Anarchism, a movement organizsed on the belief that society should be run entirely by voluntary, organised groups and not by the political state.
All social coercion is to be dispensed with, so that the fullest development of each individual may be attained. Underlying this theory, frequently, is the ancient belief that prior to civilization, there existed a golden age of freedom which may be reconstructed through the abolition of the state, the church, private property and the wage system.
Government is held to be the supreme tyrant sustaining other initiative-crushing institutions; hence all laws, precepts and restraints must be abolished. Decentralized, voluntary groups are to be substituted, organised, as most anarchists feel, on a syndicalist basis.
Under this plan, goods would be exchanged without money profit by cooperative industrial groups, the participants sharing equally in the product. No compulsion to work is to exist, reliance being placed upon the pleasure derived from it.
Since complete individual development is sought, stress is laid on a nonsectarian education for all and equal rights, regardless of sex and age. Freed from a hampering social environment, the individual would develop, restrained only by his ethical conceptions.
Anarchists differ as to methods of attaining their ends. The leading figures have faith in non-violent measures. A small minority has, however, brought condemnation on the movement by terrorist actions.
Prince Kropotkin has noted four schools: Proudhonian mutualism, based on the mutual exchange of all commodities under a labor hour plan; communist anarchism, which stresses mutual exchange and the abolition of all private property as well; Christian anarchism, which maintains that Christ’s teaching proves that the state and all of its dependent institutions should be abolished and brotherly love prevail; and literary anarchism, the intellectual support to which has been furnished by writers and poets such as Rebelais, Diderot, Nietzsche, Thoreau, Emerson, Walt Whitman and Ibsen.
To this list might be added the cooperative anarchists who hold that the voluntary mechanism of the consumer’s cooperative movement should be expanded to the end that the state be abolished. J. P. Warbasse is outstanding among those holding this opinion.
Anarchist philosophy can readily be traced back to Zeno’s answer to Plato’s Republic in the 4th century, B.C. In the 2nd century B.C. and again in the Middle Ages groups attempted to live by these doctrines. The Brothers and Sisters of the True Spirit, a religious sect, formed in the latter period, was subjected to persecution but left a following in Germany, France, Belgium and Switzerland. Stirner introduced the element of terrorism to attain reforms.
To Proudhon credit might be given for making anarchism a mass movement. Though some authorities hold that he gave it its name, more recent research tends to the opinion that the term was in use in the Middle Ages and certainly at the time of the French Revolution. American radical thought has been substantially influenced by anarchism.
Josiah Warren launched an Equity Store in Cincinnati in 1827, for the exchange of goods according to their labor time in production. His Equity Village in New York survived for more than 40 years. Noteworthy also are the writings of Lysander Spooner, William Green, Stephen Andrews and Benjamin Tucker.
The Haymark riots and the murder of President McKinley by an anarchist (1901) brought laws prohibiting the entrance of anarchists to the United States. Some states have legislation barring the employment of anarchists or making the advocacy of anarchists doctrines unlawful.
÷C. E. W.
(Dexter and his corporate overlords do not endorse anarchy)