Proudhon has been interpreted in many ways, some more honestly and accurately than others. Two of the most dishonest and, sadly, influential have been by Karl Marx and American liberal J. Salwyn Schapiro. While the former’s work is discussed in the introduction of Property is Theft!, space preluded discussion the latter’s attempt to portray Proudhon as a fascist.
“Either competition, – that is, monopoly and what follows; or exploitation by the State, – that is, dearness of labour and continuous impoverishment; or else, in short, a solution based upon equality, – in other words, the organisation of labour, which involves the negation of political economy and the end of property.”
– Proudhon, System of Economic Contradictions
This is a write up of a talk I did at the 2012 London anarchist bookfair. It explores the interwoven nature of revolutionary anarchism and syndicalism, showing how the standard Leninist account of both is false. It shows how syndicalism evolved as a key anarchist tactic within the First International and how revolutionary anarchists like Bakunin and Kropotkin advocated syndicalist ideas and tactics. Suffice to say, this is the talk I hoped to give – the actual one may not have equalled these hopes! The title is a Kropotkin quote, one much repeated in his works
"All those who wish to see the ideas of Pierre-Joseph Proudhon … achieve wider appreciation and recognition will welcome this new anthology … This is the most comprehensive English-language collection ever published…The primary function of this impressive collection is to make Proudhon’s writings accessible…and to dismantle the superficial misconceptions that have surrounded Proudhon’s theories. It does this marvellously…" (K. Steven Vincent)
This is an introduction to Proudhon’s economic ideas and their influence on revolutionary anarchism. It is a chapter from the new book The Accumulation of Freedom: Writings on Anarchist Economics (AK Press [US/UK], 2012) and its blurb (in part) states: “The only crisis of capitalism is capitalism itself...
“[Property is Theft!] really is a welcome addition to the literature. Comprehensive, with a well-researched and substantial introduction… including not only the most important of Proudhon’s political writings, but many of his manifestos and letters… Proudhon outlined… the basic tenets of anarchism… Iain McKay and A.K. Press are therefore to be warmly congratulated on this very satisfying and much needed anthology” (Brian Morris, Freedom)
As with any book, particularly one which is as long as Property is Theft!, some errors were not spotted before publication. Since getting my copy, I’ve discovered a few minor mistakes and have listed them on the book’s website, plus corrections as both html and pdf. I include them here as well, before discussing my thoughts on additions to any second edition. As will become obvious, the errors are few and far between and not that significant.
Well, the SPGB has printed to my letter about their terrible review of Property is Theft!. It was a terrible review not because they concluded that Marx was still right (and he was, on certain issues) but rather because the review was so inaccurate. Sadly, the reply to my letter is equally inaccurate. Apparently mere evidence is not enough for them!
Well, I expected bad reviews from Marxists for Property is Theft! but I admit to being surprised by how poor the one from Socialist Standard (the Socialist Party of Great Britain’s paper). I mean, it is like the reviewer did not even bother reading it… I’ve sent a letter which I’ve added to the end of this blog. I expect I will be writing more like that one.
Like most sites we have a major problem with bots trying to post spam into the comments section. While looking for a better solution we are reduced to only on turning on the ability to anonymously comment for brief periods around the posting of new articles. But if you are a regular visitor you can comment at any time by creating an account on the site and logging in before posting. But the Spammers also set up accounts so to reduce the workload of deleting those we only turn on the ability to create accounts for brief periods which we announce on our Twitter & Facebook accounts so follow those to hear when we have that turned on. We do want you to be able to engage with us via the comments and we are very sorry for the fact that we can't find a better way of dealing with spam.