Obviously, in the present state of mankind, when the vast majority of people, oppressed by poverty and stupefied by superstition, stagnate in a state of humiliation, the fate of humanity depends on the action of a relatively small number of individuals; obviously it will not be possible suddenly to get people to raise themselves to the point where they feel the duty, indeed the pleasure from controlling their own actions in such a way that others will derive the maximum benefit therefrom. But if today the thinking and directing forces in society are few, it is not a reason for paralyzing yet more of them and for subjecting many others to a few of them. It is not a reason for organizing society in such a way that (thanks to the apathy that is the result of secured positions, thanks to birth, patronage, esprit de corps, and all the government machinery) the most lively forces and real ability end up by finding themselves outside the government and almost without influence on social life; and those that attain to government, finding themselves out of their environment, and being above all interested in remaining in power, lose all possibilities of acting and only serve as an obstacle to others.

Once this negative power that is government is abolished, society will be what it can be, but all that it can be given the forces and abilities available at the time. If there are educated people who wish to spread knowledge they will organize the schools and make a special effort to persuade everybody of the usefulness and pleasure to be got from an education. And if there were no such people, or only a few, a government could not create them; all it could do would be what happens now, take the few that there are away from their rewarding work, and set them to drafting regulations which have to be imposed with policemen, and make intelligent and devoted teachers into political beings, that is useless parasites, all concerned with imposing their whims and with maintaining themselves in power. . . .

In any case we will have on events the kind of influence which will reflect our numerical strength, our energy, our intelligence and our intransigence. Even if we are defeated, our work will not have been useless, for the greater our resolve to achieve the implementation of our program in full, the less property and less government will there be in the new society. And we will have performed a worthy task for, after all, human progress is measured by the extent government power and private property are reduced. And if today we fail without compromising, we can be sure of victory tomorrow. — Errico Malatesta, 1891, from Anarchy


In Russian and French Prisons

Peter Kropotkin

This is Kropotkin’s critique of prisons from the inside out, perhaps the first book to cover penology from the standpoint of a participant-observer. Far from reforming the offender, he writes, even in the 19th century prisons were already better suited as schools for crime. SC

Publisher: Black Rose
Paperback: 316 pages

Listen Anarchist

Chaz Bufe

New, slightly expanded edition of this polemic, arguing for a return to morality in anarchists’ dealing with the world at large and each other in particular. AK

Publisher: See Sharp
Pamphlet: 16 pages

Memoirs of a Revolutionist

Peter Kropotkin

Describes social ferment, tyranny in czarist Russia, the author’s intellectual development, scientific career, Siberian exile, escape and life in the West.

Publisher: Dover
Paperback: 557 pages

Mutual Aid: A Factor of Evolution

Peter Kropotkin

“Kropotkin applies his exploration of Eastern Asia and his study of wild-animal behavior to a critical examination of evolution. Also provides an argument for anarchism by showing historically how people tend to cooperate spontaneously and how the State destroys this natural inclination toward mutual aid by strangling initiative with the dead hand of regulation.”

Publisher: Black Rose
Paperback: 362 pages

Nationalism and Culture

Rudolf Rocker

His magnum opus—dissects the State in all its manifestations and shows why and how throughout the course of human history, the State has been the principal enemy of social life and cultural development. AK

Publisher: Black Rose

The Physiognomy of the Anarchists

Cesare Lombroso

First appearing in 1891, this attempt at “criminal anthropology” has been a knee-slapper since it first surfaced. The definitive (ahem) analysis of the Haymarket Martyrs and other such deviant types. AK

Publisher: Monkeywrench
Paperback: 12 pages

Reinventing Anarchy, Again

Edited by Howard Ehrlich

Brings together the major currents of social anarchist theory in a collection of some of the movement’s important writers from the U.S., Canada, England and Australia. The book opens with an exploration of the past and future possibilities of anarchism; then moves to consider the “necessity” of the state and bureaucratic organization as well as the meaning of the “anarchist contract.” The third of the theoretical sections tackles the hard questions for social anarchists confronting the foundations of libertarian socialist and liberal democratic thought. AK

Publisher: AK
Paperback: 400 pages

Social Anarchism or Lifestyle Anarchism: An Unbridgeable Chasm

Murray Bookchin

At times Bookchin looks like an angry grampa lamenting for the good old days of the traditional Left, yet he makes some good points and vital distinctions concerning different forms of anarchism past and present. Bookchin’s assault on the work of Michel Foucault and Hakim Bey (to mention two) are for the most part reductive yet humorous. The great observation Bookchin makes here is that there is a huge reinvestment in ego-driven existentialism among members of the “X Generation” who flaunt an anarchist identity. What he describes as lifestyle anarchy deservedly sounds like good old American individualism. Bookchin points out the vital social content in the anarchist ideas of Bakunin and Kropotkin and cites significant events such as the Spanish anarchist struggle of the 1930s as elements not to be overlooked when considering anarchy as a viable option. KH

Publisher: AK
Paperback: 92 pages

The Struggle Against the State and Other Essays

Nestor Makhno

Makhno was a Ukrainian peasant revolutionary who for several years before, during and after the Russian Revolution successfully led an anarchist army which fought against both the Bolsheviks and the White counterrevolutionaries. From exile in Paris, Makhno aggressively refuted allegations of anti-Semitism and of having conducted pogroms in essays like “To the Jews of All Countries,” and commemorated the tragic fate of the workers in Kronstadt, who fought the Red Army in 1921 to try to implement the Bolshevik proclamations regarding equality and worker autonomy. These essays are the hard-won insights of a fighting anarchist who could clearly the see totalitarian realities behind the propaganda of the early Soviet era. In his essay “The ABC of the Revolutionary Anarchist,” Makhno writes, “Experience of practical struggle strengthened my conviction that anarchism educates man in a living way. It is a teaching every bit as revolutionary as life, and it is a teaching every bit as varied and potent in its manifestations as man’s creative existence and, indeed, is intimately bound up with that.” SS

Publisher: AK
Paperback: 126 pages

To Remember Spain: The Anarchist and Syndicalist Revolution of 1936

Murray Bookchin

Like most of Bookchin’s writing, this book is delivered clearly and easily like a union speech, generous with emotion as well as relevant dates, people and statistics. Bookchin includes some fine descriptions of peasant-based governing structures developed out of particular circumstance and need in resistance to centralized governing structures which overtake and oppress. Bookchin also describes the factioning and Stalinism which pitted Communist against Communist against anarchist, sabotaging the entire effort of the Spanish people to avoid a brutal dictatorship under Franco. This period in Spain was a brief moment that produced radical social forms which actually worked. Bookchin has written a most enthusiastic guide for this vital set of events. KH

Publisher: AK
Paperback: 74 pages