Social anarchism

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Social anarchism (sometimes referred to as socialist anarchism or anarcho-socialism) is generally considered to be the branch of anarchism which sees individual freedom as being dependent upon mutual aid.  Social anarchist thought generally emphasizes community and social equality.  The term emerged in the late 19th century as a distinction from individualist anarchism.


  • And I began to try to explore what were movements and ideologies, if you like, that really were liberatory, that really freed people of this hierarchical mentality, of this authoritarian outlook, of this complete assimilation by the work ethic.  And I now began to turn, very consciously, toward anarchist views, because anarchism posed a question, not simply of a struggle between classes based upon economic exploitation—anarchism really was posing a much broader historical question that even goes beyond our industrial civilisation—not just classes, but hierarchy—hierarchy as it exists in the family, hierarchy as it exists in the school, hierarchy as it exists in sexual relationships, hierarchy as it exists between ethnic groups.  Not only class divisions, based upon economic exploitation.  And it was concerned not only with economic exploitation, it was concerned with domination, domination which may not even have any economic meaning at all: the domination of women by men in which women are not economically exploited; the domination of ordinary people by bureaucrats, in which you may even have welfare, so-called socialist type of state; domination as it exists today in China, even when you're supposed to have a classless society; domination even as it exists in Russia, where you are supposed to have a classless society, you see.

    So these are the things I noted in anarchism, and increasingly I came to the conclusion that if we were to avoid—or if we are to avoid—the mistakes in over one hundred years of proletarian socialism, if we are to really achieve a liberatory movement, not simply in terms of economic questions but in terms of every aspect of life, we would have to turn to anarchism because it alone posed the problem, not merely of class domination but hierarchical domination, and it alone posed the question, not simply of economic exploitation, but exploitation in every sphere of life.  And it was that growing awareness, that we had to go beyond classism into hierarchy, and beyond exploitation into domination, that led me into anarchism, and to a commitment to an anarchist outlook.

  • The basic problem I really have is that whenever I meet leftists in the socialist and Marxist movements, I'm called a petit-bourgeois individualist.  [audience laughs]  I'm supposed to shrink after this—  Usually I'm called petit-bourgeois individualist by students, and by academicians, who’ve never done a days work life [sic] in their entire biography, whereas I have spent years in factories and the trade unions, in foundries and auto plants.  So after I have to swallow the word petit-bourgeois, I don't mind the word individualist at all!

    I believe in individual freedom; that's my primary and complete commitment—individual liberty.  That’s what it's all about.  And that's what socialism was supposed to be about, or anarchism was supposed to be about, and tragically has been betrayed.

    And when I normally encounter my so-called colleagues on the left—socialists, Marxists, communists—they tell me that, after the revolution, they're gonna shoot me.  [audience laughs, Murray nods]  That is said with unusual consistency.  They're gonna stand me and Karl up against the wall and get rid of us real fast; I feel much safer in your company.  [audience laughs and applauds]

    • Murray Bookchin, speaking to a crowd of anarcho-capitalists and other libertarians at a Libertarian Party Conference, depicted in Anarchism in America, directed by Steven Fischler and Joel Sucher (15 January 1983).
    • Karl Hess is sitting next to Bookchin at the table.
  • [A]fter I got evicted from the Republican Party, I began reading considerably more of the works of American anarchists, thanks largely to Murray Rothbard…and I was just amazed.

    When I read Emma Goldman, it was as though everything I had hoped that the Republican Party would stand for suddenly came out crystallised.  It was a magnificently clear statement.  And another interesting things about reading Emma Goldman is that you immediately see that, consciously or not, she's the source of the best in Ayn Rand.  She has the essential points that the Ayn Rand philosophy thinks, but without any of this sort of crazy solipsism that Rand is so fond of, the notion that people accomplish everything all in isolation.  Emma Goldman understands that there’s a social element to even science, but she also writes that all history is a struggle of the individual against the institutions, which of course is what I’d always thought Republicans were saying, and so it goes.

    In other words, in the Old Right, there were a lot of statements that seemed correct, and they appeal to you emotionally, as well; it was why I was a Republican—isolationist, anti-authoritarian positions, but they’re not illuminated by anything more than statement.  They just are good statements.  But in the writings of the anarchists the same statements are made, but with this long illumination out of experience, analysis, comparison…it's rock-solid, and so I immediately realised that I'd been stumbling around inventing parts of a tradition that was old and thoughtful and already existed, and that's very nice to discover that—I don't think it's necessary to invent everything.

  • Michael Bakunin, one of anarchism's leading proponents, warned that the Marxists, instead of abolishing state power, would simply transfer it from one group to another.  His words turned out to be prophetic.  He said Marx and his friends will concentrate all the powers of government in strong hands.  The Red Bureaucracy will be the most violent, terrible lie our century has created.
  • Nick Gillespie:  So, um, how do you self-describe politically?
    Krist Novoselic:  I'm a, what, an anarcho-capitalist socialist…I don't know…I'm kinda a moderate, I think I'm moderate.
    Nick Gillespie:  So you're an anarcho-capitalist socialist moderate.
    Krist Novoselic:  I mean I'm a gun-owning pacifist, so there you go.  I'm an anarcho-socialist—you know what I mean?
    Nick Gillespie:  Anarcho-socialist—
    Krist Novoselic:  —capitalist
    Nick Gillespie:  —capitalist, gun-toting…
    Krist Novoselic:  Yeah, it's just like I, y'know, I just tryin'a, tryin'a make it work in this world and...basically I'm just a small-D democrat.
  • It [is] different because each worker has an opportunity to save whatever she likes, she or he likes, in any of the business part—in our holiday pay, our vacation, or whatever.  If we make a loan—the workers—each individual—each operator has a safe; we have to contact everybody, workers only, different from all other plants I've ever worked, because, usually, the head people—the manager and his personnel—come in and take care of everything; right here, the workers take care of everything.  It makes a difference.  You build your own business, and then you work it like you want to, you know, and you become a part of it, and it's your business.  You know, working for the other man, you're working for yourself.
  • It's like working for myself, you know: what I put into it is what I get out of it.
    • An employee of Worker Owned and Operated Sewing Company, Windsor, North Carolina, Anarchism in America, directed by Steven Fischler and Joel Sucher (15 January 1983).

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