What Is Anarchism?
Anarchism is an anti-authoritarian political philosophy that rejects hierarchies deemed unjust and advocates their replacement with self-managed, self-governed societies based on voluntary, cooperative institutions. These institutions are often described as stateless societies, although several authors have defined them more specifically as distinct institutions based on non-hierarchical or free associations. Anarchism’s central disagreement with other ideologies is that it holds the state to be undesirable, unnecessary, and harmful.
Anarchism is usually placed on the far-left of the political spectrum, and much of its economics and legal philosophy reflect anti-authoritarian interpretations of communism, collectivism, syndicalism, mutualism, or participatory economics. As anarchism does not offer a fixed body of doctrine from a single particular worldview, many anarchist types and traditions exist and varieties of anarchy diverge widely. Anarchist schools of thought can differ fundamentally, supporting anything from extreme individualism to complete collectivism. Strains of anarchism have often been divided into the categories of social and individualist anarchism, or similar dual classifications.
Main article: libertarianism
Etymology, terminology and definition
The etymological origin of the word anarchism is from the ancient Greek word anarkhia, meaning “without a ruler”, composed of the prefix a- (“without”) and the word arkhos (“leader” or “ruler”). The suffix -ism denotes the ideological current that favours anarchy.The word anarchism appears in English from 1642 as anarchisme and the word anarchy from 1539. Various factions within the French Revolution labelled their opponents as anarchists, although few such accused shared many views with later anarchists. Many revolutionaries of the 19th century such as William Godwin (1756–1836) and Wilhelm Weitling (1808–1871) would contribute to the anarchist doctrines of the next generation, but they did not use the word anarchist or anarchism in describing themselves or their beliefs.
The first political philosopher to call himself an anarchist (French: anarchiste) was Pierre-Joseph Proudhon (1809–1865), marking the formal birth of anarchism in the mid-19th century. Since the 1890s and beginning in France, the term libertarianism has often been used as a synonym for anarchism and its use as a synonym is still common outside the United States. On the other hand, some use libertarianism to refer to individualistic free-market philosophy only, referring to free-market anarchism as libertarian anarchism.
While opposition to the state is central to anarchist thought, defining anarchism is not an easy task as there is a lot of talk among scholars and anarchists on the matter and various currents perceive anarchism slightly differently. Hence, it might be true to say that anarchism is a cluster of political philosophies opposing authority and hierarchical organization (including the state, capitalism, nationalism and all associated institutions) in the conduct of all human relations in favour of a society based on voluntary association, on freedom and on decentralisation, but this definition has the same shortcomings as the definition based on etymology (which is simply a negation of a ruler), or based on anti-statism (anarchism is much more than that) or even the anti-authoritarian (which is an a posteriori conclusion).
Nonetheless, major elements of the definition of anarchism include the following:
- The will for a non-coercive society.
- The rejection of the state apparatus.
- The belief that human nature allows humans to exist in or progress toward such a non-coercive society.
- A suggestion on how to act to pursue the ideal of anarchy.
Prehistoric and ancient world
During the Middle Ages, there was no anarchistic activity except some ascetic religious movements in the Islamic world or in Christian Europe. This kind of tradition later gave birth to religious anarchism. In Persia, a Zoroastrian Prophet known as Mazdak was calling for an egalitarian society and the abolition of monarchy, but he soon found himself executed by the king. In Basra, religious sects preached against the state. In Europe, various sects developed anti-state and libertarian tendencies. Those currents were the precursor of religious anarchism in the centuries to come. It was in the Renaissance and with the spread of reasoning and humanism through Europe that libertarian ideas emerged. Writers were outlining in their novels ideal societies that were based not on coercion but voluntarism. The Enlightenment further pushed towards anarchism with the optimism for social progress.
The turning point towards anarchism was the French Revolution in which the anti-state and federalist sentiments began to take a form, mostly by Enragés and sans-culottes. Some prominent figures of anarchism begun developing the first anarchist currents. That is the era of classical anarchism that lasted until the end of the Spanish Civil War of 1936 and was the golden age of anarchism. William Godwin espoused philosophical anarchism in England morally delegitimizing the state, Max Stirner’s thinking paved the way to individualism and Pierre-Joseph Proudhon’s theory of mutualism found fertile soil in France.
At the turning of the century, anarchism had spread all over the world. In China, small groups of students imported the humanistic pro-science version of anarcho-communism. Tokyo was a hotspot for rebellious youth from countries of the far east, pouring into Japanese capital to study. In Latin America, São Paulo was a stronghold and anarcho-syndicalism was the most prominent left-wing ideology. During that time, a minority of anarchists embarked into utilizing of violence in order to achieve their political ends. This kind of strategy is called propaganda of the deed. The dismemberment of the French socialist movement into many groups and the execution and exile of many Communards to penal colonies following the suppression of the Paris Commune favoured individualist political expression and acts. Even though many anarchists distanced themselves from these terrorist acts, anarchists were persecuted and given bad fame. Illegalism, stealing the possessions of the rich because capitalists were not their rightful owners, was another strategy which some anarchists adopted during those same years.
In the Spanish Civil War, anarchists and syndicalists (CNT and FAI) once again allied themselves with various currents of leftists. Spain had a long anarchist tradition and anarchists played an important role in the war. In response to the army rebellion, an anarchist-inspired movement of peasants and workers, supported by armed militias, took control of Barcelona and of large areas of rural Spain where they collectivised the land. The Soviet Union provided some limited assistance at the beginning of the war, but the result was a bitter fight among communists and anarchists at a series of events named May Days as Joseph Stalin tried to seize control of the Republicans.
Post-World War II era
Around the turn of the 21st century, anarchism grew in popularity and influence as part of the anti-war, anti-capitalist and anti-globalisation movements. Anarchists became known for their involvement in protests against the meetings of the World Trade Organization (WTO), Group of Eight (G8) and the World Economic Forum (WEF). Some anarchist factions at these protests engaged in rioting, property destruction and violent confrontations with the police. These actions were precipitated by ad hoc, leaderless, anonymous cadres known as black blocs—other organisational tactics pioneered in this time include security culture, affinity groups and the use of decentralised technologies such as the internet. A significant event of this period was the confrontations at the WTO conference in Seattle in 1999. Anarchist ideas have been influential in the development of the Zapatistas in Chiapas, Mexico, and the Democratic Federation of Northern Syria, more commonly known as Rojava, a de facto autonomous region in northern Syria.
Anarchist schools of thought
Anarchist schools of thought had been generally grouped in two main historical traditions (individualist anarchism and social anarchism) which have some different origins, values and evolution. The individualist wing of anarchism emphasises negative liberty (opposition to state or social control over the individual) while those in the social wing emphasise positive liberty to achieve one’s potential and argue that humans have needs that society ought to fulfil, “recognising equality of entitlement”. In a chronological and theoretical sense, there are classical—those created throughout the 19th century—and post-classical anarchist schools—those created since the mid-20th century and after.
Beyond the specific factions of anarchist thought is philosophical anarchism which the theoretical stance that the state lacks moral legitimacy without accepting the imperative of revolution to eliminate it. A component especially of individualist anarchism, philosophical anarchism may accept the existence of a minimal state as unfortunate and usually temporary, necessary evil, but argue that citizens do not have a moral obligation to obey the state when its laws conflict with individual autonomy. One reaction against sectarianism within the anarchist milieu was anarchism without adjectives, a call for toleration first adopted by Fernando Tarrida del Mármol in 1889 in response to the bitter debates of anarchist theory at the time. In abandoning the hyphenated anarchisms (i.e. collectivist-, communist-, mutualist- and individualist-anarchism), it sought to emphasise the anti-authoritarian beliefs common to all anarchist schools of thought. The various anarchist schools of thought or currents are not distinct entities, but intermingle with each other.
Mutualism began in 18th-century English and French labour movements before taking an anarchist form associated with Pierre-Joseph Proudhon in France and others in the United States. Proudhon proposed spontaneous order, whereby organisation emerges without central authority, a “positive anarchy” where order arises when everybody does “what he wishes and only what he wishes” and where “business transactions alone produce the social order”.
Proudhon distinguished between ideal political possibilities and practical governance. For this reason, much in contrast to some of his theoretical statements concerning ultimate spontaneous self-governance, Proudhon was heavily involved in French parliamentary politics and allied himself with the socialist factions of the workers movement. During his life of public service, he began advocating state-protected charters for worker-owned cooperatives and promoting certain nationalisation schemes.
Mutualist anarchism is concerned with reciprocity, free association, voluntary contract, federation and credit and currency reform. According to the American mutualist William Batchelder Greene, each worker in the mutualist system would receive “just and exact pay for his work; services equivalent in cost being exchangeable for services equivalent in cost, without profit or discount”. Mutualism has been retrospectively characterised as ideologically situated between individualist and collectivist forms of anarchism. Proudhon first characterised his goal as a “third form of society, the synthesis of communism and property [which] we call LIBERTY”.
Collectivist anarchism, also known as anarchist collectivism or anarcho-collectivism and referred to as revolutionary socialism or a form of such, is a revolutionary form of anarchism commonly associated with Mikhail Bakunin and Johann Most.
At the epicentre of collectivist anarchism lies the belief in the potential of humankind for goodness and solidarity which will flourish when oppressive governments are abolished. Collectivist anarchists oppose all private ownership of the means of production, instead advocating that ownership be collectivised. This was to be achieved through violent revolution, first starting with a small cohesive group through acts of violence, or propaganda by the deed, to inspire the workers as a whole to revolt and forcibly collectivise the means of production. However, collectivisation was not to be extended to the distribution of income as workers would be paid according to time worked, rather than receiving goods being distributed according to need as in anarcho-communism. This position was criticised by anarcho-communists as effectively “uphold[ing] the wages system”. Collectivist anarchism arose contemporaneously with Marxism, but it opposed the Marxist dictatorship of the proletariat despite the stated Marxist goal of a collectivist stateless society.
Anarchist, communist and collectivist ideas are not mutually exclusive—although the collectivist anarchists advocated compensation for labour, some held out the possibility of a post-revolutionary transition to a communist system of distribution according to need.
Anarcho-communism developed out of radical socialist currents after the French Revolution, but it was first formulated as such in the Italian section of the First International. The theoretical work of Peter Kropotkin took importance later as it expanded and developed pro-organisationalist and insurrectionary anti-organisationalist sections.
To date, the best known examples of an anarcho-communist society (i.e. established around the ideas as they exist today and achieving worldwide attention and knowledge in the historical canon), are the anarchist territories during the Spanish Revolution and the Free Territory during the Russian Revolution. Through the efforts and influence of the Spanish anarchists during the Spanish Revolution within the Spanish Civil War starting in 1936, anarcho-communism existed in most of Aragon, parts of the Levante and Andalusia as well as in the stronghold of Catalonia. Along with the Republicans, it was crushed by the combined forces of the Francisco Franco’s Nationalists, Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini as well as repression by the Communist Party of Spain (backed by the Soviet Union) and economic and armaments blockades from the capitalist countries and the Spanish Republic itself.
Anarcho-syndicalism, also referred to as revolutionary syndicalism, is a branch of anarchism that focuses on the labour movement.
Anarcho-syndicalists view labour unions as a potential force for revolutionary social change, replacing capitalism and the state with a new society democratically self-managed by workers. The basic principles of anarcho-syndicalism are workers’ solidarity, direct action and workers’ self-management. Anarcho-syndicalists believe that only direct action—that is, action concentrated on directly attaining a goal as opposed to indirect action such as electing a representative to a government position—will allow workers to liberate themselves.
Moreover, anarcho-syndicalists believe that workers’ organisations (the organisations that struggle against the wage system which in anarcho-syndicalist theory will eventually form the basis of a new society) should be self-managing. They should not have bosses or business agents—rather, the workers should be able to make all the decisions that affect them themselves. Rudolf Rocker was one of the most popular voices in the anarcho-syndicalist movement. He outlined a view of the origins of the movement, what it sought and why it was important to the future of labour in his 1938 pamphlet Anarcho-Syndicalism. The International Workers Association is an international anarcho-syndicalist federation of various labour unions from different countries. The Spanish CNT played and still plays a major role in the Spanish labour movement. It was also an important force in the Spanish Civil War.
Individualist anarchism refers to several traditions of thought within the anarchist movement that emphasise the individual and their will over any kinds of external determinants such as groups, society, traditions and ideological systems. Individualist anarchism is not a single philosophy, but it instead refers to a group of individualistic philosophies that sometimes are in conflict.
In 1793, William Godwin, who has often been cited as the first anarchist, wrote Political Justice, a book which some consider the first expression of anarchism. Godwin was a philosophical anarchist and from a rationalist and utilitarian basis opposed revolutionary action and saw a minimal state as a present “necessary evil” that would become increasingly irrelevant and powerless by the gradual spread of knowledge. Godwin advocated individualism, proposing that all cooperation in labour be eliminated on the premise that this would be most conducive with the general good.
Josiah Warren was a pioneer American anarcho-individualist, who drew inspiration from Proudhon. Henry David Thoreau (1817–1862) was an important early influence in individualist anarchist thought in the United States and Europe. Thoreau was an American author, poet, naturalist, tax resister, development critic, surveyor, historian, philosopher and leading transcendentalist. He is best known for his books Walden, a reflection upon simple living in natural surroundings, as well as his essay, Civil Disobedience, an argument for individual resistance to civil government in moral opposition to an unjust state. Benjamin Tucker later fused Stirner’s egoism with the economics of Warren and Proudhon in his eclectic influential publication Liberty.
From these early influences, individualist anarchism in different countries attracted a small yet diverse following of Bohemian artists and intellectuals, free love and birth control advocates (see anarchism and issues related to love and sex),individualist naturists and nudists, freethought and anti-clerical activistsas well as young anarchist outlaws in what became known as illegalism and individual reclamation. These authors and activists included Oscar Wilde, Emile Armand, Han Ryner, Henri Zisly, Renzo Novatore, Miguel Gimenez Igualada, Adolf Brand and Lev Chernyi, among others.
Post-classical and contemporary
Anti-capitalism stays prominent within contemporary anarchism, continuing the tradition of classical anarchism.
Anarcho-pacifism is a tendency that rejects violence in the struggle for social change (see non-violence). It developed mostly in the Netherlands, Britain and the United States before and during the Second World War. Christian anarchism is a movement in political theology that combines anarchism and Christianity. Its main proponents included Leo Tolstoy, Dorothy Day, Ammon Hennacy and Jacques Ellul.
Anarcho-transhumanism is a recently new branch of anarchism that takes traditional and modern anarchism, typically drawing from anarcho-syndicalism, left-libertarianism, or libertarian socialism, and combines it with transhumanism and post-humanism. It can be described as a “liberal democratic revolution, at its core the idea that people are happiest when they have rational control over their lives. Reason, science, and technology provide one kind of control, slowly freeing us from ignorance, toil, pain, disease and limited lifespans (aging)”. Some anarcho-transhumanists might also follow technogaianism.
Free-market anarchism, or market anarchism, includes several branches of anarchism that advocate an economic system based on voluntary, market interactions without the involvement of the state. Certain individualist anarchists and mutualists supported this economic system. Left-wing market anarchism is a modern branch of free-market anarchism which strongly affirm the classical liberal ideas of self-ownership and free markets while maintaining that taken to their logical conclusions these ideas support strongly anti-capitalist, anti-corporatist, anti-hierarchical and pro-labour positions in economics; anti-imperialism in foreign policy; and thoroughly radical views regarding cultural issues such as gender, sexuality and race.
Green anarchism, or eco-anarchism, is a school of thought within anarchism that emphasises environmental issues, with an important precedent in anarcho-naturism and whose main contemporary currents are anarcho-primitivism and social ecology. Writing from a green anarchist perspective, John Zerzan attributes the ills of today’s social degradation to technology and the birth of agricultural civilization.While Layla AbdelRahim argues that “the shift in human consciousness was also a shift in human subsistence strategies, whereby some human animals reinvented their narrative to center murder and predation and thereby institutionalize violence”. According to AbdelRahim, civilisation was the result of the human development of technologies and grammar for predatory economics. Language and literacy, she claims, are some of these technologies.
Insurrectionary anarchism is a revolutionary theory, practice and tendency within the anarchist movement which emphasises insurrection within anarchist practice. Critical of formal organisations such as labour unions and federations that are based on a political programme and periodic congresses, insurrectionary anarchists instead advocate informal organisation and small affinity group based organisation as well as putting value in attack, permanent class conflict and a refusal to negotiate or compromise with class enemies.
Platformism is a tendency within the wider anarchist movement based on the organisational theories in the tradition of Dielo Truda’s Organisational Platform of the General Union of Anarchists (Draft). The document was based on the experiences of Russian anarchists in the 1917 October Revolution which led eventually to the victory of the Bolsheviks over the anarchists and other groups. The Platform attempted to address and explain the anarchist movement’s failures during the Russian Revolution.
Post-anarchism is a theoretical move towards a synthesis of classical anarchist theory and poststructuralist thought, drawing from diverse ideas including post-left anarchy, postmodernism, autonomism, postcolonialism and the Situationist International.
Post-left anarchy is a recent current in anarchist thought that promotes a critique of anarchism’s relationship to traditional left-wing politics. Some post-leftists seek to escape the confines of ideology in general also presenting a critique of organisations and morality. Influenced by the work of Max Stirner and by the Marxist Situationist International, post-left anarchy is marked by a focus on social insurrection and a rejection of leftist social organisation.
Queer anarchism is a theory that suggests anarchism as a solution to the issues faced by the LGBT community, mainly heteronormativity, homophobia, transphobia and biphobia. It arose during the late 20th century based on the work of Michel Foucault’s The History of Sexuality (1976).
Religious anarchism refers to a set of related anarchist ideologies that are inspired by the teachings of religions. While many anarchists have traditionally been sceptical of and opposed to organized religion, many different religions have served as inspiration for religious forms of anarchism, most notably Christianity as Christian anarchists believe that biblical teachings give credence to anarchist philosophy. Other examples include Buddhist anarchism, Jewish anarchism and most recently Neopaganism.
Synthesis anarchism is a form of anarchism that tries to join anarchists of different tendencies under the principles of anarchism without adjectives. In the 1920s, this form found as its main proponents the anarcho-communists Voline and Sébastien Faure. It is the main principle behind the anarchist federations grouped around the contemporary global International of Anarchist Federations.
Anarcha-feminism, also called anarchist feminism and anarcho-feminism, combines anarchism with feminism. It generally views patriarchy as a manifestation of involuntary coercive hierarchy that should be replaced by decentralised free association. Anarcha-feminists believe that the struggle against patriarchy is an essential part of class struggle and the anarchist struggle against the state. In essence, the philosophy sees anarchist struggle as a necessary component of feminist struggle and vice versa. Anarcha-feminists espoused to a detailed analysis of patriarchy and claim that oppression has its roots to social norms.
Anarcha-feminism began with the late 19th-century writings of early feminist anarchists such as Emma Goldman and Voltairine de Cleyre.Mujeres Libres was an anarchist women’s organisation in Spain that aimed to empower working class women, based on the idea of a double struggle for women’s liberation and social revolution and argued that the two objectives were equally important and should be pursued in parallel. In order to gain mutual support, they created networks of women anarchists. The second wave of anarcha-feminism arose in the 1960s.
Anarcho-capitalism advocates the elimination of the state in favour of self-ownership in a free market. Anarcho-capitalism developed from radical American anti-state libertarianism and individualist anarchism, drawing from Austrian School economics, study of law and economics and public choice theory. However, there is a strong current within anarchism which believes that anarcho-capitalism cannot be considered a part of the anarchist movement due to the fact that anarchism has historically been an anti-capitalist movement and for definitional reasons which see anarchism as incompatible with capitalist forms.
Internal issues and debates
As anarchism is a philosophy that embodies many diverse attitudes, tendencies and schools of thought and disagreement over questions of values, ideology and tactics is common, its diversity has led to widely different use of identical terms among different anarchist traditions which has led to many definitional concerns in anarchist theory. For instance, the compatibility of capitalism, nationalism and religion with anarchism is widely disputed. Similarly, anarchism enjoys complex relationships with ideologies such as Marxism, communism, collectivism and trade unionism. Anarchists may be motivated by humanism, divine authority, enlightened self-interest, veganism, or any number of alternative ethical doctrines. Phenomena such as civilisation, technology (e.g. within anarcho-primitivism) and the democratic process may be sharply criticised within some anarchist tendencies and simultaneously lauded in others. On a tactical level, propaganda of the deed was used by anarchists in the 19th century (e.g. the nihilist movement), with some contemporary anarchists espousing alternative direct action methods such as nonviolence, counter-economics and cryptography to bring about an anarchist society. About the scope of an anarchist society, some anarchists advocate a global one while others do so by local ones.
Topics of interest
Intersecting and overlapping between various schools of thought, certain topics of interest and internal disputes have proven perennial within anarchist theory.
Anarchism and free love
An important current within anarchism is free love. In Europe, the main propagandist of free love within individualist anarchism was Emile Armand. He proposed the concept of la camaraderie amoureuse to speak of free love as the possibility of voluntary sexual encounter between consenting adults. He was also a consistent proponent of polyamory. In Germany, the Stirnerists Adolf Brand and John Henry Mackay were pioneering campaigners for the acceptance of male bisexuality and homosexuality. More recently, the British anarcho-pacifist Alex Comfort gained notoriety during the sexual revolution for writing the bestseller sex manual The Joy of Sex. The issue of free love has a dedicated treatment in the work of French anarcho-hedonist philosopher Michel Onfray in such works as Théorie du corps amoureux. Pour une érotique solaire (2000) and L’invention du plaisir. Fragments cyréaniques (2002).
Anarchism and education
English anarchist William Godwin considered education an important aspect. He was against state education as he considered those schools as a way of the state to replicate privileges of the ruling class. Godwin thought that education was the way to change the world. In his Political Justice, he criticises state sponsored schooling and advocates for child’s protection from coercion. Max Stirner wrote in 1842 a long essay on education called The False Principle of our Education in which Stirner was advocating for child’s autonomy.
In 1901, Catalan anarchist and free thinker Francesc Ferrer Guàrdia established modern or progressive schools in Barcelona in defiance of an educational system controlled by the Catholic Church. Ferrer’s approach was secular, rejecting both the state and church involvement in the educational process and gave pupils plenty of autonomy (on setting the curriculum). Ferrer was aiming to educate the working class. The school closed after constant harassment by the state and Ferrer was later on arrested. Ferrer’s ideas generally formed the inspiration for a series of modern schools in the United States.
Russian Christian anarchist Leo Tolstoy established a school for peasant children on his estate. Tolstoy’s educational experiments were short-lived due to harassment by the Tsarist secret police. Tolstoy established a conceptual difference between education and culture. He thought that “[e]ducation is the tendency of one man to make another just like himself. […] Education is culture under restraint, culture is free. [Education is] when the teaching is forced upon the pupil, and when then instruction is exclusive, that is when only those subjects are taught which the educator regards as necessary”. For him, “without compulsion, education was transformed into culture”.
A more recent libertarian tradition on education is that of unschooling and the free school in which child-led activity replaces pedagogic approaches. Experiments in Germany led to A. S. Neill founding what became Summerhill School in 1921. Summerhill is often cited as an example of anarchism in practice. However, although Summerhill and other free schools are radically libertarian, they differ in principle from those of Ferrer by not advocating an overtly political class struggle-approach. In addition to organising schools according to libertarian principles, anarchists have also questioned the concept of schooling per se. The term deschooling was popularised by Ivan Illich, who argued that the school as an institution is dysfunctional for self-determined learning and serves the creation of a consumer society instead.
Anarchism and the state
Objection to the state and its institutions is sine qua non of anarchism. Anarchists consider the state as a tool of domination and it is illegitimate regardless of political tendencies. Instead of people being able to control the aspects of their life, major decisions are taken by a small elite. Authority ultimately rests solely on power regardless if it is open or transparent as it still has the ability to coerce people. Another anarchist argument against states is that some people constituting a government, even the most altruistic among officials, will unavoidably seek to gain more power, leading to corruption. Anarchists consider the argument that the state is the collective will of people as a fairy tale since the ruling class is distinct from the rest of the society.
Anarchism and violence
Anarchist perspectives towards violence have always been perplexed and controversial. On one hand, anarcho-pacifists point out the unity of means and ends. On the other hand, other groups of anarchist are for direct action that can include sabotage or even terrorism. Emma Goldman and Errico Malatesta, who were proponents of limited use of violence, were arguing that violence is merely a reaction to state violence as a necessary evil. Peace activist and anarchist April Carter argues that violence is incompatible with anarchism because it is mostly associated with the state and authority as violence is immanent to the state. As the state’s capability to exercise violence is colossal nowadays, a rebellion or civil war would probably end in another authoritarian institute.
Anarchist strategies and tactics
A broad categorization would be the preference of revolutionary tactics to destroy oppressive states and institutions or aiming to change society through evolutionary means. Revolutionary methods can take violent form as they did in past insurgencies (i.e. in Spain, Mexico and Russia) or during violent protests by militant protestors such as the black bloc, who are generally much less violent than revolutionary movements a century ago. Anarchists also commonly employ direct action which can take the form of disrupting and protesting against unjust hierarchies, or the form of self-managing their lives through the creation of counterinstitutions such as communes and non-hierarchical collectives. Often decision-making is handled in an anti-authoritarian way, with everyone having equal say in each decision, an approach known as horizontalism. Another aspect of anarchist tactics is their aim to strengthen social bonds through common actions.Reclaiming public space by anarchists is another method of creating social spaces and creating squats in order to organise themselves. During important events such as protests and when spaces are being occupied, they are often called temporary autonomous zones.
Moral and pragmatic criticism of anarchism includes allegations of utopianism, tacit authoritarianism and vandalism towards feats of civilisation.
Allegation of utopianism
Anarchism is evaluated as unfeasible or utopian by its critics, often in general and formal debate. European history professor Carl Landauer argued that social anarchism is unrealistic and that government is a “lesser evil” than a society without “repressive force”. He also argued that “ill intentions will cease if repressive force disappears” is an “absurdity”. However, An Anarchist FAQ states the following: “Anarchy is not a utopia, [and] anarchists make no such claims about human perfection. […] Remaining disputes would be solved by reasonable methods, for example, the use of juries, mutual third parties, or community and workplace assemblies”. It also states that “some sort of ‘court’ system would still be necessary to deal with the remaining crimes and to adjudicate disputes between citizens”.
In his essay On Authority, Friedrich Engels claimed that radical decentralisation promoted by anarchists would destroy modern industrial civilisation, citing an example of railways and making the following point:
Here too the co-operation of an infinite number of individuals is absolutely necessary, and this co-operation must be practised during precisely fixed hours so that no accidents may happen. Here, too, the first condition of the job is a dominant will that settles all subordinate questions, whether this will is represented by a single delegate or a committee charged with the execution of the resolutions of the majority of persona interested. In either case there is a very pronounced authority. Moreover, what would happen to the first train dispatched if the authority of the railway employees over the Hon. passengers were abolished?
In the end, it is argued that authority in any form is a natural occurrence which should not be abolished.
The anarchist tendency known as platformism has been criticised by Situationists, insurrectionaries, synthesis anarchists and others of preserving tacitly statist, authoritarian or bureaucratic tendencies.
List of anarchist societies
- Federation of Neighborhood Councils-El Alto (Fejuve; 1979–present)
- Popular Indigenous Council of Oaxaca “Ricardo Flores Magón” (CIPO-RFM; 1980s–present)
- Barbacha (2001–present)
- Villa de Zaachila (2006–present)
- Cheran (2011–present)
- Democratic Federation of Northern Syria (Rojava; 2013–present)