Some Possible Topics for a Workshop on Anarchism
(Note: These topics are not in any particular order. There are references and source materials on many of these topics in the bibliography I compiled last month, “A Bibliographical Guide to Anarchism in English”. If not, I sometimes give some references here.)
1. The school voucher phenomenon and the anarchist response.
The right-wing (especially the Christian right) push for school vouchers is part of a more general corporate attack on public education. This has elicited a near unanimous response among progressives to rally to the defense of public education. Yet anarchists have always had rather different views about education. The contemporary ‘deschooling’ movement is largely of anarchist inspiration. Although the ‘home schooling’ movement is largely right-wing and Christian, there is a strong left-wing component, including some anarchists. Should anarchists be joining in the fight with other progressives to defend public education, or should they have their own take on the issue? And if so, what is it?
Surprisingly, there is precious little about housing from the left, in spite of Engels’ early book on the topic, and in spite of the fairly large and long-lasting squatters movement, which is probably predominantly anarchist in inspiration. Colin Ward has a book, Talking Houses. There is a chapter in Kropotkin (“Dwellings”, ch. 6, in the Conquest of Bread). There are a few other radical books. Considering the importance of shelter for humans, and considering the importance that rent plays, and the shortage of housing in general, in oppression, you would think that there would be more attention paid to the issue by radicals. Anarchists could probably piece together a position from housing coop literature, marxist studies, the squatter movement, and so forth. Greens and ecologists have also done some work here, on affordable building materials and housing designs.
3. Architecture and Urban Planning
Radical critiques of architecture are rare (my impression is; I’ve seen a couple, but have probably lost the references; some research will be needed to recover this tiny body of literature). This is strange, because capitalism has shaped, and has been shaping for centuries, our entire human-made physical environment -- land use, roads, suburban sprawl, the shapes of our buildings, the single-family houses, skyscrapers, and so forth. As for urban planning, it turns out that anarchists have loomed large in this discipline for over a hundred years. Communitas (by Paul and Percival Goodman, 1947) is a well know classic. The big book here is Peter Hall, Cities of Tomorrow: An Intellectual History of Urban Planning and Design in the Twentieth Century. Hall is sympathetic to the anarchist perspective and gives a full account of the role of anarchists, and their mainstream opponents, in this discipline. Anarchists should be developing plans for rebuilding the world in architectural terms, as well as social. A forthcoming book, which won an award from the Institute of Anarchist Studies, might be useful: Matt Hern and Stuart Chalk, Architecture of Isolation, Broadview Press, Ontario.
Nineteenth century anarchists were more interested in this topic than we are I think. Most of the major figures wrote about the issue, for the most part blaming crime on capitalism, oppression, and poverty. Today we have a minuscule ‘prison abolition’ movement, an anti-death penalty movement (which seems to be gathering steam), and an anti prison-industrial-complex movement, none of which are particularly anarchist. The hardest hitting critiques of the police (for example, The Iron Fist and the Velvet Glove) have been written by other leftists, mostly marxists and left-liberals. Yet there is probably no issue that is harder for anarchists to convince the unconverted on that ‘what to do about crime’. Michael Taylor argued convincingly, in Community, Anarchy, and Liberty that social order could be maintained in a small community without government and police. But he didn’t deal with inter-community or regional problems. Fortunately, we have a good place to begin: L. Tifft and D. Sullivan, The Struggle to Be Human: Crime, Criminology, and Anarchism (Cienfuegos Press, 1980).
5. An Anarchist Perspective on the Nationalities Question
Most of the books on the ‘nationalities question’ have been written by marxists, for example, Horace B. Davis, Toward a Marxist Theory of Nationalism. But we have Fredy Perlman’s anti-statist essay, The Continuing Appeal of Nationalism. An essay soon to be published, in Arsenal: A Magazine of Anarchist Strategy and Culture (#3, winter, 2001), by Mike Staudenmaier, “Towards a New Anarchist Theory of Nationalism” will hopefully get us started towards a more fully worked out position on this issue. The Question of Identity is closely related if not synonymous. I believe that anarchy is the only coherent solution to all these ethnic conflicts (that is, they can’t be solved within the nation-state framework) -- Jews vs. Arabs in Palestine, the Quebecois in Canada, Navajo in the US, Basques in Spain, Miskito in Nicaragua, Chinese in Indonesia, the Welch and Scots in England, and so forth. Wallerstein’s long series of essays, from the seventies on, on nations, class, and ethnicity, are among the most insightful of contemporary discussions of the issue.
6. Direct Action
There are some materials available for examining this key anarchist concept. It would be worthwhile spending a session or two reviewing them. Kerr & Co. has recently republished three wobbly essays on direct action from the 1910s: Direct Action & Sabotage (ed. by Salvatore Salerno -- pamphlets by Flynn, Smith, & Trautman); an excellent essay by Mitchel Cohen “What is Direct Action: New Left Lessons in Reframing Revolutionary Strategy” (a Red Balloon pamphlet); Voltairine de Cleyre’s essay “Direct Action”; a recent survey and discussion of the concept in the Anarcho-Syndicalist Review (#29, summer 2000), “Direct Action: Towards an understanding of a concept”; plus an anarchist magazine by that name in England. Some contemporary anarchists equate direct action with street activism, which is wrong. It is a much broader concept and ultimately amounts to doing whatever is necessary to take charge of our lives, seize decision-making power, seize the means of production and our residences, and establish a free society.
7. Consensus versus Majority Rule
There is probably no greater confusion among anarchists than that which surrounds voting procedures. Since the sixties what has prevailed in progressive circles is something called consensus voting. During the past year so-called consensus voting has been much noted because of the practices of the groups that organized the protests in Seattle and in other cities throughout the year. There may be something new in the practices of these groups, which will be worth studying if we can find a written description of them. Otherwise I think the place to begin is with the only critique of the practice I’ve seen (although there must be others out there), the essay by Tom Wetzel, “On Organization”, originally published in Ideas and Action, spring, 1988, and later as a pamphlet. Wetzel claims that consensus voting is anti-democratic, and I agree. Another useful resource is Democracy in Small Groups, by John Castil, especially ch. 3, “More than one way to decide”. This whole question needs to be thoroughly studied and raised to a new level.
8. The Problem of Political Obligation
This is the same problem as voting, but from a different angle. A typical anarchist position is that you don’t have to do anything that you haven’t agreed to. I even knew an anarchist once who believed he was in no way obligated to honor promises he had made to personal friends. It all depended on what he felt like doing at the time, like whether to keep a date or not. In the late sixties Robert Paul Wolff published a small book, In Defense of Anarchism, in which he carried to its logical conclusion the belief that you only had to do those things that you personally agreed to do, and concluded therefore that democracy would be impossible, because to find or achieve unanimity on every question was impossible. The most thorough discussion of this whole muddle that I am aware of is Carole Pateman’s The Problem of Political Obligation, a book which anarchists would do well to study carefully.
9. Neighborhood versus Workplace organizing
This is an issue that has split the anarchist movement for over a hundred years, and it is still splitting it, as currently expressed in the conflict between the traditional anarcho-syndicalists, who focus on workplace organizing, and the libertarian municipalists who focus on municipal assemblies. Syndicalists think the key thing is to seize the means of production, whereas libertarian municipalists think the key thing is to seize decision-making power. We could get into this issue by reading Bookchin’s various critiques of anarcho-syndicalism, and by reading the critiques, which have finally started to appear, of Bookchin’s libertarian municipalism. Both sides are simultaneously wrong and right in my view. And in practice, in the greatest anarchist revolution so far, the Spanish Revolution from 1936-39, it was no split at all, because assemblies were established everywhere, in villages and in workplaces, industrial and agricultural. I believe it is a false issue, and needs to be gotten over, the sooner the better.
This is actually the same issue as the nationalities question and the identity question, but it might be worthwhile to treat it separately because there is an outstanding native-american writer, Ward Churchill, who develops and advocates this theory. It is a theory, of native or indigenous peoples, which tends to replace class analysis, and generates a view of the history of the last five hundred years of capitalism which is quite at odds with a class struggle analysis. Except for my brief critique of the concept in Getting Free, I have never seen a critique of the idea (although surely some marxist journal has published one). I do not believe that ‘indigenism’ is compatible with anarchism, because it mis-identifies the enemy, as ‘the white man’, or ‘europeans’, or ‘western civilization’, rather than capitalists. Its greatest oversight is that it ignores the European peasantry, which was one of the first ‘indigenous peoples’ to be driven off their lands, turned into wage-slaves, exploited, and oppressed. It also ignores local ruling classes, made up obviously of so-called ‘indigenous’ persons. We could read Churchill, and then search the literature for critiques. Actually, we are just now witnessing a still basically peasant population in Europe, in the Balkans, being hit with an improved, strengthened, new, enclosures movement. Are the peasants in twenty-first century Eastern Europe ‘indigenous peoples’ who are being attacked by ‘western civilization’ or are they being dispossessed by the neoliberal offensive of late capitalism. Indigenists I think will have to be double-jointed to apply their theory to recent events in Eastern Europe, because peasants there are white, european, a part of western civilization, and are certainly ‘indigenous’, in that they have lived there for eons (actually, most of them moved there from elsewhere in some distant past, as have all so-called ‘indigenous’ peoples on earth). So I guess they are attacking themselves, if we follow indigenism.
11. Anarchism and the Arab-Israeli Conflict
This is also part of the nationalities question, but it might be useful to consider it separately because of the long-standing debate in Israel over “Who is a Jew?”, and also because there was a socialist tendency in Eastern Europe and Russia in the last quarter of the nineteenth century which rejected the Zionist solution to the “Jewish Question”. The Bundists did not believe that a Jewish state would solve their problems. Thus the Arab-Israeli conflict is an exceptionally good case for highlighting the superiority of anarchism as a way of organizing the world. Even so astute a writer as Edward Said cannot picture anything other than secular humanism in a bi-national state as a solution to this conflict, rejecting as having been disastrous identities based on ethnicity or religion. There are scattered essays on this debate which we might be able to dig out.
12. The Concept of Federation
Great confusion surrounds this central anarchist concept. What Proudhon meant by federation is considerably more nuanced and complicated that what is usually meant nowadays. In its current usage the concept is hierarchical, based on the election of delegates (mandated and recallable to be sure) to be sent to higher decision-making assemblies or conferences. It is simply another name for what is basically a modified representative system. I have written a short critique and rejection of this set of concepts in Getting Free. But it is a topic that needs further study. I may be wrong about federation, in that perhaps I don’t really understand yet what the classical anarchists meant. In any case, there are some resources. Colin Ward, “The Anarchist Sociology of Federalism,” Freedom, June 27, July 11, 1992 (available on the web at www.tao.ca/~freedom/ward7.html. Richard Vernon’s (not to be confused with Vernon Richards of Freedom Press) long introduction to his translation of a part of Proudhon’s The Principle of Federation (Toronto University Press, 1979, 86 pages) is a very useful survey of the concept, with quite a few bibliographical references. Camillo Berneri has an essay: “Peter Kropotkin: His Federalist Ideas” (available in the Anarchist Archives). Preston King’s Federalism and Federation is a mainstream survey of the concept which shows that the idea has been used by just about everyone, conservatives, liberals, and radicals alike. Anarchists badly need to clarify their usage of this idea, if they are going to continue to use it at all.
13. Imagining Anarchism
I believe that there is no greater obstacle (other than the ruling class itself) to the success of anarchism than our failure to clarify in concrete terms how anarchism would work as a form of social organization. There are a few scattered “utopias”, but as far as detailed, concrete, comparative studies of proposed social arrangements (“institutional structures”), there are practically none, as far as I know. We could usefully spend a few sessions reviewing the few extant proposals, for example, those by Kropotkin, Castoriadis, Morris. A couple of recent, short attempts are: Chaz Bufe, “A Future Worth Living: Thoughts on Getting There” (available at home.earthlink.net/~seesharp/future), and “The Future Society” by Claire and Mike of the Anarchist Communist Federation in England (available at burn.ucsd.edu/~acf/online/futsmall). Bolo’Bolo, by p.m. (Semiotext(e), 1985) is a highly creative and fascinating recent attempt to picture anarchism.
14. Anarchism and Radical Epistemology
There was a well-known philosopher of science, Paul Feyerabend (he died just recently), who claimed to be an anarchist. His book, Science in a Free Society (Verso, 1978), is a useful introduction for the uninitiated into the ongoing debate about dualism, empiricism, science, anti-foundationalism, objectivity, and so forth. His many other books are as good a place as any for getting into the issue: Against Method (Verso, 1975); Farewell to Reason (Verso, 1987); Three Dialogues on Knowledge (Blackwell, 1991); Realism, Rationalism, and Scientific Method: Philosophical Papers, Vol. 1 (Cambridge, 1981); Problems of Empiricism: Philosophical Papers, Vol. 2 (Cambridge, 1981). There is a vast literature on this issue, including the bulk of American pragmatism, plus strands from analytic and linguistic philosophy, critical theory, dialectics, hegelian marxism, and post-modernism. Most of the nineteenth century theorists, including Marx (with qualifications) and Kropotkin, were thoroughly immersed in that century’s predominant scientific outlook. A major exception was Gustav Landauer (early twentieth century actually), an anarchist who wrote a critique of orthodoxy in science, marxism, and socialism in 1910. There are some contemporary debates that are worth examining in this regard: Geras vs. Rorty, Chomsky vs. Raskin, Bookchin vs. Clark, Wood vs. Laclau. (I can provide references to all these.)
15. Anarchism and the Zapatista Revolt in Chiapas, Mexico
I’ve read a blistering attack on the Zapatistas from some anarchists in Britain. “Unmasking the Zapatistas” (available at www.webcom.com/wildcat/MEXICO). A less blistering but still strongly critical assessment is “Behind the Balaclavas of Southeast Mexico” (available at geocities.com/CapitolHill/Lobby/3909/beyond). A more sympathetic and balanced evaluation, from an autonomous marxist group (Midnight Notes) is “Toward the New Commons: Working Class Strategies and the Zapatistas, by Monty Neill, with George Caffentzis and Johnny Machete (available at www.geocities.com/CapitolHill/3843/mngcjm). A still more favorable review is “The Zapatistas and ‘Direct Democracy’ ”, in the Anarcho-Syndicalist Review, No. 27, winter 1999. The progressive left has been almost unanimously and strongly supportive of the Zapatistas, and there is already an extensive literature on this struggle in Chiapas, including several anthologies of the major Zapatista documents as well as several histories and interpretations. I believe (but impressionistically, because I have yet to study this in depth) that the British comrades are wrong and that the Zapatista rebellion is an exciting development. It is nevertheless a tough issue for anarchists, especially class struggle oriented anarchists, to sort through.
16. Anarchism and Human Nature
Is anarchism based on a particular conception of human nature? If so, what is it? Is there a social order that ‘best suits’ human nature? Or is it rather a question of building a social order that permits the emergence of certain latent human potentialities? Is there anything distinctive (instead of just generally progressive) about an anarchist’s response to such contemporary issues as sociobiology and genetic engineering? But whether or not anarchism has a distinctive approach to these issues anarchists must surely concern themselves with the genetic determinism that has swept the country in recent decades -- a viciously reactionary dogma that is being used to justify everything from electric shock, to forced medication, to mounting prison populations, to drugging school children with Ritalin. There are some excellent books. Mary Midgley’s Beast and Man is one of the finest attempts to sort through the muddle of the nurture versus nature debate. Agnes Heller has two excellent books that are relevant: The Theory of Need in Marx, and Instincts. Marvin Harris, a marxian anthropologist, has written an excellent survey of what that discipline has to say about human nature, Our Kind. (Harris wrote one of the first critiques of sociobiology for the New York Review of Books in the late 70s.) Not in Our Genes (by R.C. Lewontin et.al.) is a direct attack on biological determinism, as are Ruth Hubbard and Elijah Wald’s Exploding the Gene Myth, and Richard Levins and Richard Lewontin’s The Dialectical Biologist. The Use and Abuse of Biology, by Marshal Sahlins, is in the same vein. There is a reader: The Sociobiology Debate, edited by Arthur Caplan. One of the most brilliant philosophical attempts ever to get beyond the Cartesian duality of objectivism/subjectivism is Hans Jonas’ The Phenomenon of Life: Toward a Philosophical Biology.
17. Anarchism and Poststructuralism
Is there anything useful for anarchism to be found in poststructuralism? At least one author seems to think so: Todd May, The Political Philosophy of Poststructuralist Anarchism (Pennsylvania State University Press, 1994, 176 pages). This is part of the larger question of whether there is an epistemology appropriate for anarchism, outlined above. Although I have never liked postmodernism, I also believe that there is a strand from that body of work that is relevant for direct democracy and anarchism, namely its anti-foundationalism, or the claim that there is no ‘objective’ foundation for human knowledge and values.
18. Sex, Love, Family, and Anarchism
There was a ‘free love’ movement among anarchists in the nineteenth century, and again in the ‘20s, and again in the ‘60s. The movement for sexual liberation in the ‘60s came to an abrupt end with the emergence at the end of that decade of a powerful, puritanical, anti-men, anti-pornography wing of the feminist movement. Since then ‘sexual liberation’ has been on hold, at least as a conscious movement (practice may be another thing), except for the gay and lesbian movement (but that has been more a question of civil rights than of sexual liberation). As for love and family, anarchists have traditionally been against monogamous, state-certified marriage, as well as the nuclear family. What has happened to this preference though in an America where the repressive moralism of the christian right is such a massive force? For starters, see Free Love and Anarchism: The Biography of Ezra Heywood, by Martin H. Blatt, and Free Love in America: A Documentary History, by Taylor Stoehr.
19. Childhood Sexuality
It would be hard to find a more taboo topic. I don’t even have a reference on it. I did see one article once published in Anarchy in its early years. My impression is that anarchists have usually recognized, and been tolerant of, the sexually erotic natures of children.
Will anarchists write a constitution for their free society? I heard about an essay once by George Woodcock which supposedly argued against constitutions. But I have not been able to find it. Perhaps I heard wrong. His book Power to Us All: Constitution or Social Contract? (1992) is not really about anarchy at all but about building a confederate society within the framework of the nation of Canada. I was a member of a radical project once which refused to write bylaws. We just winged it, recognizing that bylaws were only as good as the people who were there to interpret and defend them. The same holds for constitutions. I have long been interested in constitution writing, and in radical constitutions, and had always assumed that a free, cooperative, directly democratic, anarchistic society would have one. But of late I’ve been questioning this assumption. Nevertheless, an attempt to write an anarchist constitution might help nail down in concrete terms the kind of social arrangements we want. We could begin by studying the Pennsylvania constitution of 1776, one of the most radical of the state constitutions emerging from the American Revolution, plus other supposedly progressive constitutions, for example, the new constitution of non-apartheid South Africa. We could try to abstract constitutions from the various anarchist utopias that have been written. I will mention also my early attempt at constitution writing (unpublished to date), a document which I prepared for the abortive 1970 Constitutional Convention called by the Black Panthers. It was a constitution for a workers council system, but one based on direct democracy, not federation.
21. Late Marx and the Russian Road
An exciting article by Franklin Rosemont appeared some years ago in Arsenal (#4, 1989), called “Karl Marx & the Iroquois”. It was a review of Marx’s studies of the Russian commune, and of archaic societies, during the last years of his life. Many of the relevant materials have been collected by Teodor Shanin, in Late Marx and the Russian Road: Marx and the Peripheries of Capitalism (Monthly Review Press, 1983, 286 pages). These two references are well worth examining by anarchists, especially now that the bolshevik/leninist model has been discredited and has collapsed worldwide, and now that decentralist, anti-statist struggles have emerged in Mexico, Africa, India, and in many other parts of the world.
22. Marx versus Proudhon on the Market
See David McNally, Against the Market: Political Economy, Market Socialism, and the Marxist Critique (Verso, 1993, 262 pages). McNally reconstructs the decades-long debate between Marx and Proudhon on the market. According to McNally, Proudhon was actually the first to propose ‘market socialist type’ ideas. I take his book to be a very strong argument for anarchy, for the destruction of wage-slavery, for cooperative labor, for the complete rejection of the market in commodities, and so forth, although McNally himself explicitly rejects anarchism (in his pamphlet, Socialism from Below, 1986), in favor of the syndicalist tradition (which he says is not anarchist) a la the workers councils orientation of the Trotskyist International Socialist Organization.
23. An Anarchist Strategy for Revolution
The paucity of anarchist writings about revolutionary strategy is extremely dismaying. Anarcho-syndicalists have probably done somewhat better at articulating a strategy than have communitarian anarchists (e.g., How We Shall Bring About the Revolution: Syndicalism and the Cooperative Commonwealth, by Emile Potaud and Emile Pouget, 1909). Anarcho-syndicalists believe that workplaces have to be seized during a general strike (and for this you need revolutionary unions), after which workers will establish councils, which will then be federated into decision-making institutions for larger territories. Community-oriented anarchists have not produced a comparable vision, as far as I know. Libertarian municipalism, which I guess can be considered a version of communitarian anarchism, believes that you have to run candidates in local elections, and win, and then use the local government to seize control of the economy and set up citizens assemblies, which will then be ‘confederated’ into governing bodies for larger territories. Theirs is a preposterous proposal to my mind, and the dual power idea of federated councils advocated by anarcho-syndicalists is equally flawed I believe. As a place to begin I recommend my own recent pamphlet Getting Free: A Sketch of An Association of Democratic, Autonomous Neighborhoods and How to Create It.
24. Art and Anarchism
Most people don’t know that German Expressionism and French Impressionism emerged, to a large extent, out of an anarchist milieu. (Just as few know that great Americans like Helen Keller and Jack London were socialists, or that the major political influence on Franz Kafka was anarchism, or that Picasso was a communist.) A major British writer on art, Herbert Read, was an anarchist. William Morris, although a self-described non-anarchist, wrote provocatively, and anarchistically to my mind, on art (see Art and Society: Lectures and Essays). I don’t know whether the radical critic, John Berger, is an anarchist or not, but his works nevertheless are among the best contemporary discussions of art. Verso has a new book: Richard Porton, Film and the Anarchist Imagination (1999, 320 pages). See also, Edward Wind, Art and Anarchy (Faber & Faber, 1963), and Herbert Read, Poetry and Anarchy (Macmillan, 1939).
25. Surrealism and Anarchism
Surrealism, this powerful subterranean, subversive thread of 20th century thought, can be claimed for anarchism. It is hard to see Arsenal: Surrealist Subversion as anything but an anarchist journal (#1, 1970; #2, 1973; #3, 1976; #4, 1989; by Black Swan Press). See also, Andre Breton, What Is Surrealism?: Selected Writings (edited by Franklin Rosemont, Monad Press, 1978), and Rosemont, Franklin & Penelope, and Paul Garon, editors, The Forecast is Hot! Tracts & Other Collective Declarations of the Surrealist Movement in the United States 1966-1976. (Black Swan Press, 1997, 276 pages).
26. Anarchism and Money
Zeno of Citium (333-261 b.c.) argued for the abolition of money (at least according to Robin Turner’s 1997 two-page sketch of him, at http://neptune.spaceports.com/~words/zeno, with information taken from Diogenes Laertius, Lives of Eminent Philosophers). This is an item of belief among many anarchists today. A major theme of Proudhon’s was his ‘people’s bank’ with its socialized or cooperative credit. There are two pages on ‘money and banking’ in the Malatesta anthology. There is a short chapter on ‘consumption and exchange’ in Berkman’s ABC of Anarchism. Other than this I’m unaware of even one book or essay that examines this proposal (the abolition of money) in any depth. I have just completed a rapid search through some other major anarchists -- Godwin, Kropotkin, Bakunin, Goldman, Goodman, Ward -- as well as several histories and anthologies of anarchism, and several other anarchist books, and didn’t see one relevant chapter, essay title, or index entry, although there must surely be scattered passages on the topic. How can this be? -- A topic so central to the anarchist vision of the good society, left unexamined. We might begin by examining the recent upsurge of interest in local currencies (see, e.g., Susan Meeker-Lowry, “The Potential of Local Currency,” Z-Magazine, July/Aug 95, pp. 16-23). Also relevant is the long standing debate over the labor theory of value. The basic question of course is how we are to determine the value of something, in comparison to something else, to serve as a basis for exchange? Or is determining value even necessary for exchange? What about gifts and mutual aid? An appropriate place to begin is with Marx’s long chapter on money (123 pages) in the Grundrisse. Then: I.I. Rubin, Marx’s Theory of Value (1928 -- Black and Red, 1972, with an introduction by Fredy Perlman); Ronald Meek, Studies in the Labor Theory of Value; Georg Simmel, The Philosophy of Money; John Kenneth Galbraith, Money: Whence It Came, Where It Went; Andrew Hacker, Money: Who Has How Much and Why; Doug Henwood, Wall Street: How It Works and For Whom. (These last three references are for general purposes only; they do not address our question directly).
27. Anarchism and Pacifism
If ever there was a political, theoretical, and moral muddle it is the issue of nonviolence. Anarchists have been on both sides of the issue. On the one hand we have Zapata, Makhno, Durruti -- warriors. On the other hand, Tolstoy, Goodman, Landauer -- pacifists. And in-between, the bulk of anarchists, I believe, who do not reject revolutionary violence in principle but are not engaged in it. Anarchism also had its period, long since past, of ‘propaganda by the deed’ (or rather one wing of anarchism did). These were people who were dead serious about fighting capitalism, with dynamite if necessary. Most anarchists rejected ‘propaganda of the deed’ even at the time. But for background on this tendency, see Paul Avrich’s Sacco and Vanzetti. We might best begin with the most recent contribution to the debate, Ward Churchill’s Pacifism as Pathology: Reflections on the Role of Armed Struggle in North America (Arbeiter Ring, 1998). This is a very provocative book. A recent statement on the other side is A Force More Powerful: A Century of Nonviolent Conflict, by Peter Ackerman. See also, Nonviolence in America: A Documentary History, edited by Staughton Lynd. One of the best discussions of the issue I have ever read is the essay by Isaac Deutscher, “Marxism and Nonviolence”, pp. 79-92 in his essay collection, Marxism in Our Time. The issue is once again back on the agenda in a fairly big way because of the heated disputes during the past year, since the Battle of Seattle (Nov. 99), between the anarchist Black Block demonstrators and the nonviolent strategists of the Direct Action Network and other groups, with the nonviolent organizers presuming a consensus that does not exist and priority rights that do not exist.
28. Anarchism and Religion
Whatever happened to the blistering attacks on religion, like those fired off by nineteenth century anarchists? Religion is almost never mentioned by contemporary anarchists. Yet religious fundamentalism has been strongly resurgent worldwide in recent decades. Especially in the United States, the Christian Right has been a powerful player in government since the early eighties, with the Reagan/Bush counter-revolution, and during the sustained attack on Clinton in the nineties, and will now again, with the new Bush administration, be a prominent player in the federal government, although perhaps it is now weaker in comparison with the Reagan years. The influence of the Moral Majority and the Christian Coalition is massive in American culture. Do anarchists say anything about this? Hardly. Atheism has been reduced, as an organized voice, to a few strident sects, although agnosticism and atheism may be widespread, culturally speaking. Anarchists should return to the attack, and surely this can be on a considerably higher level than one hundred years ago, after another century of studies in comparative religion, anthropology, biblical archaeology and textual research, philosophy (especially pragmatism and radical epistemology), science in general, the sociology of religion, and so forth. We are well beyond a simple debate about theism/atheism. Colin Ward has an insightful essay: “Fundamentalism” (Raven, #27). There is a good anthology: Critiques of God: Making the Case Against Belief in God (ed. by Peter Angeles). Ernst Bloch’s Atheism in Christianity is brilliant. Some mileage for anti-authoritarianism can be had from Elaine Pagel’s The Gnostic Gospels, from Erich Fromm’s You Shall Be As Gods: A Radical Interpretation of the Old Testament and Its Tradition, and from John Dewey’s A Common Faith. A recent scholarly book on religious violence looks interesting: Terror in the Mind of God, by Mark Juergensmeyer. It will take a lot of work to refurbish for the 21st century the anarchist critique of religion, but it must be done. A political victory for fundamentalism would take us back before the Enlightenment.
29. Anarchism and Right-wing Libertarianism
This is a difficult relationship, because anarchism and right-wing libertarianism share a number of beliefs, while their differences are nevertheless profound. Since right-wing libertarianism is the predominant political outlook in America among ordinary people, you would think that anarchists would pay more attention to establishing a dialogue with this majoritarian philosophy. I doubt if much progress can be made linking up with the christian fundamentalist wing of this conservative tendency, but perhaps some alliances could be formed with the secular wing. A good place to begin is with a recent book: Right-wing Populism in America: Too Close for Comfort, by Chip Berlet. The task of a workshop session could be to identify those issues or areas where collaboration between anarchists and conservative libertarians might be possible.
30. Anarchism and Individualism
I regard fanatic individualists as one of the greatest threats (aside from the ruling class itself) to anarchism, direct democracy, and freedom in our period. They far surpass leninists and trotskyists in their destructive impact on the struggle for a cooperative, self-governed society. Contemporary individualists have almost nothing in common with nineteenth century so-called ‘individualist anarchists’, who, in comparison, were quite socially oriented, were almost invariably anti-capitalist, and were intensely aware of community and the social dimension of human existence, although they focused a lot of their energies on defending the rights of individuals against oppression by states and repressive collectives. In sharp contrast, contemporary ‘fanatic individualism’ is nothing more than a juvenile, liberal demand for a ‘do-your-own-thing’ approach to life, wherein individuals operate alone, do whatever they feel like, and recognize no constraints whatsoever on their behavior (not even self-assumed political obligations or personal promises), blissfully unaware that they are social animals. Their ‘anti-authoritarianism’ is perverted and off base. Unfortunately, this is a pronounced tendency in North American anarchism, and, while mostly unconscious and unarticulated, has at times been given explicit expression in the ‘primitivist’ and ‘anti-leftist’ wings of the movement. It is more an expression of the right-wing individualism so deeply rooted in North American culture than it is of classic anarchism, which for the most part was a profoundly social and cooperative philosophy. So we ought to examine the historical roots of this split. We might begin with Herbert Read’s short article from 1957 on “The Centenary of The Ego and His Own (reprinted in his One-Man Manifesto). But to really study the issue in depth we have to read Stirner and then read Marx’s 377-page demolition of that book (the bulk of The German Ideology), and then try to come up with a contemporary anarchist take on the issue, perhaps by way of a detour through nineteenth century individualist anarchists like Benjamin Tucker and Voltairine De Cleyre. We will need to dig out further comments on Stirner (both defenses and rejections), critiques of Marx’s critique, and discussions of the issue in general. Two full length books are: Adam Schaff, Marxism and the Human Individual (a rejection of soviet marxism by a Polish humanist marxist), and C.B. Macpherson, The Political Theory of Possessive Individualism: Hobbes to Locke.
31. Anarchism and the Internet
Our purpose here will merely be to acquaint ourselves with the remarkably extensive resources on anarchism that are now available on the Internet. We might also consider some of the issues surrounding the Internet, as for example, its commercialization and the ongoing corporate attempt to restrict it and close it off, rather than having a completely open system. “Anarchism and the Internet” is a good place to begin (Practical Anarchy, issue no 10, winter, 97/98). I have listed other sites in the accompanying bibliography.
32. Sessions on Particular Anarchist writers, major and minor
Zeno, Thomas Munzer, Gerrard Winstanley, Thomas Spence, Gabriel de Foigny, William Godwin, Errico Malatesta, Emma Goldman, Alexander Berkman, Paul Goodman, Max Nomad, Paul Mattick, Anton Pannekoek, Karl Korsch, Rudolf Rocker, Michael Bakunin, Nestor Makhno, Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, Peter Kropotkin, Randolph Bourne, Ricardo Flores Magon, Charles Fourier, Colin Ward, Vernon Richards, Francisco Ferrer, Max Nettlau, Gaston Leval, Voline, Rose Posetta, Elizabeth Gurley Flynn, Federica Montseny, Voltairine de Cleyre, Lucy Parsons, Max Stirner, Robert Owen, Sylvia Pankhurst, George Woodcock, Murray Bookchin, Herbert Read, Noam Chomsky, Charles James, Dyer Lum, Benjamin Tucker, Elisee Reclus, Ursula LeGuinn, Camillo Berneri, and so forth.
33. Sessions on Specific Historical Events
The French Jacquerie of 1358, the English Peasant Revolt of 1381, Bohemia’s Hussite and Taborite rebellions in the 1420s, Germany’s peasant war of 1525, the English revolution of 1640, peasant revolts in 17th century France, the Iroquois federation, the American Revolution, the French Revolution, the revolution in Haiti, the revolts of 1848, the Paris Commune, Russian soviets of 1905, the Mexican revolution of 1910, the Russian Revolution of 1917, revolution in central Europe in 1918-19, the Spanish revolution of 1936-39, the Hungarian revolution of 1956, the upheavals of 1968, Polish Solidarity 1980-81, the Zapatista rebellion in Chiapas, Mexico, in 1994, and so forth.