communism, the works of Paul Mattick are essential reading. While best known as a writer on Marxist economic theory in such works as Marx and Keynes, Economic Crisis and Crisis Theory and Economics, Politics and the Age of Inflation, Mattick had been a council communist since the German revolution of 1919/1920. His books Anti-Bolshevik Communism and Marxism: The Last Refuge of the Bourgeoisie? are excellent introductions to his political ideas. Also essential reading is Anton Pannekeok's works. His classic Workers' Councils explains council communism from first principles while his Lenin as Philosopher dissects Lenin's claims to being a Marxist (Serge Bricianer, Pannekoek and the Workers' Councils is the best study of the development of Panekoek's ideas). In the UK, the militant suffragette Sylvia Pankhurst became a council communist under the impact of the Russian Revolution and, along with anarchists like Guy Aldred, led the opposition to the importation of Leninism into the communist movement there (see Mark Shipway's Anti-Parliamentary Communism: The Movement for Workers Councils in Britain, 1917-45 for more details of libertarian communism in the UK). Otto Ruhle and Karl Korsch are also important thinkers in this tradition.
Building upon the ideas of council communism, the Situationists developed their ideas in important new directions. Working in the late 1950s and 1960s, they combined council communist ideas with surrealism and other forms of radical art to produce an impressive critique of post-war capitalism. Unlike Castoriadis, whose ideas influenced them, the Situationists continued to view themselves as Marxists, developing Marx's critique of capitalist economy into a critique of capitalist society as alienation had shifted from being located in capitalist production into everyday life. They coined the expression "The Spectacle" to describe a social system in which people become alienated from their own lives and played the role of an audience, of spectators. Thus capitalism had turned being into having and now, with the spectacle, it turned having into appearing. They argued that we could not wait for a distant revolution, but rather should liberate ourselves in the here and now, creating events ("situations") which would disrupt the ordinary and normal to jolt people out of their allotted roles within society. A social revolution based on sovereign rank and file assemblies and self-managed councils would be the ultimate "situation" and the aim of all Situationists.
While critical of anarchism, the differences between the two theories are relatively minor and the impact of the Situationists on anarchism cannot be underestimated. Many anarchists embraced their critique of modern capitalist society, their subversion of modern art and culture for revolutionary purposes and call for revolutionising everyday life. Ironically, while Situationism viewed itself as an attempt to transcend tradition forms of Marxism and anarchism, it essentially became subsumed by anarchism. The classic works of situationism are Guy Debord's Society of the Spectacle and Raoul Veneigem's The Revolution of Everyday Life. The Situationist International Anthology (edited by Ken Knabb) is essential reading for any budding Situationists, as is Knabb's own Public Secrets.
Lastly there is Autonomist Marxism. Drawing on the works of the council communism, Castoriadis, situationism and others, it places the class struggle at the heart of its analysis of capitalism. It initially developed in Italy during the 1960s and has many currents, some closer to anarchism than others. While the most famous thinker in the Autonomist tradition is probably Antonio Negri (who coined the wonderful phrase "money has only one face, that of the boss" in Marx Beyond Marx) his ideas are more within traditional Marxist. For an Autonomist whose ideas are closer to anarchism, we need to turn to the US thinker and activist who has written the one of the best summaries of Kropotkin's ideas in which he usefully indicates the similarities between anarcho-communism and Autonomist Marxism ("Kropotkin, Self-valorisation and the Crisis of Marxism," Anarchist Studies, vol. 2, no. 3). His book Reading Capital Politically is an essential text for understanding Autonomism and its history.
For Cleaver, "autonomist Marxism" as generic name for a variety of movements, politics and thinkers who have emphasised the autonomous power of workers -- autonomous from capital, obviously, but also from their official organisations (e.g. the trade unions, the political parties) and, moreover, the power of particular groups of working class people to act autonomously from other groups (e.g. women from men). By "autonomy" it is meant the ability of working class people to define their own interests and to struggle for them and, critically, to go beyond mere reaction to exploitation and to take the offensive in ways that shape the class struggle and define the future. Thus they place working class power at the centre of their thinking about capitalism, how it develops and its dynamics as well as in the class conflicts within it. This is not limited to just the workplace and just as workers resist the imposition of work inside the factory or office, via slowdowns, strikes and sabotage, so too do the non-waged resist the reduction of their lives to work. For Autonomists, the creation of communism is not something that comes later but is something which is repeatedly created by current developments of new forms of working class self-activity.
The similarities with social anarchism are obvious. Which probably explains why Autonomists spend so much time analysing and quoting Marx to justify their ideas for otherwise other Marxists will follow Lenin's lead on the council communists and label them anarchists and ignore them! For anarchists, all this Marx quoting seems amusing. Ultimately, if Marx really was an Autonomist Marxist then why do Autonomists have to spend so much time re-constructing what Marx "really" meant? Why did he not just say it clearly to begin with? Similarly, why root out (sometimes obscure) quotes and (sometimes passing) comments from Marx to justify your insights? Does something stop being true if Marx did not mention it first? Whatever the insights of Autonomism its Marxism will drag it backwards by rooting its politics in the texts of two long dead Germans. Like the surreal debate between Trotsky and Stalin in the 1920s over "Socialism in One Country" conducted by means of Lenin quotes, all that will be proved is not whether a given idea is right but simply that the mutually agreed authority figure (Lenin or Marx) may have held it. Thus anarchists suggest that Autonomists practice some autonomy when it comes to Marx and Engels.
Other libertarian Marxists close to anarchism include Erich Fromm and Wilhelm Reich. Both tried to combine Marx with Freud to produce a radical analysis of capitalism and the personality disorders it causes. Erich Fromm, in such books as The Fear of Freedom, Man for Himself, The Sane Society and To Have or To Be? developed a powerful and insightful analysis of capitalism which discussed how it shaped the individual and built psychological barriers to freedom and authentic living. His works discuss many important topics, including ethics, the authoritarian personality (what causes it and how to change it), alienation, freedom, individualism and what a good society would be like.
Fromm's analysis of capitalism and the "having" mode of life are incredibly insightful, especially in context with today's consumerism. For Fromm, the way we live, work and organise together influence how we develop, our health (mental and physical), our happiness more than we suspect. He questions the sanity of a society which covets property over humanity and adheres to theories of submission and domination rather than self-determination and self-actualisation. His scathing indictment of modern capitalism shows that it is the main source of the isolation and alienation prevalent in today. Alienation, for Fromm, is at the heart of the system (whether private or state capitalism). We are happy to the extent that we realise ourselves and for this to occur our society must value the human over the inanimate (property).
Fromm rooted his ideas in a humanistic interpretation of Marx, rejecting Leninism and Stalinism as an authoritarian corruption of his ideas ("the destruction of socialism . . . began with Lenin."). Moreover, he stressed the need for a decentralised and libertarian form of socialism, arguing that the anarchists had been right to question Marx's preferences for states and centralisation. As he put it, the "errors of Marx and Engels . . . [and] their centralistic orientation, were due to the fact they were much more rooted in the middle-class tradition of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, both psychologically and intellectually, than men like Fourier, Owen, Proudhon and Kropotkin." As the "contradiction" in Marx between "the principles of centralisation and decentralisation," for Fromm "Marx and Engels were much more 'bourgeois' thinkers than were men like Proudhon, Bakunin, Kropotkin and Landauer. Paradoxical as it sounds, the Leninist development of Socialism represented a regression to the bourgeois concepts of the state and of political power, rather than the new socialist concept as it was expressed so much clearer by Owen, Proudhon and others." [The Sane Society, p. 265, p. 267 and p. 259] Fromm's Marxism, therefore, was fundamentally of a libertarian and humanist type and his insights of profound importance for anyone interested in changing society for the better.
Wilheim Reich, like Fromm, set out to elaborate a social psychology based on both Marxism and psychoanalysis. For Reich, sexual repression led to people amenable to authoritarianism and happy to subject themselves to authoritarian regimes. While he famously analysed Nazism in this way (in The Mass Psychology of Fascism, his insights also apply to other societies and movements (it is no co-incidence, for example, that the religious right in America oppose pre-martial sex and use scare tactics to get teenagers to associate it with disease, dirt and guilt).
His argument is that due to sexual repression we develop what he called "character armour" which internalises our oppressions and ensures that we can function in a hierarchical society. This social conditioning is produced by the patriarchal family and its net results is a powerful reinforcement and perpetuation of the dominant ideology and the mass production of individuals with obedience built into them, individuals ready to accept the authority of teacher, priest, employer and politician as well as to endorse the prevailing social structure. This explains how individuals and groups can support movements and institutions which exploit or oppress them. In other words, act think, feel and act against themselves and, moreover, can internalise their own oppression to such a degree that they may even seek to defend their subordinate position.
Thus, for Reich, sexual repression produces an individual who is adjusted to the authoritarian order and who will submit to it in spite of all misery and degradation it causes them. The net result is fear of freedom, and a conservative, reactionary mentality. Sexual repression aids political power, not only through the process which makes the mass individual passive and unpolitical, but also by creating in their character structure an interest in actively supporting the authoritarian order.
While his uni-dimensional focus on sex is misplaced, his analysis of how we internalise our oppression in order to survive under hierarchy is important for understanding why so many of the most oppressed people seem to love their social position and those who rule over them. By understanding this collective character structure and how it forms also provides humanity with new means of transcending such obstacles to social change. Only an awareness of how people's character structure prevents them from becoming aware of their real interests can it be combated and social self-emancipation assured.
Maurice Brinton's The Irrational in Politics is an excellent short introduction to Reich's ideas which links their insights to libertarian socialism.