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To take an example: in the second part of his career Proudhon’s thinking took aconservative turn. His verbose and monumental
De la Justice dans la Revolution et dansl’Eglise
(1858) was mainly concerned with the problem of religion and its conclusion wasfar from libertarian. In the end, in spite of passionate anti-clericalism, he accepted all thecategories of Catholicism, subject to his own interpretations, proclaimed that theinstruction and moral training of the people would benefit from the preservation of Christian symbolism, and in his final words seemed almost ready to say a prayer. Respectfor his memory inhibits all but a passing reference to his “salute to war,” his diatribesagainst women, or his fits of racism.The opposite happened to Bakunin. His wild early career as a revolutionary conspirator was unconnected with anarchism. He embraced libertarian ideas only in 1864 after thefailure of the Polish insurrection in which he played a part. His earlier writings have noplace in an anarchist anthology. As for Kropotkin, his purely scientific work, for which heis today celebrated in the U.S.S.R. as a shining light in the study of national geography, hasno more connection with anarchism than had his pro-war attitude during the First World War.In place of a historical and chronological sequence an unusual method has been adoptedin this book: the reader will be presented in turn with the main constructive themes of anarchism, and not with personalities. I have intentionally omitted only elements, whichare not specifically libertarian, such as the critique of capitalism, atheism, anti-militarism,free love, etc. Rather than give secondhand and therefore faded paraphrases unsupportedby evidence, I have allowed quotations to speak directly as far as possible. This gives thereader access to the ideas of the masters in their warm and living form, as they wereoriginally penned.Secondly, the doctrine is examined from a different angle: it is shown in the great periods when it was put to the test by events - the Russian Revolution of 1917, Italy after 1918, theSpanish Revolution of 1936. The final chapter treats what is undoubtedly the most originalcreation of anarchism: workers’ self-management as it has been developed in the grip of contemporary reality, in Yugoslavia and Algeria - and soon, perhaps, who knows, in theU.S.S.R.Throughout this little book the reader will see two conceptions of socialism contrasted andsometimes related to one another, one authoritarian, the other libertarian. By the end of the analysis it is hoped that the reader will be led to ask himself which is the conception of the future.
1. The Basic Ideas of Anarchism A MATTER OF WORDS
The word anarchy is as old as the world. It is derived from two ancient Greek words,
(arkhe), and means something like the absence of authority or government.