Anarcho Surrealist Insurrectionary Feminism Essay

Anarchism has long had an association with the arts, particularly with visual art, music and literature.[1]

This can be dated back to the start of anarchism as a named political concept, and the writings of Pierre-Joseph Proudhon on the French realist painter Gustave Courbet. In an essay on Courbet of 1857 Proudhon had set out a principle for art, which he saw in the work of Courbet, that it should show the real lives of the working classes and the injustices working people face at the hands of the bourgeoisie.[2]

However very quickly this was refuted by the French novelist Émile Zola who objected to Proudhon advocating freedom for all in the name of anarchism, but then placing stipulations on artists as to what they should depict in their works.[3] This opened up a division in thinking on anarchist art which is still apparent today, with some anarchist writers and artists advocating a view that art should be propagandistic and used to further the anarchist cause, and others that anarchism should free the artist from the requirements to serve a patron and master and be free to pursue their own interests and agendas. In recent years the first of these approaches has been argued by writers such as Patricia Leighten[4] and the second by Michael Paraskos.[3]

Significant writers on the relationship between art and anarchism include:

Despite this history of a close relationship between art and anarchism some anarchist, writers, such as Peter Kropotkin and Herbert Read have argued that in an anarchist society the role of the artist would disappear completely as all human activity would become in itself artistic. This is a view of art in society that sees creativity as intrinsic to all human activity, whereas the effect of bourgeois capitalism has been to strip human life of its creative aspects through industrial standardisation, the atomisation of production processes and the professionalisation of art through the education system.[5]

However, for some writers on art and anarchism artists would not disappear as they would continue to provide an anarchist society with a space in which to continue to imagine new ways of understanding and organising reality, as well as a space in which to face possible fears[6] similar to Noël Carroll's theory of the function of horror stories and films in current society, 'Art-horror is the price we are willing to pay for the revelation of that which is impossible and unknown, of that which violates our conceptual schema.’[7]

Historical notes[edit]

According to David Goodway:

There can be no doubt that one type of intellectual has been consistently drawn to anarchism, placing a premium on absolute freedom and non-interference in their personal and social lives, and belonging, like (Herbert) Read himself, to the artistic and literary avant-gardes. Significant clusters of anarchist painters and writers existed in pre-1914 Italy, New York before and during the First World War and, most impressive of all, the France of the 1880s and 1890s, where the Neo-Impressionists – Camille and Lucien Pissarro, Paul Signac, most probably the enigmatic Georges Seurat – and the Symbolist writers, including one of the greatest poets, Stéphane Mallarmé, all consisted of militant anarchists or sympathizers. In Bohemia the fact that Jaroslav Hašek had been a member of anarchist groups and worked on anarchist journals helps to explain the subversive genius of The Adventures of the Good Soldier Švejk; and Franz Kafka had attended anarchist meetings in Prague, gaining considerable familiarity with anarchist writers and personalities, and actually mentioning Bakunin and Kropotkin in his diary. The German actor, Ret Marut, fleeing from Munich in 1919, recreated himself in Mexico as the still insufficiently appreciated novelist, B. Traven.[8]

Anarchism had a significant influence on French Symbolism of the late 19th century, such as that of Stéphane Mallarmé, who was quoted as saying "Je ne sais pas d'autre bombe, qu'un livre." (I know of no bomb other than a book.) Its ideas infiltrated the cafes and cabarets of turn-of-the-century Paris (see the Drunken Boat #2).

Oscar Wilde’s 1891 essay "The Soul of Man under Socialism" has been seen as advocating anarchism. Oscar Wilde "stated in an interview that he believed he was ‘something of an Anarchist’, but previously said, ‘In the past I was a poet and a tyrant. Now I am an anarchist and artist.’"[9]

Many American artists of the early 20th century came under the influence of anarchist ideas, while others embraced anarchism as an ideology. The Ashcan School of American realism included anarchist artists, as well as artists such as Rockwell Kent (1882–1971) and George Bellows (1882-1925) who were influenced by anarchist ideas. Abstract expressionism also included anarchist artists such as Mark Rothko and painters such as Jackson Pollock, who had adopted radical ideas during his experience as a muralist for the Works Progress Administration. Pollock's father had also been a Wobbly.

David Weir has argued in Anarchy and Culture that anarchism only had some success in the sphere of cultural avant-gardism because of its failure as a political movement; cognizant of anarchism's claims to overcome the barrier between art and political activism, he nevertheless suggests that this is not achieved in reality. Weir suggests that for the "ideologue" it might be possible to adapt "aesthetics to politics", but that "from the perspective of the poet" a solution might be to "adapt the politics to the aesthetics". He identifies this latter strategy with anarchism, on account of its individualism. Weir has also suggested that "the contemporary critical strategy of aestheticizing politics" among Marxists such as Fredric Jameson results from the demise of Marxism as a state ideology. "The situation whereby ideology attempts to operate outside of politics has already pointed Marxism toward postmodernist culture, just as anarchism moved into the culture of modernism when it ceased to have political validity".[10]

Late 20th century examples of anarchism and the arts include the collage works by James Koehnline, Johan Humyn Being, and others whose work was being published in anarchist magazines such as Anarchy: A Journal of Desire Armed and Fifth Estate. The Living Theatre, a theatrical troupe headed by Judith Malina and Julian Beck, were outspoken about their anarchism, often incorporating anarchistic themes into their performances.

In the 1990s, anarchists became involved in the mail art movement – "art which uses the postal service in some way". This relates to the involvement of many anarchists in the zine movement. Some contemporary anarchists make art in the form of flyposters, stencils, and radical puppets.

Visual art[edit]

Nineteenth century realism[edit]

Visual art was considered one of the most important aspects of anarchist activity from the birth of anarchism, with Pierre-Joseph Proudhon writing on his friend and contemporary Gustav Courbet in the essay "Du Principe de l'art", published 1865, that 'The task of art is to warn us, to praise us, to teach us, to make us blush by confronting us with the mirror of our own conscience.' Courbet also went on to paint Proudhon on several occasions.[11] Similarly Courbet wrote in 1850:

In our so very civilized society it is necessary for me to live the life of a savage. I must be free even of governments. The people have my sympathies, I must address myself to them directly.[12]

Impressionism and Neo-Impressionism[edit]

Among the Impressionists the artist Camille Pissarro is known to have had strong anarchist sympathies which led him to recommend to his children that they change their surnames to avoid being associated with his political beliefs.[13] Pissarro's anarchism brought him into contact with the younger artists who formed the Neo-Impressionist group, particularly Paul Signac, Henri-Edmond Cross, Charles Angrand, Theo van Rysselberghe and Maximillien Luce, who were active in anarchist circles, particularly those of the political activist Jean Grave, who encouraged other anarchist activists to embrace the potential of art to further their cause. In their collaborations they established a tripartite relationship between art and anarchism, still debated to this day,[14] in which the artist could be employed for direct propagandistic purposes, or could show images of the true condition of the proletariat, or, more controversially, envision future realities towards which an anarchist revolution might aspire.[15] It is in this latter context that the bucolic images of the south of France by artists such as Cross and Signac should be viewed as anarchist paintings.[16]

Cubism and Futurism[edit]

Patricia Leighten has shown that Spanish cubist painter Juan Gris was an artist with strong anarchist sympathies, although she argues this is only evident in his overtly political cartoons. She suggests his cubist still lives, deliberately eschewed anarchist subject matter so that he 'self-consciously drained his paintings of political import, avoiding such anarchist subjects as prostitutes and neutralised his radical style'.[17] However, drawing on the principle established by Neo-Impressionist artists such as Cross and Signac, that anarchist art can also involve visualising alternative realities for an anarchist society, Michael Paraskos has criticised this reading of Gris's paintings, saying that this form of anarchism seems to demand that 'artists conform to a pre- determined template to define their work as radical. Cartoons of prostitutes are anarchist; paintings of bottles, playing cards and fruit are not.'[18]

Though typically not associated with futurism, anarchism had some minor influence on Futurism. Carlo Carrà's best known work was The Funeral of the Anarchist Galli, painted in 1911. In the 1912 catalogue for the Futurists' first Parisian exhibition Umberto Boccioni remarked "the sheaves of lines corresponding to all the conflicting forces, following the general law of violence" which he labeled force lines encapsulating the Futurist idea of physical transcendentalism. Mark Antliff has suggested that this futurist aesthetic was "designed to involve the spectator in the very politics that led to Italy's intervention in World War I and, ultimately, to the rise of Fascism in Italy".[19] The art historian Giovanni Lista has identified this aesthetic as first appearing in the anarcho-syndicalist current, where Marinetti encountered the Sorelian "myths of action and violence".

The individualist anarchist philosopher and poet Renzo Novatore belonged to the leftist section of futurism[20] alongside other individualist anarcho-futurists such as Dante Carnesecchi, Leda Rafanelli, Auro d'Arcola, and Giovanni Governato.

Surrealism[edit]

An anarchist world…a surrealist world: they are the same.

André Breton

Surrealism was both an artistic and political movement aims at the liberation of the human being from the constraints of capitalism, the state, and the cultural forces that limit the reign of the imagination. From its origins individualist anarchists like Florent Fels opposed it with his magazine Action: Cahiers individualistes de philosophie et d'art. However faced with the popularity of surrealism Fels' magazine closed in 1922.[21] The movement developed in France in the wake of World War I with André Breton (1896–1966) as its main theorist and poet. Originally it was tied closely to the Communist Party. Later, Breton, a close friend of Leon Trotsky, broke with the Communist Party and embraced anarchism, even writing in the publication of the French Anarchist Federation.

By the end of World War II the surrealist group led by Breton had decided to explicitly embrace anarchism. In 1952 Breton wrote "It was in the black mirror of anarchism that surrealism first recognised itself."[22] "Breton was consistent in his support for the francophone Anarchist Federation and he continued to offer his solidarity after the Platformists around Fontenis transformed the FA into the Federation Communiste Libertaire. He was one of the few intellectuals who continued to offer his support to the FCL during the Algerian War (1954–1962) when the FCL suffered severe repression and was forced underground. He sheltered Fontenis whilst he was in hiding. He refused to take sides on the splits in the French anarchist movement and both he and Peret expressed solidarity as well with the new FA set up by the synthesist anarchists, and worked in the Antifascist Committees of the 1960s alongside the FA."[23]

Post-Second World War modernism[edit]

In the period after World War II the relationship between art and anarchism was articulated by a number of theorists including Alex Comfort, Herbert Read and George Woodcock. Although each wrote from perspectives supportive of modernist art they refused to accept the position put forward by Clement Greenberg that modernist art had no political, social or narrative meaning, a view that would have curtailed an anarchist reading of modern art. In his study on the relationship between modern art and radical politics, Social Radicalism and the Arts, Donald Drew Egbert argued that in fact modern artists were often most at home with an anarchist understanding of the position of the place of the artist in society than either a de-politicised Greenbergian or a Marxist understanding of the role of art.[24]

Contemporary art[edit]

In contemporary art anarchism can take diverse forms, from carnivalesque street art, to graffiti art and graphic novels, to various traditional forms of art, including painting, sculpture, video and photography.[25]

Music[edit]

A number of performers and artists have either been inspired by anarchist concepts, or have used the medium of music and sound in order to promote anarchist ideas and politics. French singers-songwriters Léo Ferré and Georges Brassens are maybe the first to do so, in the fifties and beyond.

Punk rock is one movement that has taken much inspiration from the often potent imagery and symbolism associated with anarchism and Situationist rhetoric, if not always the political theory. In the past few decades, anarchism has been closely associated with the punk rock movement, and has grown because of that association (whatever other effects that has had on the movement and the prejudiced pictures of it). Indeed, many anarchists were introduced to the ideas of Anarchism through that symbolism and the anti-authoritarian sentiment which many punk songs expressed.

Anarcho-punk, on the other hand, is a current that has been more explicitly engaged with anarchist politics, particularly in the case of bands such as Crass, Poison Girls, (early) Chumbawamba, The Ex, Flux of Pink Indians, Rudimentary Peni, The Apostles, Riot/Clone, Conflict, Oi Polloi, Sin Dios, Propagandhi, Citizen Fish, Bus Station Loonies etc. Many other bands, especially at the local level of unsigned groups, have taken on what is known as a "punk" or "DIY" ethic: that is, Doing It Yourself, indeed a popular Anarcho-punk slogan reads "DIY not EMI", a reference to a conscious rejection of the major record company. Some groups who began as 'anarcho-punk' have attempted to move their ideas into a more mainstream musical arena, for instance, Chumbawamba, who continue to support and promote anarchist politics despite now playing more dance music and pop influenced styles.

Techno music is also connected strongly to anarchists and eco-anarchists, as many of the events playing these types of music are self-organised and put on in contravention of national laws. Sometimes doors are pulled off empty warehouses and the insides transformed into illegal clubs with cheap (or free) entrance, types of music not heard elsewhere and quite often an abundance of different drugs. Other raves may be held outside, and are viewed negatively by the authorities. In the UK, the Criminal Justice Bill (1994) outlawed these events (raves) and brought together a coalition of socialists, ravers and direct actionists who opposed the introduction of this 'draconian' Act of Parliament by having a huge 'party&protest' in the Centre of London that descended into one of the largest riots of the 1990s in Britain. Digital hardcore, an electronic music genre, is also overtly anarchist; Atari Teenage Riot is the most widely recognized digital hardcore band. It should be noted that both Digital Hardcore, Techno and related genres are not the sole preserve of anarchists; people of many musical, political or recreational persuasions are involved in these musical scenes.

Heavy Metal bands such as Sweden's Arch Enemy and Germany's Kreator have also embraced anarchistic themes in their lyrics and imagery.

The genre of folk punk or "radical folk" has become increasingly prevalent in protest culture, with artists like David Rovics openly asserting anarchist beliefs.

Negativland's The ABCs of Anarchism includes a reading of material from Alexander Berkman's Now and After and other anarchist-related material in a sound collage.

Paul Gailiunas and his late wife Helen Hill co-wrote the anarchist song "Emma Goldman", which was performed by the band Piggy: The Calypso Orchestra of the Maritimes and released on their 1999 album Don't Stop the Calypso: Songs of Love and Liberation.[26] After Helen and Paul moved to New Orleans, Paul started a new band called The Troublemakers and re-released the song "Emma Goldman" on their 2004 album Here Come The Troublemakers.[26][27] Proclaiming the motto "It's your duty as a citizen to troublemake," other songs on the album include "International Flag Burning Day."[28][29]

Artists and artworks inspired by anarchism[edit]

Visual arts[edit]

Comics/sequential art[edit]

Music[edit]

Main article: List of anarchist musicians

See also: List of anarcho-punk bands

Prose[edit]

Poetry[edit]

Main article: List of anarchist poets

Television/film[edit]

Theatre/drama[edit]

See also[edit]

"Libertarian Communism" redirects here. For the journal, see Libertarian Communism (journal).

Anarcho-communism (also known as anarchist communism,[1]free communism, libertarian communism[2][3][4][5][6] and communist anarchism)[7][8] is a theory of anarchism which advocates the abolition of the state, capitalism, wage labour and private property (while retaining respect for personal property)[9] in favor of common ownership of the means of production,[10][11]direct democracy and a horizontal network of workers' councils with production and consumption based on the guiding principle: "From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs".[12][13]

Some forms of anarchist communism, such as insurrectionary anarchism, are strongly influenced by egoism and radical individualism, believing anarcho-communism is the best social system for the realization of individual freedom.[14][15][16][17] Some anarcho-communists view anarcho-communism as a way of reconciling the opposition between the individual and society.[18][19][20][21][22]

Anarcho-communism developed out of radicalsocialist currents after the French Revolution,[23][24] but was first formulated as such in the Italian section of the First International.[25] The theoretical work of Peter Kropotkin took importance later as it expanded and developed pro-organizationalist and insurrectionary anti-organizationalist sections.[26] To date, the best-known examples of an anarchist 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[27] 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 anarchist communism existed in most of Aragon, parts of the Levante and Andalusia as well as in the stronghold of anarchist Catalonia before being crushed by the combined forces of the regime that won the war, Adolf Hitler, Benito Mussolini, Spanish Communist Party repression (backed by the Soviet Union) as well as economic and armaments blockades from the capitalist countries and the Spanish Republic itself.[28] During the Russian Revolution, anarchists such as Nestor Makhno worked to create and defend – through the Revolutionary Insurrectionary Army of Ukraine – anarchist communism in the Free Territory of the Ukraine from 1919 before being conquered by the Bolsheviks in 1921.

An important difference between anarchist communism and Marxist communism is who the product of the worker's labor belongs to as both of the ideologies believe that the product of labor does not belong to the capitalist due to it being produced by the worker and not the employer. However, there are slight differences between the opinions taken by Peter Kropotkin and Karl Marx, with Marx stating that product of the worker's labor belongs to the worker due to it being produced by the worker. In his book The Conquest of Bread, Kropotkin believes that the product of the worker's labor belongs to the community and argues that this should be the case due to the worker needing more than just what he produces and what the worker needs should be equally counted as a means of production.[29][30]

History[edit]

Early developments[edit]

Anarchist communist currents appeared during the English Civil War and the French Revolution of the 17th and 18th centuries, respectively. Gerrard Winstanley, who was part of the radical Diggers movement in England, wrote in his 1649 pamphlet, The New Law of Righteousness, that there "shall be no buying or selling, no fairs nor markets, but the whole earth shall be a common treasury for every man," and "there shall be none Lord over others, but every one shall be a Lord of himself".[23] During the French Revolution, Sylvain Maréchal, in his Manifesto of the Equals (1796), demanded "the communal enjoyment of the fruits of the earth" and looked forward to the disappearance of "the revolting distinction of rich and poor, of great and small, of masters and valets, of governors and governed".[23]

Joseph Déjacque and the Revolutions of 1848[edit]

Main article: Joseph Déjacque

An early anarchist communist was Joseph Déjacque, the first person to describe himself as "libertarian".[31] Unlike Proudhon, he argued that, "it is not the product of his or her labor that the worker has a right to, but to the satisfaction of his or her needs, whatever may be their nature".[23][32] According to the anarchist historian Max Nettlau, the first use of the term libertarian communism was in November 1880, when a French anarchist congress employed it to more clearly identify its doctrines.[33] The French anarchist journalist Sébastien Faure, later founder and editor of the four-volume Anarchist Encyclopedia, started the weekly paper Le Libertaire (The Libertarian) in 1895.[34]

Déjacque "rejected Blanquism, which was based on a division between the 'disciples of the great people's Architect' and 'the people, or vulgar herd,' and was equally opposed to all the variants of social republicanism, to the dictatorship of one man and to 'the dictatorship of the little prodigies of the proletariat.' With regard to the last of these, he wrote that: 'a dictatorial committee composed of workers is certainly the most conceited and incompetent, and hence the most anti-revolutionary, thing that can be found [...] (It is better to have doubtful enemies in power than dubious friends)'. He saw 'anarchic initiative,' 'reasoned will' and 'the autonomy of each' as the conditions for the social revolution of the proletariat, the first expression of which had been the barricades of June 1848 (see Revolutions of 1848). In Déjacque's view, a government resulting from an insurrection remains a reactionary fetter on the free initiative of the proletariat. Or rather, such free initiative can only arise and develop by the masses ridding themselves of the 'authoritarian prejudices' by means of which the state reproduces itself in its primary function of representation and delegation. Déjacque wrote that: 'By government I understand all delegation, all power outside the people,' for which must be substituted, in a process whereby politics is transcended, the 'people in direct possession of their sovereignty,' or the 'organised commune.' For Déjacque, the communist anarchist utopia would fulfil the function of inciting each proletarian to explore his or her own human potentialities, in addition to correcting the ignorance of the proletarians concerning 'social science.'"[26]

The International Workingmen's Association (1864–1876)[edit]

Main article: First International

The collectivist anarchists advocated remuneration for the type and amount of labor adhering to the principle "to each according to deeds";[35] but held out the possibility of a post-revolutionary transition to a communist system of distribution according to need. As Mikhail Bakunin's associate, James Guillaume, put it in his essay, Ideas on Social Organization (1876): "When [...] production comes to outstrip consumption ... everyone will draw what he needs from the abundant social reserve of commodities, without fear of depletion; and the moral sentiment which will be more highly developed among free and equal workers will prevent, or greatly reduce, abuse and waste."[36]

Anarchist communism as a coherent, modern economic-political philosophy was first formulated in the Italian section of the First International by Carlo Cafiero, Emilio Covelli, Errico Malatesta, Andrea Costa and other ex Mazzinian Republicans.[25] The collectivist anarchists sought to collectivize ownership of the means of production while retaining payment proportional to the amount and kind of labor of each individual, but the anarcho-communists sought to extend the concept of collective ownership to the products of labor as well. While both groups argued against capitalism, the anarchist communists departed from Proudhon and Bakunin, who maintained that individuals have a right to the product of their individual labor and to be remunerated for their particular contribution to production. But, Errico Malatesta stated that "instead of running the risk of making a confusion in trying to distinguish what you and I each do, let us all work and put everything in common. In this way each will give to society all that his strength permits until enough is produced for every one; and each will take all that he needs, limiting his needs only in those things of which there is not yet plenty for every one."[37]

Cafiero explains in Anarchy and Communism (1880) that private property in the product of labor will lead to unequal accumulation of capital and, therefore, the reappearance of social classes and their antagonisms, and thus the resurrection of the state: "If we preserve the individual appropriation of the products of labour, we would be forced to preserve money, leaving more or less accumulation of wealth according to more or less merit rather than need of individuals."[23] At the Florence Conference of the Italian Federation of the International in 1876, held in a forest outside Florence due to police activity, they declared the principles of anarcho-communism, beginning with:

The Italian Federation considers the collective property of the products of labour as the necessary complement to the collectivist programme, the aid of all for the satisfaction of the needs of each being the only rule of production and consumption which corresponds to the principle of solidarity. The federal congress at Florence has eloquently demonstrated the opinion of the Italian International on this point...

The above report was made in an article by Malatesta and Cafiero in the (Swiss) Jura Federation's bulletin later that year.

Peter Kropotkin[edit]

Main article: Peter Kropotkin

Peter Kropotkin (1842–1921), often seen as the most important theorist of anarchist communism, outlined his economic ideas in The Conquest of Bread and Fields, Factories and Workshops. Kropotkin felt that cooperation is more beneficial than competition, arguing in his major scientific work Mutual Aid: A Factor of Evolution that this was well-illustrated in nature. He advocated the abolition of private property (while retaining respect for personal property) through the "expropriation of the whole of social wealth" by the people themselves,[38] and for the economy to be co-ordinated through a horizontal network of voluntary associations[39] where goods are distributed according to the physical needs of the individual, rather than according to labor.[40] He further argued that these "needs," as society progressed, would not merely be physical needs but "[a]s soon as his material wants are satisfied, other needs, of an artistic character, will thrust themselves forward the more ardently. Aims of life vary with each and every individual; and the more society is civilized, the more will individuality be developed, and the more will desires be varied."[41] He maintained that in anarcho-communism "houses, fields, and factories will no longer be private property, and that they will belong to the commune or the nation and money, wages, and trade would be abolished".[42]


Individuals and groups would use and control whatever resources they needed, as the aim of anarchist communism was to place "the product reaped or manufactured at the disposal of all, leaving to each the liberty to consume them as he pleases in his own home".[43] He supported the expropriation of private property into the commons or public goods (while retaining respect for personal property), to ensure that everyone would have access to what they needed without being forced to sell their labour to get it.

We do not want to rob any one of his coat, but we wish to give to the workers all those things the lack of which makes them fall an easy prey to the exploiter, and we will do our utmost that none shall lack aught, that not a single man shall be forced to sell the strength of his right arm to obtain a bare subsistence for himself and his babes. This is what we mean when we talk of Expropriation...

— Peter Kropotkin, The Conquest of Bread[44]

He said that a "peasant who is in possession of just the amount of land he can cultivate", and "a family inhabiting a house which affords them just enough space [...] considered necessary for that number of people" and the artisan "working with their own tools or handloom" would not be interfered with,[45] arguing that "[t]he landlord owes his riches to the poverty of the peasants, and the wealth of the capitalist comes from the same source".[45]

In summation, Kropotkin described an anarchist communist economy as functioning like this:

Imagine a society, comprising a few million inhabitants, engaged in agriculture and a great variety of industries—Paris, for example, with the Department of Seine-et-Oise. Suppose that in this society all children learn to work with their hands as well as with their brains. Admit that all adults... bind themselves to work 5 hours a day from the age of twenty or twenty-two to forty-five or fifty, and that they follow occupations they have chosen in any one branch of human work considered necessary. Such a society could in return guarantee well-being to all its members; that is to say, a more substantial well-being than that enjoyed to-day by the middle classes. And, moreover, each worker belonging to this society would have at his disposal at least 5 hours a day which he could devote to science, art, and individual needs which do not come under the category of necessities, but will probably do so later on, when man's productivity will have augmented, and those objects will no longer appear luxurious or inaccessible.

— Peter Kropotkin, The Conquest of Bread[46]

Organizationalism vs. insurrectionarism and expansion[edit]

Main article: Insurrectionary anarchism

In 1876, at the Berne conference of the International Working Men's Association, the Italian anarchist Errico Malatesta argued that the revolution "consists more of deeds than words", and that action was the most effective form of propaganda. In the bulletin of the Jura Federation he declared "the Italian federation believes that the insurrectional fact, destined to affirm socialist principles by deed, is the most efficacious means of propaganda".[47]

As anarcho-communism emerged in the mid-19th century it had an intense debate with Bakuninistcollectivism and as such within the anarchist movement over participation in syndicalism and the workers movement as well as on other issues.[26] So "In the theory of the revolution" of anarcho-communism as elaborated by Peter Kropotkin and others "it is the risen people who are the real agent and not the working class organised in the enterprise (the cells of the capitalist mode of production) and seeking to assert itself as labour power, as a more 'rational' industrial body or social brain (manager) than the employers".[26]

So "between 1880 and 1890"[26] with the "perspective of an immanent revolution",[26] who was "opposed to the official workers' movement, which was then in the process of formation (general Social Democratisation). They were opposed not only to political (statist) struggles but also to strikes which put forward wage or other claims, or which were organised by trade unions."[26] But "While they were not opposed to strikes as such, they were opposed to trade unions and the struggle for the eight-hour day. This anti-reformist tendency was accompanied by an anti-organisational tendency, and its partisans declared themselves in favour of agitation amongst the unemployed for the expropriation of foodstuffs and other articles, for the expropriatory strike and, in some cases, for 'individual recuperation' or acts of terrorism."[26]

Even after Peter Kropotkin and others overcame their initial reservations and decided to enter labor unions,[26] there remained "the anti-syndicalist anarchist-communists, who in France were grouped around Sebastien Faure's Le Libertaire. From 1905 onwards, the Russian counterparts of these anti-syndicalist anarchist-communists become partisans of economic terrorism and illegal 'expropriations'."[26]Illegalism as a practice emerged and within it "[t]he acts of the anarchist bombers and assassins ("propaganda by the deed") and the anarchist burglars ("individual reappropriation") expressed their desperation and their personal, violent rejection of an intolerable society. Moreover, they were clearly meant to be exemplary, invitations to revolt."[48]

Proponents and activists of these tactics among others included Johann Most, Luigi Galleani, Victor Serge, Giuseppe Ciancabilla, and Severino Di Giovanni. The Italian Giuseppe Ciancabilla (1872–1904) wrote in "Against organization" that "we don't want tactical programs, and consequently we don't want organization. Having established the aim, the goal to which we hold, we leave every anarchist free to choose from the means that his sense, his education, his temperament, his fighting spirit suggest to him as best. We don't form fixed programs and we don't form small or great parties. But we come together spontaneously, and not with permanent criteria, according to momentary affinities for a specific purpose, and we constantly change these groups as soon as the purpose for which we had associated ceases to be, and other aims and needs arise and develop in us and push us to seek new collaborators, people who think as we do in the specific circumstance."[49]

By the 1880s, anarcho-communism was already present in the United States as can be seen in the publication of the journal Freedom: A Revolutionary Anarchist-Communist Monthly by Lucy Parsons and Lizzy Holmes.[50] Lucy Parsons debated in her time in the US with fellow anarcho-communist Emma Goldman over issues of free love and feminism.[50] Another anarcho-communist journal later appeared in the US called The Firebrand. Most anarchist publications in the US were in Yiddish, German, or Russian, but Free Society was published in English, permitting the dissemination of anarchist communist thought to English-speaking populations in the US.[51] Around that time these American anarcho-communist sectors entered in debate with the individualist anarchist group around Benjamin Tucker.[52] In February 1888 Berkman left for the United States from his native Russia.[53] Soon after his arrival in New York City, Berkman became an anarchist through his involvement with groups that had formed to campaign to free the men convicted of the 1886 Haymarket bombing.[54] He, as well as Emma Goldman, soon came under the influence of Johann Most, the best-known anarchist in the United States, and an advocate of propaganda of the deed—attentat, or violence carried out to encourage the masses to revolt.[55][56] Berkman became a typesetter for Most's newspaper Freiheit.[54]

According to anarchist historian Max Nettlau, the first use of the term "libertarian communism" was in November 1880, when a French anarchist congress employed it to more clearly identify its doctrines.[57] The French anarchist journalist Sébastien Faure started the weekly paper Le Libertaire (The Libertarian) in 1895.[58]

Revolution, platformism and synthesism[edit]

Main articles: Anarchism in Russia, Free Territory, Platformism, and Synthesis anarchism

In Ukraine the anarcho-communist guerrilla leader Nestor Makhno led an independent anarchist army in Ukraine during the Russian Civil War. A commander of the peasant Revolutionary Insurrectionary Army of Ukraine, also known as the Anarchist Black Army, Makhno led a guerrilla campaign opposing both the Bolshevik "Reds" and monarchist "Whites". The revolutionary autonomous movement of which he was a part made various tactical military pacts while fighting various forces of reaction and organizing the Free Territory of Ukraine, an anarchist society, committed to resisting state authority, whether capitalist or Bolshevik.[59][60] After successfully repelling Austro-Hungarian, White, and Ukrainian Nationalist forces, the Makhnovists militia forces and anarchist communist territories in the Ukraine were eventually crushed by Bolshevik military forces.

In the Mexican Revolution the Mexican Liberal Party was established and during the early 1910s it led a series of military offensives leading to the conquest and occupation of certain towns and districts in Baja California with the leadership of anarcho-communist Ricardo Flores Magón.[61] Kropotkin's The Conquest of Bread, which Flores Magón considered a kind of anarchist bible, served as basis for the short-lived revolutionary communes in Baja California during the "Magónista" Revolt of 1911[61] During the Mexican Revolution Emiliano Zapata and his army and allies, including Pancho Villa, fought for agrarian reform in Mexico. Specifically, they wanted to establish communalland rights for Mexico's indigenous population, which had mostly lost its land to the wealthy elite of European descent. Zapata was partly influenced by Ricardo Flores Magón. The influence of Flores Magón on Zapata can be seen in the Zapatistas' Plan de Ayala, but even more noticeably in their slogan (this slogan was never used by Zapata) "Tierra y libertad" or "land and liberty", the title and maxim of Flores Magón's most famous work. Zapata's introduction to anarchism came via a local schoolteacher, Otilio Montaño Sánchez – later a general in Zapata's army, executed on May 17, 1917 – who exposed Zapata to the works of Peter Kropotkin and Flores Magón at the same time as Zapata was observing and beginning to participate in the struggles of the peasants for the land.

A group of exiled Russian anarchists attempted to address and explain the anarchist movement's failures during the Russian Revolution. They wrote the Organizational Platform of the General Union of Anarchists which was written in 1926 by Dielo Truda ("Workers' Cause"). The pamphlet is an analysis of the basic anarchist beliefs, a vision of an anarchist society, and recommendations as to how an anarchist organization should be structured. The four main principles by which an anarchist organization should operate, according to the Platform, are ideological unity, tactical unity, collective action, and federalism. The platform argues that "We have 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".

The Platform attracted strong criticism from many sectors on the anarchist movement of the time including some of the most influential anarchists such as Voline, Errico Malatesta, Luigi Fabbri, Camillo Berneri, Max Nettlau, Alexander Berkman,[62]Emma Goldman and Gregori Maximoff.[63] Malatesta, after initially opposing the Platform, later came to agreement with the Platform confirming that the original difference of opinion was due to linguistic confusion: "I find myself more or less in agreement with their way of conceiving the anarchist organisation (being very far from the authoritarian spirit which the "Platform" seemed to reveal) and I confirm my belief that behind the linguistic differences really lie identical positions."[64]

Two texts were made by the anarchist communists Sébastien Faure and Volin as responses to the Platform, each proposing different models, are the basis for what became known as the organisation of synthesis, or simply "synthesism".[65]Voline published in 1924 a paper calling for "the anarchist synthesis" and was also the author of the article in Sébastien Faure's Encyclopedie Anarchiste on the same topic.[66] The main purpose behind the synthesis was that the anarchist movement in most countries was divided into three main tendencies: communist anarchism, anarcho-syndicalism, and individualist anarchism[66] and so such an organization could contain anarchists of this 3 tendencies very well. Faure in his text "Anarchist synthesis" has the view that "these currents were not contradictory but complementary, each having a role within anarchism: anarcho-syndicalism as the strength of the mass organisations and the best way for the practice of anarchism; libertarian communism as a proposed future society based on the distribution of the fruits of labour according to the needs of each one; anarcho-individualism as a negation of oppression and affirming the individual right to development of the individual, seeking to please them in every way.[65] The Dielo Truda platform in Spain also met with strong criticism. Miguel Jimenez, a founding member of the Iberian Anarchist Federation (FAI), summarized this as follows: too much influence in it of marxism, it erroneously divided and reduced anarchists between individualist anarchists and anarcho-communist sections, and it wanted to unify the anarchist movement along the lines of the anarcho-communists. He saw anarchism as more complex than that, that anarchist tendencies are not mutually exclusive as the platformists saw it and that both individualist and communist views could accommodate anarchosyndicalism.[67] Sébastian Faure had strong contacts in Spain and so his proposal had more impact in Spanish anarchists than the Dielo Truda platform even though individualist anarchist influence in Spain was less strong than it was in France. The main goal there was conciling anarcho-communism with anarcho-syndicalism.[68]

Gruppo Comunista Anarchico di Firenze held that the during early twentieth century, the terms libertarian communism and anarchist communism became synonymous within the international anarchist movement as a result of the close connection they had in Spain (see Anarchism in Spain) (with libertarian communism becoming the prevalent term).[69]

The Spanish Revolution[edit]

Main article: Spanish Revolution of 1936

The most extensive application of anarcho-communist ideas (i.e., established around the ideas as they exist today and achieving worldwide attention and knowledge in the historical canon), happened in the anarchist territories during the Spanish Revolution[28] In Spain, the national anarcho-syndicalist trade union Confederación Nacional del Trabajo initially refused to join a popular front electoral alliance, and abstention by CNT supporters led to a right wing election victory. In 1936, the CNT changed its policy and anarchist votes helped bring the popular front back to power. Months later, the former ruling class responded with an attempted coup causing the Spanish Civil War (1936–1939).[70] 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.[71][72] 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. The events known as the Spanish Revolution was a workers' social revolution that began during the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War in 1936 and resulted in the widespread implementation of anarchist and more broadly libertarian socialist organizational principles throughout various portions of the country for two to three years, primarily Catalonia, Aragon, Andalusia, and parts of the Levante. Much of Spain's economy was put under worker control; in anarchist strongholds like Catalonia, the figure was as high as 75%, but lower in areas with heavy Communist Party of Spain influence, as the Soviet-allied party actively resisted attempts at collectivization enactment. Factories were run through worker committees, agrarian areas became collectivised and run as libertariancommunes. Anarchist historian Sam Dolgoff estimated that about eight million people participated directly or at least indirectly in the Spanish Revolution,[73] which he claimed "came closer to realizing the ideal of the free stateless society on a vast scale than any other revolution in history".[74] Stalinist-led troops suppressed the collectives and persecuted both dissident Marxists and anarchists.[75]

Post-war years[edit]

Anarcho-communism entered into internal debates once again over the issue of organization in the post-World War II era. Founded in October 1935 the Anarcho-Communist Federation of Argentina (FACA, Federación Anarco-Comunista Argentina) in 1955 renamed itself as the Argentine Libertarian Federation. The Fédération Anarchiste (FA) was founded in Paris on December 2, 1945, and elected the platformist anarcho-communist George Fontenis as its first secretary the next year. It was composed of a majority of activists from the former FA (which supported Voline's Synthesis) and some members of the former Union Anarchiste, which supported the CNT-FAI support to the Republican government during the Spanish Civil War, as well as some young Resistants. On 1950 a clandestin group formed within the FA called Organisation Pensée Bataille (OPB) led by George Fontenis.[76] The Manifesto of Libertarian Communism was written in 1953 by Georges Fontenis for the Federation Communiste Libertaire of France. It is one of the key texts of the anarchist-communist current known as platformism.[77] The OPB pushed for a move which saw the FA change its name into the Fédération Communiste Libertaire (FCL) after the 1953 Congress in Paris, while an article in Le Libertaire indicated the end of the cooperation with the French Surrealist Group led by André Breton. The new decision making process was founded on unanimity: each person has a right of veto on the orientations of the federation. The FCL published the same year the Manifeste du communisme libertaire. Several groups quit the FCL in December 1955, disagreeing with the decision to present "revolutionary candidates" to the legislative elections. On August 15–20, 1954, the Ve intercontinental plenum of the CNT took place. A group called Entente anarchiste appeared which was formed of militants who didn´t like the new ideological orientation that the OPB was giving the FCL seeing it was authoritarian and almost marxist.[78] The FCL lasted until 1956 just after it participated in state legislative elections with 10 candidates. This move alienated some members of the FCL and thus produced the end of the organization.[76] A group of militants who didn't agree with the FA turning into FCL reorganized a new Federation Anarchiste which was established on December, 1953.[76] This included those who formed L'Entente anarchiste who joined the new FA and then dissolved L'Entente. The new base principles of the FA were written by the individualist anarchist Charles-Auguste Bontemps and the non-platformist anarcho-communist Maurice Joyeux which established an organization with a plurality of tendencies and autonomy of groups organized around synthesist principles.[76] According to historian Cédric Guérin, "the unconditional rejection of Marxism became from that moment onwards an identity element of the new Federation Anarchiste" and this was motivated in a big part after the previous conflict with George Fontenis and his OPB.[76]

In Italy the Italian Anarchist Federation was founded in 1945 in Carrara. It adopted an "Associative Pact" and the "Anarchist Program" of Errico Malatesta. It decided to publish the weekly Umanità Nova retaking the name of the journal published by Errico Malatesta. Inside the FAI, the Anarchist Groups of Proletarian Action (GAAP) was founded, led by Pier Carlo Masini, which "proposed a Libertarian Party with an anarchist theory and practice adapted to the new economic, political and social reality of post-war Italy, with an internationalist outlook and effective presence in the workplaces [...] The GAAP allied themselves with the similar development within the French Anarchist movement" as led by George Fontenis.[79] Another tendency which didn´t identify either with the more classical FAI or with the GAAP started to emerge as local groups. These groups emphasized direct action, informal affinity groups and expropriation for financing anarchist activity.[80] From within these groups the influential insurrectionary anarchistAlfredo Maria Bonanno will emerge influenced by the practice of the Spanish exiled anarchist José Lluis Facerías.[80] In the early seventies a platformist tendency emerged within the Italian Anarchist Federation which argued for more strategic coherence and social insertion in the workers movement while rejecting the syntesist "Associative Pact" of Malatesta which the FAI adhered to. These groups started organizing themselves outside the FAI in organizations such as O.R.A. from Liguria which organized a Congress attended by 250 delegates of grupos from 60 locations. This movement was influential in the autonomia movements of the seventies. They published Fronte Libertario della lotta di classe in Bologna and Comunismo libertario from Modena.[81] The Federation of Anarchist Communists (Federazione dei Comunisti Anarchici), or FdCA, was established in 1985 in Italy from the fusion of the Organizzazione Rivoluzionaria Anarchica (Revolutionary Anarchist Organisation) and the Unione dei Comunisti Anarchici della Toscana (Tuscan Union of Anarchist Communists).

The International of Anarchist Federations (IAF/IFA) was founded during an international anarchist conference in Carrara in 1968 by the three existing European anarchist federations of France (Fédération Anarchiste), Italy (Federazione Anarchica Italiana) and Spain (Federación Anarquista Ibérica) as well as the Bulgarian federation in French exile. These organizations were also inspired on synthesist principles.[66]

Contemporary times[edit]

Libertarian Communism was a socialistjournal founded in 1974 and produced in part by members of the Socialist Party of Great Britain.[82] The synthesistItalian Anarchist Federation and the platformistFederation of Anarchist Communists continue existing today in Italy but insurrectionary anarchism continues to be relevant as the recent establishment of the Informal Anarchist Federation shows. In the seventies in France the Fédération Anarchiste evolved into a joining of the principles of both synthesis anarchism and platformism[76] but later the platformist organizations Libertarian Communist Organization (France) in 1976 and Alternative libertaire in 1991 appeared with this last one existing until today alongside the synthesist Fédération Anarchiste. In recent times platformist organisations founded the now-defunct International Libertarian Solidarity network and its successor, the Anarkismo network; which is run collaboratively by roughly 30 platformist organisations around the world. On the other hand, contemporary insurrectionary anarchism inherits the views and tactics of anti-organizational anarcho-communism[26][83] and "illegalism".[84][85] The Informal Anarchist Federation (not to be confused with the synthesistItalian Anarchist Federation also FAI) is an Italian insurrectionary anarchist organization.[86] It has been described by Italian intelligence sources as a "horizontal" structure of various anarchist terrorist groups, united in their beliefs in revolutionary armed action. In 2003, the group claimed responsibility for a bomb campaign targeting several European Union institutions.[87][88] Currently alongside the previously mentioned federations, the International of Anarchist Federations includes the Argentine Libertarian Federation, the Anarchist Federation of Belarus, the Federation of Anarchists in Bulgaria, the Czech-Slovak Anarchist Federation, the Federation of German speaking Anarchists in Germany and Switzerland, and the Anarchist Federation in the United Kingdom and Ireland.[89]

Economic theory[edit]

The abolition of wage labor is central to anarchist communism. With distribution of wealth being based on self-determined needs, people would be free to engage in whatever activities they found most fulfilling and would no longer have to engage in work for which they have neither the temperament nor the aptitude.[22]

Anarchist communists argue that there is no valid way of measuring the value of any one person's economic contributions because all wealth is a collective product of current and preceding generations.[90] For instance, one could not measure the value of a factory worker's daily production without taking into account how transportation, food, water, shelter, relaxation, machine efficiency, emotional mood etc. contributed to their production. To truly give numerical economic value to anything, an overwhelming amount of externalities and contributing factors would need to be taken into account – especially current or past labor contributing to the ability to utilize future labor. As Kropotkin put it: "No distinction can be drawn between the work of each man. Measuring the work by its results leads us to absurdity; dividing and measuring them by hours spent on the work also leads us to absurdity. One thing remains: put the needs above the works, and first of all recognize the right to live, and later on, to the comforts of life, for all those who take their share in production.."[91]

Communist anarchism shares many traits with collectivist anarchism, but the two are distinct. Collectivist anarchism believes in collective ownership while communist anarchism negates the entire concept of ownership in favor of the concept of usage.[92] Crucially, the abstract relationship of "landlord" and "tenant" would no longer exist, as such titles are held to occur under conditional legal coercion and are not absolutely necessary to occupy buildings or spaces (intellectual property rights would also cease, since they are a form of private property). In addition to believing rent and other fees are exploitative, anarcho-communists feel these are arbitrary pressures inducing people to carry out unrelated functions. For example, they question why one should have to work for 'X hours' a day to merely live somewhere. So instead of working conditionally for the sake of the wage earned, they believe in working directly for the objective at hand.[22]

Philosophical debates[edit]

Motivation[edit]

Anarchist communists reject the claim that wage labor is necessary because people are lazy and selfish by "human nature". They often point out that even the so-called "idle rich" sometimes find useful things to do despite having all their needs satisfied by the labour of others. Anarcho-communists generally do not agree with the belief in a pre-set "human nature", arguing that human culture and behavior is very largely determined by socialization and the mode of production. Many anarchist communists, like Peter Kropotkin, also believe that human evolutionary tendency is for humans to cooperate with each other for mutual benefit and survival instead of existing as lone competitors.[93]

While anarchist communists such as Peter Kropotkin and Murray Bookchin believed that the members of such a society would voluntarily perform all necessary labour because they would recognize the benefits of communal enterprise and mutual aid,[94] other anarchist communists such as Nestor Makhno and Ricardo Flores Magón argue that all those able to work in an anarchist communist society should be obligated to do so, excepting groups like children, the elderly, the sick, or the infirm.[95][96][97][98] Kropotkin did not think laziness or sabotage would be a major problem in an authentically anarchist-communist society, but he did agree that a freely associated anarchist commune could, and probably should, deliberately disassociate from those not fulfilling their communal agreement to do their share of work.[99]

Freedom, work and leisure[edit]

Anarchist communists support communism as a means for ensuring the greatest freedom and well-being for everyone, rather than only the wealthy and powerful. In this sense, anarchist communism is a profoundly egalitarian philosophy.

Anarchist communism as an anarchist philosophy is against hierarchy in all its forms.[100] Anarchist communists do not think that anyone has the right to be anyone else's master, or 'boss' as this is a concept of capitalism and the state and implies authority over the individual. Some contemporary anarchist communists and advocates of post-left anarchy, such as Bob Black, reject the concept of work altogether in favor of turning necessary subsistence tasks into voluntary free play.[22][101]

Peter Kropotkin said that the main authoritarian mistakes in communist experiments of the past were their being based on "religious enthusiasm"[102] and the desire to live "as a family"[103] where the individual had to "submit to the dictates of a punctilious morality".[104] For him anarcho-communism should be based on the right of free association and disassociation for individuals and groups and on significantly lowering the amount of hours each individual dedicates to necessary labor.[105] He says that "to recognise a variety of occupations as the basis of all progress and to organise in such a way that man may be absolutely free during his leisure time, whilst he may also vary his work, a change for which his early education and instruction will have prepared him—this can easily be put in practice in a Communist society—this, again, means the emancipation of the individual, who will find doors open in every direction for his complete development".[22][105]

Individualism and collectivism

Voline, influential Russian anarcho-communist who went on exile to France after escaping persecution of the Soviet state

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