Anarchism: A Documentary History of Libertarian Ideas, Volume One: From Anarchy to Anarchism (300CE-1939)

Volume One of Anarchism: A Documentary History of Libertarian Ideas is subtitled From Anarchy to Anarchism to emphasize that before any anarchist doctrines arose people had been living in stateless societies for thousands of years. Anarchy, defined broadly as a society without government, existed well before anarchism, which advocates the (re)creation of a society without government, or anarchy. Anarchist doctrines give expression not only to utopian aspirations and visions of the future but to ways of living without the state, now largely lost, which were lived realities for countless peoples until relatively recently. The Preface and Table of Contents are reproduced here from the Black Rose Books website. Selections highlighted in red are linked to on-line versions of the original texts.

Preface to Anarchism: A Documentary History of Libertarian Ideas, Volume One: From Anarchy to Anarchism (300CE-1939)

Anarchy, a society without government, has existed since time immemorial. Anarchism, the doctrine that such a society is desirable, is a much more recent development.

For tens of thousands of years, human beings lived in societies without any formal political institutions or constituted authority. About 6,000 years ago, around the time of the so-called dawn of civilization, the first societies with formal structures of hierarchy, command, control and obedience began to develop. At first, these hierarchical societies were relatively rare and isolated primarily to what is now Asia and the Middle East. Slowly they increased in size and influence, encroaching upon, sometimes conquering and enslaving, the surrounding anarchic tribal societies in which most humans continued to live. Sometimes independently, sometimes in response to pressures from without, other tribal societies also developed hierarchical forms of social and political organization. Still, before the era of European colonization, much of the world remained essentially anarchic, with people in various parts of the world continuing to live without formal institutions of government well into the 19th century. It was only in the 20th century that the globe was definitively divided up between competing nation states which now claim sovereignty over virtually the entire planet.

The rise and triumph of hierarchical society was a far from peaceful one. War and civilization have always marched forward arm in arm, leaving behind a swath of destruction scarcely conceivable to their many victims, most of whom had little or no understanding of the forces arrayed against them and their so-called primitive ways of life. It was a contest as unequal as it was merciless.

Innocent of government, having lived without it for thousands of years, people in anarchic societies had no conception of anarchy as a distinct way of life. Living without rulers was just something they did. Consequently, anarchism, the idea that living without government is a superior way of life, would never have even occurred to them, lacking anything to compare anarchy with until it was too late.

It was only after hierarchical societies arose that people within them began to conceive of anarchy as a positive alternative. Some, such as the early Daoist philosophers in China (Selection 1), looked back to an age without government, when people lived in peace with themselves and the world. Various Christian sects looked forward to the second coming, when the egalitarian brotherly love of Christ and his disciples would triumph over evil (Selection 3). Rationalists, such as Zeno, the founder of Stoicism in ancient Greece, and later Renaissance (Selection 2) and Enlightenment (Selection 4) thinkers, envisaged a new era of enlightenment, when reason would replace coercion as the guiding force in human affairs.

Although none of these early advocates of anarchy described themselves as anarchists, what they all share is opposition to coercive authority and hierarchical relationships based on power, wealth or privilege. In contrast to other radicals, they also reject any authoritarian or privileged role for themselves in the struggle against authority and in the creation of a free society.

We find similar attitudes among some of the revolutionaries in the modern era. During the French Revolution, the enragés (Selection 5) and the radical egalitarians (Selection 6) opposed revolutionary dictatorship and government as a contradiction in terms, and sought to abolish all hierarchical distinctions, including that between the governed and the governors.

But it was not until around the time of the 1848 Revolutions in Europe that anarchism began to emerge as a distinct doctrine (Chapter 4). It was Pierre-Joseph Proudhon in France who was the first to describe himself as an anarchist in 1840 (Selection 8). Anarchist ideas soon spread to Germany (Selection 11), Spain (Selection 15) and Italy (Selection 16). Following the failure of the 1848 Revolutions some expatriates, disillusioned by politics, adopted an anarchist position (Selection 14).

As the political reaction in Europe began to ebb in the 1860s, anarchist ideas re-emerged, ultimately leading to the creation of an avowedly anarchist movement from out of the anti-authoritarian sections of the socialist First International (Chapters 5 and 6). The Paris Commune, despite being drowned in blood, gave renewed inspiration to the anarchists and helped persuade many of them to adopt an anarchist communist position (Chapters 7 and 8). The anarchist communists championed the Commune, but insisted that within the revolutionary commune there should be no ruling authority and no private property, but rather free federation and distribution according to need.

Although anarchist communism was perhaps the most influential anarchist doctrine, soon spreading throughout Europe, Latin America and later Asia, the First International had bequeathed to the anarchist movement another doctrine of comparable significance, anarcho-syndicalism (Chapter 12), a combination of anarchism and revolutionary trade unionism based on direct action (Chapter 10) and anti-parliamentarianism.

Of lesser significance were anarchist collectivism (Selections 36 and 55), where distribution of wealth was to be based on labour, and individualist anarchism (Selections 42 and 61), which for the most part was but a footnote to Max Stirner (Selection 11).

At the beginning of the 20th century, a new era of revolutions began, first in Mexico (Chapter 16), then in Russia (Chapter 18), culminating, at least for the anarchists, in Spain (Chapter 23). At the same time, anarchists had to deal with a devastating war in Europe and the rise of totalitarianism (Chapters 17 and 22).

Anarchist ideas spread throughout Latin America (Chapter 19), China (Chapter 20), and Japan and Korea (Chapter 21). I was fortunate to obtain for this volume translations of considerable material from these areas and from Europe that has never before appeared in English. I have also included several translations from now out of print sources that would otherwise be unavailable. Generally, I have organized the selections chronologically, but with a specific theme for each chapter, to try to convey the scope of anarchist ideas, as well as their historical development.

This is the first of a two volume documentary history of anarchist ideas. The final chapter of this volume, with selections from Emma Goldman, Herbert Read and Errico Malatesta, constitutes both an epilogue to volume one, and a prologue to volume two, which will cover the period from 1939 to the present day. I regard all three as important figures in the transition from “classical anarchism,” covering the period from Proudhon to the Spanish Revolution, to modern anarchism as it developed after the Second World War.

A review of the material in this volume alone demonstrates how remarkable was the breadth and depth of anarchist thinking for its time. Anarchists and their precursors, such as Fourier, were among the first to criticize the combined effects of the organization of work, the division of labour and technological innovation under capitalism. Anarchists recognized the importance of education as both a means of social control and as a potential means of liberation. They had important things to say about art and free expression, law and morality. They championed sexual freedom but also criticized the commodification of sex under capitalism. They were critical of all hierarchical relationships, whether between father and children, husband and wife, teacher and student, professionals and workers, or leaders and led, throughout society and even within their own organizations. They emphasized the importance of maintaining consistency between means and ends, and in acting in accordance with their ideals now, in the process of transforming society, not in the distant future. They opposed war and militarism in the face of widespread repression, and did not hesitate to criticize the orthodox Left for its authoritarianism and opportunism. They developed an original conception of an all-encompassing social revolution, rejecting state terrorism and seeking to reduce violence to a minimum.

And they paid dearly for it. Several of the contributors to this volume were executed, murdered or killed fighting for their ideals (Pisacane, Landauer, the Haymarket Martyrs, Ferrer, Guerrero, Kôtoku Shûsui, Ôsugi Sakae, Itô Noe, Arshinov, Isaac Puente), as were countless of their comrades. Others died in prison or prematurely as a result of imprisonment (Bakunin, Most, Wilde, Flores Magón, Makhno, Shin Chaeho). Others were the objects of attempted assassinations (Michel, de Cleyre, Malatesta). Still others died in tragic circumstances (Déjacque, Gross, Berkman). Virtually every one of them was imprisoned at various times for advocating anarchy. Anyone honestly assessing the impact of anarchist ideas, or the lack thereof, cannot fail to take this pervasive repression into account. The “competition of ideas” has never been a fair one.



1. Bao Jingyan: Neither Lord Nor Subject (300 C.E.)

2. Etienne de la Boetie: On Voluntary Servitude (1552)

3. Gerrard Winstanley: The New Law of Righteousness (1649)


4. William Godwin: Enquiry Concerning Political Justice (1793-97)

5. Jean Varlet: The Explosion (1794)

6. Sylvain Maréchal: Manifesto of the Equals (1796)


7. Charles Fourier: Attractive Labour (1822-37)

8. Pierre-Joseph Proudhon: What is Property (1840)

9. Proudhon: The System of Economic Contradictions (1846)


10. Michael Bakunin, The Reaction in Germany (1842)

11. Max Stirner: The Ego and Its Own (1844)

12. Proudhon: The General Idea of the Revolution (1851)

13. Anselme Bellegarrigue: Anarchy is Order (1850)

14. Joseph Déjacque: The Revolutionary Question (1854)

15. Francisco Pi y Margall: Reaction and Revolution (1854)

16. Carlo Pisacane: On Revolution (1857)

17. Joseph Déjacque: On Being Human (1857)


18. Proudhon: On Federalism (1863/65)

19. Statutes of the First International (1864-1866)

20. Bakunin: Socialism and the State (1867)

21. Bakunin: Program of the International Brotherhood (1868)

22. Bakunin: What is the State (1869)

23. Bakunin: The Illusion of Universal Suffrage (1870)

24. Bakunin: On Science and Authority (1871)


25. Bakunin: The Organization of the International (1871)

26. The Sonvillier Circular (1871)

27. The St. Imier Congress (1872)


28. Bakunin: Letters to a Frenchman on the Present Crisis (1870)

29. Bakunin: The Paris Commune and the Idea of the State (1871)

30. Louise Michel: In Defence of the Commune (1871)

31. Peter Kropotkin: The Paris Commune (1881)


32. Carlo Cafiero: Anarchy and Communism (1880)

33. Kropotkin: The Conquest of Bread (1892)

34. Kropotkin: Fields, Factories and Workshops (1898)

35. Luigi Galleani: The End of Anarchism (1907)


36. José Llunas Pujols: What is Anarchy (1882)

37. Charlotte Wilson: Anarchism (1886)

38. Élisée Reclus: Anarchy (1894)

39. Jean Grave: Moribund Society and Anarchy (1893)

40. Gustav Landauer: Anarchism in Germany (1895)

41. Kropotkin: On Anarchism (1896)

42. E. Armand: Mini-Manual of the Anarchist Individualist (1911)


43. Paul Brousse: Propaganda By the Deed (1877)

44. Carlo Cafiero: Action (1880)

45. Kropotkin: Expropriation (1885)

46. Jean Grave: Means and Ends (1893)

47. Leo Tolstoy: On Non-violent Resistance (1900)

48. Errico Malatesta: Violence as a Social Factor (1895)

49. Gustav Landauer: Destroying the State by Creating Socialism (1910/15)

50. Voltairine de Cleyre: Direct Action (1912)


51. William Godwin: Of Law (1797)

52. Kropotkin: Law and Authority (1886)

53. Errico Malatesta: The Duties of the Present Hour (1894)

54. Kropotkin: Mutual Aid (1902) and Anarchist Morality (1890)


55. The Pittsburgh Proclamation (1883)

56. Fernand Pelloutier: Anarchism and the Workers’ Unions (1895)

57. Antonio Pellicer Paraire: The Organization of Labour (1900)

58. The Workers’ Federation of the Uruguayan Region (FORU): Declarations from the 3rd Congress (1911)

59. Emma Goldman: On Syndicalism (1913)

60. Pierre Monatte and Errico Malatesta: Syndicalism – For and Against (1907)


61. Oscar Wilde: The Soul of Man Under Socialism (1891)

62. Bernard Lazare: Anarchy and Literature (1894)

63. Jean Grave: The Artist as Equal, Not Master (1899)


64. Bakunin: Integral Education (1869)

65. Francisco Ferrer: The Modern School (1908)

66. Sébastien Faure: Libertarian Education (1910)


67. Bakunin: Against Patriarchal Authority (1873)

68. Louise Michel: Women’s Rights (1886)

69. Carmen Lareva: Free Love (1896)

70. Emma Goldman: Marriage (1897), Prostitution and Love (1910)


71. Voltairine de Cleyre: The Mexican Revolution (1911)

72. Praxedis Guerrero: To Die On Your Feet (1910)

73. Ricardo Flores Magón: Land and Liberty (1911-1918)


74. Élisée Reclus: Evolution and Revolution (1891)

75. Tolstoy: Compulsory Military Service (1893)

76. Jean Grave: Against Militarism and Colonialism (1893)

77. Élisée Reclus: The Modern State (1905)

78. Otto Gross: Overcoming Cultural Crisis (1913)

79. Gustav Landauer: For Socialism (1911)

80. Malatesta: Anarchists Have Forgotten Their Principles (1914)

81. International Anarchist Manifesto Against War (1915)

82. Emma Goldman: The Road to Universal Slaughter (1915)


83. Gregory Maksimov: The Soviets (1917)

84. All-Russian Conference of Anarcho-Syndicalists: Resolution on Trade Unions and Factory Committees (1918)

85. Manifestos of the Makhnovist Movement (1920)

86. Peter Arshinov: The Makhnovshchina and Anarchism (1921)

87. Voline: The Unknown Revolution (1947)

88. Alexander Berkman: The Bolshevik Myth (1925)

89. Emma Goldman: The Transvaluation of Values (1923)


90. Comrades of the Chaco: Anarchist Manifesto (1892)

91. Manuel González Prada: Our Indians (1904)

92. Rafael Barrett: Striving for Anarchism (1909/10)

93. Teodoro Antilli: Class Struggle and Social Struggle (1924)

94. López Arango and Abad de Santillán: Anarchism in the Labour Movement (1925)

95. The American Continental Workers’ Association (1929)


96. He Zhen: Women’s Liberation (1907)

97. Chu Minyi: Universal Revolution (1907)

98. Wu Zhihui: Education as Revolution (1908)

99. Shifu: Goals and Methods of the Anarchist-Communist Party (1914)

100. Huang Lingshuang: Writings on Evolution, Freedom and Marxism (1917-29)

101. Li Pei Kan (Ba Jin): On Theory and Practice (1921-1927)


102. Kôtoku Shûsui: Letter from Prison (1910)

103. Ôsugi Sakae: Social Idealism (1920)

104. Itô Noe: The Facts of Anarchy (1921)

105. Shin Chaeho: Declaration of the Korean Revolution (1923)

106. Hatta Shûzô: On Syndicalism (1927)

107. Kubo Yuzuru: On Class Struggle and the Daily Struggle (1928)

108. The Talhwan: What We Advocate (1928)

109. Takamure Itsue: A Vision of Anarchist Love (1930)

110. Japanese Libertarian Federation: What To Do About War (1931)


111. Gustav Landauer: Revolution of the Spirit (1919)

112. Errico Malatesta: An Anarchist Program (1920)

113. Luigi Fabbri: Fascism: The Preventive Counter-Revolution (1921)

114. The IWA: Declaration of the Principles of Revolutionary Syndicalism (1922)

115. The Platform and its Critics (1926-27)

116. Voline: Anarchist Synthesis

117. Alexander Berkman: The ABC of Communist Anarchism (1927)

118. Marcus Graham: Against the Machine (1934)

119. Wilhelm Reich and the Mass Psychology of Fascism (1935)

120. Bart de Ligt: The Conquest of Violence (1937)

121. Rudolf Rocker: Nationalism and Culture (1937)


122. Félix Martí Ibáñez: The Sexual Revolution (1934)

123. Lucía Sánchez Saornil: The Question of Feminism (1935)

124. The CNT: Resolutions from the Zaragoza Congress (1936)

125. Diego Abad de Santillán: The Libertarian Revolution (1937)

126. Gaston Leval: Libertarian Democracy

127. Albert Jensen: The CNT-FAI, the State and Government (1938)

128. Diego Abad de Santillán: A Return to Principle (1938)


129. Emma Goldman: A Life Worth Living (1934)

130. Herbert Read: Poetry and Anarchism (1938)

131. Malatesta: Toward Anarchy

Published on November 9, 2008 at 10:05 am  Comments (15)  

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  1. Where can this book be purchased?

    • The Black Rose Books website lists a variety of ways you can order Anarchism: A Documentary History of Libertarian Ideas, Volumes One & Two, at:

  2. [...] prefácio de Anarchism: A Documentary History of Libertarian Ideas, Volume One: From Anarchy to Anarchism, de Robert [...]

  3. [...] [2] Anarchism: From Anarchy to Anarchism (300CE to 1939) v. 1 & 2 : A Documentary History of Liberta… [...]

  4. [...] [2] Anarchism: From Anarchy to Anarchism (300CE to 1939) v. 1 & 2 : A Documentary History of Liberta… [...]

  5. [...] [2] Anarchism: From Anarchy to Anarchism (300CE to 1939) v. 1 & 2 : A Documentary History of Liberta… [...]

  6. [...] [2] Anarchism: From Anarchy to Anarchism (300CE to 1939) v. 1 & 2 : A Documentary History of Liberta… [...]

  7. [...] [2] Anarchism: From Anarchy to Anarchism (300CE to 1939) v. 1 & 2 : A Documentary History of Liberta… [...]

  8. [...] [2] Anarchism: From Anarchy to Anarchism (300CE to 1939) v. 1 & 2 : A Documentary History of Liberta… [...]

  9. [...] [2] Anarchism: From Anarchy to Anarchism (300CE to 1939) v. 1 & 2 : A Documentary History of Liberta… [...]

  10. [...] Anarchism: A Documentary History of Libertarian Ideas, Volume One: From Anarchy to Anarchism (300CE-… November 2008 11 comments 5 [...]

  11. Raegan & Thatcher did not reduce the role of government. However, they did stop the increase in the size of government as a percentage of GDP. While this is far short of what libertarians want, it is an improvement on the previous situation.

    While it’s true that the chicago school represents a more moderate version of libertarianism, they are still a force for good. It was through chicago school economics (especially Milton Friedman) that I discovered libertarian ideas. The same applies for many economists.

    • Not sure how this post ended up here, but to briefly respond, not only did Reagan and Thatcher increase the size of government, particularly its repressive apparatus, through increased military spending and policing, they did not stop the increase in the size of the national debt. Here is Reagan’s record: “The Reagan administration had inherited a budget deficit that was 2.5 percent of the economy, with an interest payment rate on the national debt (defined) at $69 billion. When Reagan left office in 1989 the budget deficit had increased to 5 percent of the economy, and budget deficits had contributed to a larger national debt. Interest payments on the national debt had increased to $169 billion. The national debt had been at 32.5 percent of GDP when he took office — the lowest since World War II… It was at 43.8 percent when he left” []. Sure, they helped to dismantle the social welfare state, but they increased each respective state’s coercive power significantly, and used that power at home and abroad. How this could serve as any sort of inspiration to anarchists is beyond me. As for the Chicago School, their role in Chile under the Pinochet dictatorship speaks volumes of the commitment of capitalist “libertarians” to freedom and human rights.

  12. [...] themes can be found in the works of Taoist sages Laozi,[35] Zhuangzi and Bao Jingyan [7]. Zhuangzi wrote, “A petty thief is put in jail. A great brigand becomes a ruler of a [...]

  13. [...] Graham gives us some further excerpts from Alexander Berkman’s book in Volume One of Anarchism: A Documentary History of Libertarian Ideas, available from AK [...]

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