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Part IV - Anarchist Thought: Schools of Thought - The ideas behind the ideology/philosophy

by   Ruth Kinna


Acknowledgements !

introduction 1

Chapter One:

         What is Anarchism? 6
         Anarchy: Origins of the word: 21
         Anarchist Thought: Key personalities: 37

         Anarchist Thought: Schools of Anarchism: 48

         Anarchist Thought: History: 92
         End of chapter one: 133
         Summary: 133

         Conclusion: 134 (Lone Cypress Workshop
         Summary Conclusion: 148 (Lone Cypress Workshop)

Anarchist Thought: Schools of Anarchism

(Ruth Kinna) Anarchists have appended a dizzying array of prefixes and suffixes to ‘anarchism’ to describe their particular beliefs. Anarchism has been packaged in anarcho-syndicalist, anarcha-feminist, eco-anarchist, anarcho-communist, Christian, social, anarcho-capitalist, reformist, and primitivist varieties.

(Lone Cypress Workshop) A ‘dizzying array’ is an irrefutable overstatement and it only confirms much of my criticism as to the lack of focus and clarity of purpose and objectives. It does not imply an unrelenting movement, but one in disarray and confusion. It is not a welcoming environment or a desirable expectation to be spending all of one’s time on the comprehension of one’s peers instead of the prosecution and expansion of their philosophical and ideological insights.

(RK) Some anarchists treat these divisions lightly. One doubting sympathizer, the writer Harold Barclay, dubs himself an anarcho-cynicalist. Others find them more problematic. Some dismiss the seemingly endless subdivision of anarchism on the grounds that the labels are excessively sectarian and that they obscure the important bonds that exist between different groups. Others have been fearful that the divisions conceal an un-anarchist intolerance towards others.

(LCW) While I attempt to not just criticize the movement but to create a conversation where questions are just as valid as answers, the presentation simply keeps offering more ammunition than I could ever hope to use if all I wanted to do was to delegitimize the efforts put in by so many over such an extended time frame. What I would like is a focused approach to the philosophy and a sharing of the information to the benefit of the anarchist and the ideological seeker simultaneously.

I think that much too much time is spent on the ‘winning’ of some points instead of providing an abundantly clear vision of what it is that exemplifies anarchy. First anarchy is defined through a dizzying array of versions and now it is characterized as an endless subdivision.

I agree wholeheartedly and completely that the focus should be on the bonds between these disparate perspectives and not the obvious diversity issues. And yes, it does seem to infer that there exists an ‘un-anarchist’ intolerance against those that disagree, and it is inconceivable that this includes those very same distinctly divergent visions within the confines of anarchism itself. It seems at times that everyone wants to be heard but few wish to listen. There is surprisingly little of substance that is being said.

(RK) In the 1880s the Spanish anarchist Ricardo Mella called for an anarchism ‘pure and simple’, ‘anarchism without adjectives’ in an effort to avoid straight-jacketing the aspirations of the oppressed in a postrevolutionary situation. Voltairine de Cleyre endorsed Mella’s position. Since ‘[l]iberty and experiment alone can determine the best forms of society’ she called herself “[a]narchist” simply’.

(LCW) I would think that simplicity would consolidate the philosophy quickly. Talk about similarities and fundamentals first and foremost, and leave the rest for those that simply don’t understand. Let individual ‘actions’ determine what is of the utmost importance. Discuss the repercussions and ramifications of actions taken, and argue how those actions can be adjusted and refocused to achieve legitimate results. Too much time is being spent on the determination of what is irrelevant while profound insights are left out in the rain, so to speak.

The point made that ‘liberty and experiment alone can determine the best forms of society’ is profound in the essence that this was one of the fundamental aspects of the American socio-economical-political paradigm. That all of these states under federalism, by design would ‘not’ be controlled by a single authority on the national level. They would ‘experiment’ within their own confines of ‘state’ and come up with a multitude of alternatives and possibilities which would serve as examples of what is actually possible.

This would illustrate what works for members of the local community and if not to their liking they had the ‘freedom’ and right to relocate to an area that was more to their liking. I find this to be a defining element of what I perceive an ‘anarchist’ to embody.

Not the intent to coerce others to my own positions but to craft an environment where we can be different and of disparate perspectives and yet live together in peace and harmony in a mutual cooperative paradigm without physical violence and virulent debate. There will never be that environment where unanimity exists between us, but perhaps there can be a community that attempts tolerance, empathy, understanding, and compassion for others. I thought that was a strong undercurrent to most of the schools of thought that have been presented in this narrative. Am I wrong?

(RK) Taking the different tack, some anarchists have argued that the division of anarchists into schools exaggerates the insignificant differences between anarchists whilst blurring the really significant ones. For example, Voltairine de Cleyre mapped her anarchism pure and simple onto a distinction between anarchism ‘old’ and ‘young’, where the old were those who had lost their enthusiasm for the cause, and the young were the often quite elderly comrades who continued to live ‘with the faith of hope’. Writing from a rather different perspective John Moore invoked a similar distinction. Finding the existing ‘57 varieties’ of anarchism un-edifying, he encouraged anarchists to adopt a new bi-polar categorization which distinguished the minimalist, reformist, nostalgic ‘politics of “if only ...”’ from the maximalist, revolutionary, dynamic ‘anti-politics of “[w]hat if ...?”.

(LCW) There seems to be an arbitrariness in these characterizations between the ‘young’ and the ‘old’. Somewhat conflicting and simplistic. The old have lost enthusiasm and the young are ‘quite elderly’? Where do the chronologically young come into play? What of the experience and wisdom that comes with age? How can you demean and degrade any segment of the community simply because things are not as you would have them be?

It is the epitome of authority and coercion and oppression to even suggest that confusion and frustration is cause for dismissal. I find that such a concept reflects badly on the ideology and anyone who accepts or condones such a position. Again an example of why anarchism has such a difficult time finding a demonstrable ‘soul’.

The reality is that there have been no historical transformations that have been attempted over the millennia that have not included those of passionate (perhaps fanatical) zeal and energy and especially in those instances that have continued over large segments of time for those that have lived their lives without a reduction in the frustrations and confusions and an incomprehension of the time it is taking to effect change. These lose their vigor and their enthusiasm, and it is understandable.

Without some form of authority, who reinvigorates these tired and disillusioned souls? That is not for me to say, but without some focused objectives, the movement is doomed to some form of disintegration without some way to drive the intent and expectations into something viable and vigorous.

(RK) Yet for all these complaints, anarchists continue to identify themselves by their particular affiliations and beliefs. In response to the question ‘Who are the anarchists? What do they believe?’ six interviewees for a 1968 BBC radio programme responded:

I consider myself to be an anarchist-communist, in the Kropotkin tradition.
I think ... I would say I was an anarchist-socialist, or libertarian socialist ...
I would describe myself as an anarcho-syndicalist ...
I don’t call myself an anarcho-syndicalist. I could be called an anarcho-pacifist-individualist with slight communist tendencies ...
I’m an anarchist ... and also think that syndicalism is the anarchist application to organising industry.
I describe myself as a Stirnerite, a conscious egoist.

(LCW) Does this instill spirited and tireless activity among the faithful? I would suggest that this would unfortunately be a decisive ‘no’. This is a self-defeating and self-destructive paradigm. I don’t pretend to understand all of these schisms by name, but the bigger question is do any of the rank-and-file members know the meanings of these sub-sub-sub categories of anarchist thought? The answer once again, I assume, is no. There is less attack from the outside than from the inside. Decisions and conclusions need to be made as to how to deal with this entropy.

(RK) The remainder of this chapter will consider what these and other labels mean, and the relationship between anarchist schools. It begins with a review of some of the traditional typologies and then considers the development of some modern schools. At the end of the chapter, I consider what light the discussion of typology sheds on Eltzbacher’s definition of anarchism as the rejection of the state.

(LCW) I admit to having some difficulties in understanding the need for so many ‘schools’ of thought except to make the point that you reject at least parts of, for lack of a better term, the mainstream anarchist ideology. The number of these schools or disciplines, or lack thereof, seems to suggest that there is in fact no real mainstream body of thought, certainly not in the realm of consensus and mutual agreement and understanding.

It actually makes a lot of sense to me. These circumstances illustrate clearly that, not surprisingly, the ‘anarchist’ community cannot fundamentally come to any substantial agreement because they are anarchists, individuals who don’t follow leaders except in the micro, who reject any kind of macro authority that will inevitably end up as an oppressive and coercive force.

Hence, the ability and intent to come to their own conclusions and act accordingly. I am not sure this negates the legitimacy of anarchy as a body of thought, but it certainly implies that it may be challenging and possibly impossible to control the philosophical and intellectual conversation, the ideological and political realities, or the thoughts and actions of the community itself.

It may well be unmanageable, precisely because the members are ‘enragés’ and are emotionally and intellectually to the point of philosophical resistance to anything but their own final and often narrow determinations. I am not so sure how evolutionary the process is when with each new disagreement there is another perspective, the start of another ‘hyphenated’ anarchistic group, and the addition of yet another school of thought because the individual(s) no longer fit in with one of the current mindsets.

These theoretical experiments are not growing into something else, but doubling down on what they have come to accept as valid and legitimate. I guess we all do this to some extent, but while all ideologies and religions splinter into new directions, the anarchist reality does so in greater numbers and frequency. I find it troubling and yet I find it fascinating and exhilarating.

(RK) The subdivision of anarchists into discrete schools began in the nineteenth century. At first, anarchists tended to group themselves into one of two main schools: communist and non-communist. For example, in 1894 the English writer Henry Seymour identified two types of anarchism, one he called mutualistic and the other communistic.

(LCW) I like where this seems to be going. Everyone should be conflicted and highly skeptical of anything communistic. The part I find particularly interesting is this mutualistic paradigm, and I think that is why there remains a certain attraction for me to the anarchistic paradigm, albeit not all of them.

I guess I should make something clear as we progress. I think I may have mentioned it a while back but in the interests of complete transparency, I need to reiterate that I consider myself an anarchist. Not primarily by any means, but inarguably so. I am fundamentally an objectivist and capitalist, not so much libertarian, but I acknowledge that there are many similarities with objectivism.

I accept and embrace some of the tenets of socialism and even at times with communism, but they are few and far between, more in the philosophical considerations since the practical seem woefully improbable. The focus for me is oppression and coercion, and for me, that is a deal breaker with any philosophy or ideology.

The irony is that I can be all of these things simultaneously. I could give you percentages but they would add up to 300% which we hopefully can agree is impossible, but it depends directly on what issue is being discussed or debated. I find myself agreeing and disagreeing with almost any belief system that you could care to discuss. It always depends on context and specificity. One of the reasons that I have adopted objectivism as my primary is the comprehensiveness of Rand’s perspective and positions. Her reasoning is consistent, and while I agree with her more than not, there is much that she simply has not been able to convince me of as far as practicality and reality are concerned.

I neither reject her nor her ideology because we disagree, but embrace and assimilate that which makes perfectly reasonable and logical sense, to me alone. I am under no obligation to follow anyone or any system blindly. I will question and argue incessantly if I feel the need. I will attempt to offer an open mind in listening to opposition views, but in the end will make my own determinations and conclusions. I will act accordingly and fully accept responsibility and obligation for those same decisions. To me? That is a fundamental premise of objectivism, the irony being that I passionately believe that this is the indispensable foundation of the anarchistic discipline as well.

I mentioned that I was a capitalist, and I find no conflict or contradictions in this concept either. I believe in a state, I find it irresponsible and irrational to think that any group of people with more than twenty to fifty members can produce a long-term paradigm that works if devoid of any legitimate consensus as to how to handle social conflict. Arbitration of some kind is an essential part of offering stability and equal treatment without having open gunfights in the street.

The key is that this authority has to not just be smaller than what we have today but comparatively insignificant. There needs to be that anarchistic consensus I have repeatedly heard of to determine what is right and what is not, what the ramifications ‘will’ be for those that create havoc and chaos, and that is one of the reasons that the ‘school’ of anarchy that defends and supports the use of coercion and violence are irrefutably illegitimate from my point of view. This use of coercion and violence is completely irrational using any reasoned, logical, or credible philosophical thought. And has been throughout the history of mankind.

(RK) Seymour argued that these two doctrines were based on incompatible economic and social principles. The idea of mutualism was to ensure that all workers enjoyed an equal right to land and the means of production, and that monopoly – in the form of rent, interest, profit, and taxation – was abolished. Mutualism also encouraged competition between producers, in accordance with the laws of the market. In mutualism, free producers would contract with one another and a special Bank of Exchange would advance credit and help facilitate exchanges between them.

(LCW) These are the statements, the concepts that should consistently be promoted and claimed as legitimate by anarchy in the macro. If these things are not what they believe then there needs to be some distance created between the camps, clearly and unequivocally.

If mutualism means that all workers enjoy an equal right to land and the means of production, then I have no argument. We may have to talk about particulars to clarify some issues, but as a cornerstone belief it comes across as completely legitimate and resistance to the philosophy would therefore be minimized.

The right to land, of course, does not mean in any way a ‘gift’ bestowed upon the individual, but the opportunity and the right to procure and own and work the land, and use it as you see fit as long as no negative consequences are forced upon others. It also means that the individual has the right to compete in the workplace and open markets, by their ability and their intelligence, their creativity, and their innovation.

Again, not by force or manipulation or fraud and certainly not by the bestowing of another ‘gift’ that was created by another. But certainly, the right to obtain and own that production. As with all things, there are responsibilities and obligations that are integral to these benefits within a society.

This does not mean that I encourage or support many of the ways men have procured these things in the past. Those that received benefits of land or business advantage through political corruption, incompetence, malfeasance, and extortion are illegitimate in every sense of the word. They should be determined and held accountable. How to do that is another issue.

I have heard nothing whatsoever from the collectivists and liberals and unfortunately not from the anarchists as well as to how to control and manage these improprieties. Anarchy itself cannot solve these problems, and lacking a credible authority, will never have the power to do anything substantial to change the paradigm.

If you take control by threat and violence you will inevitably be deposed in much the same way. History shows this to be true. Never has there been a single example to show otherwise.

There are few things that infuriate and frustrate me more than a monopoly, but again, the collectivist, the liberal, and the anarchist have shown nothing to persuade me that they have the ideas or the capability of making the changes necessary, without violence and oppression, to create appropriate change.

Please don’t simply argue the point, but by all means present the rest of us with the ideas, the examples, and the processes that will actually produce results. What resolutions can you offer that will do these things? I have any number of alternatives but do not believe that we (society) have the will or the courage or the intrinsic capabilities to do this right now, and I have no idea if enough time remains to truly make a difference.

In any case, a monopoly is a real challenge, an obstacle that while intimidating and daunting is not insurmountable, but again, it cannot be done by a hundred or a thousand individuals. It will take quite a bit more, undoubtedly many, many millions to even begin to change direction and make the corrections and adjustments necessary.

You say that you want to stop a monopoly? Be specific, which one? We have any number of monopolies. Utilities are overwhelming and seemingly invincible, and to make a difference we would have to first show that there is some power within the society on the street. I look at companies like Microsoft and Nike and while I have no first-hand knowledge that they use slave labour from the other side of the planet to manufacture their products the information seems to be prodigious, overwhelming, and indisputable. Why are they still in business? Is the anarchist buying their products? Why? I don't.

If enough people said tomorrow that they will never use their products again, they would be out of business, not next year, but next week. But the reality is that Americans just love to buy tainted products. Can ‘you’ do without your iPhone or iPad? How about Nike paraphernalia? Do it! But you won’t, and if you won’t do something you can do without breaking a sweat, how do you expect me to believe that you are going to change the world and bring anarchism to the forefront of social consciousness but you can’t forego some sneakers and some moronic electronic devices? You can’t, or won’t, and until you do this whole discussion is moot and irrelevant. When you are ready to stand up and be counted, try to remember what that means. Make a difference.

How exactly is rent a monopoly? You don’t have to rent, you can buy. I know, I know, buying is akin to renting with a mortgage, but the issue is that you really can’t afford the house without credit. I guess ‘credit’ is something the anarchist is going to keep around. Interest is a monopoly? I’m sure you enjoy that your 401k is worth a ‘lot’ more than it would if there was no interest. The problem is probably the interest you ‘pay’ when you buy something that you can’t afford. How is that a monopoly?

How much of the interest that you pay every year is on necessities? I would think it is quite a bit more than what you pay for luxuries. You want profit and taxation abolished? This is when we start to part ways. How in the world do you create a legitimate and practical social environment without these things? The collectivists, especially the socialists, as well as the liberals have failed miserably just trying to articulate what they would do in its stead. Without these things, especially taxes, the government would truly not have a dime to spend on all the benefits that are expected and demanded under the new paradigm.

None of these things are bad or evil in themselves, but in the way that they have been allowed to evolve and develop into something that is (once again) oppressive and coercive and physically threatening when it creates an environment where people starve and wallow in an untenable reality, brought about not by these things specifically, or even government (although it is a tempting target) but through the individuals that we have allowed to control and direct our every action.

You hired them, and they continue to give what they want, and not what you expect, and you continue to vote them back into power. You say that there will be no voting when the anarchist is dominant (think of the meaning of the word dominant) but you need to give it more thought. If they are not ‘dominant’ then what will be? Something will be, and you can count on that. You will be ruled, whether by your family, your neighborhood, some council, or a central planning mechanism. It will be there. Always has been and always will be. The trick is to control ‘it’ and not let it control ‘you’.

(RK) Anarchocommunism, by contrast, the community would control property, and the means of production and individuals would be equalized in terms of their comforts rather than their rights. There would be no market exchange. Instead, communists encouraged co-operation and mutual support.

(LCW) I hear this kind of rhetoric and my head just explodes. The ‘means of production’ and ‘individuals’ would be equalized? What in the world does that even mean? So, in the land of no state, no government and no authority who is it exactly that will be making these kinds of determinations? How does one equalize an ‘individual’? And all of this will be equalized in terms of their ‘comforts’ instead of their ‘rights’? Does this mean those who cry and moan the most will get attention first? Does this mean the concept of rights no longer exists, or just subservient to ‘want’ and ‘need’?

No market exchange? Where would products and trade come from? How are prices determined or will there even be prices? Will things just be given away? Given by whom to whom? Does the individual on the street have any input in these decisions? How so? Why would anyone put any effort into making an item if there is nothing in it for them? I am not talking about exploitation here, just reasonable expectations.

This is precisely the reason that I have no interest in the communist paradigm. If the community ‘controls’ property, then by definition I control nothing, and anything or everything can be taken away from me at any time and under any circumstances, as long as the ‘community’ agrees, and this leaves the issue of a single individual being at the threat and mercy of said community.

This is the true threat of pure democracy. Of course, I understand that the intent is not for inappropriate transgressions against any particular individual or group and yet it seems completely reasonable to question if it is not possible, and I have never heard how they intend to control such a situation. History is quite clear on the consequences and ramifications of such an ideology.

It is so easy to speak of ‘means of production’ and ‘equalization’ of comforts ‘rather’ than any rights, but there is no explanation, no clarification of what any of these terms actually mean. It is irrational to accept or even consider such concepts without an in-depth agreement as to intent and expectation.

(RK) Whereas the principle of mutualism was ‘the product to the producer and each according to his deeds’, the idea of communism was ‘the product to the community and each according to his needs’. In the social sphere, Seymour argued, the differences between the two doctrines were equally stark.

(LCW) The anarchistic principle of mutualism is more in line with at least the essence of capitalism and free markets, and I simply cannot envision a society, at this point in our evolution, that can deliver the unrealistic promises of a Utopian fantasia. Not that capitalism and free markets have not had significant criticisms on any number of issues. There is no argument that it is far from perfect, but closer than any other alternative in history.

I will continue to argue that it is not the system of capitalism that is at fault, but the morality and ethics, and integrity of the individuals involved, and moreso the lack of these qualities in the guise of the political representation that for all intents and purposes are irretrievably lost to corruption and irrational self-interest and personal gain. I am skeptical that this can ever be rectified but find it incomprehensible that a new paradigm can be introduced, whether, through vote or revolution, that will not have the very same challenges. Our populations are truly ‘wanting’ in all of the attributes that are imperative for success.

(RK) Both mutualism and communism supported free love. But whereas mutualism supported marriage and the family (so long as it was based on the equal liberty and mutual responsibility of the contracting parties), communism challenged both institutions. In particular, communists charged the community with the care of children, not the biological parents, and they thereby encouraged the abandonment of social propriety.

(LCW) I am not sure that the concept of free love is being defined properly if at all. Free love infers no actual responsibility for the act and therefore no obligation to the other individual. Communism goes past any rational or traditional norms and destroys any connection between individuals, as illustrated by the ‘charging’ of the community with the care of the children, and the abandonment of personal propriety. There is no rational or personal restriction on having twenty or fifty children except one's personal morality. It really doesn't matter because the 'community as a whole will be burdened with the responsibility. The cost will be astronomical and the individual will be morally accountable for their 'fair share'. There will be no 'choice' involved. if there is no 'authority' then where does the enforcement come from?

There seems to be a complete absence of freedom or choice in the communistic paradigm. Possibly chaotic and therefore representative of the worst aspects of anarchism, but they totally reject individualism or even cooperation for that matter, since cooperation is voluntary while collectivism is not. The greater good will always trump the individual, which makes them for all intents and purposes, a slave to the master of the nebulous collective itself.

I understand, at least to some degree, the intent to create a social atmosphere for a fully integrated community, but the concepts of fully independent thought and decision-making as well as individual choice are completely rejected without explanation. This obsession with creating a one-size-fits-all seems to contradict the idea of freedom itself. There is an expectation that behaviour and thought itself will be standardized, by some central planning committee, and with little if any input from the members of the community.

I would have said individuals but my interpretation of communism has always been the rejection of the concept of individualism is inherently fundamental to the philosophy itself. Individuals by definition and by nature are not easily led and not only intend on making their own decisions but relish the idea. They therefore create friction and are a challenge to be controlled or directed easily, and this is confirmed by the inability to manage collectivist communities without the need for coercion, oppression, and inevitable violence.

(RK) Voltairine de Cleyre followed a similar system of classification, but instead of distinguishing anarcho-communism from mutualism, she labeled the competing position individualism. Anarchism, she argued, is ... [a] sort of Protestantism, whose adherents are a unit in the great essential belief that all forms of external authority must disappear to be replaced by self-control only, but variously divided in our conception for the form of future society.

(LCW) This is one of the reasons that has intrigued me and drawn me to try and understand more of the anarchist philosophy. It may be a bit extreme to banish ‘all’ external authority but the concept of self-control is fundamental in the ideologies of libertarianism, capitalism, and objectivism. This presents anarchism as a more rational alternative compared to collectivism.

I find it an absolute necessity to have the individual as the basis for any encompassing authority mechanism, recognizing the rights of each individual to work towards self-determined objectives and success. This does not negate any other individual from doing the same, or from asking for or receiving assistance in the achievement of the same.

The idea of gaining an advantage or benefit simply from the point of actual existence makes no rational sense whatsoever. Existence is diversity, and that is the demonstrable reality that there can be no equality of result, but certainly can be an equality of opportunity and the dispensation of equal justice. If so, then there is no restriction on what someone can achieve, and there is no limit to what can be discovered and created within the social environment.

Collectivism stifles, in every instance where it has been tried, the motivation and incentive to achieve, with no guarantees or even possibilities of what may be realized personally, knowing full well that there will ‘always’ be the possibility that your benefit may need to be postponed until tomorrow, but your obligation, your ability, and your obeisance will be required today.

The concept of freedom does not even exist in the collective mindset. It does seem to exist, however, in the anarchism paradigm which gives it credibility and legitimacy over an ever-widening segment of the social reality. I think that is what people desire, and what should be a part of any viable plan for the future. The extent that the community members are appropriate players will be directly related to the help and assistance that can be offered to those in any kind of need. There is no conflict there.

(RK) Individualism supposes private property to be the cornerstone of personal freedom; asserts that such property should consist in the absolute possession of one’s own product and of such share of the natural heritage of all as one may actually use. Communist-Anarchism, on the other hand, declares that such property is both unrealizable and undesirable; that the common possession and use of all the natural sources and means of social production can alone guarantee the individuals against a recurrence of inequality and its attendants, government, and slavery.

(LCW) Unfortunately there is no evidence that what the collectivist-based anarchist says is in any way valid. I have heard the statement repeated over decades of my investigation into viable alternatives and have yet to hear, or better yet to see, a demonstrable example of where the expectations have been met.

Property is a complicated concept. While I believe in ownership, it is without argument that this ‘right’ has been compromised through corruption and avarice over the centuries. No one should argue that reality, but that does not mean there can be nothing else but communal ownership.

The pride and satisfaction of working and developing one’s own property cannot be reproduced within a collectivist paradigm, and one of the possibilities, one of those many alternatives that people have been searching for in any group, is that any number of individuals can join together and cooperate to not only achieve some level of success within that desired collectivist environment without the need to make it a coerced prerequisite for all the members of the community.

I have researched and studied many attempts and experiments to socialize property, and just in my lifetime of almost 70 years, there have been successes that have shown that it can be done, with or without the ‘free-love’ aspect, but only on a limited basis and only in specific circumstances with appropriately chosen, instructed and capable individuals that have the motivation and incentives to make it work.

It also has never worked in a ‘macro’ situation, but only in limited and restricted environments. I find the attempts fascinating and intriguing but not acceptable as an oppressive and coerced set of circumstances for millions of people that simply do not have the ability to accomplish the Utopian dream.

The United States was envisioned as a closed system (federalism) that consisted of any number of states (50 as we speak) that would experiment with different issues and processes and procedures to see what might be successful. The idea was that the other states would be able to watch and ‘take notes’ as it were, and even engage and discuss the results and ramifications as they pursued alternatives to their own difficult issues.

There were no centralized diktats as to how to run their states only that they stay within federal guidelines when appropriate, which were supposed to be minimal. We seem to have drifted away from that initial intent, and we are paying the price with fewer resolutions and a stubborn reluctance to try new things to achieve progress.

I see no conflict with the collectivist doing exactly that today, right now, and creating any number of experiments as to socialized property ownership, as well as the means of production, and at some point, producing some evidence that their highly unproven hypotheses are workable. We can then discuss and debate the viability of any particular attempt. Short of some credible evidence I don’t see how the vision can ever be taken seriously.

I would have to question and challenge this idea that the recurrence of inequality comes from anything other than incompetence, corruption, ignorance, or irrational self-interest. Government is not an evil in and of itself but directly associated with the level of the attributes just mentioned. Slavery on the other hand is something to be rejected, and was never a viable or appropriate response to any economic or political pressure and should be recognized as such. In either case, inequality has no relationship with them, and if you disagree, you should present your position in a well-defended and reasonable argument.

(RK) In his 1905 entry for ‘anarchism’ in the Encyclopaedia Britannica Peter Kropotkin expanded these typologies to distinguish six main schools of thought: mutualist, individualist, collectivist (also known as federalist or anti-authoritarian), communist (to which he aligned himself), Christian and literary. Kropotkin’s complex scheme was based on the consideration of ethical as well as economic criteria. For example, following Seymour, he agreed that mutualists and communists differed in their approach to the market, but he embellished his definition of anarcho-communism by identifying it with the moral principle: ‘do as you would be done by’.

(LCW) I would guess that now is not the time to go into detail on the six main schools of thought, or even if they truly exist. To make the statement that some ‘moral’ principle exists for an ideology that governs through coercion and oppression is interesting. I was under the impression that the communist reality was one that did not recognize the concept of god and rejected it outright. This ‘do as you would be done by’ exists as a fundamental axiom for all the traditional and mainstream religions as well as most if not all of the non-traditional ones. I find the claim to be suspiciously ignorant and irrational.

How does one believe in doing unto others as you would have them do unto you when I would not make anyone else believe or act in any way other than what they personally believe to be the correct action to take? I would not take from them their livelihood, means of production, property, or land because of some authoritarian edict.

I would allow them to make their own decisions and direct their own behaviours as those belief systems directed them, decisions and conclusions made by themselves and not some outside influence, no matter what percentage I may or may not agree with in the context of some greater ideology. Communism and collectivism in general do not believe in this ‘do unto others’ in any sense, and therefore, no matter how desirable it is to sound balanced and compassionate, cannot claim any affiliation on any level.

(RK) Pursuing a similar line of thought Kropotkin described individualism as the demand for the ‘full liberation of the individual from all social and moral bonds’. Individualist anarchists dreamed of the creation of a society of egotists. Theirs was a doctrine of ‘complete “a-moralism”’ and their ethic was ‘mind your own business’. Kropotkin argued that collectivism was closely aligned with communism and that it shared the same morality. Yet collectivism was particularly associated with the demand that state organization be replaced by a system of decentralized federation constructed through the free agreement of autonomous communities.

(LCW) No choice once again but to argue that to demand ‘full liberation of the individual from all social and moral bonds’ is overkill and irrational. Freedom is the full liberation from outside influences and imposed political and economic ‘bonds’. Nothing more and nothing less.

Social and moral bonds are created on a personal and intimate level between individuals without the need for oversight. Society itself may indeed need to control some completely unacceptable behaviours but not on ‘every’ issue and certainly not simply on an emotional whim. Coercion is to be understood and rejected as inappropriate under almost any and all circumstances. I think that is more in line with freedom and individualism.

These individualist anarchists have much in common with objectivism, and the strongest aspects are remarkably similar. To dictate ‘a-moralism’ as an attribute of any ideology is a contradiction in terms. A true individualist will do nothing to restrict another unless it is a restriction on themselves as well. They will expect nothing by way of behaviour from another that they do not demand of themselves.

I think the individualist thinks more along the lines of ‘don’t tread on me’ or attempt to control or coerce me to do anything I choose not to, more than mind your own business. That could be a part of the belief, but we have to forgive Kropotkin for not understanding what it means to be free and independent-minded since he made the personal decision to embrace an ideology that did not even recognize the individual since they cannot be forced to do pretty much anything. He liked, as all communists do, the malleable, the subservient, the simple, and the ignorant. Basically, anyone who does as they are told, by him presumably.

I have never been able to get a detailed explanation of how this ‘free agreement of autonomous communities’ actually works. Is this ‘community’ not a pseudo-state representing the members of that community? The determinations will never be unanimous so there will always be a percentage that disagrees with whatever is decided. Statelessness seems to infer that no individual will ‘ever’ be forced or coerced to do something against their wishes. Is this not true? They can’t even help themselves. They want authority for themselves, just not for the individual. No real surprise.

What kind of structure allows this to take place and what happens when the paradigm changes and the ‘community’ no longer wishes to have any agreement? What if actions and events have taken place where costs have been incurred? What about when one party feels it has been disadvantaged by another? How is something like that remedied and arbitrated? Who steps in when conflict erupts?

(RK) Collectivism suggested that each collective in the federation would own its own property and the means of production – the land, machinery, and so forth used to produce goods and services. It also suggested that each collective would be able to decide how goods and services would be distributed to individual members.

(LCW) If a governed community (non-anarchist) has no rights to property how can an anarchist version of community basically do the same thing? Where did that right or ability come from? Is it from god (whom they do not believe in) or some natural rights (but they are subservient to want and need? How does the collective anarchist philosophy explain what happens to all of the property owned by other ideologies before them?

Is it possible to do so considering the point in history that we have experienced? Do they just convince these established communities to just ‘gift’ the property to the anarchists or are they prepared to take it by force? Does that not legitimize anyone else, or any other competing ideology from doing the same thing? Does this not result in true chaos and unrestricted violence until someone sues for peace, or there is no opposition that remains? Is this what is envisioned as a peaceful transfer of power? Is there a reasoned response to these questions?

Who exactly is it that decides what goods and in what quantity will be distributed and to whom and for what reasons? Is it enough that I ‘want’ more or does someone else decide I have had enough? What happens if I disagree? What happens when a large segment of the community disagrees?

Does a simple vote conclude the issue? What happens when that ‘segment’ decides the vote is invalid? I hear nothing about circumstances within reality, only fantasy and theoretical alternatives that have no substantial legitimacy based on anything but a whim and a dream. Not enough to promote the destruction of a legitimate (sort of) form of government for something that has never proven to be viable or even desirable.

It seems so uninformed and unintelligible. What does one community do when they control all the oil in the area or all the gold, silver, or plutonium? What about water and fisheries and lumber? Can they simply trade with other communities or does the idea of commonality hold true and no one community can say they own any resource at any time and do other communities have that same ‘right’ to those assets as well?

If ownership is evil and abolished does that not suggest the community can have no claim? Isn’t that what the ‘state’ does today, represent the communities that have mandated their leadership? I find much that is not consistent in the anarchistic paradigms presented here.

(RK) This was a confusing idea, as Kropotkin recognized since collectivism was usually understood by non-anarchist socialists to imply the principle of ‘distribution according to work’ – i.e. a system of individual, differential reward. However, Kropotkin’s controversial view was that anarchist collectivism need not necessarily describe a collectivist system in this sense and that it was possible within the federal framework for collectivists to adopt the communist principle of distribution according to need.

(LCW) And he based such a position on what evidence or reasoned argument? Why would it be possible for the collectivists to adopt something conflicting with their fundamental philosophy but nowhere do I hear that the communists just might do the same? The change he suggests is anathema to the belief system, in either direction.

This is not just anarchism, but an irrational fantasy. Is compromise possible between the factions? If so, then why not between either the existing schism, the capitalist or the libertarian paradigms? It would seem there would be more similarities between the collectivist anarchist and something like objectivism than either of the communist or anarchist positions. Do you really think it could be otherwise?

(RK) Christian anarchism, as the name suggested, took its lead from Biblical teachings and was associated with an idea of fellowship and individual moral regeneration. Notwithstanding its religious foundation, Kropotkin believed that its vision of Christian fellowship dovetailed with anarcho-communism and that its moral principles could as easily be derived from reason as from God.

(LCW) There is so much wrong with that last statement. It is one thing to say that communism is a reasoned argument for anarchism in any guise, and I simply don’t see the validity without a lot of credible evidence to back it up, which I have not as yet seen. While communism and religion have quite a bit in common, enough to create a high degree of skepticism, those similarities would tend to be in direct conflict with the concepts of individuality, mutualism, freedom, or any non-violent paradigm.

(RK) Kropotkin’s final school, literary anarchism, was by his own admission hardly a school at all, but a collection of intellectuals and artists – including J.S. Mill, Richard Wagner, and Heinrich Ibsen – whose outpourings illustrated the receptiveness of the cultural elite to anarchist ideas. In other words, literary anarchism was an indication of the interpenetration of anarchist ideas with advanced thought.

(LCW) I find it highly curious, as well as suspicious, that any movement that repudiates any kind of control or authority would have any fundamental interest in some ‘cultural elite’ perspective. I would think it would be anathema to the focus of the philosophy and ideology. While a philosophical base suggests the need for philosophers and thinkers, intellectuals are historically neither, and yet instrumental in the manipulation and control of the masses to certain political and ideological objectives.

To call it ‘advanced’ thought, when it normally represents only a very limited and usually strategic and biased perspective is more than a little bit disingenuous. What legitimacy and credibility do these elites have when they are determined and promoted by yet another specific segment of the social order that often uses these elites in propaganda and educational indoctrination to achieve political and highly abstract and quixotic agendas that invariably don’t end well?

(RK) Subsequent writers have considerably extended and modified Kropotkin’s classification. Rudolf Rocker represented anarchism as an evolutionary system of thought. Whilst he accepted Kropotkin’s idea that anarchist schools were based, at least in part, on a range of different ‘economic assumptions as to the means of safeguarding a free community’, he also suggested that they collectively described a progressive movement in thinking.

Tracing the evolution of anarchism, he believed that there had been a shift from individualism to collectivism and communism culminating in yet another school of thought: anarcho-syndicalism. This school inherited from collectivism and communism a concern to liberate industrial and rural workers from economic exploitation.

(LCW) This sounds more like a ‘coup’ of sorts, where the collectivist, being the historical parasite that it has exhibited itself to be, is simply co-opting yet another movement for their own specific and distinct objectives. The collectivist, by nature, does not cooperate or negotiate, but only directs and coerces others to their own hubristic ends. They are always involved in any new movements, insidious in their presence, intolerant of disagreement, and focused on their own confidence in the historical inevitability of their success. I find that more than a bit off-putting and threatening in essence.

(RK) What was distinctive about anarcho-syndicalism is that it linked the workers’ struggle directly to post-revolutionary organization. Co-operating in unions, or syndicates, workers were organized both to fight against employers and to develop the skills required for them to assume direct control of their factories, workshops, and land. In other words, syndicalist – or union – organizations were intended to provide a framework for anarchy.

(LCW) I think that you make a point that needs to be explored. This ‘co-operation’ that is mentioned is not between ‘all’ individuals and not even the majority of anarchists but rather only within these authoritative and hierarchical organizations such as unions and syndicates, and all the members of the community were not ‘invited’ to join, only workers that could be directed towards specific goals not necessarily of their own design.

The narrative goes on to speak of ‘fighting’ against employers and assuming ‘direct’ control of factories, etc. I presume that includes even the good employers. This has always been a focus of attention for me, this inclusivity for the ire and hatred of the collectivist. Every ‘employer’ seems to be painted as evil when we know that is simply not true, and when the proletariat takes over they assume the role of the employer which seems hypocritical and contradictory.

With the presence of hundreds of schisms within the anarchist paradigm, who exactly was making the determinations as to what constituted the skills required? Who was to make the decisions as to the running of the factories, the workshops, and the land? I have yet to hear some grandiose plan whereby all of the participants get to be an integral part of the decisions that will have to be debated and concluded, only that it will all happen in some mystical sense, with something akin to a democratic environment, never to be clarified or demonstrated.

It is quite obvious that this will require some level of authority to be able to accomplish such an ambitious result, but the fact that the ‘state’ or an overriding authority has been determined to be a major part of the threat to the anarchistic vision, it seems a distinct threat to the credibility and legitimacy of the movement itself if used to deliver consensus.

(RK) Aligning himself more closely to Kropotkin than Rocker, Nicolas Walter preferred to see the schools of thought as alternatives rather than aspects of a single idea. However, he questioned Kropotkin’s inclusion of individualism (or what he called libertarianism) in anarchism and added syndicalism and another new category – philosophical anarchism – to Kropotkin’s original list. This category, Walter argued, appeared in the 1840s, but its most famous modern statement is Robert Paul Wolff’s In Defense of Anarchism.

(LCW) I feel compelled to ask an inconvenient question. Alternatives to what exactly? There doesn’t seem to be a definitive picture of what anarchism is, even in essence, so what do these ‘alternatives’ accomplish? You can’t have a defined concept made up of hundreds of alternatives, even if many of them hold a certain degree of relevance, significance, or validity. I see an amalgam of the elusive anarchism being defined as individualistic in nature, but communistic in reality, both of which are complete opposites in basic form, with libertarianism in the mix as well as capitalistic imperatives to the half of anarchism that believes in ‘according to ability’ as opposed to ‘according to need’.

I don’t see any real balance in the existence of all these irrefutably conflicting concepts. I see no leadership and no real consensus except in the desire to overthrow the existing forms of established leadership. I understand the wish to create an environment that would be more worker-centric, but I see little more than unsubstantiated discontent with the status quo.

The investigation of the sources of the shortcomings of contemporary authority may in fact deliver some viable alternatives. The adamant refusal to accept anything other than a complete dissolution is somewhat irrational. The criticisms of existing paradigms are little more than vague and baseless attacks from individuals that do not seem to exhibit a real understanding of the issues involved. I would like to see more honest sharing of perspectives through discussion and debate to explore options through some ‘outside-of-the-box’ thinking.

I have to admit that I am not a radical revolutionary with respect to anarchism but I find many of the positions articulated to this point in the book to be reasonable and relevant and would like to analyze and contemplate how they can be made to work without the need for this radical revolutionary mindset that seems to be one of the constants with the anarchist (mostly collectivist) philosophy.

A re-evaluation and adjustment of current realities would create the changes in a much shorter timeframe, and yet I acknowledge that this might not even be possible. The problem is that I fear that the changes envisioned by the ideology are much more complicated and contradictory that they verge on the irrational and impractical. Arguing for the sake of argument is inarguably not the path to resolution.

(RK) Wolff’s version purported to provide a ‘pure theory’ of anarchism without any consideration of ‘the material, social, or psychological conditions under which anarchism might be a feasible mode of social organization’. In other words, it identified anarchism with a commitment to individual decision-making (sometimes called private judgement) and divorced this commitment from the struggle to realize a particular socio-economic arrangement. Walter had a pithier view. Philosophical anarchism described a partial commitment to anarchy, the idea that ‘society without government was attractive ... but not really possible ... anarchism in the head but not in the heart’.

(LCW) I am having a problem with understanding exactly what is meant by this train of thought. The idea of ‘pure theory’ seems to be more an example of Utopian fantasy, and yet every attempt at new ideological paradigms through philosophical investigation invariably seems to derive from an idealistic thought process. Objectivism, capitalism, anarchism, and even the collectivist perspectives came from an evolution of thoughts and dreams. The ‘what-ifs’ and ‘what-could-be’s’ of existence. God and religion were as well, but let’s not bring that canard into the conversation.

Having said that, a pure theory is a legitimate genesis for credible and relevant discussion. I appreciate the position that identifies anarchism with a commitment to individual decision-making. My own philosophical positions rely heavily on the concept of self-determination. This does not mean without the input of other individuals, but only that final decisions and conclusions are legitimate and compelling moreso when the final result is personally determined. In fact, I would suggest that the validity of the whole philosophy of anarchism would be so much more relevant if the socio-economics of the inevitable social structure were independent of the morality, ethics, personal character, and integrity of the individuals that would eventually make up the totality of the social reality.

Create and define the kind of individual that is envisioned as the appropriate person to populate the ideology, and the resultant behaviours and basic principles, and ‘THEN’ develop the environment and social structure that they will try to delineate and exist within, based on those philosophical imperatives. I see that as a much more reasonable path to achieving that revolutionary paradigm.

‘Anarchism is in the head and not the heart’. A substantive statement. The process of thought is through the mind, and any legitimate chance of developing an intellectual structure that will evolve with time into some relevant and valid system will necessarily come through the mind. I have always thought the heart is wildly uncooperative with the mind, and while it adds emotion and feelings, perhaps we should characterize them as intuition, it can be instrumental in softening the expectations and ‘rounding’ the corners of the ideology, but allowing the heart to have control of anything often results in the destruction of that which was desired.

Unthinking desire and love can create something wonderful and imaginative, but without direction often results in sadness and regret. Unrestricted love can also result in enmity, hatred, and vengeance. The opposite of the intent and expectation of any legitimate social paradigm.

Let the mind be the cruise director while the heart can be an advisor as to direction and destination. The symbiotic relationship between the two can create inevitable success or irrefutable failure. There is a hierarchy even within ourselves, as there must be within our society. Without it, there can be no template for success, while when it exists, there can be a determined, resolute, and achievable objective.

(RK) What emerges from these treatments of anarchism? At first glance, the answer seems to be very little. In the matrix below some of the common typologies have been mapped onto the classical thinkers who have been identified by different writers with particular schools. Though there is some commonality in the table, what emerges from this matrix is a picture of confusion. The tendency of each new generation of writers is to have expanded the number of anarchist schools and to have redefined their membership, making the boundaries between schools increasingly diffuse.

(LCW) A picture of confusion. Chaos. Anarchism. A recipe for frustration and ineptitude. New generations, new writers, expansion of schools, and specificity of thought. Dismiss the old, whether they be weeks or centuries old, and simply create new paradigms on a daily basis. Is that any way to create an ideology and a philosophy of life?

The lack of focus is palatable. A diffusion of ideas that results in a new paradigm for each and every independent thought. You have to understand that an inevitable result is an impossible number of alternatives. Pure unadulterated choice is no choice at all. Again, chaos. Again, anarchism. This is one of the reasons that so many equate the two. It looks to be nothing but indecision and a lack of confidence. It is up to the membership to change that particular truth and find a way to define and create a rational argument for anarchism.

(RK) Anarchist schools of thought:

The Classification of Leading Writers

                   Seymour      De Cleyre      Kropotkin      Rocker      Walter

Individualism                     Tucker         Stirner        Tucker      Godwin
                                                                   Proudhon    Read

Mutualism        Proudhon                       Proudhon                    Proudhon

Communism       Kropotkin                      Kropotkin      Godwin      Kropotkin
                                                   Malatesta                   Goldman
                                                   Reclus                       Malatesta,

Syndicalism                                      Pouget         Rocker       Pouget
                                                  Pelloutier                     Pelloutier

Collectivism                                      Bakunin        Bakunin      Bakunin

Philosophic                                                       Stirner

Christian          Tolstoy                       Tolstoy        Tolstoy


Yet for all the confusion, the analysis of anarchist schools helps to shed some light on the nature of anarchism. The significance of the analysis lies in understanding the causes of the differences between the schools rather than their detailed delineation.

(LCW) With hundreds of perspectives there are hundreds of mindsets, many more than any one individual can conceivably explore and comprehend in a normal lifetime. The nuances are many and complimentary while being contradictory. Such is the path to madness and irrelevance.

(RK) In his 1964 reader, The Anarchists, the American sociologist Irving Horowitz explained the fluidity of the boundaries between anarchist schools and their proliferation with reference to the different social, economic and political contexts in which anarchism operated. Anarchism had developed in response ‘to changing social circumstances’ and/or ‘the internal tensions and strains of doctrine’.

Horowitz identified eight historic schools of thought: utilitarian, peasant, syndicalist, collectivist, conspiratorial, communist, individualist, and pacifist anarchism to support his analysis. But he argued that his explanatory framework had an application that extended beyond this system of classification. These schools did not describe separate doctrines but alternative responses to particular historical, cultural, and political conditions.

(LCW) I believe that the fundamental problem that I am finding listening to this narrative is that the anarchist paradigm is being presented as an endless source of highly elitist individuals that, when they should be simplifying the philosophy are making it so complicated that the members have no way of defining it in conversation and debate with others, be they other ‘believers’ or those that wish to learn and understand.

This Horowitz is one of many that have already been introduced, each with another unique perspective as to what constitutes the anarchist mindset, but it is obvious that there is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ position. This is not a matter of ‘alternatives’ but a reluctance and inability to make a choice as to a distinct set of beliefs upon which to live their lives. Indecision is the path to mediocrity.

We can try to interpret this confusion as ‘diversity’ but that does not address the fact that no one knows with any degree of certitude how to depict an anarchist. Most of the ‘levels’ or schools are hopelessly in conflict with one another. Is it really that surprising that no one is comfortable with any particular perspective? Horowitz identifies eight ‘historic’ schools of thought but immediately points out that his ‘explanatory’ framework extended ‘beyond’ this system of classification, without clarification.

He makes the attempt to distance all of them from other, separate doctrines, and explains that they are ‘all’ alternative responses to particular historical, cultural, and political conditions, none of which are expanded or clarified. All of which, from my perspective, add hundreds if not thousands more of other diverse points of view, the vast majority of which are subjective in nature, and cannot be codified or verified in any way.

I am not sure how this affects the faithful members of the philosophy of anarchism, but I fail to see how they can understand the narrative any more than I do, with almost as many viewpoints as members. I don’t think that it is practical or reasonable to expect the rank and file to be individuals that can assimilate or comprehend the myriad of positions that cannot be logically and intellectually related in some legitimate way.

(RK) Horowitz’s approach helps to explain why the same anarchist can be classified by others in completely different ways and it makes sense, for example, of the difference between Kropotkin’s and Voltairine de Cleyre’s conception of individualism. Kropotkin’s immersion in Continental European philosophy suggested that anarchists like Voltairine de Cleyre were mutualists, not individualists. With her background in American radicalism and dissent, she classed herself as an individualist.

(LCW) I am trying to follow the train of thought but if anarchists are arbitrarily ‘classifying’ one another in ‘completely different ways’ then what chance does the non-anarchist have in any attempt in communicating with the anarchist ideology? Your example shows exactly that. Assumptions are made towards de Cleyre that are illegitimate. She can only be termed what she decides she is, and nothing else. Anything else is disrespecting her autonomy and personal conclusions.

Again, I thought these things were fundamentally anarchistic. Because of this, the credibility of some kind of established relevance of an anarchist philosophy is tenuous at best and irrational at worst. If any other anarchist (who has no idea of who and what I really am) can label me something that I passionately do not believe myself to be then what chance do I have in disseminating my own personal perspective to others? It is simply not possible.

This contradiction keeps resurfacing in the comments. The anarchist ‘intellectuals’ fail at defining anarchism in a relevant and consistent manner so they create yet another alternative to try and give legitimacy to the philosophy but are, in effect, watering down the ideology to the point of insignificance.

How does one discuss and debate when whatever is contributed to the conversation can be negated by the simple reference to any number of other individuals that have proposed multiple possibilities? The frustrating part is that none of them define anarchism in a way that can easily be understood and therefore adopted by the membership that is looking for such a paradigm. Self-defeating and self-destructive.

(RK) The emergence of new anarchist schools can also be explained by drawing on Horowitz’s model. One of the striking features of much contemporary anarchism is the conviction that political and cultural conditions have altered so radically in the course of the twentieth century that the traditional schools of thought – those listed in the table – have become outmoded. As a result, as Horowitz suggests, anarchists who associate themselves with new schools believe that the struggles of the past must be jettisoned so that the challenges of the present can be confronted.

(LCW) I watch in horror as the old is thrown away to make way for the new even as we realize that the old was never even able to determine and define what constituted the old, with even less credibility for whatever can be considered the ‘new’. The incompetence is incomprehensible. If there was no fundamental rational reasoning for the creation of anarchism in the past, if it can be discarded so easily, I have to question if there was anything there of substance to begin with. This is what Rand would have called ‘acting on a whim’ and is a completely illegitimate basis upon which to build an ideology or a philosophy.

And yet another reference to creating even more ‘new anarchist schools’ jumps back into the narrative. I think there comes a time when some kind of organizational consolidation is necessary to retain a credible and substantive concept of anarchism. Is it whatever someone wants it to be, or are there some fundamentals that cannot be denied? Besides the immature compulsive desire to destroy authority and structure, I don’t see any.

What does the modern-day perspective declare? Only the ‘conviction that political and cultural conditions . . . . . traditional schools of thought . . . . . have become outdated’. All of this ‘without’ any explanation. What has radically changed during the course of the twentieth century? Is it the inability of the individuals to comprehend technology? Do they understand the distinctions between evolution, progress, the inevitability of change, and the objectives of true freedom?

Horowitz with his ‘the struggles of the past (that have yet to be defined or an attempt made to create change) must be jettisoned so that the challenges of the future can be confronted’ illustrates an inability to think on so many levels. It is rhetoric of the most ignorant kind.

Slogans that will accomplish nothing except create more self-destructive chaos as it creates conflict between the old and the new, without any obligation or responsibility to articulate what is necessary and particularly why. The ‘old guard’ has not even had the time to fail with their philosophy before the ‘new guard’ is coming up with alternatives that are not structurally demonstrable nor philosophically validated, much the same as the original ideas about anarchism. A recipe for disaster.

In all good conscience I can’t accept an ideology that is in such disarray. I do however see many things that make sense and they will be assimilated and adopted into my own objectivist, individualist, anarchist, capitalistic, and collectivist philosophy. I don’t self-label as any of these things in the macro, but acknowledge them all in the micro. In essence, I am all of these things, even with a ‘pinch’ of communism, libertarianism, and socialism in the mix, and yet none of them.

I am what I consider a true independent and determine my own ideology. At least I feel comfortable and competent to explain and reasonably argue my own perspective. I need nothing from posturing academics and wannabe philosophers. Perhaps that is an alternative that more individuals should consider when going forward. I think it dovetails quite rationally with much of what I hear you purport to be anarchistic thought. There is way too much diversity and conflict with all of them as a single entity.

The individual at some point has to decide how to live their lives and not realize when they are 90 that they wasted their lives trying to determine the correct usage of the term anarchist and put the time and effort into determining what is important today, and to assimilate it into their everyday thoughts and actions.

Have a conversation with others to create an evolution of thought and philosophy towards what they want, personally, and then work on finding the integrity to exhibit to the world exactly who and what you are. I could not care less which philosophy is chosen, only that they are individuals of character, integrity, morally consistent, and ethically resolute. These are the people that I wish to live among, and none other.

(RK) The main thrust of new anarchist thinking is the belief that the struggle by workers for economic emancipation no longer holds the key to anarchist revolution. The social ecology of Murray Bookchin, a major trend in new anarchism, is based on the belief that the transformation of Western European societies in the late twentieth century no longer allows ‘revolutionary consciousness [to] be developed ... around the issue of wage labor versus capital’. The ‘twenty-first-century’ anarchism discussed by Jon Purkis and James Bowen follows Bookchin’s lead. Anarchism, they argue:

... is firmly rooted in the here and now ... The terrains of theory and
action has changed, and now there are generations of activists
operating in many fields of protest for whom the works of
Kropotkin, Malatesta, and Bakunin are as distant ... as the literary
classics of ... Charles Dickens. The industrial age from which
anarchism emerged operated on very different temporal and spatial
levels from the present one, spawning political movements that
addressed mostly issues of economic injustice and the instrumentalism
of making sure that everyone had enough to eat. The dominant
anarchist political vision of change was an insurrectionary one (the
Revolution, on the barricades) ...
Modern anarchism has long since needed a major overhaul ...

(LCW) I find it hard not to agree in principle with what is said here, albeit I find it difficult to say with any certainty exactly what they are trying to portray. It is obvious that we cannot live in the realities of the 18th and 19th centuries. The pace of technology and all of the sciences are moving forward at such a pace that is unprecedented in the history of our species.

I would question this idea of living in the here and now since that is displaced by what happens tomorrow. Living in the here and now often exhibits a tremendous amount of irrational self-interest and personal benefit that is counter-productive to the achievement of the proclaimed objectives of the anarchist community. There is a disturbing lack of vision in the sense of building for the future. Many individuals comment that the newer generations are easily distracted and wish for immediate gratification. A movement cannot survive a membership that demands immediate results to historical imperatives that will take at least generations to culminate in the change desired.

There is a quote, a proverb, attributed to ancient Greece, although not without some skepticism as to the true source, but in this instance remains relevant. The saying is that:

‘A society grows great when old men plant trees
in whose shade they know they shall never sit’

Any paradigm that is so short-sighted that this sense of immediacy is the focus of the movement will never find success, satisfaction, or peace. Change is the showing of respect for those that have come before us, and we act with a resolute integrity to envision a future that will bring peace and harmony to us all. It is so selfish to disrespect the past and disregard the future as we scramble to create immediate personal comfort in the present.

After introducing all of these personalities that have been making the attempt to define anarchism over the last couple of centuries, you introduce those that have dismissed them and moved on, perhaps referencing them at times, but confident (arguably) in their ability to discern more today, in a much more complicated social paradigm, then those that have gone before. I find that not only disrespectful of their efforts but dangerous since I passionately believe that Santayana was prophetic in his quip that “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” (The Life of Reason, 1905.)

I find the rush to judgment and application of new and untried and unproven concepts can be precipitous and dangerous for the anarchist ideology. There must be a focus that demands specificity, and it must be deliberative, which takes considered thought and debate. Without these things, there can be nothing of significance accomplished, with only fleeting value and substance which in the long run results in little validity or legitimacy.

I agree wholeheartedly, especially in light of what I have been absorbing from this text that anarchism is in need of a considerable re-evaluation. The intent and expectations to improve the economic situation and provide something to eat for everyone was well-founded and a legitimate concern.

The irrationality of refusing to accept and acknowledge that tremendous advances have been accomplished because of the industrial revolution and the introduction of capitalism is also irrefutable so it calls into question the legitimacy of the attempt. Any metric that you wish to compare from the 18th century against today shows evidence that without exception, the vast majority of citizens, and workers in general, have taken a giant leap forward. The fact that so much more can be done is inarguable. To say that this is not true is ignorant and demonstrable.

Extreme poverty has been reduced from 1820 to today from 76% to 10%. The metrics may be arguable but the reality is not. Drastic and appreciable difference. Infant mortality in 1820 was 46% by the age of five, whereas today it is under a single percent. Life expectancy went from 26 to 73. By almost any metric, today we enjoy a tremendous advantage over what existed just two hundred years ago.

Many of these items are interrelated, and some are politically and ideologically motivated. I have neither the patience nor the ability to find all of the items that I would have liked. And yet, I still feel confident that it is demonstrable that contemporary life in every respect is superior to the past, and the industrial revolution and capitalism are intrinsically responsible for that result.

That is not to say that so much more needs to be done but to argue that capitalism is the root cause of what remains to be addressed and confronted is ignorant and simply inaccurate. My conclusions tend to determine that most of what demands attention are politically and philosophically motivated actions by individuals that are irreparably corrupt and self-absorbed. I find little that is claimed by politicians to be valid in the long run, so I am more in agreement with the anarchist mindset than against it.

The philosophically and morally corrupt, those that are devoid of any real interest in the reduction of the social challenges that confront us daily, are the true obstacles to any kind of resolution within the political and economic fields. It is difficult to argue that these two systems repeatedly interact on an inappropriate level to advantage only themselves and their ideologies.

The question is if anarchism is truly of the mindset to resist the temptations of self-gratification and ideological relevance and to focus on the actions that will bring about appreciable and fundamental changes to produce a legitimate transformation within our society. I am not privy to what other people realy think.

I can only control my own actions and develop my own thoughts and try to communicate these things to anyone and everyone that is willing to listen. I cannot change anything on my own. Nor can anyone else. Together it is a possibility if enough people agree and have the courage and integrity. If not, then corruption wins, everyone else loses, and the status quo remains insurmountable. If the philosophy does not address this and promote appropriate behaviour, then the value of the ideology is moot, less than useless, and historically impotent. All the posturing and rhetoric end up as wasted time, wasted words, and wasted effort.

(RK) Treading a similar path, John Zerzan, America’s leading anarchoprimitivist, identifies the fundamental shift in anarchist thinking from ‘traditional, production/progress-embracing outlook, toward the primitivist critique or vision and its Luddite/feminist/decentralization/ anti-civilization aspects’. John Moore, who also situated himself in this school, argued that primitivism ‘critiques the totality of civilization from an anarchist perspective’ and, in contrast to traditional leftists, primitivists did not ‘worship the abstraction called “the proletariat”’.

(LCW) I have difficulty interpreting the primitivist (anarcho or otherwise) as anything more than a distraction and an irrelevancy. The practicality and relevance of a movement based on an anti-technology centrist non-forward-thinking paradigm are dead on arrival. The inability to perceive and create new outlets and opportunities as society relentlessly moves forward is a self-destructive imperative. I see nothing of relevance or legitimacy with their perspective. Intriguing and insightful at times, but impractical and undesirable.

An ideology based on total decentralization and anti-civilization leave us with what? An existence scrounging around in the dirt, in a survival of the fittest and the strongest, inevitably resulting in an authoritarian or totalitarian presence with no possibility of anything other than a minimal subsistence at best? A paradigm eventually based on a master and slave reality and a non-sequitur in relation to all the valid and substantial concepts produced by other schools of anarchist thought? I find it difficult to even seriously consider such an obviously incompetent suggested mode of existence.

(RK) ‘New’ anarchists are no more homogeneous in their response to these changes than their predecessors were in their treatment of class struggle. Indeed, new anarchists have little regard for each other and often profess a deep antipathy for each other’s work (primitivists like Bob Black have been involved in very public disputes with Bookchin, as well as with ‘old’ style thinkers like Chomsky). Moreover, they point to a range of different sources of inspiration in developing their views.

Writers like Bookchin have taken inspiration from the rise of the New Left and second-wave feminism to explain the apparent redundancy of old anarchism. His social ecology has developed from a desire to probe the relationship posited by Marx between industrial development and political progress and from a concern to uncover the atomizing effects of the liberal market. Social ecology is about personal identity, the quality of the natural environment, and building community in a way that allows individuals to live in harmony with each other and with nature.

(LCW) The acknowledgment that the commonality and cooperation that was to be the bedrock of anarchism is refuted by the fact that the point is made that ‘new anarchists have little regard for each other and often profess a deep antipathy for each other’s work’. Does this not proclaim the experiment of anarchism to be a failure? What is actually being accomplished by the community? Is there actually a community in anything other than theory?

The existence of a myriad of hubristic self-absorbed individuals that represent such small segments of the anarchist mindset is in itself a major obstacle to any progress within the larger community. Self-proclaimed speakers and leaders within a supposedly leaderless social movement, not to mention speakers that fail repeatedly to give a concise definition of the concept of anarchism itself.

Another example of a paradigm that rejects authority on any level illustrates that without authority there can be no leadership, no structure, and no manifesto of intent and expectation. A Utopian ship with no sails (or motor) and no rudder. They are not really sure where it came from and they haven’t a clue where it is going. A movement that refuses to follow the lead of anyone else, and that spells disaster in trying to achieve consensus or even simple cooperation.

I find Bookchin interminably confusing. Perhaps I need to do some further research but his ‘social ecology’ or eco-anarchism lacks a certain consistency, but then again, my interpretation of most socialists tends to that conclusion.

I applaud his comments on personal identity and strongly identify with the protection of the environment and ‘building’ community which allows the individual to live in harmony with each other and nature, but the socialist mindset is to direct and not to persuade or convince others of the legitimacy of their vision for the future. They are closed-minded to different perspectives and adamant in their convictions. Not particularly bad attributes when controlled and defined, but challenging when used as a weapon. But infinitely superior to the communist positions.

(RK) The inspiration for Purkis’s and Bowen’s anarchism celebrates philosophies that revel in the ‘breakdown of absolute and mechanistic interpretations of society’, drawing anarchism to postmodernism, chaos theory, ecologism, and feminist post-structuralism.

(LCW) What is anarchism suggesting if it is against anything contemporary or modern as the postmodernism position implies? They reject any specific definition of ‘art’ which I fail to see any relevance in, to begin with, and reject outright any grandiose theories or ideologies, which I would assume then includes anarchism as well. There is an obvious incompatibility with almost anyone or any other ideology simultaneously. Self-destructive. I find it amusing that the postmodernist resists encompassing ‘theories’ but accepts and supports chaos theory. The lack of consistency again diminishes the value of that particular anarchist philosophy.

Anarchism has no monopoly on the concern for the environment The fact that what represents anarchism invariably joins forces with coercive and authoritative social movements only detracts once again from its own validity and legitimacy. The concept of the individual making up their own mind conflicts deeply with ‘someone else’ determining what is appropriate for the planetary ecosystem without dictating terms and actions.

Do we get the entire planet to ‘vote’ on every single issue, or do we hire representatives to vote in our stead? If you are against existing authoritative models, does that mean you are for authority and the state and just don’t like the existing models, or that only you and your specific little enclaves of philosophers and academics should be in some irrevocable position of power over the rest of us to implement and manage specific and personal positions of their own? I am more than a little bit concerned over the possibility of yet another example of totalitarian dictatorship and I see no alternative that is being offered to ensure that is not one of the possibilities.

(RK) Their anarchism is not as holistic as Bookchin’s and is more strongly centered on the individual than the group. Moreover, it places a greater premium on the need to challenge prevailing habits and traditions of thought than it does on the necessity of remodeling the political environment. Indeed, in contrast to Bookchin who advocates the replacement of existing systems of political power with participatory, democratic forms (‘municipal government’), Purkis and Bowen see anarchism as a perpetual process of struggle that brings individuals together in complex networks of action, facilitating the expression of their differences rather than seeking finally to resolve them.

This brand of anarchism, much influenced by the work of Michel Foucault, Giles Deleuze, and Jean-François Lyotard, takes as one of its principal themes the avoidance of ‘totalizing systems’ – in both thoughts (the privileging of theories of knowledge; the search for theoretical certainty; the desire to design models for living) and in action (the imposition of rules or norms of behaviour; the formalization of patterns of organization).

(LCW) You say that Bookchin is more centered on the individual than the group but the foundation of socialism is the group with only lip service paid to the individual. How does one personify the individual in an ecological movement predicated on protecting an entire planetary environment when there is so much dissension between individuals as to cause and effect? It is tempting to follow a charismatic leader (no idea of his personality) but it is not based on the individual members of society, only the individual leader (or group) without any structured system to deal with dissension and argument.

You can talk about ‘other’ competing forms of existing political power, but you still have not been able to describe and define a simple concept like anarchism, much less a system that will allow millions if not billions of individuals to determine their own destinies not only in the personal realm but in the social paradigm as well. I hear absolutely ‘nothing’ as to that end, and until such a time as one is produced, it is nothing more than fantasy.

Municipal forms of government have existed for millennia and have not been able to control the populations of small segments of society. Without the presence of something in lieu of federal authority, what prevents one municipality from overpowering and absorbing neighboring municipalities? This democratic form you speak of, exactly how does that work, and specifically how does it work differently than the example of the federalist constitutional republic that has successfully managed a country of 330 million that derived from just 4 million citizens 250 years ago? What are the intrinsic differences between the two?

Pure ‘democracy’ has been directly responsible for the worst examples of pain and suffering over the history of the planet, from the democratically voted ability to execute whole cultures to the concept of slavery and the incarceration of millions. Pure democracy has no restrictions whatsoever, the majority rules.

When the majority has no conscious and no rational moral compass or philosophical basis, then anything goes. And whatever is voted for today can be overturned tomorrow, and there is no recourse without a substantially developed level of authority and laws and enforcement. You can talk all you want about cooperation and democracy, but with no plan to circumvent oppression, violence, and corruption, it will only be those who collect the means of power for themselves that inevitably make the decisions for the rest of us.

(RK) Primitivists have found their inspiration in Stirner’s individualism and the surrealist politics of the Situationalist International (SI) – a French neo-Marxist current of thought associated with Guy Debord and Raoul Vaneigem – that highlights the commodification, cultural repression and psychological manipulation (‘spectacle’) of individuals in capitalism. Their politics, like much new anarchism, is ecological. Yet their blending of ideas results in a brand of anarchism that disavows technology in favour of the ‘feral’: the condition of wildness, ‘or existing in a state of nature, as freely occurring animals or plants; having reverted to the wild state from domestication’. For many years, some women’s groups have complained about the denaturalization of childbirth. Primitivism offers a similar critique of modern life, but extends it to the whole experience of life, to denounce ‘civilization’:

Civilization is like a jetliner, noisy,
burning up enormous amounts of fuel ...
Civilization is like a 747, the filtered air, the muzak oozing over
the earphones, a phony sense of security, the chemical food, the
plastic trays, all the passengers sitting passively in the orderly row of
padded seats staring at Death on the movie screen ...
Civilization is like a 747, filled beyond capacity with coerced
volunteers – some in love with the velocity, most wavering at the
abyss of terror and nausea, yet still seduced by advertising and propaganda.

(LCW) Are these comments for real? Is there no manipulation in the collectivist primitivist paradigm? All ideologies propagandize and psychologically indoctrinate their members in the vision of the philosophy. As for treating their faithful as simply a commodity within the social structure, how does one argue with the sacrifice of the ‘few’ for the ‘many’ and the necessity of those of ability to produce so as to care for those in need? I would suggest that someone is not seeing the forest for the trees. The difference between individualism and collectivism is that the concepts of freedom and choice are something the individual demands while the collectivist just talks about it.

Is it not arguable that in that state of ‘feral’ existence that women will be the first to suffer? The feminist movement is impotent without the full force of law behind them. In the dog-eat-dog world of a natural environment, the male will inevitably control the narrative and the results. Not all men by any means, but a select few, as well as the parasites that history shows us feed on those in power.

We will again return to the status quo we are forced to endure as we speak. A fully rational and intellectual form of government gives them the tools to compete on the field of ideas, but in some primitive existence how does one guarantee the right to reasonableness, rationality, equality, justice, or even any form of freedom? Someone is not extending this out to the inevitable and irrefutable conclusions.

The lure of the advertising and propaganda is valid and repulsive but I find no fundamental differences between that and what the primitivists offer with their own personal brand of advertising and propaganda, intimidation and ‘persuasion’, their own coercive actions and violent response to those that disagree with them. All of that and the total rejection of presumably every single convenience and labour-saving device and service, not to mention life-saving techniques and technology.

If you really wish to do this, then simply work for a short period of time, buy some land, and go at it. Someone will come to clean up the bodies in due time. Then again, nature will probably do it for us. I fail to see the point of this kind of narrative. It is past naïve and fully in the realm of ignorance and the worst kind of existence that mankind has been fighting to overturn since our Neanderthal ancestors. Mindless.

(RK) Like postmoderns, primitivists reject systems of thought which purport to describe reality in terms of linear, progressive development. But rather than emphasizing theoretical diversity and rejecting the idea of certainty, primitivists argue that it is possible to grasp reality and to judge it. Moreover, where postmoderns look to multiple and endlessly shifting communities as a basis for anarchism, primitivists reject the possibility of realizing community in the body of the hegemon: technology.

(LCW) Where do they ‘argue’ these things? They have no narrative, certainly not one that entertains questions and disagreement. How is it possible to ‘grasp’ reality and to ‘judge’ it when judgment strongly infers certainty? Is it even possible to judge something and not believe that judgment to be ‘truth’? I think the adherents need to understand words and language before setting off on their attempt at fantasy. How can one even have a conversation with them?

I find this particular narrative to be of the fringe variety. If an ideology cannot give a consistent definition of their own philosophy, I find it highly unlikely that they will be able to ‘grasp reality’ which is something that many philosophers have tried to quantify and explain without much success. Good fodder for barroom conversations but nothing in the realm of serious investigation and certainly not legitimate discovery.

(RK) Of course, many of the currents of thought now associated with new anarchism have been as inspirational to ‘old’ anarchist schools of thought. For example, Daniel Guérin combined an anarchosyndicalist enthusiasm for workers’ control with a deep admiration for Stirnerite individualism. Nonetheless, there has undoubtedly been a shift in anarchist thinking since the 1960s. The relationship between new and old anarchist schools is represented in the diagram above.

What light does Horowitz’s framework shed on Eltzbacher’s idea that anarchism can be defined by a unifying idea? The strength of Horowitz’s approach is that it admits the possibility of such a definition whilst directing attention to the interpretative debates that have surrounded this idea. It supports Eltzbacher’s claim that anarchist schools have something in common but it divorces this claim from the legalistic analysis that Eltzbacher applied and suggests, instead, that core values might be expressed in a variety of different ways, depending on the local historical, cultural and political contexts in which they are advanced.

Moreover, it advances the examination of anarchism’s positive content. As Murray Bookchin argues, anarchism is anti-statist but cannot be defined ‘merely in terms of its opposition to the state’ and should instead be regarded as a ‘historical movement ... a social movement’ operating ‘in specific social contexts’.

(LCW) If anarchism cannot be defined with some ‘unifying idea’ then it by the larger definition cannot even be considered an ideology or philosophy. If no fundamental central concepts are shared between schisms then there exists no movement, only a random accumulation of very disparate and confused positions and perspectives. Nothing of substance, surely, with nothing tangible to identify with.

No credible evidence is presented to support the claim that they have any understanding of the historical, cultural, or political contexts. It really is unreasonable to give them any degree of validity in their perspectives.

I personally don’t have a clue as to what is regarded as a historical movement, a social movement operating in specific social contexts. There is no depiction whatsoever of these movements nor the specific social contexts that infer some substantial validity.

I would think it tempting for anyone to believe that they are a part of some ‘historical movement’ but the fact remains that if no objectives are achieved, to the point that they are not even defined or delineated, how does that legitimately get termed a ‘movement’ to begin with? Anarchism comes across at times as a tail without the required dog to wag it.

(RK) As well as helping to delineate the spaces between anarchist schools, Horowitz’s model also helps to define the parameters of anarchism in relation to other ideologies. The usefulness of his approach can be gauged by two recent boundary disputes. The first revolved around the possibility of accommodating radical Marxism (sometimes called left-libertarianism) within the anarchist fold and erupted in the late 1960s and ’70s when disaffection with Soviet communism raised the profile of anarchist ideas within the New Left.

(LCW) Isn’t this the point that I have repeatedly been making? Radical Marxism and collectivism in general repeatedly co-opt other movements and try to control and make it their own, never wavering from their communist manifesto, always with their focus on their own agenda, and yet never delivering on any of the fantasy that they offer. Do not blame the collectivists, they at least are somewhat honest in their endeavours. Blame those that are continually duped and ‘psychologically manipulated’ by an ideology with long-term intent and expectation.


         anarcho- anarchosyndicalism
         communism social ecology
         technology postmodern wilderness
         individualism situationism aestheticism

         Anarchism Old and New

The problem of libertarianism was identified by a range of anarchists, from communitarians like Murray Bookchin to individualists like George Woodcock and it acted as a catalyst for the establishment of the Anarchist International (AI). The complaint of these anarchists was that ‘the children of Marx’ (student leaders like Daniel Cohn-Bendit) were presenting ‘basically Marxist ideas as anarchism’.

(LCW) They really don’t care what you call the ideas, as long as they are communist in nature and they control the narrative. I grudgingly give them credit.

I see that clearly in all of the collectivist-related schisms that have been presented. The verbiage is strictly communist or socialist in nature and there seems to be no adoption of anything in particular from the anarchist. The ability and intent to ‘hijack’ other ideologies to use in their own prosecution of their ideals are consistent since it has little of its own intrinsic value to offer to those searching for alternate political and social realities. Especially since anarchism has such difficulty defining its own paradigm, making it easy for the collectivist ideology to co-opt much of the anarchist philosophy as its own.

(RK) George Woodcock leveled the charge against Noam Chomsky and Daniel Guérin, accusing both men of selecting ‘from anarchism those elements that may serve to diminish the contradictions in Marxist doctrines’ and ‘abandoning the elements that do not serve their purpose’. Their work enriched Marxism but impoverished anarchism.

(LCW) I find that consistent with my own interpretations and comments. It is difficult to defend an ideology when it cannot be defined. This allows many cancers to impregnate, infiltrate and assimilate and inevitably control the host.

(RK) The second dispute came to prominence in the following decade and turned on the apparent openness of anarchism to ‘anarchocapitalism’ or right-wing libertarianism. Anarcho-capitalism is no more a cohesive movement than any other school of anarchist thought. Its leading proponents, Murray Rothbard and Ayn Rand had little regard for each other’s work – indeed, Rothbard dismissed ‘aynarchism’ as an irrational and intolerant cult.

What unites anarcho-capitalists is the idea that the market is a natural form of organization in which individuals co-operate, productively, to their mutual benefit. From this starting point, Rothbard argued for the liberation of economic markets from political controls and Rand called for minimal government to protect and preserve capitalist markets. Unlike collectivist and communist schools of thought, anarcho-capitalists suggest that the market is self-regulating and that the inequalities that result from exchange can be justified.

(LCW) I find it highly disturbing that you attempt to bring the indecision and lack of confidence in one’s own ideology and make an attempt to pervert other ideologies because of it. I find no reason to misrepresent both Rand or Rothbard in this context. My experience with Rothbard is limited but I was under the impression that there was more of a relational acceptance of anarchism and not with most of what has been presented here today.

Ayn Rand never accepted any affiliation with the Libertarian Party precisely because of their adoption of anarchistic tendencies. Rand was completely against anarchism and to insinuate that she was a believer on any level is dishonest and completely without merit. She rejected anarchism as a naive theory based in subjectivism that would lead to collectivism in practice.

Her position also was that “Anarchy, as a political concept, is a naive floating abstraction: . . . a society without an organized government would be at the mercy of the first criminal who came along and who would precipitate it into the chaos of gang warfare.” This seems to confirm her feelings for anarchism, which I do not agree with in its totality, illustrating to some degree that all objectivists are not a part of some cult.

I believe that objectivism has a strong anarchistic tendency. I really don’t think that I could be a part of any system that did not entertain the ability of each individual to make their own decisions and come to their own conclusions, which to me asserts an anarchistic component that is part and parcel of being an individualist as well. This is one of the reasons that anarchism has had such difficulty in catching the imagination of so many. They have no specific and consistent template, and they invariably want everyone to be on board when they should be content with substantial membership with varied and reasoned objections and conflicts.

There has never been the slightest hint of coercion in the Objectivist paradigm. It is not about the control and manipulation through oppression and coercion of ideological members, but the cooperation of like-minded but diverse individuals that promote and support those components that dovetail with their own beliefs, while agreeing to disagree with many other aspects. This imperfect amalgam of beliefs, within the context of people that are open-minded and do not demand unquestioned acquiescence, creates an environment that welcomes a greater philosophical base and more members that can work together, across different belief structures, and yet still work in tandem towards common goals. Not all goals, but those where consensus is apparent. This works far better than someone dictating some vague ‘greater good’ where direction and purpose come from some outside influence.

Individuals working together to productively cooperate to a mutual benefit has nothing to do with anarcho-capitalism. That is objective capitalism. If they wish to attempt a similar end result that is their right, and there is an anarchistic aspect when disparate individuals work together to common objectives. I find no conflict with everyone believing in the market and making a completely voluntary rational agreement to trade and interact with others on basically any and all levels. I find it to be a natural progression between individuals.

(RK) The boundary problem identified by left-leaning anarchists in the 1980s turned on the association between anarcho-capitalism and the doctrine ‘rolling back the state’ adopted by Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher. ‘Aynarchism’ was most easily linked to this platform, not least because Randian libertarians worked with the Reagan administration – notably Alan Greenspan who was appointed in 1987 as chair of the US Federal Reserve.

(LCW) I find a fundamental flaw in the presentation of the various perspectives of these anarchists that are being held up as examples of what anarchism ‘is’ while I have to question if they do not represent what anarchism ‘is not’. You have confirmed beyond any contradictions that there may well be nothing that can be defined as anarchist because of the myriad of positions taken and the conflict evident at every turn.

After all of the gesticulations and lamenting that no one is understanding or listening to them, or in agreement in any tangible form, a courageous and innovative alternative comes upon the world stage, for which these players (Reagan et al) received much criticism and even condemnation, and do they (anarchists) make an effort to even attempt some half-hearted level of cooperation and debate on what else may be available to the powers that be, and the pouting powers that may never be?

No. A decision is made to summarily dismiss an opportunity to be a part of a historical change but invariably it is a case of it having to be done the anarchist way, or there will be a price to pay. Perhaps this is why the anarchist ideology continues to flounder with neither direction nor definition. Inevitably, there will be no anarchist society in any real sense of the concept except in the desires and Utopian fantasies of those that simply cannot interact with other individuals, even when they are saying something that may in fact be of value to both sides.

The irony is that the anarchist says that the ideology is based on individuals coming together to make decisions that cannot be left to that repugnant ‘state’ but they illustrate just how difficult it is for anarchists to organically come together to achieve mutual benefit through mutual agreement. Anarchism itself simply confirms once again how ill-prepared they are to enact or implement an undertaking of any great magnitude such as the management of a social system within the context of a country.

The complexity and multitude of these schools of thought are daunting, to say the least, and I am confident that there were individuals that were open to having that conversation, but were drowned out by the sheer numbers that simply refuse to adapt or adjust, debate or even simply to discuss the issues with those that are not in ‘complete’ and ‘unconditional’ accord. The problem is that there are no concessions or compromises, no openness to positions different than mainstream anarchism (whatever that may actually be), and that remains undefinable so therefore unintelligible.

How does one expect to be accepted as legitimate or equal if no one can comprehend your expectations and intentions, with the exception of the interpretation that the anarchist is for nothing more than chaos, violence, destruction, and confrontation? They don’t even seem to know for themselves. Which makes it difficult for individuals to open their minds and hearts to those that refuse to do the same in return. I think that is something that needs to be contemplated within the anarchist philosophical circles. Actually, all anarchists need to put some time and effort into these issues for their own confidence and credibility.

Just for the record, there can be no animal known as a Randian libertarian. This is not to say that you cannot think of yourself as a ‘Randian’ (although I know of no self-respecting objectivist who would do so) because the libertarians refuse to recognize Rand as one of their own, and she outright rejects the libertarian positions.

It is bad enough when someone who knows little or nothing about you tries to label you, but even worse when you are not capable of defining yourself. I think that is where we are with the anarchists as well. As for the concept of ‘Aynarchism’ it is an absurdity and irresponsible, irrational, and just foolish without some minimal evidence of anything resembling such an idea.

Greenspan and Reagan, as well as Thatcher and those like Paul Ryan who get thrown into the mix repeatedly, to the best of my knowledge, were not in any real sense objectivists. While it is true that Greenspan was a member of her small group known as (tongue-in-cheek) the ‘collective’, I have no first-hand knowledge that he ever claimed to be an objectivist. None of them did, but the opposition to Rand is happy to use them as ammunition against her, even though the legitimacy is highly suspect.

Both objectivists and anarchists need to talk about ‘their’ philosophies and articulate what it is that defines them and how it can be used to bring about changes for the better within the society. This incessant ignorant bickering from those that know little if anything about the ideologies and certainly not the philosophies needs to be put on ‘mute’. I say this knowing quite well that this is simply not possible and probably not going to happen.

The freedom to speak in this country ensures that they will be given the opportunity to ‘hate’ while those who actually have some insight and experience with the movements will be censored, minimized, and relegated to a quiet existence, and will be stifled and shut down at every opportunity. Such is the greatest weakness in the ‘Constitutional Republic’. It allows the essence of its own destruction to be freely and openly exhibited and disseminated while it does nothing to ensure the proponents of their own inherent rights.

(RK) In contrast, Rothbard was highly critical of the administration and ridiculed the suggestion that the Reagan revolution to ‘get government off our backs’ expressed an anarcho-capitalist view.

(LCW) I feel compelled to ask the question ‘what is wrong with that?’ Is there not an anarcho-capitalist school of thought in anarchism circles, or is that simply to show some superficial inclusiveness that they never intended to take seriously? Do anarchists ask themselves any such questions? Do they interrogate themselves as to intent and expectations? Is there a relatable morality when it comes to anarchism, or is it in the same disarray as to their own definition of self?

(RK) But as John P. Clark notes, both versions of anarcho-capitalism had a historic root in anarchist thought, particularly in America: Benjamin Tucker, one of Eltzbacher’s classical anarchists, had argued that ‘[a]narchism is consistent with Manchesterism’ (or laissez-faire economics) and, at least in his early work, had defended the equal individual right to property. Indeed, Clark concluded, there were no clear boundaries between anarcho-capitalism and anarchist individualism.

(LCW) I see no clear boundaries anywhere within the anarchist ideology. It seems that there is an anarchist for any other social/political/economic platform somewhere, so as to be able to say that anarchism believes these things to be true as well, no matter how incomprehensible and contradictory they may be.

So the traditional anarchist champion thinks laissez-faire economics was a legitimate position, as well as rights for individuals to own property? I must say that I appreciate and support these historical insights into the essence of anarchism but it makes me wonder why this legitimate perspective has gone and where all the coercion and oppression attributed to anarchism came from. I would suggest that perhaps, just maybe, anarchism has a few too many ‘chiefs’ to present a legitimate and viable alternative.

(RK) A good number of anarchists find this conclusion unpalatable. José Pérez Adán argues the individualist case, representing what he calls reformist anarchism and anarcho-capitalism (particularly its Randian variant) as two distinct moral systems.

(LCW) I find no conflict that there may have been two distinct moral systems, only that there is no acceptance or acknowledgment of dissimilar perspectives. Is the anarchist paradigm so closed-minded that they only accept unconditional solidarity, even in the absence of anything to suggest such solidarity? From what you have presented to this point, the ideology consists of many more questions than answers. This is not the way to legitimately increase one’s base and intellectual standing within the competing spheres of influence that will eventually represent the anarchist paradigm to society and explain their new pathway to the future.

(RK) Peter Marshall takes a broader view but arrives at a similar conclusion. Anarchocapitalists, he argues, prioritize self-interest and market rationality over voluntary co-operation and mutual support, alienating traditional anarchist individualists as well as anarcho-communists. He concludes, ‘few anarchists would accept the “anarcho-capitalists” into the anarchists' camp’.

(LCW) I immediately see the predictable attack on capitalism that, as an objectivist, is ever-present in the criticisms of the ideology. There is no prioritization of ‘self-interest’ over cooperation and mutual support and I challenge anyone to show me this kind of position in any legitimate literature in either paradigm (capitalism or objectivism).

The lack of confidence and competence that refuses to investigate and explore the truth of such an ignorant statement only diminishes the legitimacy that the movement seems to be perpetually striving for. Objectivism, and from what I have been able to unearth in researching capitalism itself, simply does not promote self-interest, per se, in any actions. It is ‘not’ intrinsic to the philosophy.

Rational self-interest is another matter but few people can seem to get past the label and make an honest effort to understand the concept. Of course, no one in their right mind would do something that is not in their own interests, but that is a completely different issue. Does the anarchist wish to pay $50 for an item that is marked $10? Does anyone? I think not.

Do these systems, these ideologies, these philosophies, promote or support the taking advantage of other individuals in the course of transacting business with others? I have never, at any time, and in any form, seen such an accusation that was not from the mouth of someone with a personal and ‘self-interested’ agenda, for whatever reason, to demean and condemn these systems.

Not that these systems are demonstrably bad for any particular reason, but only because they ‘believe’ or they ‘know’ or they have a ‘feeling’ that they are bad. Never any proof, no facts, no credible evidence, no examples that the system was ‘designed’ to be abused and perverted, only that since it is, it must be the system, never acknowledging that it just may have been bad people, inappropriate individuals that are corrupt and without morality or compassion or empathy for others that use whatever they can to attain whatever they can, for no other reason than they want it, irrespective if they earned it or deserve it (although they always think they deserve it) or actually put in the time and the effort to produce a positive result.

Objectivism and capitalism are built expressly upon the fundamental belief that ‘mutual benefit comes through mutual agreement’. Not ‘my’ agreement to whatever irrational result ‘you’ envision, but that which I have determined to have validity and integrity and yes, morality. If that is what the anarchist believes, then why don’t they live a paradigm that reflects such a result instead of complaining and refusing to ‘accept’ the anarcho-capitalist into the anarchist ‘camp’?

Please educate me as to how and who makes that distinction and the final decision on who to allow and who to reject. Is that not the responsibility of the individual anarchist to do so? I find this kind of narrative more to the liking of collectivists and liberals, preferring the telling of others what to do, instead of allowing them, persuading them, as to the direction and expectations of the whole, through a focused and egalitarian system of debate and discussion.

There is no place in my own paradigm for coercion (the exclusion of coercion in all aspects of individual interaction is yet another fundamental axiom of objectivism). I reject authoritarianism and especially totalitarianism or dictatorship. What is the position of the fundamental anarchist when it comes to the use of force in the everyday dealings between individuals? Is it OK for an individual to coerce another to their own positions based solely on a belief that they are right, and the other is wrong? Does reason or truth or fact come into play at any time? Is the concept of individual freedom of any consequence in the paradigm of the anarchist?

I find many of your schools of thought to be inarguably aggressive and intolerant to those that don’t agree with them. I was thinking more of a cooperative effort between independent individuals, without bias and open to possibilities that may not have been evident to them. That is what I interpreted the intrinsic belief of anarchism to be. I may be mistaken, but I have spent a lot of time attempting to articulate my own position, hearing more whining from these anarchistic ‘schools of thought’ than an objective articulation of viable alternatives to the future of all individuals.

The statement that the capitalist (I have no real comprehension of what the anarcho-capitalist actually represents) believes in ‘market rationality over voluntary co-operation and mutual support’ is a complete fabrication of the reality of both capitalism and objectivism. The bedrock of both ideologies is the complete and uncoerced agreement and cooperation to the mutual benefit of ‘both’ parties involved in the trade, whatever that may be.

This is with ‘no’ exceptions. If either, or both, do not believe the activity or contract is appropriate (all transactions are contracts between the parties) then they have the total freedom to walk away from the negotiations, uncoerced and available for some other opportunity to present itself in the future. I am perpetually perplexed that opponents of these philosophies cannot comprehend such a simple and specific concept.

While some capitalists are preoccupied with some irrational self-interest (as opposed to a rational self-interest) and view the transaction as a one-sided activity, that ‘is not’ what capitalism and objectivism are predicated upon. All individuals are free to believe what they will, no matter how uninformed and biased they are against the factual circumstances, but that gives them no credibility or legitimacy whatsoever.

(RK) The blurring of the boundaries between anarchism and Marxism on the one hand, and liberalism on the other, has so disturbed some anarchists that they have attempted to define anarchism in a manner which marginalizes those schools deemed too close to the competing ideology.

For example, in her dispute with George Woodcock, Marie Fleming argued that Woodcock emphasized the importance of antistatism in anarchism precisely because he wanted to distinguish it from socialism. On the other side of the divide, anarcho-communists have sometimes defined anarchism as an anti-capitalist doctrine in order to divorce it from the perceived taint of individualism that anarchists like Woodcock believe to be foundational to the ideology.

(LCW) I have to admit that I am having a difficult time trying to comprehend what all of this means. So your spokesmen say and do things they really don’t mean simply to make a (personal) point that puts their own ideology in a more favorable light that otherwise may be difficult for some to assimilate? Sounds more than a little disingenuous to me.

I keep seeing the Marxist and communist perspectives offered as something predominantly more valuable and significant in relation to the greater whole of anarchism, but is that even reasonable or legitimate? They have historically been involved with the most oppressive systems of government, although they claim that it is not representative of their beliefs, and yet they have no examples otherwise.

It would do the anarchist well to reject the concept of coercion and totalitarianism when it comes to their ideology. If the Marxists cannot agree, then perhaps they should strike out on their own. I really don’t see much that they offer that is positive. The philosophies clash on so many levels that I find it uncomfortable to even entertain a credible comparison.

I just commented about the historical, traditional positions of some of your initial writers, and they believed in concepts that are emphatically rejected by any collectivist or Marxist-based ideology. They are deeply contradictory in nature. I don’t see how you can have an anarchist paradigm without the concept of individualism as a central tenet of the whole philosophy. Any philosophy that does not hold up the individual as a positive aspect cannot, in my own perspective, be considered anarchistic. Collectivism does not believe in the individual as anything but a cog in some never-defined greater good.

(RK) Horowitz’s approach to anarchist schools suggests a different response: if anarchism is defined by an opposition to the state, as Eltzbacher suggests, anarchist anti-statism can be understood to refer to a spectrum of beliefs extending towards Chomsky and ’68ers like Cohn-Bendit on one end of the spectrum and libertarians like Murray Rothbard on the other.

A number of important anarchist writers have endorsed such a view. For example, Rudolf Rocker found in anarchism ‘the confluence of the two great currents which during and since the French Revolution have found such characteristic expression in the intellectual life of Europe: Socialism and Liberalism’. Nicolas Walter suggested that anarchists were like liberals in respect of freedom and like socialists in their demand for equality.

Asked in 1995 whether he understood anarchism to be the ‘equivalent of socialism with freedom’, Chomsky echoes Rocker: anarchism draws from the ‘best of Enlightenment and classical liberal thought’. For each of these writers, the relationship of anarchism to liberalism and Marxism provides a useful route into the study of anarchist thought. History provides the most useful tool for analysing this relationship.

(LCW) These comments are going to great lengths to create similarities to schools of thought that simply don’t exist. I guess anything can be purported to be true, but you can’t offer everything to everyone. That never works, and won’t in this case either.

Is anarchism something specific and legitimate, or does it sway and accept any ‘current’ that comes along in contemporary conditions? This infers that the membership is both gullible and naïve. Does that mean that anarchy can change drastically based on what happens locally, or is it a belief system based on something significant, concrete, and demonstrable? How does one define a ‘confluence’ between two such antithetical concepts such as socialism and libertarianism? They are incompatible. One supports the ultimate state, while the other believes in an almost non-existent state.

I always thought that the anarchist was adamant for the rejection of the state, but much of what you have presented here today seems to infer something quite different. Wanting the state to be minimalist or absent from the social template is but a single aspect of a larger philosophy. Socialism has little in common with anarchism perhaps except for that one principle. They don’t believe in the individual except rhetorically, freedom is not intrinsic in historical and practical usage, they don’t believe in markets although they are trying to save a dying paradigm by espousing a hybrid version in the last decades. Initially, it was completely verboten.

They don’t believe the individual has any rights when it comes to making decisions and directing their own priorities and the lives of those they care about. While the anarchist may believe in cooperation, I don’t think they believe in someone else making any of these decisions.

The anarchist is historically self-reliant and self-sufficient and independent of any authority, making them unique and specifically autonomous within the midst of others. Socialism believes the greater good overrules and has precedence over the individual. From my perspective, there can be no greater good for the anarchist than the individual. Society is determined not by the ‘few’ but by the amalgam of the many that freely choose to work together towards common goals.

I have never found any version of socialism or any collectivist views to represent freedom in any real respect. As much as they argue that socialism demands democracy to make decisions (as the anarchists seem to do as well) I have yet to hear the structure where such an eventuality can actually work. Socialism decides for you what to do, and you do it.

What happens when an individual or group disagrees has never been clarified for me either. Their god is the common good, and the individual (also non-existent in the ideology) has to acquiesce to the whole to make the system work. Conflict and dissent are contrary to the philosophy. How this, in any way, can dovetail with a confident, competent, independent, and reasoned individual that anarchism seems to infer is beyond me.

All of the positive results that the anarchist is looking for, if you can cut away the aggressive and violence-based authoritative structures many of these schools of thought obviously represent, you have a highly compatible number of alternatives through capitalism, objectivism, and even libertarianism that could achieve these expectations without the need for any kind of coercive measures, violence or revolution which would result in inarguable chaos and therefore an opportunity to see in one’s lifetime something actually with a chance of being successful. Probably not going to happen, but it remains as a possibility.

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