Anarchy: Anarchism and Purely Anarchist Revolution

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Anarchism, more than anything else, is about the efforts of millions of revolutionaries changing the world in the last two centuries. Here we will discuss some of the high points of this movement, all of them of a profoundly anti-capitalist nature.

Anarchism is about radically changing the world, not just making the present system less inhuman by encouraging the anarchistic tendencies within it to grow and develop. While no purely anarchist revolution has taken place yet, there have been numerous ones with a highly anarchist character and level of participation. And while these have all been destroyed, in each case it has been at the hands of outside force brought against them (backed either by Communists or Capitalists), not because of any internal problems in anarchism itself. These revolutions, despite their failure to survive in the face of overwhelming force, have been both an inspiration for anarchists and proof that anarchism is a viable social theory and can be practised on a large scale.

What these revolutions share is the fact they are, to use Proudhon's term, a "revolution from below" -- they were examples of "collective activity, of popular spontaneity." It is only a transformation of society from the bottom up by the action of the oppressed themselves that can create a free society. As Proudhon asked, "[w]hat serious and lasting Revolution was not made from below, by the people?" For this reason an anarchist is a "revolutionary from below." Thus the social revolutions and mass movements we discuss in this section are examples of popular self-activity and self-liberation (as Proudhon put it in 1848, "the proletariat must emancipate itself"). [quoted by George Woodcock, Pierre-Joseph Proudhon: A Biography, p. 143 and p. 125] All anarchists echo Proudhon's idea of revolutionary change from below, the creation of a new society by the actions of the oppressed themselves. Bakunin, for example, argued that anarchists are "foes . . . of all State...
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