Anarchism: reading guide

Anarchism: reading guide

Libcom.org's reading guide on anarchism, anarchist theorists and their development through history.

Recommended introductions

Other recommended texts

Anarchist groups and organisations

  • Federación Obrera Regional Argentina (Argentine Regional Workers' Federation - FORA) - Argentine anarcho-syndicalist union founded in 1901 which played a leading role in the working-class movement at the beginning of the 20th century.
  • Confederación Nacional del Trabajo (National Confederation of Labour - CNT) - Spanish anarcho-syndicalist union, which was a leading force in the Spanish Civil War and Revolution when it had almost two million members.
  • The Makhnovists - Officially the Revolutionary Insurgent Army of the Ukraine, the Makhnovists, named after anarchist Nestor Makhno, were an anarchist peasant army which fought both White reaction and Red terror during the Russian Revolution from 1917-1921.
  • International Workers Association (IWA) - International confederation of anarcho-syndicalist unions, founded in 1922, which at its height had multiple sections with memberships in the hundreds of thousands or even millions.
  • Federación Anarquista Ibérica (Iberian Anarchist Federation - FAI) - Class struggle anarchist organisation active in Spain and Portugal and set up to maintain the CNT’s revolutionary anarchist principles.
  • Dielo Trouda (Workers’ Cause) - Group of anarchist-communist exiles from the Russian revolution formed in Paris who founded the basis of the Platformist strain of anarchism, including Nestor Makhno, Ida Mett, Peter Arshinov and Grigori Maximov.
  • Mujeres Libres (Free Women) - Spanish anarcho-syndicalist women's organisation set up within the CNT in the 1930s to fight the “triple enslavement of women, to ignorance, to capital, and to men”.
  • Friends of Durruti - Spanish anarchist group named after the legendary anarcho-syndicalist, Buenaventura Durruti, and set up in opposition to the CNT’s collaboration with the Republican government during the Spanish Civil War.
  • Federación Anarquista Uruguaya (Uruguayan Anarchist Federation - FAU) - Anarchist-communist group and one of the strongest anarchist movements in Latin America. Went through a period of clandestine armed struggle during the country’s 1973-85 dictatorship and was the first organisation to promote especifismo.

Anarchist thinkers

Pierre-Joseph Proudhon

French mutualist philosopher and first person to call themselves an ‘anarchist’.

Mikhail Bakunin

Russian revolutionary, considered the original theorist of collectivist anarchism.

Louise Michel

Legendary French anarchist who held a leading role in the Paris Commune and played an essential role in building the anarchist movement across Europe at the end of the 19th century.

Peter Kropotkin

Russian revolutionary (as well as scientist, zoologist, geographer and evolutionary theorist!) who was the first to advocate a communist society free from central government and based on voluntary associations between workers - anarchist-communism.

  • The Conquest of Bread - Classic work explaining the defects of feudal and capitalist economic systems and how they can be replaced by a decentralised economic system based on mutual aid and voluntary cooperation.
  • Mutual Aid: A Factor of Evolution - Kropotkin's response to Social Darwinism in which he explains the phenomenon of co-operation in evolution.
  • Fields, Factories and Workshops - Hugely influential work outlining how a society based on mutual aid and voluntary association could work.
  • Memoirs of a Revolutionist - Autobiography recounting his aristocratic beginnings to his transformation into the revolutionary he would be for the rest of his life.
  • The State--Its Historic Role - Classic work on the state and its function in society.

Lucy Parsons

American anarchist-communist labour organiser and founding member of the Industrial Workers of the World of mixed African-American and Hispanic heritage. Known for her powerful public speaking, she was also the widow of Haymarket Martyr, Albert Parsons.

Errico Malatesta

Highly influential Italian anarchist-communist who wrote and spoke widely across Italy and spent many years either in jail or in exile.

Emma Goldman

Lithuanian-born Jewish anarchist who emigrated to the USA, where she became highly involved in radical unions, anti-war and feminist activism. Became known as "the most dangerous woman in America".

Alexander Berkman

Lithuanian-born anarchist-communist Alexander "Sasha" Berkman, who became a leading figure in the American anarchist movement and was sent to prison for attempting to assassinate Henry Clay Frick, the steel boss responsible for the deaths of workers in the 1892 Homestead strike.

Rudolf Rocker

Prominent anarcho-syndicalist who organised extensively amongst the Jewish community in the East End of London.

Ricardo Flores Magon

Mexican anarchist, friend of legendary revolutionary Emiliano Zapata and leading participant in the 1910 Mexican revolution.

Nestor Makhno

Ukrainian anarchist-communist who led a revolutionary army during the 1917 Russian revolution which fought against both the old Tsarist regime and the new Bolshevik one.

Daniel Guerin

French anarchist and revolutionary supporter of gay liberation.

Albert Meltzer

British anarcho-syndicalist print worker who fiercely opposed individualist strains within anarchism and was a major figure in the British anarchist movement.

Murray Bookchin

American libertarian socialist and founder of social ecology who severely criticised individualist and spiritual elements within radical politics.

  • Bookchin remembered - Obituary written by Iain Mackay.
  • Social Anarchism or Lifestyle Anarchism - Essay against the increasingly individualist, misanthropic, mystical and anti-organisational trends in US anarchism.
  • Listen, Marxist! - An anarchist criticism of Marxism, aimed predominantly at the Maoist Progressive Labor Party in America.
  • Post-Scarcity Anarchism - Collection of essays envisioning an anarchist society without scarce resources, if we rely on technology.
  • Anarchism, Marxism and The Future of The Left - Collection of texts including accounts of his years as a teenage Communist during the Great Depression, his experiences and reflections on the 1960s and his vision of a libertarian communist society, libertarian politics and the future of anarchism.
  • The Spanish Anarchists: The Heroic Years 1868-1936 - History of the day-to-day activism of Spanish anarchists in the decades leading up to the famous civil war and revolution of 1936.

Lorenzo Kom’boa Ervin

African-American class struggle anarchist, former Black Panther and participant in the civil rights and black power movements.

Other media

  • No Gods, No Masters, part one, two and three - Excellent three-part documentary on the history of anarchism as an international movement, from its origins through to its involvement in numerous revolutions around the world until the Second World War.
  • Free Voice of Labour: the Jewish Anarchists - Documentary covering the Jewish anarchist movement in North America, with interviews from participants.
  • Noam Chomsky on anarchism - interview by Barry Pateman - Video of an interview by Barry Pateman with Noam Chomsky about anarchism.
  • Living utopia - Unique feature-length documentary which chronicles the origins and evolution of the Spanish anarchist movement and its important role during the 1936-1939 Spanish Revolution. In Spanish with English subtitles.

Comments

klas batalo
Sep 29 2012 16:43

Nice glad you are putting these up! I wish these existed when I first became an anarchist. A lot more to chose from than just the @FAQ

Ed
Sep 29 2012 16:46

Cheers!

A quick question though, is anything missing? I get the feeling that maybe Malatesta is a bit thin on the ground but I don't know his stuff well-enough to say what should be put in..

klas batalo
Sep 29 2012 16:49

For Malatesta I'd just add his Anarchism and Syndicalism, At the Cafe, and Between Peasants

especifista
Sep 30 2012 07:35
JoeMaguire
Sep 30 2012 08:34

The approach you have taken is interesting and accessible, I would raise three things; could and should Collin ward be added?, the AF's Basic Bakunin should be listed, and Fabbri's poverty of statism is probably the best introduction I have ever read and it should be listed somewhere.

Ed
Sep 30 2012 09:32

Yeah, Colin Ward should probably go in.. only problem is that the only thing by him I've read is 'Anarchy in Action', ten years ago, and we don't even have that in the library.. not sure about the other libcom lot, but I don't think they've read much by him either..

If you fancied, you could edit in a list of a few important Colin Ward books, with little descriptions and putting links to the ones we've got in the library.

Fabbri and Basic Bakunin; I like Fabbri a lot, will have a look at him to see if maybe he should get his own inclusion.. not sure that Poverty of Statism is that great an introduction.. a good text, yeah, but I'm not sure I'd give it to someone as a first read. Might stick in Basic Bakunin though..

Ed
Sep 30 2012 10:25

Just added Makhno, btw.. don't know how that got forgotten!

klas batalo
Sep 30 2012 19:43

Actually "Anarchy in Action" was my real introduction to more serious anarchism, after I read Crimethinc, so highly suggested that at least get in there. It has to be pirated on the internet somewhere by now right?

wojtek
Sep 30 2012 20:02
Quote:
Colin Ward

What have mutuals and co-ops got to do with class struggle anarchism?

Juan Conatz
Sep 30 2012 20:01

Well, if you're going to add that, I just put it in the library http://libcom.org/library/anarchy-action-colin-ward

Don't have time to write an intro or find a pic though

Anarcho
Oct 5 2012 20:47

The Philosophy of Poverty

The bloody book is entitled System of Econonic Contradictions! the Philosophy of Poverty is th sub-title... Extracts of this, and other works, by Proudhon can be found on the Property is Theft! webpage

Stephan
Nov 28 2012 14:09

What have mutuals and co-ops got to do with class struggle anarchism?
They are part of anarchism history and can inspire action: you must expect people to be abel to read critical.

happychaos
Nov 28 2012 20:33

This is very useful!

I wonder if you could expand this reading guide into an introduction that includes multimedia etc? There are some movies that convey anarchist ideas quicker than some of those quick large books. You could also include some anarchist sci-fi etc and other fiction. It all depends on the purpose. If this is a reading list for those who are already keen on reading long text, then it works really well.

The first section aside, and not to dismiss the important of the works listed, I always feel mainly having anarchists from those generations makes anarchism look like its not for this century. Guerin's, while being more contemporary, largely basis his work in the same historical period. I wonder if there should be a separate general section for important articles from more modern anarchists, but who may not have enough articles to justify a sub-header on their own.

I think it's always good to have intros that meet two needs: the new and not yet captivated and the deeply committed, those with short attention span and the hyper-focused, the skimmers and the wallowers. Perhaps make a recommendation from each author and then further reading?

And a final suggestion, which I've made elsewhere for this site itself, what about a summary of different relevant topics? More people come to anarchism because of a particular issue than because of anarchism itself. How about some areas with the best introduction on those issues and some articles on particular instances of the issue, i.e. war and palestine. Some other topics could include workplace organising, climate change, poverty etc.

Keep up the good work!

SO

David234
Nov 11 2014 20:12

There are a lot of good suggestions on this list too.

The 100 Best Anarchist, Communist, & Socialist Books
http://www.listmuse.com/best-anarchist-communist-socialist-books.php

zunord
Mar 3 2015 19:04

I would like to suggest adding Max Stirner also to this list.

Serge Forward
Mar 3 2015 19:50
zunord wrote:
I would like to suggest adding Max Stirner also to this list.

WUM grin

Network
Oct 12 2015 12:33

I'd really recommend the following Colin Ward books. Great accessible introductions which I often recommend to people just starting to learn about anarchism, but for whom more explicitly confrontational class struggle anarchism might initially put them off. Good tasters of what anarchist ideas look like when applied to everyday life.

Anarchy in action - Colin Ward
http://libcom.org/library/anarchy-action-colin-ward

Anarchism: A very short introduction - Colin Ward
https://libcom.org/library/colin-ward-anarchism-very-short-introduction

Ed
Mar 7 2019 08:50

Just as a heads up: I updated this last night to include more thinkers but also some other recommended texts and significant anarchist organisations.

As before, let us know if there are any glaring omissions (bearing in mind that there is also an anarcho-syndicalism reading guide).

Edit: some of the obvious things that are missing are things like texts by/about Proudhon and Louise Michel. Any help getting those on the site would be much appreciated!