Anarchy in Action

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(1924 - 2010) ~ British Anarchist Writer and Social Historian : ...lived with the title of Britain's most famous anarchist for nearly half a ­century, bemused by this ambivalent sobriquet. In Anarchy in Action (1973), he set out his belief that an anarchist society was not an end goal. (From : Guardian Obituary.)
• "It is, after all, the principle of authority which ensures that people will work for someone else for the greater part of their lives, not because they enjoy it or have any control over their work, but because they see it as their only means of livelihood." (From : "Anarchism as a Theory of Organization," by Colin ....)
• "The anarchists, who have always distinguished between the state and society, adhere to the social principle, which can be seen where-ever men link themselves in an association based on a common need or a common interest." (From : "Anarchism as a Theory of Organization," by Colin ....)
• "...the bombs you are worried about are not the bombs which cartoonists attribute to the anarchists, but the bombs which governments have perfected, at your expense." (From : "Anarchism as a Theory of Organization," by Colin ....)


This document contains 16 sections, with 59,344 words or 392,807 characters.

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Introduction to the Second Edition The anarchist movement grows in times of popular self-activity, feeds it and feeds off it, and declines when that self-activity declines... The anarchists in England have paid for the gap between their day-to-day activities and their utopian aspirations. This gap consists basically of a lack of strategy, a lack of ability to assess the general situation and initiate a general project which is consistent with the anarchists utopia, and which is not only consistent with anarchist tactics but inspires them. John Quail, The Slow Burning Fuze: The Lost History of the British Anarchists (Paladin 1978) Anarchism as a political and social ideology has two separate origins. It can be seen as an ultimate derivative of liberalism or as a final end for socialism. In either case, the problems that face the anarchist propagandist... (From :

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Preface “Nothing to declare?” “Nothing.” Very well. Then political questions. He asks: “Are you an anarchist?” I answer. “... First, what do we understand under ‘Anarchism’? Anarchism practical, metaphysical, theoretical, mystical, abstractional, individual, social? When I was young”, I say, “all these had for me signification.” So we had a very interesting discussion, in consequence of which I passed two whole weeks on Ellis Island. Vladimir Nabokov, Pnin How would you feel if you discovered that the society in which you would really like to live was already here, apart from a few little, local difficulties like exploitation, war, dictatorship and starvation? The argument of this book is that an anarchist society, a society which organizes itself without authority, is always in existence, l... (From :

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Chapter I. Anarchy and the State As long as today’s problems are stated in terms of mass politics and ‘mass organization’, it is clear that only States and mass parties can deal with them. But if the solutions that can be offered by the existing States and parties are acknowledged to be either futile or wicked, or both, then we must look not only for different ‘solutions’ but especially for a different way of stating the problems themselves. Andrea Caffi If you look at the history of socialism, reflecting on the melancholy difference between promise and performance, both in those countries where socialist parties have triumphed in the struggle for political power, and in those where they have never attained it, you are bound to ask yourself what went wrong, when and why. Some would see the Russian revolution of 1917 as the fatal turning poi... (From :

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Chapter VI. Who Is To Plan? Urban development is the capitalist definition of space. It is one particular realization of the technically possible, and it excludes all alternatives. Urban studies should be seen — like aesthetics, whose path to complete confusion they are about to follow — as a rather neglected type of penal reform: an epidemiology of the social disease called revolt. The “theory” of urban development seeks to enlist the support of its victims, to persuade them that they have really chosen the bureaucratic form of conditioning expressed by modem architecture. To this end, all the emphasis is placed on utility, the better to hide the fact that this architecture’s real utility is to control men and reify the relations between them. People need a roof over their heads: superblocks provide it. People need informing and entertaining: telly does just that. But of course the kind of inform... (From :

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Chapter XI. A Self-Employed Society The split between life and work is probably the greatest contemporary social problem. You cannot expect men to take a responsible attitude and to display initiative in daily life when their whole working experience deprives them of the chance of initiative and responsibility. The personality cannot be successfully divided into watertight compartments, and even the attempt to do so is dangerous: if a man is taught to rely upon a paternalistic authority within the factory, he will be ready to rely upon one outside. If he is rendered irresponsible at work by lack of opportunity for responsibility, he will be irresponsible when away from work too. The contemporary social trend towards a centralized, paternalistic, authoritarian society only reflects conditions which already exist within the factory. Gordon Rattray Taylor, Are Workers Human? (From :

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Chapter XII. The Breakdown of Welfare All institutions, all social organizations, impose a pattern on people and detract from their individuality; above all it seems to me, they detract from their humanity ... It seems to me that one thing is in the nature of all institutions, whether they are for good purposes, like colleges, schools and hospitals, or for evil pluposes, like prisons. Everyone in an institution is continually adapting himself to it, and to other people, whereas the glory of humanity is that it adapts its environment to mankind, not human beings to their environment. John Vaizey, Scenes From Institutional Life Anarchists are sometimes told that their simple picture of the state as the protector of the privileges of the powerful is hopelessly out of date: welfare has changed the state. Some politicians even claim that their parties invented welfar... (From :

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Chapter II. The Theory of Spontaneous Order In every block of houses, in every street, in every town ward, groups of volunteers will have been organized, and these commissariat volunteers will find it easy to work in unison and keep in touch with each other ... if only the self-styled “scientific” theorists do not thrust themselves in ... Or rather let them expound their muddle-headed theories as much as they like, provided they have no authority, no power! And that admirable spirit of organization inherent in the people ... but which they have so seldom been allowed to exercise, will initiate, even in so huge a city as Paris, and in the midst of a revolution, an immense guild of free workers, ready to furnish to each and all the necessary food. Give the people a free hand, and in ten days the food service will be conducted with admirable regularity. Only those who have never seen the people hard at work, only thos... (From :

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Chapter III. The Dissolution of Leadership Accustomed as is this age to artificial leadership ... it is difficult for it to realize the truth that leaders require no training or appointing, but emerge spontaneously when conditions require them. Studying their members in the free-for-all of the Peckham Center, the observing scientists saw over and over again how one member instinctively became, and was instinctively but not officially recognized as, leader to meet the needs of one particular moment. Such leaders appeared and disappeared as the flux of the Center required. Because they were not consciously appointed, neither (when they had fulfilled their purpose) where they consciously overthrown. Nor was any particular gratitude shown by members to a leader either at the time of his services or after for services rendered. They followed his guidance just as long as his guidance was helpful and what they wanted. They melted away from him wi... (From :

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Chapter IV. Harmony through Complexity People like simple ideas and are right to like them. Unfortunately, the simplicity they seek is only to be found in elementary things; and the world, society, and man are made up of insoluble problems, contrary principles, and conflicting forces. Organism means complication, and multiplicity means contradiction, opposition, independence. P.-J. Proudhon, The Theory of Taxation One of the most frequently met reasons for dismissing anarchism as a social theory is the argument that while one can imagine it existing in a small, isolated, primitive community it cannot possibly be conceived in the context of large, complex, industrial societies. This view misunderstands both the nature of anarchism and the nature of tribal societies. Certainly the knowledge that human societies exist, or have existed, without governmen... (From :

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Chapter V. Topless Federations The fascinating secret of a well-functioning social organism seems thus to lie not in its overall unity but in its structure, maintained in health by the life-preserving mechanism of division operating through myriads of cell-splittings and rejuvenations taking place under the smooth skin of an apparently unchanging body. Wherever, because of age or bad design, this rejuvenating process of subdivision gives way to the calcifying process of cell unification, the cells, now growing behind the protection of their hardened frames beyond their divinely allotted limits, begin, as in cancer, to develop those hostile, arrogant great-power complexes which cannot be brought to an end until the infested organism is either devoured, or a forceful operation succeeds in restoring the small-cell pattern. Leopold Kohr, The Breakdown of Nations </irght>... (From :

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Chapter VII. We House, You Are Housed, They Are Homeless In English, the word “housing” can be used as a noun or as a verb. When used as a noun, housing describes a commodity or product. The verb “to house” describes the process or activity of housing ... Housing problems are defined by material standards, and housing values are judged by the material quantity of related products, such as profit or equity. From the viewpoint of a central planner or an official designer or administrator, these are self-evident truths ... According to those for whom housing is an activity, these conclusions are absurd. They fail to distinguish between what things are, materially speaking, and what they do in people’s lives. This blindness, which pervades all institutions of modern society explains the stupidity of tearing down “sub-standard” houses or “slums” when their occupants... (From :

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Chapter VIII. Open and Closed Families In choosing a partner we try both to retain the relationships we have enjoyed in childhood, and to recoup ourselves for fantasies which have been denied us. Mate-selection accordingly becomes for many an attempt to cast a particular part in a fantasy production of their own, and since both parties have the same intention but rarely quite the same fantasies, the result may well be a duel of rival producers. There are men, as Stanley Spencer said of himself, who need two complementary wives, and women who need two complementary husbands, or at least two complementary love objects. if we insist first that this is immoral or “unfaithful”, and second that should it occur there is an obligation on each love-object to insist on exclusive rights, we merely add unnecessary difficulties to a problem which might have presented none, or at least presented fewer, if anyone were permitted to solve it in... (From :

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Chapter IX. Schools No Longer From William Godwin’s An Account of the Seminary That Will Be Opened on Monday the Fourth Day of August at Epsom in Surrey to Paul Goodman’s Compulsory Mis-education , anarchism has persistently regarded itself as having distinctive and revolutionary implications for education. Indeed, no other movement whatever has assigned to educational principles, concepts, experiments, and practices a more significant place in its writings and activities. Krimerman and Perry, Patterns of Anarchy Ultimately the social function of education is to perpetuate society: it is the socializing function. Society guarantees its future by rearing its children in its own image. In traditional societies the peasant rears his sons to cultivate the soil, the man of power rears his to wield power, and... (From :

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Chapter X. Play as an Anarchist Parable The boy who swings from rope to horse, leaping back again to the swinging rope, is learning by his eyes, muscles, joints and by every sense organ he has, to judge, to estimate, to know. The other twenty-nine boys and girls in the gymnasium are all as active as he, some if them in his immediate vicinity. But as he swings he does not avoid. He swings where there is space — a very important distinction — and in doing so he threads his way among the twenty-nine fellows. Using all his facilities, he is aware if the total situation in that gymnasium — of his own swinging and if his fellows’ actions. He does not shout to the others to stop, to wait or move from him — not that there is silence, for running conversations across the hall are kept up as he speeds through the air. But this “education” in the live use if all his senses can only come if his twenty-... (From :

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Chapter XIII. How Deviant Dare You Get? In a free society you would have to come to terms with yourself and with others like yourself, with the man who backs his car into yours, with the man next door who has to feed three times as many mouths as you do, with the drunks who get into your garden. You would have to sort things out with them yourself, instead of having social workers or political parties or policemen or shop stewards to do the job for you, and in the process you would be forced to face up to what sort of person you yourself really were. Peter Brown, Smallcreep’s Day Every anarchist propagandist would agree that the aspect of anarchist ideas of social organization which people find hardest to swallow is the anarchist rejection of the law, the legal system and the agencies of law-enforcement. They may ruefully agree with our criticism of th... (From :

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Chapter XIV. Anarchy and a Plausible Future For the earlier part of my life I was quieted by being told that ours was the richest country in the world, until I woke up to know that what I meant by riches was learning and beauty, and music and art, coffee and omelets; perhaps in the coming days of poverty we may get more of these ... W. R. Lethaby, Form in Civilization This book has illustrated the arguments for anarchism, not from theories, but from actual examples of tendencies which already exist, alongside much more powerful and dominant authoritarian methods of social organization. The important question is, therefore, not whether anarchy is possible or not, but whether we can so enlarge the scope and influence of libertarian methods that they become the normal way in which human beings organize their society. Is an anarchist society possible? (From :


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Anarchy in Action -- Publication.

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