Review: Anarchism and Anarchist Communism

by Peter Kropotkin (Freedom Press)

Anarchism and Anarchist Communism were first published separately in 1910 and 1887 respectively, the first in Encyclopaedia Britannica and the latter as a pair of articles in the paper The Nineteenth Century. They have since been republished numerous times; they are certainly classic texts on the philosophy and structure of anarchism.

The opening pages of Anarchism dispel the myths of society without government being chaos - "harmony in such a society [is] obtained not by submission to law, or by obedience to any authority; but by free agreements concluded between the various groups, territorial and professional, freely constituted for satisfaction of the infinite variety of needs and aspirations of a civilised being." That organisation of society in such a way is obviously more fair and equitable than the current system of land and wealth monopolisation by the capitalists, and the tyranny of the main support of that system, i.e., the State. Such and idea is not a Utopia, contends Kropotkin - no, indeed it is derived from the analysis of tendencies already beginning to emerge, such as the growth of 'free initiative' and independence in all spheres of human action.

With regard to the actuality of the idea of Anarchism, Kropotkin warns against the infusion of even more power into the state in time of change, as would be the case with a turning to 'state socialism'. In times of accelerated development, i.e. revolutionary times, we must take advantage - "not for increasing and widening the powers of the State, but for reducing them, through the organisation in every township or commune of local groups of producers and consumers, as also the regional, and eventually the international, federations of these groups."

Half of Anarchism is devoted to sketching an outline of the progression of anarchist thought, from the earliest in the shape of Zeno (Greek, 270 BC) through the early Christians and as far as those toward his own time such as Proudhon, Stirner and Bakunin. Some of this includes critique, especially of the extreme individualism of those such as Stirner.

Anarchist Communism is a far more detailed examination of the inadequacies and inequalities of capitalism versus the infinitely preferable and fair system of anarchism. It is divided into two parts, the first being critical in format and concluding that, "The means of production and of satisfaction of all needs of society, having been created by the common efforts of all, must be at the disposal of all."

The second part forms a call for the end of the wage system, to free communism, that is of the anti-authoritarian variety. Kropotkin devotes much time to giving examples of how much free association had already come into being, without interference from government and therefore a free communism is certainly a natural and likely progression for society. Further to these he gives a basic account of how anarchist self-governance occurs, through means of delegates as opposed to representatives and rulers.

This is one of the most excellent introductions to Anarchism, putting paid to the usual objections to the system, synonymous as it has become, wrongly, with disorganisation and chaos.

Roisin Dubh

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This edition is No73 published in November 2002

WS 73 front cover