ANARCHISM, AS ONE OF THE 'POLITICAL IDEOLOGIES'
Up to this point we have examined the general structure of the anarchist canon as depicted especially by Eltzbacher and Woodcock, and several problems of the history of anarchism. Before investigating the unreasonable and distorting exclusions from the anarchist canon in detail it is useful to consider how the story has been told within the discipline of political studies and how the construction of the canon has influenced anarchism as 'one of the political ideologies'. For this purpose, I will offer a study of selected chapters on anarchism in basic political philosophy readers: Barbara Goodwin’s Using Political Ideas (Goodwin 2007, 127-153), Andrew Vincent’s Modern Political Ideologies (Vincent 2001, 114-140) Ian Adams’s Political Ideology Today (Adams 1993), and Andrew Heywood’s Political Ideologies: an Introduction (Heywood 1992).
These accounts show us how anarchism is represented in standard textbooks for politics and give us an idea of standard assumptions that have conquered in the academic world.
We will start with one of the two books Dave Morland cites as possible suspects in the spread of cliché notion about the anarchist concept of human nature: Ian Adams's chapter on Anarchism in his Political Ideology Today. (Adams 1993)
Ian Adams's Anarchism in Political Ideology Today
Adams's chapter has two parts: in the first he describes anarchism and in the second he details criticisms of anarchism. In the part he describes what anarchism is he reproduces most of the Eltzbacher-Woodcock tradition. The chapter first of all lists the main anarchist thinkers then mentions the anarchist movement. The list of main anarchist thinkers is faithful to Eltzbacher's list: Godwin, Stirner, Tucker, Tolstoy, Kropotkin, Bakunin and Proudhon. The only difference is Tucker: instead of naming only Tucker, Adams has a section titled 'Nineteenth-century American Anarchism' where he represents ninetheenth–century American anarchism as an individualist trend that has three prominent thinkers: Josiah Warren, Henry David Thoreau and Benjamin Tucker. Adams groups Godwin, Stirner, Warren, Thoreau and Tucker under the brand of Individualist anarchism, and he groups Tolstoy, Kropotkin, Proudhon and Bakunin under the brand of Socialist anarchism.
Adams continues to represent the Anarchist Idea as prior to the Anarchist Movement, and echoes Woodcock when he declares that the anarchist movement is actually a dead movement. He also shares Woodcock's view that the important aspect of anarchism is its thinkers:
... there is a long established body of political theory calling itself anarchism that is based upon the idea that the state, or any kind of political rule, is not only unnecessary but a positive evil that must be done away with. Such ideas have only occasionally inspired political movements of any size, and the tradition is mainly one of individual thinkers...” (Adams 1993: 148)
In this description, we also see Adams reduce anarchism to anti-statism. Adams also, like Woodcock, gives Spain and 1939 as the place and time of anarchism's death: “...with Franco's victory the anarchist tradition more or less died out. Since then, it has not been a significant political movement anywhere in the world in terms of mass politics." (Adams 1993: 164) And like Woodcock, he believes that few anarchist writers survived the tradition: “Since the suppression of Spanish anarchism by Franco anarchist ideas and aspirations have been confined to small groups of isolated intellectuals ...” (Adams 1993: 166)
According to Adams's account, anarchism, both as an idea and as a movement, seems to have thrived only in Europe and America (USA). He does not mention any non-European anarchist figures or any anarchist movement or event from the Third World. There is nothing about Japanese anarchism, Chinese anarchism or Mexican anarchism. We can assume that when he says 'the world' he means Europe and America. There is also no reference to women anarchists. Even Emma Goldman is missing. Adams talks about 'feminist anarchism' as one of the 'anarchist developments' that appeared in the 1970s as a part of the new anarchism! He ignores the role of anarcha-feminism and gender/sexuality issues in the development of anarchism and all anarcha-feministic efforts before 1970s. And the anarcha-feminism of the 1970s is described as “another outcome of New Left anarchism ...” (Adams 1993: 168) From that we understand that anarcha-feminism is not a main element of anarchism and gender issues do not have a place in the core of anarchism (although, as we will see in Chapter 4, they definitely do). While anarcha-feminism is seen as such a minor factor, queer anarchism is not mentioned at all. Similarly, there is no single reference to anarchism and art, or anarchist artists. Only in a section called 'Personal anarchism' where he describes a type of personal anarchist, we hear about 'artistic freedom'. According to this description, the personal anarchist is a person whose demand has been “for freedom from society's pressure to conform; or, as they would express it, freedom from ignorance, superstition and moral prejudice. The kinds of things they have usually had in mind have been artistic freedom, sexual freedom and from religious intolerance.” (Adams 1993: 154) Of course, there is no mention of anarchist artists demanding not only artistic freedom but political freedom, and not only for themselves. We do not see any of them, or their acts, represented in Adams' chapter.
On the other hand, liberal anarchists and anarcho-capitalists are described in detail and presented as a central tenet of anarchism. He attends geographical identifications to individualist and socialist anarchism as well: socialist anarchism is defined as an European tendency while individualist anarchism is defined as an American tendency. (Or rather, 'native American', because he defines socialist anarchism in America as the “immigrant strand of communist anarchism” in America. (Adams 1993: 154)
After depicting anarchism as 'anti-statism', Adams looks for the history of the idea of anti-statism, and finds anarchism's roots in the history of Christian theology, strangely, in St Augustine of Hippo and more interestingly in American politician James Maddison, the fourth president of the United States of America. Adams frames anarchism as a part of the 'Enlightment tradition' especially when he is discussing Godwin (he categorizes Godwin's anarchism as 'Enlightenment individualism' and Stirner's anarchism as 'Romantic individualism').
Adams thinks anarchism was doomed to die because “organisation based on entirely voluntary co-operation and acceptance of decisions could not be effective. The systematic application of anarchist principles to anarchist organisations appeared to condemn anarchism to impotence, even when events seemed propitious ...” (Adams 1993: 162) Adams argues that if we take anarchism to its logical conclusion it simply would not make sense. Adams tries to prove the impractibility of anarchism with weird examples: for instance, he imagines an 'extreme anarchist', who “refused to follow the rules of sentence construction, and put words in their own peculiar order, then they would not be able to communicate with the rest of us.” (Adams 1993: 173) Adams makes this distinction between the anarchist and 'the rest of us' in various passages. Imagining an 'extreme anarchist,' whose refusing to talk in a Bartleby-style rejection is reinforced with the figuration of an anarchist who refuses to behave and do the required things to be a part of a community. He concludes that certainly “it would not make sense to talk of a community composed of such individuals”. Obviously, these claims are both very naïve and in contradiction with the anarchist tradition where anarchistic rules and limitations based on anarchist ethics require anarchists to be very careful about how they behave. However, Adams believes that anarchism represents the faith in the goodness of human nature and that that stops anarchism from being effective in the real world. Adams reminds us of Hobbes and the concept of a war of all against all and claims that “taking away of all forms of coercive authority would lead to conflict.” (Adams 1993: 174)
As Dave Morland pointed out, Adams' belief in anarchism’s faith in the goodness of human nature has a critical value in his depicting of anarchism. Adams argues that “anarchists of all kinds agree that human nature is such that it will not flourish in conditions of coercion and domination, especially those represented by state.” (Adams 1993: 172) Adams lists the basic assumptions about human nature, he believes anarchism rests on as follows: a) Society is based on free association between people and is natural. b) The state is based on the domination of some by others, is maintained by coercion, and is not natural. c) Humanity is essentially good, but is corrupted by government. d) Government cannot be reformed, but must be destroyed altogether.” (Adams 1993: 172)
Following Woodcock's categories of old/new anarchism, he sees for example Colin Ward's Anarchy in Action as an example of the “socialist anarchists of the old school.”
Overall, Ian Adams offers an example of how anarchism is represented in the discipline of politics. We can trace much of his foundational decisions to the Eltzbacher-Woodcock tradition of anarchist canon.
Andrew Heywood's Anarchism
Andrew Heywood's chapter on anarchism appears in his Political Ideologies, an Introduction (1992).
Heywood's account depends less on the seven anarchist thinkers, but other than that follows much of Adams' categories. Anarchism is again reduced to an anti-statism: “The defining feature of anarchism is its opposition to the state and the accompanying institutions of government and law.” (Heywood 1992: 196)
Although he also mainly presents anarchism as a European movement (and its American individual anarchist counterpart) Heywood mentions anarchism in Latin America, anarcho-syndicalist movements in Argentina and Uruguay. He also refers to the Mexican revolution as a movement influenced by syndicalist ideas and as a peasant revolution. Strangely, instead of naming Ricardo Flores Magon and other Mexican anarchists, he names Zapata as a Mexican anarchist. There is no reference to Asian anarchism, except for a reference to Mahatma Gandhi, when he is describing anarchist pacifism and Tolstoy.
Heywood dismisses anarcha-feminism even more strictly (yet he gives one quotation from Emma Goldman). The role of sexual politics in anarchism is not discussed, thus there is no reference to queer anarchism or other anarchist politics on sexuality. Also there is no single reference to anarchist artists and their role in the history of anarchism.
One interesting point is that any anarchist who becomes a part of the movement in 1990s, (when these introductions were first written) knew that anarchist politics were mainly defined with their principles of organisation. How anarchists do organise, on what principles, never gets the place it deserves in these representations. Once again, too much space is spared for anarcho-capitalism, which has no relevance to the movement as a whole today. There is a certain exaggeration of the position of anarcho-capitalism in anarchism in these accounts.
Following Woodcock, Heywood thinks that anarchists “have been more successful in describing their ideal in books and pamphlets than they have been putting them into practice. Quite commonly, anarchists have turned away from active politics, concentrating instead upon writing or on experiments in communal or co-operative living.” (Heywood 1992: 211)
There is some misinformation, too: Heywood refers to something he calls 'anarchist violence' which starts with assassinations in the nineteenth century and then reaches its second peak in the 1970s, through action undertaken by the Baader-Meinhof group in West Germany and Red Brigades in Italy. He cites Narodnaya Volya (People's Will) movement of Russia as well. These choices create an impression that all radical armed urban movements of the left in general can be categorized under anarchism, even if they were openly Marxist-Leninists like the Italian Red Brigades or complex movements, like the populists.
Heywood, following Woodcock's depiction of the goodness of Tolstoy and Kropotkin, presents an anarchism “at the heart of” which lies “an unashamed utopianism, a belief in the natural goodness, or at least potential goodness, of humankind.” (Heywood 1992: 198).
Andrew Vincent's Anarchism
Andrew Vincent's anarchism chapter appears in his Modern Political Ideologies (1995)
Andrew Vincent also does not recognize the central importance of the politics of everyday life especially sexual politics in anarchism, thus gives no place to anarcha-feminism or queer anarchism. He ignores the place of anarchist feminism in the whole history of anarchism and instead claims only recently “some recent writings have also spoken of 'feminist anarchism.'” (Vincent 1995: 119)
Another strange inclination of this introductory texts is seen in the exaggerated interest in anarcho-capitalism. These texts tend to place anarcho-capitalism as a key component of anarchism, which has nearly no influence on today's anarchism and has developed as a theory very distant from the anarchist movement; but the same texts commonly tend to ignore feminist anarchism, which is a vital part of today's anarchism and which has been a central part of anarchism historically.
We might argue that it would make much more sense to discuss anarcho-capitalism in chapters on liberalism instead of anarchism, as a strand of liberalism influenced by certain anarchist tenets. Existing chapters, for instance, give a weird impression that Rothbard is an important anarchist thinker.
Vincent also follows the Woodcockian tradition in claiming that “the period of the anarchist movement can be dated from approximately the 1880s until the 1930s.” (Vincent 1995: 117) And he describes anarchism of 1960s as a counter-culture movement, reminiscent of anarchism but not a direct part of it. It seems as if Woodcock's efforts to justify his departure from London anarchist circles and his early eulogy for the movement in the first edition of Anarchism has been the most successful attempt to theorize the flow of anarchism in the twentieth century. His suggestion of treating new anarchism as something totally different from the old school anarchism has been widely accepted by scholars writing these introductory texts on anarchism.
Developing Woodcock's portrait, Vincent claims that Bakunin had a conception of “revolutionary anarchist dictatorship.”
However, Vincent offers a better account in respect of Eurocentrism for he at least refers to anarchism outside the usual realm. Anarchism, he says, “appeared in India, South America, Japan and the USA.” (Vincent 1995: 118) And he also mentions that anarcho-syndicalism developed in Australia and Latin America, as well as Italy, Spain and Britain. (Vincent 1995: 121) Yet, the problem about the core remains: to discuss anarchism's position on human nature, violence, state etc. Vincent summarizes and discusses only certain key European thinkers from the familiar list. In fact, no non-European name is mentioned. Taking this aspect together with the exaggeration of anarcho-capitalism, we reach a representation of anarchism where figures like Osugi Sakae, Flores Magon and Schifu are less significant than Murray Rothbard!
Vincent's assumptions about anarchism lead him to present an anarchism which is dead as a movement, and at the end of the day, unrealistic as an idea. These are his final words in his chapter on anarchism:
When anarchists do speak of their hoped-for communities, unless there is an anachronistic and anthropologically weak-minded appeal to past primitive village communities, the whole position appears as charming, but unrealistic and deeply nostalgic. Apart from some of the more rigid and strange absurdities of individualist anarchists, the communist, collectivist and mutualist anarchists express a millennial vision of what we would really like to be in our better moments, but which we know is relatively hopeless. (Vincent 1995: 140)
We also witness a striking dismissal of the role of ethics in anarchist politics, which also leads these writers to dismiss anarchist principles of organisation as a significant feature of the anarchist movement worldwide. However, these articles are read in an era where anarchism is the main oppositional strand to capitalism, even demonstrations and oppositional initiatives which are not self-identified as anarchists are described as being 'anarchistic', and where anarchists are openly addressing their ideology as their organizational principles.
It would be extremely difficult to understand contemporary anarchist developments, the anarchism of anti-globalization movement and all related protests or the rising interest in anarchist theory (the 'anarchist turn') if one tries to use these chapters as a guide.
ANARCHO-CAPITALISM AND TIMOTHY LEARY
Other examples of anarchism's representations in these introductory books keep to more or less the same track. Barbara Goodwin's chapter in her Using Political Ideas claims that for anarchists “we all start out as blank sheets, innocent and morally neutral.” (Goodwin 2007: 133) Goodwin thus asserts the notion that anarchist thinkers had is a “perception of the individual as naturally 'good'.” (Goodwin 2007: 128) It is interesting to see how these representations ignore contemporary anarchism after Seattle, and in a book published in 2007, still claim that contemporary anarchism has two new currents: one being the anarcho-capitalism and other being the counter-cultural movement of 1960s, represented by figures such as Timothy Leary. Central assumptions about the anarchist canon are all the same, the names and books that are taken as the anarchist texts are largely stable. The role of anarcha-feminism is so marginalized that it is customary to refer to feminist anarchism as a post-68 current.
We should of course also keep in mind that not all anthologies of political ideologies include a chapter on anarchism.
In the canonization of anarchism, two books have been significant: Paul Eltzbacher’s Der Anarchismus and George Woodcock’s Anarchism. Eltzbacher’s book has a particularly interesting quality though: it has never been widely read. It is an unread classic, a master behind the curtains. Only scholars and researchers visit Eltzbacher’s pages. Even the recent edition I have been working on, indicates this fact: the Dover edition, published in 2004, is just a facsimilie of the 1908 edition published by Benjamin Tucker with a translation by Steven T. Byington. After a hundred years, there is no critical edition, just a reproduction, which is difficult for today’s readers to follow. The translator’s notes, where he discusses Eltzbacher’s very ideas while translating, are mixed up with Eltzbacher’s own notes. A new editing or translation is definitely required. And a new preface and introduction would be more than normal for a classical book re-published after a hundred years. But anyway, anarchist readers have never shown much interest in this account of anarchism. It is very boring and also irrelevant, from an anarchist’s point of view, because of all these discussions on law, various strange classifications of seven great anarchists and because of the central position given to Tucker, who has been neglected in anarchist circles for a long time, along with his individualist anarchism. On the other hand, Eltzbacher’s book has had an enormous influence on other writers of the history of anarchism, no matter how militant they were about it. And when George Woodcock applied his reasoning in Anarchism, he created the book that is both widely read and accepted as ‘the’ book on anarchism, although his narrative approach differed from Eltzbacher's 'scientific' discourse. The attraction of Eltzbacher's canon was that was it established a way to create a theoretically credible tradition at the time.
After pointing the general problems of reductionism, I have tried to trace them in detail in Woodcock. He rejected Bakuninist anarchism – as he construed it - and more generally 'The Movement', seeing in it a “romantic darkness of conspiracy” (Woodcock 1986: 171), and he firmly believed that this kind of (anarchist) political movement went where it belonged: “to the dustheap of history”. Thus, whole book is like an obituary. However, Woodcock was a believer in ‘noble’ anarchist ideas all his life, and being a pacifist as well, he did not regret fostering pacifist policies while dispising “the semi-mystical vision of salvation through destruction” (Woodcock 1986: 173).
So Woodcock’s Anarchism was not only designed to represent anarchism as a whole and carry it to future generations, it also aimed to win the pacifist argument against the activist position within anarchism. This attitude, combined with a loyalty to the cannonic framework adopted by Eltzbacher and a general loyalty to the mainstream mode of historiography of ideas, resulted in a book that claims to represent anarchism (and is widely accepted to do so) but in fact was itself a ‘reconstruction’ with many problems. I tried to raise some of these problems by trying to trace the structure, assumptions and language usage.
I also examined standard textbook representations of anarchism as one of the 'political ideologies', to highlight the dominating descriptions of anarchism. These articles, in short, re-present the bias of ideas established in the Woodcock-Eltzbacher tradition (usually adding a bit more liberal tone, an exaggerated and misleading appraisal of anarcho-capitalism) and show the influence and power of their intepretations of these ideas in mainstream biases. The principle claim is that the anarchist canon we have analyzed so far is both an important reference for contemporary anarchist activists and also scholars working on the area, and young students who are learning political ideologies.
One of the main results of Woodcock’s method was to create an anarchist canon which excluded many critical elements, from third world anarchisms to feminist and queer anarchisms. What is not there and what should have been there, from Argentina to Japan and from arts to feminism, will be examined in detail in the following chapters, Chapter 3 and Chapter 4.