Monday, December 12, 2011

SWEDEN: Black Flame events: Gävle (17 December) / Stockhom (18 December)


Black Flame: Anarkismens och Syndikalismens Revolutionära Klasspolitik
Lördag 17 december 2011 kl 16
Lucien van der Walt från Sydafrika presenterar sin bok Black Flame: Anarkismens och Syndikalismens Revolutionära Klasspolitik ("Black Flame: The Revolutionary Class Politics of Anarchism and Syndikalism")
Plats: Joe Hillgården, Nedre Bergsgatan 28, Gamla Gefle
Arr: Gävle LS
Fri entré. Föredraget hålls på engelska
The Joe Hill monument in Gävle

Monday, December 5, 2011

UK: London Book event, 10th December, "BLACK FLAME: the revolutionary class politics of anarchism and syndicalism"

UK: London Book event, 10th December 2011, "BLACK FLAME: the revolutionary class politics of anarchism and syndicalism"

Lucien van der Walt, of the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, will speak on "Black Flame: the revolutionary class politics of anarchism and syndicalism," at Freedom Bookshop, London, on Saturday 10th December.

Co-authored with Michael Schmidt, also of Johannesburg, "Black Flame" examines the anti-authoritarian class politics of the anarchist/syndicalist movement, and its 150 years of popular struggle on five continents.

This groundbreaking volume has been praised by reviewers as "deeply impressive", "fascinating, revealing and often startling", "a grand work of synthesis", "remarkable" "outstanding", "inspired" and "a welcome antidote to Eurocentric  accounts".

Sunday, December 4, 2011

UPDATE - "Black Flame" study groups: now in South Africa, Canada, Denmark, US, Australia, New Zealand ...

"Black Flame" is being used in reading groups by activists in a number of countries. The book is, of course, primarily a schoalrly one, but it interfaces with the left and labour milieu in interesting ways.

There are various groups in South Africa, Canada, Denmark, US, Australia, New Zealand ...

Sunday, November 13, 2011

"Black Flame" events in Germany: Kassel (21 November), Berlin (30 November)

"Black Flame" events in Germany: Kassel (21 November), Berlin (30 November)
"Black Flame: the revolutionary class politics of anarchism and syndicalism":
Buchvorstellung zur Geschichte des Anarchismus weltweit mit einem der Autoren: Lucien van der Walt, Sozialwissenschaftler aus Johannesburg/ Südafrika (Uni Witwatersrand).

Uni Kassel: Montag, 21.11.2011 um 20 Uhr in der Agathe, Tannenheckerweg 5

FAU Lokal Berlin: 30.11.2011 um 20 Uhr, Lottumstr. 11, 10119 Berlin (U2 Rosa-Luxemburg-Platz/ U8 Rosenthaler Platz).

"Black Flame" untersucht die antiautoritäre Klassenpolitik der anarchistischen/syndikalistischen Bewegung und ihre 150 Jahre des Kampfes auf fünf Kontinenten. Eine unverzichtbarer gedanklicher und historischer Leitfaden, mit besonderer Berücksichtigung der Bewegungen in Afrika, Asien, der Karibik und Lateinamerika.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Videos from Michael's 'Black Flame' Canada tour of 2010 ...

Here's some videos from Michael's March 2010 discussions of Black Flame in Ontario, Canada. Sponsored by Common Cause, Michael spoke in Waterloo, London, Ottawa, Montreal and Toronto, from March 15 to 20, 2010.

First up, here's the tour promotion video:

Now, Michael at the SkyDragon, Ontario,on March 17, 2010

Part 1 

Part 2 

and Part 3 

There is a Part 4, which will be included once its uploaded.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Reviewer's praise: Colin Darch in the'South African Historical Journal' (vol.63, no.2, 2011)

Colin Darch, who is well-known for his work on the Makhnovist anarchist revolution in the Ukraine (1918-1921), published this positive review in the latest South African Historical Journal (vol.63, no.2, 2011, pp. 356-358). He describes the book as "a sympathetic, interesting and wide-ranging account of the anarchist tradition,"and an "enormous advance on the existing handful of feeble attempts by anarchists to construct an African anarchist tradition."

Black Flame: the Revolutionary Class Politics of Anarchism and Syndicalism. By LUCIEN VAN DER WALT and MICHAEL SCHMIDT. Oakland, California and Edinburgh: AK Press, 2009. 395 pp. ISBN 978-1-904859-16-1.

Colin Darch
p. 356
It’s noticeable that reviews of books on anarchism often try to answer two questions that are not self-evidently related: first, is anarchism a coherent or practical ideological position, and second, is the book any good? In many cases, the answer to the second question is entirely determined by the answer to the first; if authors and reviewers agree on question one, then all is well. If not, the debate rapidly descends into polemic, often fierce. The truth, however, is that anarchists have indeed been important historical actors from time to time - notably but by no means exclusively in Spain and Ukraine- and that anarchism is a significant tendency within revolutionary socialist thought. The analysis of anarchist history cannot be abandoned by the rest of us as the exclusive preserve of libertarians.
This book is a sympathetic, interesting and wide-ranging account of the anarchist tradition, written by two South Africans, one an investigative journalist and the other an academic social scientist. It is the first of two instalments of an ambitious larger project, in which the authors’ threefold intention is to challenge ‘commonly held views about anarchism and syndicalism’, and synthesise the ‘global history of the movement’ (8).

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Review of Black Flame by Zolile Bam, in 'Miyela' by the Miyela Collective

Black Flame: the revolutionary class politics of anarchism and syndicalism by Michael Schmidt and Lucien van der Walt: a book review by Zolile Bam, in Miyela journal.

Miyela is a fantastic Soweto-based project, a "collective for positive social interaction", aiming at empowering people to question authority, fight oppression, and change. It says "the revolution is not an instant, it is not election day or the day the masses storm the streets. revolution is a slow process of changing the face in the mirror, of learning to read and right, of men learning to play with their children and laugh till they cry. the breaking down of old corrupt states starts with the slow building up of the people. freedom comes slowly but once there can not be taken away because it does not sit in parliament but rests squarely in the heart and soul of a man." More about Miyela here.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Rave reviews for "Black Flame" at GoogleBooks

From here and here

Review: Black Flame: The Revolutionary Class Politics of Anarchism and Syndicalism (Counterpower Vol 1)

User Review  - Miquixote - Goodreads FIVE STARS
Brilliant research on the history of anarcho-syndicalism and platformism. At times too critical of Marx, but they are anarcho-syndicalists, sworn enemies. Read full review

Review: Black Flame: The Revolutionary Class Politics of Anarchism and Syndicalism (Counterpower Vol 1)

User Review  - Matt - Goodreads FIVE STARS
A comprehensive, well-referenced look at the history and major ideological platforms of historical anarchism and syndicalism, from Bakunin and the First International to the major labor movements of ... Read full review

Review: Black Flame: The Revolutionary Class Politics of Anarchism and Syndicalism (Counterpower Vol 1)

User Review  - Mackel - Goodreads FIVE STARS
Holy shit. I just only finished the introduction and this book rocks. I'm looking forward to it. Read full review

Review: Black Flame: The Revolutionary Class Politics of Anarchism and Syndicalism (Counterpower Vol 1)

User Review  - matthew - Goodreads
what a nice book! one of the few books on the history of anarchism that comes through clearly and totally not boring. their argument for the anarchist tradition is great and hope it really catches on Read full review

Review: Black Flame: The Revolutionary Class Politics of Anarchism and Syndicalism (Counterpower Vol 1)

User Review  - Kris - Goodreads FIVE STARS
One of the best books I've read about the history and theory of anarchism. Highly recommend to anyone interested in this radical political theory. Interview with authors: http:// Read full review

Friday, March 18, 2011

Review/ debate on "Black Flame," by Wayne Price, for "Social Anarchism"

Black Flame: The Revolutionary Class Politics of Anarchism and Syndicalism; Counterpower, Vol. 1

This is a remarkable book, a wonderful book. I wish I had had it years ago when I was developing my politics. Everyone interested in anarchism should read this book.

A review of Schmidt and van der Walt's Black Flame, a study of the broad anarchist tradition
Wayne Price

Based on a review written for Social Anarchism. Online here.


Price: This is a remarkable book, a wonderful book. I wish I had had it years ago when I was developing my politics. Everyone interested in anarchism should read this book. Although not without some quirky judgments, it is clearly committed to anarchism and is carefully and deeply based on scholarly research. It is not a history of anarchism (apparently that will be volume 2), but a thematic discussion of various aspects (although frequently going into the historical background of the topic under discussion).

Instead of the usual Eurocentric presentation, Schmidt and van der Walt place the movement in a world context. Of course the authors know that the anarchist movement began in Europe. Capitalism and the industrial revolution began in Europe and so did the ideological reactions to it: modern democracy, liberalism, socialism (of all varieties), nationalism, internationalism, etc. These ideologies spread around the globe, interacting with and merging with local cultures and struggles. When discussing an aspect of anarchism, the authors may cite examples from France or the USA, but are as likely to give examples from Japan, China, Argentina, or South Africa.

Rather than treating anarchism as a set of great ideas developed by a series of wise sages, the authors regard it as essentially a movement. Rooted in the mass struggles of workers, as well as peasants, along with all the oppressed, the great ideas of anarchism came out of this movement. Even at times when the popular movement dies down and only a small number of revolutionaries hold to the ideal, anarchist ideas are still directed toward the next upswing of mass struggle. While there were libertarian precursors, the anarchist movement, as a movement, began in the 1860s, under the initiative of Michael Bakunin and his companions in the First International, in conflict with Karl Marx. The ideas were developed further by Peter Kropotkin and others, and incorporated into the syndicalist movement (radical, libertarian-democratic, unionism). They call this “the broad anarchist tradition.”

To them, this is anarchism. “‘Class struggle’ anarchism, sometimes called revolutionary or communist anarchism, is not a type of anarchism; in our view it is the only anarchism” (p. 19). Even Proudhon does not make the cut. The first to call himself an anarchist, he advocated a reformist program, a market economy, and was against unions and strikes, besides being misogynist. However, they freely admit that Proudhon influenced Bakunin and other anarchists. Nor are they factually wrong, in that, as a movement, anarchism did begin with Bakunin (against the opposition of most Proudhonians). Similarly, they deny that the individualists such as Benjamin Tucker were anarchists, and the same for anyone else who was not pro-working class, revolutionary, and libertarian socialist or communist.

As a matter of historical judgment, I find this a bit quirky, but not terribly wrong. Whether we should call Proudhon a libertarian who influenced Bakunin’s anarchism or say he was an early anarchist is not a big deal. The problem is its current application. A very large proportion of people who sincerely call themselves anarchists today are not for working class revolution. These radicals desire an end to the state, capitalism, and all oppressions—that is, they share the goals of the broad anarchist tradition (unlike, say, so-called pro-capitalist “libertarians”). They seek to achieve this by gradual, nonviolent, steps, living in nonconformist styles, and building alternate institutions. These will, they think, eventually replace the capitalist economy and state.

I have no problem saying that they are outside the broad anarchist tradition of revolutionary, working class, anarchist-communism. They are. But, it seems to me to be pointless to declare that they are not anarchists. This would involve us in a terminological dispute which makes us look sectarian. It is more useful, I think, to argue that such reformists are programmatically wrong and will not achieve the goals they share with revolutionary anarchism

Disputes Among Anarchists and Syndicalists

The authors focus on disputes within the broad anarchist tradition. Covering such disputes, they try to give a fair account of each side in each disagreement but conclude with their own opinion. They are almost always correct in their judgments—which is to say, I agree with them. They begin with the dispute between “insurrectionist anarchism” and “mass anarchism” (I prefer “mass struggle anarchism”). The question is whether individuals or small groups should refuse to “wait” for mass struggles and should engage in “propaganda by the deed” to hopefully inspire the people to rise up. Or whether anarchists should participate in the lives and struggles of workers and others, to build mass movements and organizations, which may eventually erupt in mass uprisings (popular insurrections) This is the approach they recommend. They note that insurrectionism has a long history in anarchism, but overall has been a minority tendency.

From Bakunin on, the revolutionary anarchists have aimed for a mass working class base in the radical union movement of syndicalism. Within syndicalism, there have been a variety of political orientations, including those who were explicitly anarchist (anarcho-syndicalism) and those who were not explicitly anarchist (revolutionary syndicalism) and even some who were explicitly Marxist and anti-anarchist (Daniel De Leon). The last two types contributed to the overall syndicalist movement and therefore the authors regard them as part of the broad anarchist tradition. (Including explicit Marxists who denounced anarchism, such as the authoritarian and sectarian De Leon, as part of the anarchist tradition also seems quirky to me, although the key point is correct: they contributed to the broader syndicalist movement.)

They review disputes among anarchist syndicalists as to whether to work inside existing (bureaucratic-conservative) unions, whether to create only revolutionary unions, or whether to only build rank-and-file groupings outside the union structures. Other union issues are covered. They conclude, “A tactic cannot be made into a principle; different conditions merit different tactics” (p. 233). This is an eminently sensible approach.

Another issue is whether anarchists should take a dual-organizational strategy, that is, build organizations of anarchists around common programs while working in broader organizations and movements, such as unions and community organizations. This is opposed to the anti-organizationalist approach of those who only want local groups in loose networks or those syndicalists who only sought to build unions. They review the controversies around the dual-organizationalist Platform. They claim that the idea of a specifically anarchist organization goes back to Bakunin and is not a new concept.

They discuss the relationship of working class anarchism and syndicalism to non-class issues (which overlap with class). This includes a review of the way in which syndicalists have worked to build community-based struggles around housing and culture. That is part of the overall approach of building counterculture and counterpower institutions to oppose capitalism, preparatory to revolution. (This is what Gramsci called the struggle over “hegemony”). They discuss the class struggle of peasants. While not as frequently anarchist as workers’ struggles, peasants have turned to anarchism in several heroic rebellions. In relation to women’s liberation, anarchists have, they point out, historically excellent theoretical positions. But their practice has often fallen sadly short of what it should be—although there are significant examples of anarchist women’s struggles.

Attitudes toward oppressed nations and races are highly conflicted among anarchists. All anarchists are against imperialism, national oppression, and white supremacy. But many anarchists oppose national liberation as a concept, on the grounds that it leads to new states and new ruling classes—as nationalists advocate but which anarchists are rightly opposed to. After reviewing the various opinions, Schmidt and van der Walt conclude that anarchists should “…participate in national liberation struggles in order to shape them, win the battle of ideas, [and] displace nationalism with a politics of national liberation through class struggle…” (p. 310). They cite the many cases where anarchists have participated in wars of national liberation, from Makhno’s Ukraine to Korea and elsewhere.

Anarchists’ View of Marxism
Although an anarchist, I been deeply influenced by Marxism, both libertarian-autonomist Marxism and dissident Trotskyism. So I was interested in how they discussed the interaction between anarchism and Marxism. Fundamentally they get it right. They acknowledge that both anarchism and Marxism come out of the same working class, socialist, movement. Both trends have the goals of a stateless, classless, society without oppression, to be achieved by international revolution of the working class and other oppressed people. From Bakunin onwards, many anarchists have valued Marx’s economics and his broader historical materialism. As mentioned, the authors recognize that some Marxists made contributions to syndicalism. They also note that there has been an antistatist minority trend within Marxism which has been neither Leninist nor social democratic. It has interpreted Marxism as almost the same as class-struggle anarchism. They cite the council communists, but could have also cited William Morris, the Johnson-Forest Tendency, and more recent autonomous Marxists. So it is possible to hold at least some of Marx’s views and still have an antiauthoritarian politics

They also raise the anarchist criticisms of Marxism. They refer to Marx’s determinism, which has often been interpreted in a mechanical way. Marx was a centralist, as opposed to anarchism’s decentralized federalism. While both Marx and Bakunin advocated unions (unlike Proudhon), Marx subordinated them to building working class political parties to run in elections, contrary to anarchism’s anti-electoralism. (This was the main practical issue in dispute between Marx and Bakunin in the First International; surely the verdict of history is on the side of the anarchists.) Marx advocated a transitional state after the revolution. While a small minority of Marxists have been libertarian, the mainstream of Marxism has been overwhelmingly either pro-imperialist social democratic or Marxist-Leninist totalitarian. Whatever its virtues, this is what Marxism, in the main, led to. So, Marxism has useful aspects for anarchists but is not something to be simply integrated with anarchism. “There are ambiguities and contradictions in Marx’s thought, which can be interpreted as ‘two Marxisms’…” (p. 93).

However, in a number of topics the authors make mistakes about Marxism, a subject which they do not know as well as they know anarchism (but few Marxists know much about anarchism!). For example, Marx did not think that commodity prices were directly due to the labor-time invested in the commodity (its value). He thought that the relation between labor-time values and prices was indirect and complicated (what has been called the “transformation problem”; Mattick, 1969). Marx did not believe in a specific “strategy of the dictatorship of the proletariat” (p. 99) to create a state ruled by a centralized party. To Marx, the “dictatorship of the proletariat” (writing in a time when “dictatorship” had a different meaning than today) meant neither more nor less than the rule of the working class as a class, such as in the radically-democratic Paris Commune (Draper, 187; Price, 2007). There are other issues where their discussion is less than fully accurate (as when considering Marx’s views on the peasants; Draper; 1978).

One problem with the authors understanding of Marx is that they tend to merge together the views of Marx, Kautsky, Lenin, Stalin, and Mao, into one ideology, called “classical Marxism.” However the continuity between Marx’s Marxism and Mao’s Marxism, while real, is limited and distorted. Despite his defects, Marx did not at all aim for the murderous totalitarian state capitalism of Soviet Russia or Communist China. But, to repeat, overall the authors have a correct appreciation of the relation of Marxism to anarchism.

The lack of a background in Marxism does become a problem in various ways. For example, when discussing the differences between insurrectionalist anarchism and mass anarchism, they state that insurrectionalism is “impossibilist,” meaning that it regards the struggle for reforms as futile. But , they say, mass anarchism is “possibilist, believing that it is both possible and desirable to force concessions from the ruling classes” (p. 124). This prepares the way for a social revolution.

This is a valuable point, but it leaves something out. We are now in the epoch of imperialism and capitalist decline. The tendency of the falling rate of profit and the trend toward monopoly have caused a trend toward stagnation, which capital has fought by expanding fictitious profits, looting the environment, and attacking the working class. This has been apparent again since about 1970, with the end of the post-World War II apparent prosperity, and is now clearer than ever. Reforms and concessions can still be forced from the ruling class, yes, but it is becoming harder and harder over time, as the crisis deepens. Mass struggle anarchists must participate with the workers in fighting for even the most limited of benefits. But we should also warn them that attacks will worsen and that a revolution is needed if we are to avoid a new Great Depression, fascism, nuclear war, and ecological catastrophe. In the current period, we are possibilist in only a limited sense.

I have touched on only some of the topics raised by the authors. Overall this book is a brilliant and complex discussion of what class-struggle revolutionary anarchism—the broad anarchist tradition—really is and what it may yet become. I look forward to volume 2.

Draper, Hal (1978). Karl Marx’s Theory of Revolution; Vol. 2: The Politics of Social Classes. NY, NY: Monthly Review.
Draper, Hal (1987). The “Dictatorship of the Proletariat” from Marx to Lenin. NY, NY: Monthly Review.
Mattick, Paul (1969). Marx and Keynes; The Limits of the Mixed Economy. Boston, MA: Porter Sargent.
Price, Wayne (2007). The Abolition of the State: Anarchist and Marxist Perspectives. Bloomington, IN: Authorhouse.
Van der Walt, Lucien, & Schmidt, Michael (2009). Black Flame: The Revolutionary Class Politics of Anarchism and Syndicalism; Counterpower: Volume 1. Oakland CA: Ak Press.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Review: "Black Flame" and the anarchist tradition - Darragh Mcaoidh, "Irish Anarchist Review"

Review: Black Flame and the anarchist tradition
by Darragh Mcaoidh, Irish Anarchist Review #2, 2010

This new history of anarchism provides a thorough and approachable examination of the tradition’s key ideas, debates and strategies, placing them in the context of the social struggles in which they arose.  For all those on the left, this book will provide a valuable introduction to, and explication of, anarchist thought, with a powerful assertion of its historical and intellectual depth as well as its continuing relevance to the project of human emancipation. For anarchists, this will be a remarkable synthesis of movement history, a spur for additional research and study. But most of all, it is a powerful assertion of the value of our tradition, as a guide in strategic debate and a continuing source of inspiration.

Workers and popular organizations connected to the anarchist movement
rally on May Day 2009 in a public square in Argentina.

Title: Black Flame: The Revolutionary Class Politics of Anarchism and Syndicalism
 Author: Lucien van der Walt and Michael Schmidt ISBN: 9781904859161, AK Press, at for $22.95

This new history of anarchism provides a thorough and approachable examination of the tradition’s key ideas, debates and strategies, placing them in the context of the social struggles in which they arose. Anarchism is not blessed with the most attractive of brand names. While dictionaries and news media alike have successfully associated it with disorder and chaos, the anarchist political pantheon itself seems to share these traits; anarchism is label to both capitalists and communists, radical individualists and revolutionary socialists.What can ‘anarcho-capitalists’ such as Murray Rothbard have in common with revolutionaries such as Mikhail Bakunin and Piotr Kropotkin? Even the latter, among the most important of the movement’s theorists, himself claimed that anarchism’s political pedigree stretched back as far as Ancient Greek philosopher Xeno and Lao Tzu, the originator of Taoism. If one tries to and accommodate such a diversity of personas under this single term, the word loses all meaning.

It is understandable then, that the first task attempted in Black Flame is to define the tradition more clearly. The authors place it clearly and distinctly within the confines of revolutionary socialist thought from the 1860s onward, excluding the non-socialist elements often ascribed to anarchism. “‘Class struggle’ anarchism, sometimes called revolutionary or communist anarchism, is not a type of anarchism; in our view, it is the only anarchism.” The purpose of this act of definition is quite straightforward; having clearly defined what anarchism is, the authors can then explore its key elements and internal divisions, and outline a history that is coherent without being uniform. As the first instalment of a two-volume study, Black Flame focuses on the ideas of anarchism, and uses the historical background to clarify debates and strategy, leaving in-depth historical study to the sequel.

By sacrificing political breadth, Schmidt and van der Walt find intellectual depth, and the work undertakes a thorough exploration of the debates and questions that shaped anarchism, tracking the movement’s engagement with other socialist currents, its internal debates, and its crucial points of development. They argue, contrary to some other radical writers, that despite familial connections between anarchism and Marxism, the differences are too deep for the two to be synthesised.The anarchist critique of Marx and Marxism is highlighted, emphasising the critical appropriation of elements of Marxian economics (Kropotkin notably challenged the Labour Theory of Value), while forcefully dismissing his conceptions of historical and political change.

The determinism of Marx’s vision of progress through historical changes was attacked by Bakunin as both irrational and nationalistic, as seen in the former’s advocacy of German and British imperialism as necessary preconditions for world revolution. Politically, Marx’s conception of the Communist Party as the true representative of the working class, with the planned route to socialism passing via state rule was seen as meaning that Marx’s dictatorship of the proletariat would become the dictatorship of the Party.

While these political distinctions from Marx and Marxism are shared by all anarchists, the level of strategy is itself the basis for distinctions within anarchism, between what the authors call ‘mass anarchism’, or strategy aimed at building and radi-calising mass movements to create change, and insurrectionist anarchism, which emphasises violent action as the path to revolution.The violent assassinations and ‘propaganda by the deed’ of the late 19th and early 20th century marked the ascendancy of the insurrectionist strand, and anarchists were responsible for the murders of monarchs, industrialists and presidents throughout this period.

However, this tendency soon declined dramatically as militants realised its ineffectiveness; they had invited repression without advancing their influence. As Malatesta commented, “these attentats, with the people insufficiently prepared for them, are sterile, and often, by provoking reactions which one is unable to control, produce much sorrow, and harm the very cause they were intended to serve.” Other former advocates of insurrectionary strategy such as Kropotkin, Johann Most and Alexander Berkman turned instead to building a popular movement, deciding that “the key strategy was to implant anarchism within popular social movements in order to radicalise them, spread anarchist ideas and aims, and foster a culture of self-management and direct action”. They would find in the emergent syndicalist movement the manifestation of their principles, “anarchism made practical”.

The strategic turn to a gradual development of class strength is, for Schmidt and van der Walt, a turn back to the original lines of anarchist thought. Syndicalism, they stress, had been advocated by Bakunin and his followers in the First International, having argued that the International should strive to be an international labour federation not, as Marx wished, a grouping of political parties.

Again, there is opposing trends in history writing with which to engage. Some historians have attributed syndicalism to Sorel, a romantic French writer, while others have claimed it for Marxism. The authors point out that the former was entirely unconnected to the contemporary syndicalist movement, while Marx and Engels themselves had attributed syndicalism to Anarchism, lamenting the ‘Bakuninist’ belief that the “general strike is the lever employed by which the social revolution is started.”This continuing emphasis, the authors argue, indicates that syndicalism should be understood as an element of the broad anarchist tradition, and thus that syndicalists can be claimed as part of this tradition. While this assertion may have surprised Marxist syndicalists such as James Connolly or Daniel De Leon, the broad argument for syndicalism as the progeny of anarchism is well-made
Anarchist activism and influence within the unionmovement reached its peak between the 1890s and 1920s, and there was much debate about how this involvement could best be turned to building a revolutionary movement. A common emphasis the authors find is “the project of creating a revolutionary counterculture within the popular classes.”

The unions were the most powerful arm of the workers movement, but they would not themselves, however democratic, lead the way to revolution. Instead anarchists must work within and outside such structures, to spread their ideas and build a revolutionary counter-culture among workers and peasants, an “oppositional counter- public”. Syndicalist unions would be capable of pursuing both reforms to improve daily life, but it would take conscious work from revolutionaries to ensure that they were also spaces for politicisation and education.

The authors find that the most powerful movements were those which spanned across many different spheres, and that libertarian “schools, centres, media, and theatre” all played a role in the politicisation and empowerment of the popular classes.The Spanish anarchist Buenaventura Durruti wrote that “we carry a new world in our hearts”. The new world was not confined there, but could be found in the daily lives of millions, in the practices and institutions of working class counter-power.

Although Spain is the most well known site of anarchist power, it was no exception. The Marxist historian Eric Hobsbawm had explained away the power of the Spanish anarchist movement as due to an irregularity in ‘Spanish character’. Instead we see that anarchism was present and prominent throughout the world, from the Pacific Rim to the Southern Cone, with anarchists at the forefront of strong class movements wherever they were. Indeed, the point is made that anarchism’s period of strength, from 1880 to the 1920s coincided with the globalisation of the world economy, and it was the free movement of labour that was the source of much of its power. Militants were often expelled from home countries only to organise in the colonies, and anarchists and syndicalists were the first to create multi-racial unions in Africa and the Americas, advancing class unity and organisation.

In the current phase of globalisation, then, the authors hope that such strength can be found again, that the current crisis of progressive politics can give way to “a multiracial and international movement with a profound feminist impulse, a movement with an important place in union, worker, and rural struggles, prizing reason over superstition, justice over hierarchy, self-management over state power, international solidarity over nationalism, a universal human community over parochialism and separatism”.

For all those on the left, this book will provide a valuable introduction to, and explication of, anarchist thought, with a powerful assertion of its historical and intellectual depth as well as its continuing relevance to the project of human emancipation. For anarchists, this will be a remarkable synthesis of movement history, a spur for additional research and study. But most of all, it is a powerful assertion of the value of our tradition, as a guide in strategic debate and a continuing source of inspiration.