Monday, November 08, 2004


Daniel Guérin

Anarchism was originally published in 1965, in Paris, under the title L'anarchisme: De la doctrine et á l'action. Because of this, it completely fails to address anything past 1969, which includes the Postscript. Nevertheless, it describes the ideas and concepts of anarchism, from its inception in the 19th century well into the mid-twentieth, using primarily quotations rather than paraphrases, in order that the quotations "might speak for themselves." The first half of the book is dedicated entirely to this aim; part I is entitled "the Basic Ideas of Anarchism", while part II is "In Search of a new Society".

Part one begins by first defining what, exactly, anarchists mean when they call themselves such. There are many different viewpoints (more, in fact, than are described in the book), but this chapter describes the foundation from which all other viewpoints spring.

Part two describes these different viewpoints and the internal disputes of anarchism and the external disputes with socialism.

Part three is called "Anarchism is Revolutionary Practice", and details the distory of anarchism during the great turmoil of the late 19th and early twentieth centuries. It notes several occasions (such as Kronstadt and the Spanish Worker's movement) in which anarchism played an important role or was even used as the basis for a restructuring of society. One example, in the Ukraine, shows that anarchy and socialism are viable options, for production had multiplied itself, before being crushed by Soviet Russia. Part three also describes parts of the Russian Revolution and the part the anarchists played in it. Had it not been for the Bolshevik Party, the workers councils (or soviets) would likely have remained an anarchist formation.

Finally, Guérin concludes with a postscript dated May, 1968, in which he expresses hope for the future of anarchism in the youth movements that had risen since 1965.

I enjoyed this book, not only because it focused on the ideas and concepts of anarchism, but that it did so without a lot of dates and bibliographical information. It works quite well as an introduction to the subject, and I would recommend it for anyone who wishes to learn more about anarchism. I also thoroughly enjoyed the historical section, because it gave me a better idea about the movements around the world and the impact anarchism has had. I also have a greater understanding of Soviet Russia and the causes of its fall to Statism.

All in all, a good, interesting read.
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