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The usual anarchy symbol. A monogram of the letters A for 'Anarchy' and O for 'Order'.
Smash the state
Icon Anarchism.svg
It's not anarchy
It's anarchism!
Domestic terrorists?
I'm not a fascist, I like...
Actually fascism is cool

Anarchism is a political philosophy that aims to create a society without unjust political, economic or social hierarchies with the the goal of maximising individual liberty and social equality.[1][2]

Historically associated with the labor union movement, as many anarchists saw organized labor as being a tool for the overthrow of, what anarchists consider the "twin evils" of the state and capitalism. However, the Russian Revolution and the failure of several attempted anarchist revolutions and the active suppression of the anarchist movement throughout much of the 20th century devastated their support among organized labor.


In 1793 William Godwin published An Inquiry into Political Justice in which he presents his view of a free society based on equality and justice, alongside a critique of the government. Although he never used the term anarchism, Godwin is considered the first anarchist along with being the forebear of utilitarianism.[3] It would not be until Pierre Johnson-Proudhon published What is Property? in 1840 that the term anarchist was adopted as a self-description[4] In 1844 Max Stirner published The Ego and His Own giving birth to individualist anarchism.[5]

By the mid 19th century, a series of events shook anarchism. First in 1857 the french communist Jospeh Déjacque coined the term libertarianism[6][note 1] whose use became widespread in the late 1880s due to the anti-anarchist laws in the French Third Republic.[7] The second event was the brutal repression of the short-lived Paris CommuneWikipedia by the French Third Republic which had deep long-term philosophical effects on the nascent marxist movement.[8]

Finally, one of the biggest events was the split between anarchists and marxists, the first great split in the radical left,[note 2] with the collapse of the International Workingmen's Association in 1876.[9]

From the late 19th century to the mid 20th century, the most successful anarchist ideology was anarcho-syndicalismWikipedia. Anarcho-syndicalist organizations like the Industrial Workers of the World and Confederación Nacional del TrabajoWikipedia were founded and gained a surprising amount of membership in a relatively short amount of time and even rebounded from the First Red ScareWikipedia.[10] However from the late 1920s to the late 1930s, the anarcho-syndicalist movement would suffer from splits and suppression, finally collapsing into irrelevancy by the end of the Second World War.[11]

In the aftermath of the Second World War, the anarchist movement was weakened but would suffer a temporary revival in the New Left. However the rise of the New Right and the appropriation of anarchism by right-wingers was the most notable event of anarchist history in the second half of the 20th century.[12]


There have been several attempts at establishing an anarchist society. Here is a short list of some:

  • Revolutionary Catalonia (1936-1939)[13]
  • Korean Anarchist Manchuria (1929-1931)[14]
  • Ukrainian Free Territory (1917-1921)[15]
  • Kronstadt Rebellion (1921, lasted for 10 days!)[16]
  • Tambov Rebellion (1920-1921)[17]

Anarchists argue that these movements were crushed by fascists (Catalonia and, arguably, Japan) and communists (Ukraine, Kronstadt and Tambov) and that this is not necessarily to do with the unworkability of anarchism in so much as it is to do with the relative power of their historical enemies. A common criticism levied by more conventional Marxists is that anarchism's emphasis of the 'free individual' makes fledgling anarchist societies easy pickings as they lack the discipline to unite effectively in the face of opposition. This, in the eyes of more authoritarian Marxists, justifies crushing them as their self indulgent tendencies make them a liability to their 'comrades'.

Other layman explanations for failed anarchist revolutions include an alleged 'inherent lack of organisation'. This is somewhat lacking in both historical and theoretical merit though. Anarchist literature such as Emma Goldman's essay 'Anarchism: What It Really Stands For'[18] makes the case for anarchism on the grounds that it represents order in contrast with the chaos of capitalism and the warring nation state. While Michael Bakunin's famous boot-maker analogy offers a well-known (in anarchist circles) defence of qualified expertise:

Does it follow that I reject all authority? Far from me such a thought. In the matter of boots, I refer to the authority of the bootmaker; concerning houses, canals, or railroads, I consult that of the architect or engineer. For such or such special knowledge I apply to such or such a savant. But I allow neither the bootmaker nor the architect nor the savant to impose his authority upon me. [19]

Anarchists, at least in theory, support an organised society; Emma Goldman even went as far as to argue that Capitalism isn't organised enough. Historically, as short lived as most anarchist societies are, they have tended to exist for a period of time that would be impossible to maintain without at least some level of organisation and have in the past been able to field military forces of a reasonable size organised with delegated 'officers' for a chain of command. [20] Honorary mention of course goes to the Iron Cross a less successful anarchist militia consisting of recently freed convicts. A terrible plan that turned out exactly as you might think it would.[21]

Schools of Thought[edit]

Anarchism is commonly divided into contemporary and classical anarchism. Classical anarchism emerged out of the traditions of secular Enlightenment thought, drawing on the political and moral philosophy of Jean-Jacques Rousseau and its heavy focus on notions of freedom, justice, equality and a utopian vision of the ‘general will’ expressed through the sovereignty of people’s assemblies under direct rather than representative democracy. By contrast, contemporary anarchism rose after the Second World War and during the Cold War, inspired by the of philosophies and social critique of post-modernism, feminism, environmentalism and the neo-Marxism of the Frankfurt school, all of which have their own critiques of bourgeois society.[22]

Classical anarchism is further divided between individualist anarchism and social anarchism (or anarcho-socialism) and what distinguished the two was that social anarchism by favoring a communal solution to social problems and favoring a free society that protects individual liberty, contrasting the individualists emphasazing personal autonomy and the rational nature of human beings. Of the two, social anarchism was the most popular and widespread category of classical anarchism.[23]

The most famous tendencies of individualist anarchism were mutualism founded by Pierre-Joseph ProudhonWikipedia[24] and egoist anarchism inspired by the ideas of Max Stirner.[25]

Contemporary anarchist tendencies include anarcha-feminism (and the sub-tendency of queer anarchism) inspired by the ideas of Emma Goldman[26] and social ecology/green anarchism inspired by the ideas of Murray Bookchin[27] amongst others. Other known tendency of contemporary anarchism is anarcho-primitivism studied below.


Anarcho-primitivists is an anarchist tendency that views civilization itself, from modern labor-saving technologies to language, as an anti-ecological, hierarchical institution. They advocate the complete abolition of industry, capitalism, and even agriculture, returning to a hunter-gatherer mode of life which they argue is more leisurely, free, and in tune with nature. They believe wilderness and wildlife have a right to exist for their own sake, and therefore, endorse such a lifestyle that they see as least destructive. John Zerzan is probably the most prominent thinker of the primitivist tendency, although Bob Black also contributes greatly. The methods of how to achieve this primitive back-to-nature society are contentious. The British anarcho-primitivist magazine Green Anarchist once praised Unabomber Ted Kaczynski (arguably close to anarcho-primitivism in his views, although his manifesto was rooted far less in environmental concerns) and the Aum Shinrikyo cult in Japan who released Sarin gas in the Tokyo subway. Needless to say, most green anarchists and those of other tendencies reject anarcho-primitivism.

Curiously absent is the answer to the question of which of the 7 billion people would have to die to make this dream a reality; the simple fact is that even if we all went vegetarian, without modern farming practices and the chemical industry we simply could not grow enough food for everyone. There is a reason that Britain, which now has 60 million people, only had a few million in Medieval times yet even then people routinely starved. However, anarcho-primitivists' concerns about agriculture are not without a reason, with Desert's critiques of how permaculture is unsustainable[28] now being reality with scientists warning that UK's topsoil having 100 harvests left in them only in 2014[29] and others giving warning of 30-40 years [30] before the soil becomes difficult if not impossible to grow crops on. However, this only comes from 1 peer reviewed study that has had no calculation, prediction, or hard evidence to support that this is the case as well.[31]

Overview and Tactics[edit]

The anarchist philosophy has a variety of methods to employ. Some of these it shares with the non-violent resistance tendency, which is direct action. Direct action includes obstructive sit-ins, labor strikes, workplace occupations, street blockades and hacktivism, along with sabotage, vandalism and destruction of property. The last one is often picked up by the media to demonize protestors.[32] These are known as diversity of tacticsWikipedia which allows anarchists groups to not restrict themselves to one specific tactic for all occasions.

Violence and Terrorism[edit]

It is true that the State is not a window, but neither is it just an abstract concept. Breaking windows is not a revolutionary act and neither is any other act if taken out of context and presented as an abstraction, ignoring the intentions and strategy of those who break the windows. The State or Capital or colonialism cannot be attacked as abstractions. They can only be attacked in their material forms, their social relations and their institutions.
—Oshipeya, No action is sufficient in itself[33]

Violence is one of the many tools of the anarchist movement. However there are arguments, under the theory of diversity of tactics, what role violence plays in revolutionary actions and in the pursuit of resistance to state repression[34][35] and particularly in view of the fact that the capitalist media will demonize any violence that occurs in a protest almost to parody levels.[36]

The role of violence has become an important topic due to recent events, including the Ferguson protestsWikipedia and the fact that many leaders in the unrest were found dead years later under suspicious circumstances.[37] Examples include Darren Seals found dead in a burning car[38] and Edward Crowfard, subject of a famous photograph, being dead in an allegedly self-inflicted gun wound.[39] This also ties up with the political rise of the Alt-Right and Antifa, particularly with the argument of whether or not is ok to punch people with repugnant views.[40][41]

Terrorism is also another tactic favored by some anarchists. Based on the idea of propaganda of the deedWikipedia which is about publicizing violent actions of retaliation against the ruling class.[42] This tactic grew as a backlash against state repression towards the labor and socialist movements, such as the execution and exile of the French communardsWikipedia and the violent strike-breaking in United States.[43] Famous killings done of propaganda of the deed include:

The propaganda of the deed largely backfired. Killing specific powerful men did not brought about the collapse of capitalist society but only served to demonize the anarchist movement. By 1887 various important figures in the anarchist movement rejected this tactic[44] but it also resulted in state repression such as the Lois scélératesWikipedia("villainious laws") in the French Third Republic that banned all anarchist propaganda and the American criminal syndicalismWikipedia laws which were used to crack down "radical" labor unions.

Pacifism and non-violent resistance[edit]

For more, see below
While some anarchists have and continue espouse violent and coercive means to achieve the revolution, other rejected these methods. The anarchist attraction to pacifism is clear, as violence is seen as violent and authoritative and contrary to anarchist principles. Pacifism transcends tendencies in the anarchist movement as it was the anarcho-syndicalist Bart de Ligt that gave one of the sharpest criticism of "bourgeois pacifism" in that any attempt to make capitalism pacificistic is doomed to failure due to war profiteering.[45]

Non-violence has been historically one of the favored of anarchist groups, but even non-violent resistance is not necessarily passive. Active non-violent resistance is based on the principle of direct actionWikipedia, favored by the labor movement and the African-American civil rights movement, in which political activists leverage their power (economic, political and even social privilege) to reach certain goals. Elections are not considered to be direct action, except as a way to discredit electoral politics as political parties betray their voters in pursuit of ill-thought policies.[46]

Examples of direct action includes striking (labor strikes, rent strike, student strike, prison strike etc), squatting, sit-ins, demonstrations. It favor community organizing and spurns participating in elections and political parties.[47] Dual powerWikipedia, on the other hand, seeks to built institutions to confront and eventually replace capitalism including people's assemblies, cooperatives, credit unions, labor unions and others. Libertarian socialists favor dual power as a way of building up participatory democracy and challenge both capitalism and the state.[48][49]

Anarchism and Law Enforcement[edit]

Anarchist groups that espouse violence often tend to clash with the police.[50] In fact anarchists have a long standing critique of police forces, due that they subscribe to the idea of A.C.A.BWikipedia which is based on the idea that there's no such thing as "good cops".

Police officers have to enforce all laws including unjust laws, such as anti-homelessness legislationWikipedia, which in the United States are used to punish people for "choosing to be homeless",[51] racial segregation, home evictions, discrimination on the basis of sexuality, gender, ethnicity and creed along with dirty police tactics such as entrapmentWikipedia and racial profiling makes law enforcement as a clear agent of oppression.

Also American law enforcement has been infiltrated by white supremacists[52] and the Republican Party is welcoming white supremacists to join the military as well.[53]

Mutual Aid[edit]

The other common tactic amongst anarchist groups is mutual aidWikipedia which is based on voluntary and reciprocal exchange of resources and services, an idea that is appealing to anarchists.

When Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans, citizens and a few anarchists founded the Common Ground CollectiveWikipedia and the Common Ground Health ClinicWikipedia,[54] with the aid of various other humanitarian organizations such as Veterans for Peace, to make up for the abysmal lack of government response. It received a lot of volunteer aid from young whites, something that was noticed by the media at the time.[55]

The loose federation of collectives called Food Not BombsWikipedia is another notable mutual aid group which is a sharing franchise based on freely sharing food with others. The group has particularly involved in controversies relating to municipal bans on homeless feeding.[56] In Orlando, Florida, volunteers were arrested but the charges were later dropped.[57] In 2012 FNB provided relief in Long Island after the Superstorm Sandy,[58] and in November 2014 members were arrested for violating the feeding ban in Fort Lauderdale, Florida,[59] resulting in a media circus.[60]

In 2017 Puerto Rico was hit by Hurricane Maria[61] and once again the government was beyond useless[62] with Trump's antics being lambasted[63] and the territory being decimated by austerity policies.[64] In response an anarchist group called Mutual Aid Disaster Relief send a team to Puerto Rico[65] to help built a solar-based electric grid[66] which the local authorities have tried to undermine[67] in favor of natural gas.


National anarchism[edit]

See the main article on this topic: National anarchism

National anarchism is a batshit crazy ideology which seeks the same aims of fascism but argues that a stateless society would achieve them better than a state ever could. National anarchists seek the establishment of 'National Autonomous Zones' which would be 'racially pure', 'traditional' in terms of gender relations, anti-capitalist and ecologically sustainable. Unlike most other anarchists, national anarchists do not oppose hierarchy. Rather they seek a hierarchy that arises 'naturally', not the current hierarchies of the capitalist system, which are based on exploitation. National anarchists share some common ground with pan-archists as they argue that 'if you don't like it, you can just leave'. They said you can just join an existing society based on other values or even start your own. For the most part, National anarchists are despised by other anarchists. That is provided they have even heard of them. National anarchism is a fringe movement even compared to anarcho-capitalism. They have a habit of showing up uninvited to anarchist book fairs, getting run off by angry Antifascist Action affinity groups, and whining on the Internet about it.


See the main article on this topic: Anarcho-fascism‎‎

Invented one day by a Swede who didn't understand political theory, anarcho-fascism‎‎ bears no relationship to anarchism.


See the main article on this topic: Anarcho-capitalism

In spite of its name, anarcho-capitalism is not related to the other anarchist movements more than the abolishing of the state. It is an ideology which primarily advocates a laissez-faire free market free of state interference, and abolition of the state, replacing it with voluntary agreements (contracts) between consenting parties. Anarchism traditionally means not simply the abolition of the state but also all hierarchies, which are viewed as inherently oppressive. Since capitalism is hierarchical, few if any leftist-anarchists view anarcho-capitalism as compatible with anarchism.[68] [69] However, ancaps simply view anarchism as the abolition of the state, so they view capitalism (and other hierarchies for that matter) and anarchism as compatible.

The term "anarcho-capitalist" is slowly being appropriated by the far-right, following in the ideas of thinkers like Hans-Hermann Hoppe (who figure that having a king is compatible with anarchism, the "king" as someone who contractually owns all land in a given area). The far-right demographic within the anarcho-capitalist diaspora apply Hoppe's theories on anarcho-capitalism supported by complex webs of contractual agreements to propose all-White Ethnostates free of "degenerate" behaviour (very pro-freedom).

See also[edit]

Flogger of woman and absolute serf of man, Proudhon Magnan, you use your words for a lash. Like a slave-driver you seem delighted to disrobe your beautiful victims (on paper) and flagellate them with invectives. Moderate anarchist, liberal, but not libertarian, you want free exchange of cotton and candles and you seek to protect man against woman in the exchange of affectional human passion. You cry against the great barons of capital, and you would rebuild a proud barony of man on vassal-woman. Logician with misfit eyeglasses, you are unable to read the lessons of the present or the past; you can discern nothing that is elevated or at a distance or in the perspective of the future.</ref>. Now used by radical classical liberals and supporters of laissez-faire capitalism. The former use is now ironically seen as an oxymoron by them, just as anarchists feel about such "right"-libertarian ideologies.


  1. originally used by anarcho-communists to distinguish anarcho-communism from tendencies like Mutualism
  2. the second great split was the one between the pro-bolshevisk and anti-bolshevisk factions after the Russian Revolution


  1. Craig, Edward, ed (2005). The Shorter Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy. ISBN 978-0-415-32495-3. 
  2. What is Anarchism? FAQ
  3. William Godwin in the Standford Encyclopedia of Philosophy
  4. Pierre Joseph-Proudhon and anarchism
  5. Max Stirner in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy
  6. Joseph Dejacque on the human being male and female
  7. The Week Online interviews Noam Chomsky
  8. The Paris Commune, a 140 years later
  9. First International in the Encyclopedia Britannica
  10. They didn't suppress the Wobblies
  11. The collapse of the Wobblies
  12. Demanding the Impossible: A history of Anarchism by Peter Marshall, Chapter 36: The New Right and Anarcho-Capitalism
  22. Contrasting classical and contemporary anarchism
  23. What types of anarchism are there?
  24. "What is Property" from the Marxist Internet Archive
  25. Communist society
  26. PBS American Experience, People & Events: Ben Reitman (1879-1942)
  27. Bookchin's Social Ecology and Communalism
  32. Hong Kong protests turn violent; Ferguson: calmer scenes after night of violence; Is it OK for protestors to damage property?
  34. Anarchism and Violence, 1896 by L S Bevinton
  35. Correspondence about revolutionary strategy, 2009
  36. Reporters flock to burning DC garbage can
  37. Death of six activists tied to Ferguson protests alarm activists
  38. Ferguson protestor, Darren Seals, found dead in a burning car
  39. Edward Crowford found dead in an apparent suicide
  40. Is it Ok to punch a nazi?
  41. What are the ethics of punching a nazi
  42. Action as propaganda by Johann Most
  43. The Day Wall Street Exploded excerpt
  44. "Violence as a Social Factor," (1895) by Errico Malatesta
  45. An Anarchist FAQ
  46. Anarchism: Voting
  47. Why direct action
  48. Dual Power
  49. Waging non-violence
  50. Anarchists clash with police in Greece
  51. Criminalization of homelessness in US cities
  52. even the FBI thinks police has links to white supremacists; How US law enforcement is failing to police itself; Report connects hundreds of law enforcement officers to online hate groups
  53. GOP-controlled Senate deleted "white nationalist" from plan to screen military recruits
  54. Anarchists providing medical aid in New Orleans
  55. Common Ground volunteers bridge racial divide
  56. Food Not Bombs say they will not let authorities stop them from feeding the homeless
  57. Charges dropped against Orlando Food Not Bombs arrestees
  58. Food Not Bombs provides relief to Long Island
  59. Eight protestors arrested for trying to meet city official over homeless laws
  60. More homeless feeding attack amid national backlash
  61. Puerto Rico's Hurricane Maria death toll could exceed 4,000 according to new study
  62. Ten months without power: Puerto Ricans still without electricity
  63. Trump throws paper towels into crowd in Puerto Rico
  64. Naomi Klein on Puerto Rico, austerity and the left
  65. (Solar) Power to the People
  66. Anarchist groups in rural Puerto Rico help reboot the power grid
  67. Officials in Puerto Rico are undermining a rooftop solar movement
  68. Anarchy 101
  69. Are anarcho-capitalists anarchists?