Anarchism - Definitions and ancestors

Ward, Colin 2004. Anarchism: A Very Short Introduction. Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press.

Ch. 1. "Definitions and ancestors", pp. 1- 13.
The word 'anarchy' comes from the Greek anarkhia, meaning contrary to authority or without a ruler, and was used in a derogatory sense until 1840, when it was adopted by Pierre-Joseph Proudhon to describe his political and social ideology. Proudhon argued that organization without government was both possible and desirable. (Ward 2004: 1)
Well, to many it is still a derogatory term. People for whom an anarchist social organization seems possible and desirable are a minority.
The anarchists and their precursors were unique on the political Left in affirming that workers and peasants, grasping the chance that arose to being an end to centuries of exploitation and tyranny, wer inevitably betrayed by the new class of politicians, whose first priority was to re-establish a centralized state power. After every revolutionary uprising, usually won at a heavy cost for ordinary populations, the new rulers had no hesitation in applying violence and terror, a secret police, and a professional army to maintain their control. (Ward 2004: 1-2)
In Estonia the centralization of power is getting worse by the day; more and more it seems like there is Tallinn and then the rest of Estonia. It may be a matter of time until the rest of Estonia realizes that they're being impoverished by the center and an insurgence begins. Presently I see the latter - secret police and professional army with their violence and terorr - as the prime enemies. Although these are merely means to and end, I believe these ends cannot be grasped before the means are investigated. And by investigation I do not mean ideological spew, but actual research and study.
For anarchists the state itself is the enemy, and they have applied the same interpretation to the outcome of every revolution of the 19th and 20th centuries. This is not merely because every state keeps a watchful and sometimes punitive eye on its dissidents, but because every state protects the privileges of the powerful. (Ward 2004: 2)
The watch kept on dissidents I am studying in dystopias. The privileges of the powerful are more complicated.
There are, unsurprisingly, several traditions of individualist anarchism, one of them deriving from the 'conscious egoism' of the German writer Max Stirner (1806-56), and another from a remarkable series of 19th-century American figures who argued that in protecting our own autonomy and associating with others for common advantages, we are promoting the good of all. (Ward 2004: 2)
Max Stirner should be studied more closely, luckily he is one of the authors already on the readings list for this seminar.
Pacifist anarchism follows both from the anti-militarism that accompanies rejection of the state, with its ultimate dependence on armed forces, and from the conviction that any morally viable human society depends upon the uncoerced goodwill of its members. (Ward 2004: 3)
Pacifism is a beautiful thought but not very viable. That is, it is very easy to attack pacifism.
These and other threads of anarchist thought have different emphases. What links them all is their rejection of external authority, whether that of the state, the employer, or the hierarchies of administration and of established institutions like the school and the church. (Ward 2004: 3)
Of course it should be studied further in what sense is authority external, whether power is a force coming from the 'outside' or rather something something that works through us. These are murky matters, but generally it can be stated that anarchism is against coercion [sundus].
It is customary to relate the anarchist tradition to four major thinkers and writers. The first was William Godwin (1756-1836), who in his Enquiry Concerning Political Justice, published in 1793, set out the anarchist case against government, the law, property, and the institutions of the state. [...] The second of these pioneers was Pierre-Joseph Proudhon (1809-65), the French propagandist who was the first one to call himself an anarchist. He became famous in 1840 by virtue of an essay that declared that 'Property is Theft', but he also claimed that 'Property is Freedom'. [...] The third of the classical anarchist luminaries was the Russian revolutionary Michael Bakunin (1814-76), deservedly famous for his disputed with Marx in the First International in the 1870s, where, for his successors, he predicted with remarkable accuracy the outcome of Marxist dictatorships in the 20th century. [...] The last of these key thinkers was another Russian of aristocratic origin, Peter Kropotkin (1842-1921). ... The Conquest of Bread (1892) was his manual on the self-organization of a post-revolutionary society. (Ward 2004: 3-7)
Godwin's book is available on archive.org. Proudhon's essay is most likely included in his What is Property?. Bakunin's Marxism, Freedom And The State is readily available on the web and on our bookshelves. And Kropotkin's The Conquest of Bread is included in this seminar.
In all these revolutions the fate of the anarchists was that of heroic losers. but anarchists do not necessarily fit the stereotype of believers in some ultimate revolution, succeeding where all others had failed, and inaugurating Utopia. The German anarchist Gustav Landauer delcared that:
The state is not something which can be destroyed by a revolution, but a condition, a certain relationship betwene human beings, a mode of human behavior; we destroy it by contracting other relationships, by behaving differently.
(Ward 2004: 8)
Firstly, "heroic losers" also describes the heroes of my dystopian literature - Winston, John and Montag - who sacrifice their own life for the fight against inhuman forms of social organization. Secondly, Landauer's contention on relationships and behavior sounds very much like David Graeber's statement about revolutionary action.
Anarchism has, in fact, an enduring resilience. Every European, Noth American, Latin American, and Asian society has had its anarchist publicists, journals, circles of adherents, imprisoned activists, and martyrs. Whenever an authoritarian and repressive political regime collapses, the anarchists are there, a minority urging their fellow citizens to absorb the lessons of the sheer horror and irresponsibility of government. (Ward 2004: 10)
Our current society does not seem to produce sheer horror but it does seem to possess a very irresponsible government who only serves for its own interests.
Anarchist ideas were brought to Japan by Kotuku Shusui [Shūsui Kōtoku] in the very early years of the 20th century. He had read Kropotkin's writings while in prison during the Russo-Japanese war of 1904-5. When released he visited California, making contact with the militant anarcho-syndicalists of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW), and returned to Japan to publish an anti-militarist journal, Heimen. Kotuku claimed that there was always an anarchist undercurrent in Japanese life, deriving from both Buddhist and Taoism. He was one of 12 anarchists executed in 1911, accused of plotting against the Emperor Meiji. (Ward 2004: 10)
Makes me wonder if we should look into Estonian anarchism as well, surely there must be some.
In the entry for 'Anarchism' that Kropotkin wrote in 1905 for the 11th edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica, he began by explaining that it is
the name given to a principle or theory of life and conduct under which society is conceived without government - harmony in such society being obtained, not by submission to law, or by obedience to any authority, but by free agreements, concluded between the various groups, territorial and professional, freely constituted for the sake of production and consumption, as also for the satisfaction of the infinite variety of needs and aspirations of a civilised being.
Implicit in this definition is the inevitability of compromise, an ordinary aspect of politics which has been found difficult by anarchists, precisely because their ideology precludes the usual routes to political influence. (Ward 2004: 13)
That is to say, it is difficult to take the usual routes of political influence if you oppose submission to law and obedience to any authority. The horrifying and irresponsible deeds of the governments go unpunished exactly because they are lawful and follow the pre-set lines of authority.


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