What is Anarchy?
Anarchism” and anarchy are undoubtedly the most misrepresented ideas in political theory. Generally, the words are used to mean “chaos” or “without order,” and so, by implication, anarchists desire social chaos and a return to the “laws of the jungle.” This simply is not the case, no matter what the newspapers tell you.
Anarchism is a political theory which aims to create a society within which individuals freely co-operate together as equals. As such anarchism opposes all forms of hierarchical control – be that control by the state or a capitalist – as harmful to the individual and their individuality as well as unnecessary.
The term anarchism derives from the Greek ἄναρχος, anarchos, meaning “without rulers”, from the prefix ἀν- (an-, “without”) + ἀρχή (archê, “sovereignty, realm, magistracy”) + -ισμός (-ismos, from the suffix -ιζειν, -izein “-izing”).
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Where and when did it all begin?
Not so long ago:
There were a variety of anarchistic religious movements in Europe during the Middle Ages, including the Brothers and Sisters of the Free Spirit, the Klompdraggers, the Hussites, Adamites and the early Anabaptists.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….”Prior to Leo Tolstoy, Christian anarchism found one of its most articulate exponents in Gerrard Winstanley, who was part of the Diggers movement in England during the English Civil War. Winstanley published a pamphlet calling for communal ownership and social and economic organization in small agrarian communities. Drawing on the Bible, he argued that “the blessings of the earth” should “be common to all… and none Lord over others.”
The french Pierre-Joseph Proudhon is regarded as the first self-proclaimed anarchist, a label he adopted in his groundbreaking work What is Property?, published in 1840. It is for this reason that some claim Proudhon as the founder of modern anarchist theory.He developed the theory of spontaneous order in society, where organization emerges without a central coordinator imposing its own idea of order against the wills of individuals acting in their own interests; his famous quote on the matter is, “Liberty is the mother, not the daughter, of order.” In What is Property? Proudhon answers with the famous accusation “Property is theft.” In this work, he opposed the institution of decreed “property” (propriété), where owners have complete rights to “use and abuse” their property as they wish. He contrasted this with what he called “possession,” or limited ownership of resources and goods only while in more or less continuous use. Later, however, Proudhon added that “Property is Liberty,” and argued that it was a bulwark against state power.His opposition to the state, organized religion, and certain capitalist practices inspired subsequent anarchists, and made him one of the leading social thinkers of his time.
“The ultimate end of all revolutionary social change is to establish the sanctity of human life, the dignity of man, the right of every human being to liberty and well-being”.
– Emma Goldman
Below are some prominent anarchist / Leftist thinkers, movers and shakers. In no way is this list complete. Please get in touch if you think we should add anyone else. They are Wiki linked if you would like any more information to read up on; we encourage you to do so, and then we encourage you to make your own mind up.
Alexander Berkman - Murray Bookchin - Carlo Cafiero - Lev Chernyi - Luigi Fabbri - Francisco Ferrer y Guardia - Emma Goldman - William Godwin - Pëtr Kropotkin - Errico Malatesta - Francesco Saverio Merlino - Louise Michel - Johann Most - Pierre-Joseph Proudhon - Elisée Reclus - Carlo Tresca - Benjamin Tucker - John Zerzan - Francisco Ascaso – Marie Louise Berneri - Carlo Cafiero - Buenaventura Durruti - Juan Garcia Oliver - Francisco Ferrer y Guardia - Gino Lucetti - Wu Ming – Ramor Ryan
Why is Mayday important to Anarchists?
Traditionally Mayday was always celebrated by Pagans before being pinched by the Christian faith. Some of the earliest Mayday celebrations were the Festival of Flora (Romans) The Festival of Beltane (Gaelic Peoples) and the Walpurgis Night, which was celebrated in the Germanic countries.
But to Anarchists it is more than a celebration of the coming summer. To Anarchists it’s a celebration of the victory to win workers the 8 hour day and May 1st became a commemoration by the Socialist Second International for the anarchists involved in the 1886 Haymarket Massacre.
The Anarchists were trade union organisers and May Day became an international workers day to remember their sacrifice. They were framed on false charges of throwing a bomb at police who were breaking up a peaceful demonstration in Chicago. This was part of a strike demanding an 8 hour day involving 400,000 workers which started on May 1st 1886.
By 1887 four of the eight Chicago anarchists were executed. A fifth cheated the hangman by killing himself in prison. Three more were to spend 6 years in jail until pardoned by Governor Altgeld who said the trial that convicted them was characterised by “hysteria, packed juries and a biased judge”. The state had, in the words of the prosecution put “Anarchy on trial” and hoped their deaths would also be the death of the anarchist idea.
“Anarchism does not mean bloodshed; it does not mean robbery, arson, etc. These monstrosities are, on the contrary, the characteristic features of capitalism. Anarchism means peace and tranquillity to all.” -August Spies, Haymarket Anarchist.
The anarchist idea did not die in Chicago in 1887. Today it inspires a new wave of struggle against global capitalism.
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Anarchist Society can, have and are still working. Linked below are some examples of Anarchist communities, past and present.
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