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Anarchism: reading guide

Libcom.org’s reading guide on anarchism, anarchist theorists and their development through history.

Recommended introductions

Pierre Proudhon
French mutualist philosopher and first person to call themselves an ‘anarchist’.

  • What is Property? – Influential work on the concept of property in which Proudhon declared «property is theft!».
  • The Philosophy of Poverty
  • The General Idea of the Revolution in the Nineteenth Century
  • The Principle of Federation

Mikhail Bakunin
Russian revolutionary, considered the original theorist of collectivist anarchism.

Peter Kropotkin
Russian revolutionary (as well as scientist, zoologist, geographer and evolutionary theorist!) who was the first to advocate a communist society free from central government and based on voluntary associations between workers – anachist-communism.

  • The Conquest of Bread– Classic work explaining the defects of feudal and capitalist economic systems and how they can be replaced by a decentralised economic system based on mutual aid and voluntary cooperation.
  • Mutual Aid: A Factor of Evolution– Kropotkin’s response to Social Darwinism in which he explains the phenomenon of co-operation in evolution.
  • Fields, Factories and Workshops – Hugely influential work outlining how a society based on mutual aid and voluntary association could work.
  • Anarchism; & Anarchist communism – Two excellent essays explaining the history of anarchism and the inseparable relationship between anarchism and communism.
  • Memoirs of a Revolutionist – Autobiography recounting his aristocratic beginnings to his transformation into the revolutionary he would be for the rest of his life.
  • The State–Its Historic Role– Classic work on the state and its function in society.
  • Act for Yourselves: Articles from Freedom 1886-1907 – Collection of articles written for Freedom newspaper.

Errico Malatesta
Highly influential Italian anarchist-communist who wrote and spoke widely across Italy and spent many years either in jail or in exile.

Emma Goldman
Lithuanian-born anarchist who emigrated to the USA, where she became highly involved in radical unions, anti-war and feminist activism. Became known as «the most dangerous woman in America».

Alexander Berkman
Lithuanian-born anarchist-communist Alexander «Sasha» Berkman, who became a leading figure in the American anarchist movement and was sent to prison for attempting to assassinate Henry Clay Frick, the steel boss responsible for the deaths of workers in the 1892 Homestead strike.

  • Alexander Berkman, 1870-1936– Biography.
  • What is anarchism?– Absolutely indispensable classic introduction to anarchism.
  • Prison memoirs of an anarchist– Autobiographical account of his experience in prison after being sentenced to 22 years for the attempted assassination of an industrialist.
  • The Russian Tragedy– Berkman’s anaylsis the failure of the Russian Revolution, written 1922.
  • The Bolshevik Myth – Book describing his experiences in post-revolution Russia from 1920 to 1922
  • The Kronstadt Rebellion – Berkman’s analysis of the crushing of the Kronstadt uprisingby the Bolshevik government.

Rudolf Rocker
Prominent anarcho-syndicalist who organised extensively amongst the Jewish community in the East End of London.

  • Rudolf Rocker, 1873-1958– biography.
  • Anarcho-syndicalism– Definitive extended work on anarcho-syndicalism.
  • Anarchism and Anarcho-syndicalism– Two essays introducing first the concept of anarchist politics and then its manifestation in anarcho-syndicalism.
  • Nationalism and Culture– Classic text on nationalism and culture.
  • The Tragedy of Spain– Rocker’s history of the Spanish Civil War.
  • The Truth About Spain – Analysis of the situation in Spain, with much on the Spanish anarchist organizations the CNT (Confederacion Nacional del Trabajo) and FAI (Federacion Anarquista Iberica).

Nestor Makhno
Ukrainian anarchist-communist who led a revolutionary army during the 1917 Russian revolution which fought against both the old Tsarist regime and the new Bolshevik one.

Daniel Guerin
French anarchist and revolutionary supporter of gay liberation.

Albert Meltzer
British anarcho-syndicalist print worker who fiercely opposed individualist strains within anarchism and was a major figure in the British anarchist movement.

Murray Bookchin
American libertarian socialist and founder of social ecology who severely criticised individualist and spiritual elements within radical politics.

  • Bookchin remembered– Obituary written by Iain Mackay.
  • Social Anarchism or Lifestyle Anarchism– Essay against the increasingly individualist, misanthropic, mystical and anti-organisational trends in US anarchism.
  • Listen, Marxist!– An anarchist criticism of Marxism, aimed predominantly at the Maoist Progressive Labor Party in America.
  • Post-Scarcity Anarchism– Collection of essays envisioning an anarchist society without scarce resources, if we rely on technology.
  • Anarchism, Marxism and The Future of The Left – Collection of texts including accounts of his years as a teenage Communist during the Great Depression, his experiences and reflections on the 1960s and his vision of a libertarian communist society, libertarian politics and the future of anarchism.
  • The Spanish Anarchists: The Heroic Years 1868-1936 – History of the day-to-day activism of Spanish anarchists in the decades leading up to the famous civil war and revolution of 1936.

Other media

  • Noam Chomsky on anarchism – interview by Barry Pateman– Video of an interview by Barry Pateman with Noam Chomsky about anarchism.
  • Living utopia– Unique feature-length documentary which chronicles the origins and evolution of the Spanish anarchist movement and its important role during the 1936-1939 Spanish Revolution. In Spanish with English subtitles.

via libcom.org

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