Anarchism is a political philosophy encompassing theories and attitudes which support the elimination of all compulsory government, i.e. the state. The term anarchism derives from the Greek αναρχω, anarcho, meaning "without archons" or "without rulers", from ἀν (an, "without") + ἄρχή (arche, "to rule") + ισμός (from stem -ιζειν). It is defined by The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Politics as "the view that society can and should be organized without a coercive state." Specific anarchists may have additional criteria for what constitutes anarchism, and they often disagree with each other on what these criteria are. According to The Oxford Companion to Philosophy, "there is no single defining position that all anarchists hold, beyond their rejection of compulsory government, and those considered anarchists at best share a certain family resemblance".
There are many types and traditions of anarchism, not all of which are mutually exclusive. Anarchism is usually considered to be a radical left-wing ideology, and as such much of anarchist economics and legal philosophy reflect anti-authoritarian interpretations of communism, collectivism, syndicalism or participatory economics; however, anarchism has always included an individualist strain, including those who support capitalism (e.g. market anarchists: anarcho-capitalism, agorism, etc.) and other non-capitalist market-orientated economic structures (e.g. mutualists, some individualist anarchists). As described by the 21st century anarchist Cindy Milstein, anarchism is a "political tradition that has consistently grappled with the tension between the individual and society. Others, such as panarchists and anarchists without adjectives neither advocate nor object to any particular form of organization. Anarchist schools of thought differ fundamentally, supporting anything from extreme individualism to complete collectivism. Some anarchists fundamentally oppose all types of coercion, while others have supported the use of some coercive measures, including violent revolution, on the path to anarchy.
Some claim anarchist themes can be found in the works of Taoist sages Laozi and Zhuangzi. The latter has been translated, "There has been such a thing as letting mankind alone; there has never been such a thing as governing mankind [with success]." and "A petty thief is put in jail. A great brigand becomes a ruler of a State." Diogenes of Sinope and the Cynics and their contemporary, Zeno of Citium, the founder of Stoicism, also introduced similar topics.
Modern anarchism, however, sprang from the secular or religious thought of the Enlightenment, particularly Jean-Jacques Rousseau's arguments for the moral centrality of freedom. Although by the turn of the 19th century the term "anarchist" had an entirely positive connotation, it first entered the English language in 1642 during the English Civil War as a term of abuse used by Royalists to damn those who were fomenting disorder. By the time of the French Revolution some, such as the Enragés, began to use the term positively, in opposition to Jacobin centralisation of power, seeing "revolutionary government" as oxymoronic. From this climate William Godwin developed what many consider the first expression of modern anarchist thought. Godwin was, according to Peter Kropotkin, "the first to formulate the political and economical conceptions of anarchism, even though he did not give that name to the ideas developed in his work." Godwin, a philosophical anarchist, 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 extreme individualism, proposing that all cooperation in labor be eliminated. Godwin felt discrimination on any grounds besides ability was intolerable.
The first to describe himself as anarchist was Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, which led some to call him the founder of modern anarchist theory. Proudhon proposed spontaneous order, whereby organization 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. Like Godwin, Proudhon opposed violent revolutionary action. He saw anarchy as "a form of government or constitution in which public and private consciousness, formed through the development of science and law, is alone sufficient to maintain order and guarantee all liberties. In it, as a consequence, the institutions of the police, preventive and repressive methods, officialdom, taxation, etc., are reduced to a minimum. In it, more especially, the forms of monarchy and intensive centralization disappear, to be replaced by federal institutions and a pattern of life based on the commune. By "commune", Proudhon meant local self-government or according to literal translation, "municipality", rather than a communist arrangement.
Mutualist anarchism is concerned with reciprocity, free association, voluntary contract, federation, and credit and currency reform. According to Greene, in the mutualist system each worker 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 characterized as being ideologically situated between individualist and collectivist forms of anarchism. Proudhon first characterized his goal as a "third form of society, the synthesis of communism and property.
One of the earliest and best-known proponents of individualist anarchism was Max Stirner, who wrote The Ego and Its Own (1844), a founding text of the philosophy. Stirner's philosophy was an "egoist" form of individualist anarchism according to which the only limitation on the rights of the individual is his power to obtain what he desires, taking no notice of God, state, or moral rules. To Stirner, rights were spooks in the mind, and he held that society does not exist but "the individuals are its reality" he supported property by force of might rather than moral right. Stirner preached self-assertion and foresaw "associations of egoists" where respect for ruthlessness drew people together.
A less radical form of individualist anarchism was advocated by the "Boston anarchists," American individualists who supported private property exchangeable in a free market. They advocated the protection of liberty and property by private contractors, and endorsed exchange of labor for wages,. They did not have a problem that "one man employ another" or that "he direct him," in his labor but demanded that "all natural opportunities requisite to the production of wealth be accessible to all on equal terms and that monopolies arising from special privileges created by law be abolished. They believed state monopoly capitalism (defined as a state-sponsored monopoly) prevented labor from being fully rewarded. Even among the nineteenth century American individualists, there was not a monolithic doctrine, as they disagreed amongst each other on various issues including intellectual property rights and possession versus property in land. A major cleft occurred later in the 19th century when Tucker and some others abandoned natural rights and converted to an "egoism" modeled upon Stirner's philosophy. Some "Boston anarchists", like Tucker, identified themselves as "socialist" – a term which at the time denoted a broad concept – by which he meant a commitment to solving "the labor problem" by radical economic reform.) By the turn of the 20th century, the heyday of individualist anarchism had passed, although it was later revived with modifications by Murray Rothbard and the anarcho-capitalists in the mid-twentieth century, as a current of the broader libertarian movement, and the anti-capitalist strain by intellectuals such as Kevin Carson.
Unlike mutualists, collectivist anarchists oppose all private ownership of the means of production, instead advocating that ownership be collectivized. This was to be initiated by small cohesive group through acts of violence, or "propaganda by the deed," which would inspire the workers as a whole to revolt and forcibly collectivize the means of production. However, collectivization 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. Although the collectivist anarchists advocated compensation for labor, some held out the possibility of a post-revolutionary transition to a communist system of distribution according to need. Collectivist anarchism arose contemporaneously with Marxism but opposed the Marxist dictatorship of the proletariat, despite the stated Marxist goal of a collectivist stateless society.
Like most schools of anarchism, anarcho-communism has conflicts with other schools. For instance, most individualist anarchists consider it incompatible with political freedom.
Platformism is an anarchist communist tendency in the tradition of Nestor Makhno, who argued for the "vital need of an organization which, having attracted most of the participants in the anarchist movement, would establish a common tactical and political line for anarchism and thereby serve as a guide for the whole movement".
Some forms of anarchist communism are strongly Egoist, and are strongly influenced by radical individualist philosophy, believing that anarcho-communism does not require a communitarian nature at all. Anarchist communist Emma Goldman blended the philosophies of both Max Stirner and Kropotkin in her own.
In the early 20th century, anarcho-syndicalism arose as a distinct school of thought within anarchism. With greater focus on the labour movement than previous forms of anarchism, syndicalism posits radical trade unions as a potential force for revolutionary social change, replacing capitalism and the state with a new society, democratically self-managed by the workers.
Anarcho-syndicalists seek to abolish the wage system and private ownership of the means of production, which they believe lead to class divisions. Important principles include workers' solidarity, direct action (such as general strikes and workplace recuperations), and workers' self-management. This is compatible with other branches of anarchism, and anarcho-syndicalists often subscribe to anarchist communist or collectivist anarchist economic systems. Its advocates propose labour organization as a means to create the foundations of a non-hierarchical anarchist society within the current system and bring about social revolution.
An early leading anarcho-syndicalist thinker was Rudolf Rocker, whose 1938 pamphlet Anarchosyndicalism outlined a view of the movement's origin, aims and importance to the future of labour.
Although more often associated with labor struggles of the early 20th century (particularly in France and Spain), many syndicalist organizations are active today, united across national borders by membership in the International Workers Association, including the Central Organisation of the Workers of Sweden (SAC) in Sweden, the Unione Sindacale Italiana (USI) in Italy, and the CNT in Spain.
Anarchism continues to generate many eclectic and syncretic philosophies and movements; since the revival of anarchism in the U.S. in the 1960s, a number of new movements and schools have emerged. Anarcho-capitalism developed from radical anti-state libertarianism as a rejuvenated form of individualist anarchism, while the burgeoning feminist and environmentalist movements also produced anarchist offshoots.
Post-left anarchy is a tendency which seeks to distance itself from the traditional "Left" and to escape the confines of ideology in general. Post-leftists argue that anarchism has been weakened by its long attachment to contrary "leftist" movements, single issue causes and calls for a synthesis of anarchist thought, and a specifically anti-authoritarian revolutionary movement outside the leftist milieu. Post-anarchism is a theoretical move towards a synthesis of classical anarchist theory and poststructuralist thought developed by Saul Newman and associated with thinkers such as Todd May, Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari. It draws from a wide range of ideas including autonomism, post-left anarchy, situationism, postcolonialism and Zapatismo.
Another recent form of anarchism critical of formal anarchist movements is insurrectionary anarchism, which advocates informal organization and active resistance to the state; its proponents include Wolfi Landstreicher and Alfredo M. Bonanno.
While the term "anarcho-capitalism" was coined by Rothbard and its origin is attributed to 1960s United States, some historians, including Rothbard himself, trace the school as far back as the mid-19th century to market theorists such as Gustave de Molinari. Anarcho-capitalism has drawn influence from pro-market theorists such as Molinari, Frédéric Bastiat, and Robert Nozick, as well as American individualist thinkers such as Benjamin Tucker and Lysander Spooner. Considered a form of individualist anarchism, it differs from the individualism of the "Boston anarchists" of the 19th century in its rejection of the labor theory of value (and its normative implications) in favor of the neoclassical or Austrian School marginalist view. Anarcho-capitalist ideas have in turn contributed to the development of agorism, autarchism, and crypto-anarchism.
Anarcha-feminism is a synthesis of radical feminism and anarchism that views patriarchy (male domination over women) as a fundamental manifestation of involuntary hierarchy – to which anarchists are opposed. Anarcha-feminism was inspired in the late 19th century by the writings of early feminist anarchists such as Lucy Parsons, Emma Goldman and Voltairine de Cleyre. Anarcha-feminists, like other radical feminists, criticize and advocate the abolition of traditional conceptions of family, education and gender roles.
Many Anarcha-feminists are especially critical of marriage. For instance, Emma Goldman has argued that marriage is a purely economic arrangement and that "... [woman] pays for it with her name, her privacy, her self-respect, her very life. Anarcha-feminists view patriarchy as a fundamental problem in society and believe that the feminist struggle against sexism and patriarchy is an essential component of the anarchist struggle against the state and capitalism. L. Susan Brown expressed the sentiment that "as anarchism is a political philosophy that opposes all relationships of power, it is inherently feminist". There have been several male anarcha-feminists, such as the Anarcho-communist Joseph Déjacque who opposed Proudhon's anti-feminist views.
Green anarchism is an anarchist school of thought which places an emphasis on environmental issues. Sometimes, green anarchism is said to be techno-positive or techno-negative to differentiate between those who advocate use of advanced green technology to create and maintain an anarchist society and those who mainly see civilization and modern technology as something negative.
Anarcho-primitivism is a form of green anarchism that believes civilization and technology inevitably lead to inequality and are incompatible with anarchism and in effect must be abolished. Anarcho-primitivists often criticize traditional anarchism for supporting civilization and technology which they believe are inherently based on domination and exploitation. They instead advocate the process of rewilding or reconnecting with the natural environment.
In Europe, harsh reaction followed the revolutions of 1848, wherein ten countries experienced brief or long-term social upheaval as groups carried out nationalist revolutions. After most of these attempts at systematic change ended in failure, conservative elements took advantage of the divided groups of socialists, anarchists, liberals, and nationalists, to prevent further revolt. In 1864 the International Workingmen's Association (sometimes called the "First International") united diverse revolutionary currents including French followers of Proudhon, Blanquists, Philadelphes, English trade unionists, socialists and social democrats. Due to its links to active workers' movements, the International became a significant organization. Karl Marx became a leading figure in the International and a member of its General Council. Proudhon's followers, the mutualists, opposed Marx's state socialism, advocating political abstentionism and small property holdings. In 1868, following their unsuccessful participation in the League of Peace and Freedom (LPF), Mikhail Bakunin and his associates joined the First International – which had decided not to get involved with the LPF. They allied themselves with the anti-authoritarian socialist sections of the International, who advocated the revolutionary overthrow of the state and the collectivization of property. At first, the collectivists worked with the Marxists to push the First International in a more revolutionary socialist direction. Subsequently, the International became polarized into two camps, with Marx and Bakunin as their respective figureheads. Bakunin characterised Marx's ideas as authoritarian and predicted that, if a Marxist party came to power, its leaders would simply take the place of the ruling class they had fought against. In 1872, the conflict climaxed with a final split between the two groups at the Hague Congress, where Bakunin and James Guillaume were expelled from the International and its headquarters were transferred to New York. In response, the anti-authoritarian sections formed their own International at the St. Imier Congress, adopting a revolutionary anarchist program.
The anti-authoritarian sections of the First International were the precursors of the anarcho-syndicalists, seeking to "replace the privilege and authority of the State" with the "free and spontaneous organization of labor. In 1886, the Federation of Organized Trades and Labor Unions (FOTLU) of the United States and Canada unanimously set 1 May 1886, as the date by which the eight-hour work day would become standard. In response, unions across America prepared a general strike in support of the event. Upon 3 May, in Chicago, a fight broke out when replacement workers attempted to cross the picket line. Police intervention led to the deaths of four men, enraging the workers of the city. The next day, 4 May, anarchists staged a rally at Chicago's Haymarket Square. A bomb was thrown by an unknown party near the conclusion of the rally, killing an officer. In the ensuing panic, police opened fire on the crowd and each other. Seven police officers and at least four workers were killed. Eight anarchists directly and indirectly related to the organizers of the rally were arrested and charged with the murder of the deceased officer. The men became international political celebrities among the labor movement. Four of the men were executed and a fifth committed suicide prior to his own execution. The incident became known as the Haymarket affair, and was a setback for the labor movement and the struggle for the eight hour day. In 1890 a second attempt, this time international in scope, to organize for the eight hour day was made. The event also had the secondary purpose of memorializing workers killed as a result of the Haymarket affair. The celebration of International Workers' Day on May Day became an annual event the following year.
In 1907, the International Anarchist Congress of Amsterdam gathered delegates from 14 different countries, among which important figures of the anarchist movement, including Errico Malatesta, Pierre Monatte, Luigi Fabbri, Benoît Broutchoux, Emma Goldman, Rudolf Rocker, Christiaan Cornelissen, etc. Various themes were treated during the Congress, in particular concerning the organisation of the anarchist movement, popular education issues, the general strike or antimilitarism. A central debate concerned the relation between anarchism and syndicalism (or trade unionism). Malatesta and Monatte in particular opposed themselves on this issue, as the latter thought that syndicalism was revolutionary and would create the conditions of a social revolution, while Malatesta did not consider syndicalism by itself sufficient. Malatesta thought that trade-unions were reformist, and could even be, at times, conservative. Along with Cornelissen, he cited as example US trade-unions, where trade-unions composed of qualified workers sometimes opposed themselves to non-qualified workers in order to defend their relatively privileged position.
The Spanish Workers Federation in 1881 was the first major anarcho-syndicalist movement; anarchist trade union federations were of special importance in Spain. The most successful was the Confederación Nacional del Trabajo (National Confederation of Labour: CNT), founded in 1910. Before the 1940s, the CNT was the major force in Spanish working class politics and played a major role in the Spanish Civil War. The CNT was affiliated with the International Workers Association, a federation of anarcho-syndicalist trade unions founded in 1922, with delegates representing two million workers from 15 countries in Europe and Latin America. The largest organised anarchist movement today is in Spain, in the form of the Confederación General del Trabajo (CGT) and the CNT. CGT membership was estimated to be around 100,000 for the year 2003. Other active syndicalist movements include the US Workers Solidarity Alliance and the UK Solidarity Federation. The revolutionary industrial unionist Industrial Workers of the World, claiming 2,000 paying members, and the International Workers Association, an anarcho-syndicalist successor to the First International, also remain active.
Anarchists participated alongside the Bolsheviks in both February and October revolutions, many anarchists initially supporting the Bolshevik coup. However, the Bolsheviks soon turned against the anarchists and other left-wing opposition, a conflict that culminated in the 1921 Kronstadt rebellion. Anarchists in central Russia were either imprisoned, driven underground or joined the victorious Bolsheviks. In the Ukraine, anarchists fought in the civil war against Whites and then the Bolsheviks as part of the Revolutionary Insurrectionary Army of Ukraine led by Nestor Makhno, who attempted to establish an anarchist society in the region for a number of months.
Expelled American anarchists Emma Goldman and Alexander Berkman were amongst those agitating in response to Bolshevik policy and the suppression of the Kronstadt uprising, before they left Russia. Both wrote accounts of their experiences in Russia, criticizing the amount of control the Bolsheviks exercised. For them, Bakunin's predictions about the consequences of Marxist rule that the rulers of the new "socialist” Marxist state would become a new elite had proved all too true.
The victory of the Bolsheviks in the October Revolution and the resulting Russian Civil War did serious damage to anarchist movements internationally. Many workers and activists saw Bolshevik success as setting an example; Communist parties grew at the expense of anarchism and other socialist movements. In France and the US, for example, certain members of the major syndicalist movements of the CGT and IWW left the organizations and joined the Communist International.
In Paris, the Dielo Truda group of Russian anarchist exiles, which included Nestor Makhno, concluded that anarchists needed to develop new forms of organisation in response to the structures of Bolshevism. Their 1926 manifesto, called the Organizational Platform of the General Union of Anarchists (Draft), was supported by some communist anarchists, though opposed by many others. Platformist groups active today include the Workers Solidarity Movement in Ireland and the North Eastern Federation of Anarchist Communists of North America.
In the 1920s and 1930s, the rise of fascism in Europe transformed anarchism's conflict with the state. Italy saw the first struggles between anarchists and fascists. Italian anarchists played a key role in the anti-fascist organisation Arditi del Popolo, which was strongest in areas with anarchist traditions and marked up numerous successful victories, including repelling Blackshirts in the anarchist stronghold of Parma in August 1922. In France, where the far right leagues came close to insurrection in the February 1934 riots, anarchists divided over a united front policy.
In Spain, the CNT initially refused to join a popular front electoral alliance, and abstention by CNT supporters led to a right wing election victory. But in 1936, the CNT changed its policy and anarchist votes helped bring the popular front back to power. Months later, the ruling class responded with an attempted coup causing the Spanish Civil War (1936–1939). 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 collectivized the land. But even before the fascist victory in 1939, the anarchists were losing ground in a bitter struggle with the Stalinists, who controlled the distribution of military aid to the Republican cause from the Soviet Union. According to George Orwell and other foreign observers, Stalinist-led troops suppressed the collectives and persecuted both dissident Marxists and anarchists.
Phenomena such as civilization, technology (e.g. within anarcho-primitivism and insurrectionary anarchism), and the democratic process may be sharply criticized within some anarchist tendencies and simultaneously lauded in others. Anarchist attitudes towards race, gender and the environment have changed significantly since the modern origin of the philosophy in the 18th century.
On a tactical level, while propaganda of the deed was a tactic used by anarchists in the 19th century (e.g. the Nihilist movement), contemporary anarchists espouse alternative methods such as nonviolence, counter-economics and anti-state cryptography to bring about an anarchist society. The diversity in anarchism has led to widely different use of identical terms among different anarchist traditions, which has led to many definitional concerns in anarchist theory.