Tag Archives: anarchism
We Do Not Fear Anarchy – We Invoke It


AK Press now has a graphic for the cover of my forthcoming book, “We Do Not Fear Anarchy – We Invoke It”: The First International and the Origins of the Anarchist Movement. I have already posted a few excerpts on this blog. The book should be out next Spring. Here, I set forth some excerpts from the Introduction, where I provide a definition of anarchism based on the way the anarchists in the International conceived it. The quote in the title, “We do not fear anarchy – we invoke it,” is from Bakunin.

Defining Anarchism

During his polemics within the International against the “authoritarians” and “bourgeois socialists,” Bakunin set forth six primary grounds for distinguishing his anarchism from the views of his opponents: first, his rejection of any kind of institutional, coercive authority (anti-authoritarianism); second, his opposition to the modern state, even as a “transitional” power to abolish capitalism (anti-statism); third, his opposition to any participation in existing systems of government or “bourgeois politics” (anti-parliamentarianism); fourth and fifth, his advocacy of voluntary federation during the struggle against capitalism and the state and in a post-revolutionary society (federalism), so that the revolutionary means were consistent with the revolutionary ends (libertarianism); and sixth, his call for the immediate abolition of the state and capitalism by means of direct action, including insurrection and the expropriation by the workers themselves of the means of production (social revolution).

In identifying Proudhon as an anarchist, Bakunin focused on Proudhon’s critique of the state and private property, Proudhon’s opposition to the authoritarian politics of the Jacobins and any sort of “revolutionary” dictatorship, and Proudhon’s concept of “agro-industrial federation,” a libertarian form of socialism wherein the state and capitalism are replaced by voluntary federations of agricultural, industrial and communal organizations with no central authority above them. Where he differed from Proudhon was in his advocacy of insurrection and expropriation and in his rejection of Proudhon’s view that capitalism and the state could be gradually supplanted through the creation and ever widening expansion of voluntary associations of workers, peasants, professionals and other functional groups with access to free credit through their own credit unions, or “people’s bank.”

Following Bakunin’s approach, anarchism, whether his, Proudhon’s or someone else’s, can be distinguished from other doctrines on the basis of its anti-authoritarianism, anti-statism, anti-parliamentarianism, federalism, libertarianism and advocacy of direct action. Bakunin included Proudhon in the anarchist camp despite Proudhon’s opposition to insurrection and expropriation and his gradualist approach. Bakunin recognized that despite these differences Proudhon was still an anarchist. Both advocated direct action, but with Proudhon emphasizing non-violent direct action that would gradually hollow out existing institutions and replace them with voluntary agro-industrial federations.

While Proudhon and Bakunin were both proponents of “social” revolution, Proudhon’s social revolution was conceived in gradual, pacific terms, not in insurrectionary terms, in contrast to Bakunin. Furthermore, all socialists of their era agreed on the need for some kind of “social” revolution, given the failure of the preceding “political” revolutions (the French Revolution and the European revolutions of 1848-1849). Consequently, advocacy of social revolution does not distinguish anarchism from other doctrines, such as socialism.

For the purposes of this study, therefore, I will proceed on the basis that anarchism can be defined as a view that rejects coercive authority, the state and participation in existing systems of government, and which advocates federalism (or voluntary association), libertarianism and direct action. This is consistent with Proudhon and Bakunin’s conceptions of anarchism and, as will be seen in the chapters which follow, the views of those members of the International who came to identify themselves as anarchists and to create an international anarchist movement.

Arguably, some of these six defining characteristics can be derived from the others. For example, the state and government can be seen simply as specific examples of coercive authority, so that anti-authoritarianism is the primary defining characteristic of anarchism. As Sébastien Faure (1858-1942) put it, “whoever denies Authority and fights against it is an Anarchist.”[i] Be that as it may, in historical terms I believe that it was on the basis of these six characteristics that anarchism came to be distinguished from other political orientations. These six criteria help to flesh out the content of anarchism in a more substantive sense, providing a more robust and “political” conception of anarchism as something more than mere “anti-authoritarianism.” To define anarchism simply on the basis of what it is that anarchists oppose fails to take into account the positive anarchist alternatives to authoritarian institutions and practices that also distinguish anarchism from other doctrines.

Robert Graham

[i] Woodcock, The Anarchist Reader, 1977: 62.


Alfredo M. Bonanno A Critique of Syndicalist Methods

( The Anarchist Library )


The worker must live revolution through the reality of the economy, The difference between a trade union or syndicalist organisation and autonomous groups at the level of the base can only be understood at the concrete level of economic relations, not through the filter of an ideological interpretation. In this sense there is an element of guarantee in the above suggestion that one should work to cut the worker off from his union, or to disorganise it but to make him see the limits of all unions and their essence as a public service.

The economic situation could be organised without any oppressive structure controlling or directing it or deciding on the aims to be attained. This the worker understands very well. He knows exactly how the factory is structured and that) this barrier overcome, he would be able to work the economy in his own interest. He knows perfectly well that the collapse of this obstacle would mean the transformation of relationships both inside and outside the factory, the school, the land, and the whole of society. For the worker the concept of proletarian management is above all that of the management of production. Capitalist or State management on the contrary means the exploitation of production on behalf of someone else, on behalf of small groups of capitalists, party bureaucrats or managers. It is therefore control over the product which is lacking in this perspective, and with it decisions on lines of production, choices to be made, etc. Distribution is also linked to production. The worker knows it would be possible to establish a simple relationship between one’s personal contribution to production and the product obtained, establish agreements between sectors correlating the workshops producing the same things. He also knows that this relationship could give him the right to the distribution of the products obtained. This reasoning is technically complex, but it is one which is alive in the workers’ imagination. What is required is to explain to him the way this mechanism could be brought about in a communist economy, how he can come into possession of as many products as we his “real” needs and how he can participate in “useful” production according to his own potential.

In this perspective the question of an alternative form of organisation to the union or syndicalist structure becomes quite simple. In fact it is impossible to conceive of a programme of direct struggle in terms of contact between the workshop and the various sectors including the conquest of technical information and the exchange and improvement of this information, except from within a dimension of workers organised autonomously at the base. To filter all this through the union no matter how pure it had become, would result in the base receiving deformed information quite unsuitable to the aims to be achieved.

The primary necessity today is direct struggle organised by the base; small groups of workers who attack the centres of production. This would be an exercise in cohesion for further developments in the struggle which could come about following the obtaining of increasingly detailed information and the decision to pass to the filial expropriation of capital, i.e. to the revolution. It would be the worker who established the terms of the relationship between labour and the product. This done he would have no other solution than to ignore any kind of organisation that asserts capitalist or any other kind of power and proceed to the construction of production nuclei, possibly making them last through the whole period of the struggle, to the final elimination of exploitation.

To put it more simply, given that the relationship between producer and product is the basis of the revolutionary project it is clear that this must be egalitarian (to each according to his needs, from each according to his capabilities), managed by the base, and be simple and elementary (abolition of the market mechanism which not only increases needs artificially, but also the financial aspect of production).

To fight for an autonomous organisation of the struggle means to fight for the autonomous organisation of production at the same time. It is not possible to make a quantitative difference. In a sense, even a distinction in time phases is impossible. When workers organise their own autonomous production nuclei they are taking road that is quite different to that of the syndicalist organisation or the party. In so doing they have already taken a decisive step towards managing not only the struggle in the sense of the choice of instruments to be used, but also in the choice of aims to be reached, and not only the aims of the struggle, but also those of production.

During the revolutionary event the presence of a strong syndicalist organisation or party in the traditional sense has the immediate consequence of the proletariat being declared immature, and the conclusion that someone — syndicalist or party leaders — must decide for them. A structure for intervention is imposed on the base. Syndicalist or party meetings are always led by the same bureaucrats and specialists. Everything ends up passing over the heads of the workers. Any anarchist comrades who might eventually object to this should remember what happened in Spain at the time of the decision to enter the government, or of the struggle for the collectives. The main operative elements of the base nuclei should therefore be:

1.      The struggle. This is where the class spirit is born and developed. Here the real intentions of the parties and unions are also clarified. Methods of direct action are developed: sabotage, absenteeism, attempts at self-management destruction of work, etc.

2.      Organisation. This grows from the need for confrontation and verification. It differs greatly according to time and place, but is substantially unified on the basis of common interests in the production process. Nuclei grow up, each one on a different social, economic and political grounding, but all within the limits circumscribed by the reality’ of production. This is the essence of organisation which gives the possibility of a constant reference to something unitary.

3.      Information. This must be gained through a gradual reversal of the relations of production, modifications in the division of labour and sabotage of production, with analyses of effects and limits. The gaining of information thus becomes the awakening of a political consciousness within the concrete dimension of the economy and production.

But these problems go beyond our task here and require far deeper analysis. It is to this that we recommend the reader.

Call-out for NATO 3 Trial Solidarity, January 10–26

*Free the NATO 3! Call-out for Trial Solidarity*
*January 10–26, 2014*

The NATO 3—Brent Betterly, Brian Jacob Church, Jared Chase—are scheduled to go to trial on all 11 of their conspiracy, terrorism, and arson charges on January 6th. Jury selection will begin on the 6th, with the opening statements in the trial expected to begin on the 13th and the trial itself expected to last up to 3 weeks.

During trial, we will be sending out updates about court proceedings so supporters around the world will know what is really happening inside the courtroom. The defendants need support and solidarity from outside the courtroom now more than ever! They are risking 40 years of their lives in prison by going to trial and taking a stand against state repression of activists.

There are 3 things you can do right now for the NATO 3 to support them during trial:

1. Donate to their legal fund.
2. Organize a solidarity event in your city.
3. Send them cards and letters.

*1. Fundraising*

We still need to raise about $10,000 for their legal defense. This money covers expenses such as expert witness fees, defense coordination materials (e.g., notebooks, photocopies, etc.), evidence preparation and presentation needs, and legal research. The more money we raise, the stronger their defense will be!

You can donate online by going to https://www.wepay.com/donations/nato-5-defense. You can also make larger tax-deductible donations by sending a check or money order to:

8th Day Center for Justice
205 W. Monroe St. Suite 500
Chicago, IL 60606

Make sure to write “8th Day Center/NATO 5 Defense Fund” in the memo line.

*2. Solidarity Events*

We are calling for solidarity events around the world for the NATO 3 during their trial. Organize a dance party, noise demo, teach-in, letter-writing party, or whatever you want to get the word out about the trial and show solidarity for the defendants. Pass a hat for their legal defense funds and then pass cards around for everyone to sign! Then send us photos and descriptions of your event to nato5solidarity(A)gmail.com so we can share these with the defendants!

*3. Cards and Letters*

The defendants are stuck in the brutal conditions of Cook County Jail for another winter and now have the added stress of trial. They need letters and cards to help boost their spirits and keep them strong. Flooding them with mail now will show them that they are not alone in this ordeal! We recently announced our “We’ve Got Your Back!” letter-writing campaign, so include that phrase in your cards and letters so they can see the strength of our numbers! (See http://nato5support.wordpress.com/2013/12/16/nato-3-card-drive-weve-got-… for more info.)

Brent Betterly
PO Box 089002
Chicago, IL 60608

Brian Church
PO Box 089002
Chicago, IL 60608

Jared Chase
PO Box 089002
Chicago, IL 60608

*About the NATO 3*

On May 16, 2012, Chicago cops raided an apartment in the Bridgeport neighborhood of Chicago in an all-too-common attempt to scare people away from the imminent protests against the NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) summit. With guns drawn, the cops arrested 11 people in or around the apartment and quickly disappeared them into the bowels of the extensive network of detention facilities in Cook County, Illinois.

After a few days, a few things started becoming clear: 2 of the arrested “activists” were actually undercover Chicago cops who had targeted the real activists for arrest, 6 of them were illegally held and released at the last possible minute before court action could be taken to force their release, and 3 had been charged with trumped-up, politically motivated terrorism charges. These three are known as the NATO 3. They were ultimately charged with 11 felony counts, including material support for terrorism, conspiracy to commit terrorism, and creating Molotov cocktails. They face up to 40 years in prison.

To keep up-to-date on the trial, visit http://nato5support.wordpress.com, sign up for our announcements listserv by emailing nato-5-announce-subscribe@lists.riseup.net, find us on Facebook at Free the NATO 5! (https://www.facebook.com/pages/Free-the-Nato5/172345546229824), and follow us on Twitter @FreeNATO5 (https://twitter.com/FreeNATO5).