Foreword to the 40th Anniversary Edition of An American Anarchist
In 1990, I walked into a tiny anarchist bookstore and found a rare copy of An American Anarchist: The Life of Voltairine de Cleyre by Paul Avrich. I knew de Cleyre only as a figure mentioned in Avrich’s later book The Haymarket Tragedy. Because I relished Avrich’s writing already, because I had the enthusiasm of a recent convert to anarchist thinking, I could hardly wait to read de Cleyre’s biography.
Avrich presented to his readers the depth and intensity of this intellectual powerhouse who repeatedly made sacrifices and endangered herself in order to stay true to her principles, which she never once compromised for her own safety’s sake. De Cleyr... (From: TheAnarchistLibrary.org.) The Russian anarchist movement, which emerged at the beginning of the XXth century, manifested a deep-seated distrust of rational systems and of the intellectuals who constructed them. While inheriting the Enlightenment’s belief in the inherent goodness of man, the Russian anarchists generally did not share the faith of the philosophes in the power of abstract reason. Anti-intellectualism appeared in varying degrees throughout the budding movement. Least evident among the bookish disciples of Peter Kropotkin, it was particularly strong within the terrorist groups-Beznachalie (Without Authority) and Chernoe Znamia (The Black Banner)-which sprang up on the eve of the 1905 Revolution. The terrorists, who belittled book-learning and ratio... (From: TheAnarchistLibrary.org.) THE urge to destroy is also a creative urge.” Bakunin wrote these words in 1842, and Russian anarchists yearned ever after for a social revolution that would sweep away the czarist order and usher in the stateless millennium. In February 1917: this long-cherished dream seemed at last to be coming true. When rebellion erupted in Petrograd and brought the monarchy to dust, the anarchists jubilantly hailed it as the spontaneous upheaval which Bakunin had forecast some seventyfive years before. The complete breakdown of authority convinced them that the Golden Age had arrived, and they threw themselves into the task of eliminating what remained of the state and transferring the land and the factories to the common people.
In a matter of ... (From: TheAnarchistLibrary.org.) Part One
During Lenin’s years in power, from October 1917 until his death in January 1924, a number of groups took shape within the Russian Communist Party-the Democratic Centralists and the Workers’ Opposition are the best known-which criticized the Bolshevik leadership for abandoning the principles of the revolution. The revolution, as sketched by Lenin in The State and Revolution and other works had promised the destruction of the centralized bureaucratic state and its replacement with a new social order, modeled on the Paris Commune of 1871, in which the direct democracy of the workers would be realized. The cardinal feature of this “commune state,” as Lenin called it, was to be its repudiation of bureaucratic... (From: TheAnarchistLibrary.org.) A century ago anarchism was emerging as a major force within the revolutionary movement, and the name of Bakunin, its foremost champion and prophet, was as well known among the workers and radical intellectuals of Europe as that of Karl Marx, with whom he was competing for leadership of the First International. In contrast to Marx, however, Bakunin had won his reputation chiefly as an activist rather than a theorist of rebellion. He was not one to sit in libraries, studying and writing about predetermined revolutions. Impatient for action, he threw himself into the uprisings of 1848 with irrepressible exuberance, a Pronetlhcan figure moving with the tide of revolt from Paris to the barricades of Austria and Germany. Men like Bakunin, a cont... (From: TheAnarchistLibrary.org.) On July 23, 1980, Mollie Steimer died of heart failure in the Mexican town of Cuernavaca, ending a life of uninterrupted activity in behalf of the anarchist cause. At the time of her death, Steimer was one of the last of the prominent figures closely associated with Emma Goldman and Alexander Berkman. She was also one of the last of the old time anarchists with an international reputation, the survivor of a remarkable company of Russian political exiles in Mexico that included such diverse figures as Jacob Abrams, Victor Serge, and Leon Trotsky.
When her heart gave out, Steimer was eighty-two years old. Born on November 21, 1897, in the village of Dunaevtsy in southwestern Russia, she had emigrated to the United States in 1913 with her par... (From: TheAnarchistLibrary.org.) Nestor Ivanovich Makhno, the anarchist partisan leader, was among the most colorful and heroic figures of the Russian Revolution and Civil War. His movement in the Ukraine represents one of the few occasions in history when anarchists controlled a large territory for an extended period of time. For more than a year he was a greater power on the steppe than either Trotsky or Denikin. A born military leader, he fought simultaneously on several fronts, opposing Reds as well as Whites, Austrian invaders and Ukrainian nationalists, not to speak of the countless bands of irregulars who crossed and recrossed the steppe in search of plunder and booty. According to Victor Serge, he was a "strategist of unsurpassed ability," whose peasant army posses... (From: TheAnarchistLibrary.org.) Prefatory Note
Arranging a representative anthology of Bakunin’s writings presents a number of difficult problems Statism and Anarchy was the only major work he ever completed, and even many short pieces remain unfinished For Bakunin was above all an activist he would begin to write something, then leave off to attend to some pressing contingency, or lie might complete a first draft but never find time to revise and correct it. His work abounds in repetitions and is interspersed with long digressions His essay God and the State, for example, began as a critique of Marx’s theory of economic determinism, was sidetracked by resentment against the defenders of established religion into an exposition of idealist philosophy, from w... (From: TheAnarchistLibrary.org.) The career of Luigi Galleani involves a paradox. During the first two decades of the twentieth century, he was the leading Italian anarchist in the United States, one of the greatest anarchist orators of his time, in a class with Emma Goldman and Johann Most, editor of the foremost Italian-American anarchist periodical, La Cronaca Sovversiva (The Subversive Chronicle), which ran for fifteen years before its suppression by the American government, and inspirer of a movement that included Sacco and Vanzetti among its adherents.
Yet Galleani has fallen into oblivion. He is virtually unknown in the United States, outside of a small circle of scholars and of personal associates and disciples, whose ranks are rapidly dwindling. No biography in E... (From: TheAnarchistLibrary.org.) When the first shots of the Russian Civil War were fired, the anarchists, in common with the other left-wing opposition parties, were faced with a serious dilemma. Which side were they to support? As staunch libertarians, they held no brief for the dictatorial policies of Lenin’s government, but the prospect of a White victory seemed even worse. Active opposition to the Soviet regime might tip the balance in favor of the counterrevolutionaries. On the other hand, support for the Bolsheviks might serve to entrench them too deeply to be ousted from power once the danger of reaction had passed. It was a quandary with no simple solutions. After much soul-searching and debate, the anarchists adopted a variety of positions, ranging from act... (From: TheAnarchistLibrary.org.) PART I · 1905
1. THE STORMY PETREL
The time has come, an enormous thing is moving down on us all, a mighty, wholesome storm is gathering; it is approaching, is already near, and soon will cleanse from our society its indolence, indifference, prejudice against work, and foul ennui.
BARON TUZENBAKH, CHEKHOV’S The Three Sisters
At the beginning of the twentieth century, the Russian Empire was entering a time of troubles, a cataclysmic period of war and revolution destined to leave the old order in ruins. Opponents of the autocracy had long been forecasting the approach of a destructive tempest. Decades before Nicholas II ascended the throne, Mikhail Bakunin had sensed that the atmosphere in Russia was growing hea... (From: TheAnarchistLibrary.org.) When the Short Course history of the Communist party was published in Pravda in 1938, it was accompanied by a decree which emphasized the role of the intelligentsia in the construction of Soviet society. The decree bitterly condemned the ‘Makhaevist’ belief that the intellectuals — party officials, factory and farm managers, army officers, technical specialists, scientists — were an alien breed of self-seeking men who had nothing in common with the worker at the bench or the peasant behind the plow. This hostile attitude towards the intelligentsia, declared the decree, was ‘savage, hooligan and dangerous to the Soviet State’.
A number of Pravda readers, puzzled by the strange expression ‘Makhaevism... (From: TheAnarchistLibrary.org.) For Paul Avrich, friendship, love, and anarchy are inseparable. He loves history, he loves his cats, he loves workers, he loves children, he loves teaching, he loved his father. However, he is best known for loving anarchists. “I’ve known thousands of anarchists and the percentage of them I didn’t like is very small,” says Avrich. At his sparsely furnished Upper West Side apartment, overlooking the Hudson River, Avrich speaks quickly and passionately about the people and the movement he spent a lifetime chronicling. “I loved these people,” he says, leaning forward with his hand clutching his heart. “I think about them every day.”
Avrich has done more than think. He has published 10 books on R... (From: TheAnarchistLibrary.org.)