REFLECTIONS by Voltairine De Cleyre — eBook £1.50 (see eBookshelf)

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This stimulating collection of the writings of Voltairine de Cleyre, an important anarchist writer of the late 19th and early 20th century, covers such diverse topics such as the Paris Commune, Crime and Punishment, the Mexican Revolution, Sex and Marriage, the McKinley Assassination —and of course her distinct interpretation of anarchism.

Voltairine De Cleyre (1866-1912), anarchist, poet, lecturer, writer and teacher lived in St. Johns, Michigan until 1880, when she was sent to a convent school in Sarnia, Ontario. After graduating she became active in freethought circles, and moved quickly from socialism to anarchism. From the late 1880s until her death in 1912, De Cleyre was an energetic anarchist and a prolific writer, living in Philadelphia and then Chicago. She was a contemporary and acquaintance of Emma Goldman, Alexander Berkman, Benjamin Tucker and other prominent anarchists of the time. Emma Goldman described her as “the poet-rebel, the liberty-loving artist, the greatest female anarchist of America.” Max Nettlau, a historian of the anarchist movement, considered her to be “the pearl of Anarchy,” outshining her contemporaries in “libertarian feeling and artistic spirit.” She published hundreds of poems, essays, stories, and sketches, mainly on themes of social oppression, but also on literature, education, and women’s liberation. She died on June 23, 1912 and was buried in Waldheim Cemetery in Chicago.

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Pierre-Joseph PROUDHON His revolutionary life, mind and works by Edward S. Hyams eBook £1.50 (see eBookshelf)

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PROUDHON WAS BORN in the same year, 1809, as Charles Darwin, at about the moment when the reaction against the French Revolution, led by the old imperial monarchies and the British aristocratic oligarchy, began to triumph. That triumph was short-lived but at the time it was clear to only a very few men that Europe was facing a century of revolution.

It was in the half-century following Proudhon’s birth that a number of men of talent and two men of genius, Proudhon and Karl Marx, sought to give form and practical applicability to the social, political and economic philosophy to become known as socialism. Thus Auguste Blanqui, who when not fighting the monarchy and the bourgeoisie, was in prison working out the principles of communist trade unionism and was the father of the French Socialist Party, was only four years Proudhon’s senior; Alexander Herzen, the great publicist of socialism in Russia, was born in 1812, as was Louis Blanc who developed revolutionary socialism out of the idealistic proto-socialism of Saint-Simon. Michael Bakunin, the Russian anarchist and Marx’s most troublesome enemy, was born in 1814; Marx in 1818 when his master, Hegel, was not yet fifty; and Engels in 1820. Lassalle, founder and master of the formidable German Workers’ Party, was born in 1825.

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BOURGEOIS INFLUENCES ON ANARCHISM and REVOLUTION and DICTATORSHIP Luigi Fabbri. eBook £1.50 (see eBookshelf)

fabbrismallBourgeois Influences on Anarchism was written in 1914 by Italian anarchist communist Luigi Fabbri (1877-1935), around the time the opening shots of WWI were being fired. In it he addresses problems he sees as resulting from the stereotyping of anarchism both in bourgeois literature and the media, and the negative effect this was having on popular culture, and on the actual anarchist movement.

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“The minds of men, especially of the young, thirsting for the mysterious and extraordinary, allow themselves to be easily dragged by the passion for the new toward that which, when coolly examined in the calm which follows initial enthusiasm, is absolutely and definitively repudiated. This fever for new things, this audacious spirit, this zeal for the extraordinary has brought to the anarchist ranks the most exaggeratedly impressionable types, and at the same time, the most empty headed and frivolous types, persons who are not repelled by the absurd, but who, on the contrary, engage in it. They are attracted to projects and ideas precisely because they are absurd, and so anarchism comes to be known precisely for the illogical character and ridiculousness which ignorance and bourgeois calumny have attributed to anarchist doctrines.”

The first English translation of Fabbri’s classic dissection of problems which still plague anarchism today, such as the identification of anarchism in the capitalist press with disorganization, chaos, and terrorism, and the consequent embracement of such things by some “anarchists.”

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JOURNEY THROUGH UTOPIA, Marie Louise Berneri. eBook £1.50/€2.00 (see eBookshelf)

utopiacoversmallJourney Through Utopia, Marie Louise Berneri.

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A forensically critical and scholarly assessment of the most important utopian writings from Plato’s ‘Republic’ to Huxley’s ‘Brave New World’. What is ‘utopian’? Is it the desire for a ‘just’, equitable and cooperative society free of moral and physical compulsion, or the economists’, politicians’, planners’ and ideologues’ vision of a regimented, mechanically-functioning society with their schemes for social improvement in which all society’s conflicts are reconciled or contained? Marx’s theory of history, for example, predicts an end to history in which all social contradictions will be permanently resolved.

In her account of Utopias, Marie Louise Berneri emphasises the intolerant and authoritarian nature of most of these visions; the exceptions, such as those of Morris, Diderot and Foigny, being only a very slight minority. She points to the fact that, although the Marxists have always claimed to be “scientific” as opposed to Utopian socialists, their actual social experiments have in practice taken on the generally rigid structure and even many of the individual institutional features of the classic Utopias. Visions of an ideal future, where every action, as in Cabet’s or Bellamy’s schemes, is carefully regulated and fitted into a model state, are no longer popular, and it is impossible to consider such a book today achieving the fame which was enjoyed by Bellamy’s Looking Backward in the late nineteenth century. It is significant that not only are those writers who are conscious of present-day social evils writing anti-Utopias to warn people of the dangers of going further in the direction of a regimented life, but these very books have the same kind of popularity which the smug visions of a socialist paradise enjoyed before 1914.

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ANARCHISM Kropotkin’s entry on ‘anarchism’ for the 11th edition of the Encyclopaedia Britannica. First published 1910. eBook £1.50/€1.30 (see eBookshelf ).

AnarchismKropotkinsmallKropotkin’s entry on ‘anarchism’ for the 11th edition of the Encyclopaedia Britannica (1910).

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Anarchism is “the name given to a principle or theory of life and conduct under which society is conceived without government – harmony in such a society being obtained, not by submission to law, or by obedience to any authority, but by free agreements concluded between the various groups, territorial and professional, freely constituted for the sake of production and consumption, as also for the satisfaction of the infinite variety of needs and aspirations of a civilized being.”

“ANARCHISM (from the Gr…., and …., contrary to authority), the name given to a principle or theory of life and conduct under which society is conceived without government – harmony in such a society being obtained, not by submission to law, or by obedience to any authority, but by free agreements concluded between the various groups, territorial and professional, freely constituted for the sake of production and consumption, as also for the satisfaction of the infinite variety of needs and aspirations of a civilized being. In a society developed on these lines, the voluntary associations which already now begin to cover all the fields of human activity would take a still greater extension so as to substitute themselves for the state in all its functions. They would represent an interwoven network, composed of an infinite variety of groups and federations of all sizes and degrees, local, regional, national and international temporary or more or less permanent – for all possible purposes: production, consumption and exchange, communications, sanitary arrangements, education, mutual protection, defence of the territory, and so on; and, on the other side, for the satisfaction of an ever-increasing number of scientific, artistic, literary and sociable needs. Moreover, such a society would represent nothing immutable. On the contrary – as is seen in organic life at large – harmony would (it is contended) result from an ever-changing adjustment and readjustment of equilibrium between the multitudes of forces and influences, and this adjustment would be the easier to obtain as none of the forces would enjoy a special protection from the state.

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