Anarchism has always been grounded in the spirit of alienation, to the point where alienation has become the aesthetic and distinguishing characteristic of the culture. The minority position in the battle of the utopias. Anarchism has produced a number of ”inharmonious geniuses” at odds with the orthodox upholders of established order as well as other heretics who repudiate it; succeeding in confounding the orthodox and confusing the heterodox. Fellow revolutionaries, of liberal and socialist persuasion see them as being with them, but not of them resulting in a sense of puzzlement and disconcertion, based on the purity of purpose, fanaticism and disdain for compromise.
As could be reliably predicted, as if operating from a script, the Black Bloc burned cop cruisers, and smashed windows At G20 Summit In Toronto.Whether legitimate protest, or confrontational junkies in need of a fix, images of men and women in black balaclavas rioting, breaking windows, damaging property, and setting fire to police cars are an increasingly common site at high profile international events and the G20 summit in Toronto is no exception.The Black Bloc describe themselves as a “tactic” rather than a formal organization. Their structure is more fluid and organic as like minded anarchists get together before an event and to carry out highly visible and at times violent acts of civil disruption and criminality. The dogma has remained relatively static since the time of Proudhon with property remaining the prime source of all human woe: ”Secondly, because the police are in the way. While most anarchists oppose police brutality and seek an end to policing and prisons, our main targets are the rich and powerful. Since the police are the violent face of capitalism–in other words, the guard dogs for the rich–they are on the frontlines when the anarchists show up to pursue our class war against the rich.”
For the popular mind anarchism is an irrational doctrine of fanatics and terrorists; a free for all chaos akin to the rape and pillaging of Bolsheviks. Also, many people who claim to be anarchists are also confused as to its meaning. Some think anarchism is a doctrine espousing the right to do what ever you want. Others dream that one day a pure anarchist utopia, a kind of earthly Paradise of peace and freedom will come to be. Neither of these conceptions were Proudhon’s or Bakunin’s. ”Anarchy” did not mean a pure or absolute state of freedom, for pure anarchism was an ideal or myth. Proudhon’s anarchism was rational, non-violent and anti-utopian. However, the “propaganda of the deed” period did provide grounds for the negative conception. Anarchism, as it was originally conceived, had been turned into its opposite. That anarchism changed into something very different from the original conception is not just of academic interest. Anarchism has come to the fore in the wake a societal fragmentation, the ”New World Order” and globalization.
”To be GOVERNED is to be kept in sight, inspected, spied upon, directed, law-driven, numbered, enrolled, indoctrinated, preached at, controlled, estimated, valued, censured, commanded, by creatures who have neither the right, nor the wisdom, nor the virtue to do so…. To be GOVERNED is to be at every operation, at every transaction, noted, registered, enrolled, taxed, stamped, measured, numbered, assessed, licensed, authorized, admonished, forbidden, reformed, corrected, punished. It is, under the pretext of public utility, and in the name of the general interest, to be placed under contribution, trained, ransomed, exploited, monopolized, extorted, squeezed, mystified, robbed; then, at the slightest resistance, the first word of complaint, to be repressed, fined, despised, harassed, tracked, abused, clubbed, disarmed, choked, imprisoned, judged, condemned, shot, deported, sacrificed, sold, betrayed; and, to crown all, mocked, ridiculed, outraged, dishonored. That is government; that is its justice; that is its morality. And to think that there are democrats among us who pretend that there is any good in government; Socialists who support this ignominy, in the name of Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity; proletarians who proclaim their candidacy for the Presidency of the Republic! Hypocrisy!” ( Pierre Joseph Proudhon )
Pierre Joseph Proudhon and Mikail Bakunin represented the two interwoven strands of nineteenth century anarchism. Proudhon was , rather reluctantly, a revolutionary, but he was opposed to plotting and random violence. To Bakunin revolution was in itself an intensely satisfying experience, and endless conspiracy a way of life. It was he more than any other man who helped to create the links between anarchism and terrorism in the latter part of the century.
To the question posed in Proudhon’s most celebrated book, ”What is Property?” , he returned the famous answer, ”Property is theft”, which was effective as a slogan, but somewhat misleading as a guide to his ideas. Among other proposals, Proudhon suggested the abolition of money and a return to barter. Consistent in his opposition to centralization, he supported the South and States’ rights in the American Civil War. Proudhon’s beliefs often seemed compounded of paradox. Though he named the Bible as his chief influence, he rejected orthodox religion, regarding its God as a tyrant, a view he expressed in another famous aphorism: ”God is Evil”. The rhetoric has changed little since 1849 and the seduction of alienation is still shoulder to the fulcrum of moral leverage:
”In the face of total alienation from the mediated bourgeois society, some seek to create a kind of “community” with vegan potlucks, radical community meetings, countercultural bike collectives, and worker co-ops. The contrived “communities” of the radical left are merely the mirror image of the alienated “community” of the commodity society. The radical left seeks to elevate community as a value in itself, severed from any rooting in a material base. By attempting to overcome alienation, the ‘radical community’ succeeds only in commodifying, and thereby alienating, the concept of “community” itself. There is no way out. We are in the desert of advanced capitalism.” ( rethinkinganarchism.com )
Bakunin had noble ancestry. He became the leading figure in the European anarchist movement. He fought Marx for control of the First International in 1872, forcing him to move the general council from London to New York to prevent the organization from being dominated by the anarchists. Unlike many Russian intellectuals, he was not turned into a revolutionary by conditions in Russia itself and was still politically orthodox when he left the country in 1840 to study philosophy in Germany. He fought at the barricades in Dresden in 1849 in company with the composer Richard Wagner. He was arrested, twice sentenced to death , and then reprieved. He was handed over to the Russians and spent a four year sojourn in Siberia, finally escaping and returning to Eu
via Yokohama and San Francisco.
Proudhon said ” the workshop is the basis of the new society”. He exercised a powerful influence on the ideas of the French Socialist movement and on trade unions. In many ways, he also had a peasant narrowness and suspiciousness of outlook. He was xenophobic, anti-Semitic, antifeminist, and intolerant of sexual deviation. He endorsed the family as the basic social unit , and his ideal society appears to have been one of austere, independent patriarchs leading frugal, hard working and mostly meaningless lives.
”Political economy is in fact the queen and ruler of this age, although its mercenaries are unwilling to admit it. It is political economy which directs everything, without appearing to do so. If Louis Bonaparte fails in his demand for prorogation, business is the cause. If the Constitution is not revised, it is the Stock Exchange which forbids. If the law of the 31st of May is revoked, or at least profoundly modified, it is commerce that has demanded it. If the Republic is invincible, it is because the interests protect it. If the peasant, of the earth from of old, embraces the Revolution, it is because the earth, his adored mistress, summons him. If we do not rest on Sunday, it is because industrial and mercantile influences are opposed to it ….
Evidently, social economy, little known divinity, leads the world. Let it show itself boldly, tell its secrets, give its orders, and all nations, all classes, will be at its feet. The peasant waits for but one sign: he wants the soil, he watches it anxiously: it will not escape his covetousness.” ( Proudhon )
Proudhon and Bakunin were both products and opponents of revolutionary thought. They were dissenters from the dissenters of their day. Essentially, democracy was considered a disguised aristocracy and were thus opposed to it as a strand of liberal socialism. To Proudhon, classical liberal economists like John Stuart Mill perverted the ideas of liberty by making it an end in itself, instead of a means of establishing a just economic system.
The link between Anarchism and Fascism was quite apparent. Proudhon asserted the masses were predisposed to autocratic rule and not to self government and they needed a ruler as they needed a God. ”For me,” Proudhon declared, ” it is an economic truism that the class which is the most numerous and the most poor is by that very fact the most envious, the most immoral and the most cowardly.” To Proudhon, humanity does not consist of the mass of brutalized ”bipeds” but of a small group of the elite, which had always been the ferment of history. He questioned whether humanity ever consisted of more than ten thousand persons.
Forcefully and repeatedly, Proudhon drove home the idea that a social revolution could be accomplished only through the dictatorship of one man. He set the template for the Nazis through anti-semitic diatribes of the most incoherent and contradictory variety as well as promoting the racial inferiority of the negro; he supported the south in the American civil war, asserting that the confederacy was not entirely wrong in maintaining slavery as a means of protecting and enhancing the value of an inferior race who could do no better, claiming the true friends of the negro were slave owners.
It is easy to see how the anarchist rhetoric could be appropriated by a Hitler or Mussolini, claiming in their turn that democracy was merely contempt for the common man while using a similar polemical character in writing and speeches that was equally vehement in tone, vivid in language, trenchant in style and devastating in character. In particular, Proudhon’s notion of force ( war ) as a supreme manifestation of spiritual power, ”Death is the crowning of life and how can an intelligent, free moral creature like man end his life more nobly than in the the battlefield”.
Bakunin was a titan of a man , weighing almost 300 pounds with shaggy hair and flashing eyes. An enormous eater and talker but sexually impotent, he poured his energies into endless plotting and propaganda. Bakunin’s own ideas were confused, and unlike Kropotkin, his books are fragmentary and full of digressions; but his cult of revolutionary destruction and violence played a part in fostering the terrorist side of the anarchist movement. Bakunin was known as a gentle and generous person, and showed an old fashioned courtesy to women, whom he did not like to see drink or smoke. However, he was a disingenuous man , somewhat unscrupulous, and a lover of ideas and not men according to Vissarion Belinsky.
There was already in Europe a tradition of conspiracy and political assassination, but it had hitherto been the preserve of the various nationalist movements and of the authoritarian communists. Communist secret societies had flourished in France in the 1830′s and 1840′s. The most celebrated of the communist conspirators, Auguste Blanqui, was a revolutionary who might have been born of some timid bourgeois’s nightmare, with his white lips and hair, dressed all in black even to the black gloves he always wore.
A genuine intransigent, Blanqui spent thirty-seven years of his life in prison. Karl Marx approved of his aims,but not his methods; Bakunin adopted the methods though he disagreed with the aims. More sober revolutionaries looked askance at the Blanquists. The Russian socialist Alexandr Herzen ironically described the typical manners and appearance of such conspirators:
”They mysteriously invite one to extraordinarily important interviews, at night if possible, or in some inconvenient place. Meeting their friends in public, they do not like saluting them with a bow, but greet them with a significant glance. Many of them keep their address a secret, never telling one what day they are going away, never say where they are going, write in a cipher or invisible ink news which is plainly printed in the newspaper”.
“Socialism, socialism – or death! That is my motto. What I care if genius on earth live in heaven when the crowd is wallowing in the dirt?… My heart bleeds and shudders when I view the crowd and its representatives… And that is life: to sit in the street in rags with an idiotic expression of face collecting farthings in the daytime to be spent on booze in the evening – and men see it and no one cares about it!” ( Belinsky in a letter to V.P. Botkin, from Polnoje sobranie sochinenii, XII, 1953-59)
But to find a pattern of fascism with its attitude toward government and society and its solutions of political and social problems is quite another matter. It is the author’s contention that the fascist pattern is to be found in a fairly clear and definite form in the writings of Pierre Joseph Proudhon and in those of Thomas Carlyle. ( Schapiro )