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."
Schmidt (the journalist) and van der Walt (the academic) are not the first to attempt a broad general account of libertarian ideas and activism, but their work is distinguished by two key features. The first is their serious attempt to derive a defendable definition of what the ‘anarchist tradition’ actually is, one that moves beyond the cliche´ of extreme individualism and opposition to the state, to relocate the roots of that tradition firmly in nineteenth-century European revolutionary socialism, and most specifically in the First International. The second key feature is one that (I hope) justifies the inclusion of this review in a journal dedicated to South African history. Schmidt and van der Walt emphasise from the start that ‘the broad anarchist tradition was an international movement that cannot be adequately understood through the focus on Western anarchism that typifies most existing accounts’ (8; emphasis added). It is clear that, despite its origins, the idea that anarchism has been mainly a European and North American rather than a global phenomenon is one of the ‘commonly held views’ that this work sets out to challenge. The question, therefore, is to what extent Schmidt and van der Walt succeed in making a case for a significant anarchist tradition in the global south.