MORAL COERCION by Ricardo Mella. Translated by Paul Sharkey. eBook £1.00/€1.25 (see eBookshelf)

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Apr 252016
 

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Galician-born surveyor Ricardo Mella (1861-1925) is regarded by many as one of the major theorists of anarchism in Spain. His moderate tone and outlook set the keynote for fellow-anarchists in Galicia and Asturias as he oposed jacobinism, regionalism, political socialism and extremism of any hue. While many embraced Ferrer’s rationalist educational methods, Mella campaigned for “neutral” education. Himself an anarcho-collectivist by inclination, he was one of those who brought Spanish anarchism out of the ghetto and into the workplace. His wide reading, incisive mind and preparedness to tackle the big subjects without going for extremist position has left a lasting imprint on the libertarian movement in Spain. In this work he considers the question — Can society really cope without law and government? What is the nature of moral coercion? How does it manifest itself in human relationships? What is its role in a free and egalitarian society? and how modern capitalist society turns moral coercion on its head.

“Whenever we posit that in a free society founded upon equality of condition moral coercion will be enough to maintain the harmony and peace between men, we are stating something that cries out for clear and precise proof.

“Folk being used to the belief that everything that happens in the world happens by the efforts and grace of governments, and persuaded that they themselves count for nothing in the life of society, so much so that they think of themselves are mere cogs in the machinery of government, it is going to be hard to explain to them how human society might function with no compulsion other than that deployed naturally and mutually by the members of society. So, even though the impact of moral coercion may be a self-evident fact today, we need to show that the world dances to the tune of said mutually suggestive force and that it, on its own, is enough to ensure that human groups with sound foundations can develop and survive.

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MEMOIRS OF A REVOLUTIONIST by Peter Kropotkin. eBook £1.50/€2.00 (see eBookshelf)

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Mar 132016
 

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Peter Kropotkin’s (1842-1921) autobiographical account of his journey from privileged childhood, through military service and two years in prison to anarchist thinker and activist; it was originally serialised in The Atlantic Monthly from September 1898 to September 1899, and provides a fascinating account of his intellectual development and radicalisation, of life under tsarist rule, and of the early European socialist movement.

The following footage is of Kropotkin’s funeral procession from the village of Dmitrov, where he died, to Moscow on 13 February 1921. It turned into a protest — the last anarchist demonstration in Russia until the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991. The accompanying sound track is a choral rendition of a traditional Russian folk song: ‘The Sun Descends Over the Steppe’.

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ANARCHISM Kropotkin’s entry on ‘anarchism’ for the 11th edition of the Encyclopaedia Britannica. First published 1910. eBook £1.00/€1.30 (see eBookshelf ).

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Mar 102016
 

AnarchismKropotkinsmallKropotkin’s entry on ‘anarchism’ for the 11th edition of the Encyclopaedia Britannica (1910). £1.00/€1.30 (see eBookshelf ). Also available on Kobo

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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ANARCHY Élisée Reclus. First published 1894. eBook £1.00/€1.30 (see eBookshelf ).

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Mar 102016
 

ReclusAnarchysmallANARCHY by Élisée Reclus. First published 1894. eBook £1.00/€1.30 (see eBookshelf ). Also available from Kindle and Kobo

The anarchist ideas of renowned French geographer, writer and activist Élisée Reclus (5 March 1830 – 4 July 1905) who produced his 19-volume masterwork, La Nouvelle Géographie universelle, la terre et les hommes (“Universal Geography“), over a period of nearly 20 years (1875–1894). In 1892 he was awarded the prestigious Gold Medal of the Paris Geographical Society for this work, despite having been banished from France because of his role in the Paris Commune of 1871. The text is based on a talk originally delivered to the Brussels Masonic Lodge ,“The Philanthropic Friends,” on June 18, 1894. It was later published as l’Anarchie in Les Temps Nouveaux 18 (May 25-June 1,1895).

An Anarchist on Anarchy

It is a pity that such men as Elisée Reclus cannot be promptly shot.” — Providence Press

To most Englishmen, the word Anarchy is so evil-sounding that ordinary readers of the Contemporary Review will probably turn from these pages with aversion, wondering how anybody could have the audacity to write them. With the crowd of commonplace chatterers we are already past praying for; no reproach is too bitter for us, no epithet too insulting. Public speakers on social and political subjects find that abuse of Anarchists is an unfailing passport to public favor. Every conceivable crime is laid to our charge, and opinion, too indolent to learn the truth, is easily persuaded that Anarchy is but another name for wickedness and chaos. Overwhelmed with opprobrium and held up with hatred, we are treated on the principle that the surest way of hanging a dog is to give it a bad name.

 

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LUCIO URTUBIA — THE INDOMITABLE ANARCHIST by Bernard Thomas. (Translated by Paul Sharkey) eBook — £1.50

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Dec 142015
 

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The biography of Lucio Urtubia, a Paris-based Navarese anarchist who was a friend and protégé of the enigmatic Spanish urban guerrilla ‘El Quico’, and the friend of, among others, André Breton and Albert Camus. Lucio played his part in the network of anarchist action and illegalist groups (Laureano Cerrada, D.I., First of May Group, M.I.L., G.A.R.I., Action Directe) that resisted and challenged the Franco and other oppressive regimes from the late 1950s through to the ‘70s and beyond. He is probably best known — because of his arrest in 1977 — for his ‘Robin Hood’ role in the falsification and international distribution of tens of thousands of Citibank $100 cheques— the money raised being used to support the libertarian guerrilla movements in Latin America (Tupamaros and Montoneros) and in Europe (G.A.R.I.). The action so damaged the bank its stock price plummetted. However, in spite of the scale and audacity of the forgery operation, Urtubia received only a six-month jail sentence as a result of an extrajudicial agreement with Citibank, which dropped the charges in exchange for Lucio’s printing plates. A unique story of ordinary politically conscious people — bricklayers, house-painters, electricians, etc. — challenging injustice in the turbulent nineteen sixties- and –seventies.
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THE COMMUNE, THE CHURCH AND THE STATE by MICHAEL BAKUNIN. eBook — £1.00

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Dec 122015
 

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Russian anarchist Mikhail Bakunin on the Paris Commune, government and the state: “This work, like all my published work, of which there has not been a great deal, is an outgrowth of events. It is the natural continuation of my Letters to a Frenchman (September 1870), wherein I had the easy but painful distinction of foreseeing and foretelling the dire calamities which now beset France and the whole civilized world, the only cure for which is the Social Revolution.

“My purpose now is to prove the need for such a revolution. I shall review the historical development of society and what is now taking place in Europe, right before our eyes. Thus all those who sincerely thirst for truth can accept it and proclaim openly and unequivocally the philosophical principles and practical aims which are at the very core of what we call the Social Revolution.

“I know my self-imposed task is not a simple one. I might be called presumptuous had I any personal motives in undertaking it. Let me assure my reader, I have none. I am not a scholar or a philosopher, not even a professional writer. I have not done much writing in my life and have never written except, so to speak, in self-defense, and only when a passionate conviction forced me to overcome my instinctive dislike for any public exhibition of myself…”

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GOD AND THE STATE by Michael Bakunin. Preface by Carlo Cafiero, Elysée Reclus; Introduction by Paul Avrich — eBook — £1.00

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Dec 122015
 

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Bakunin’s classic and highly influential text setting out the anarchist critique of religion as bound up in legitimising the state.

INTRODUCTION by Paul Avrich

This man was born not under an ordinary star but under a comet. — ALEXANDER HERZEN

It was nearly a century ago that Michael Bakunin wrote what was to become his most celebrated pamphlet, God and the State. At that time, anarchism was emerging as a major force within the revolutionary movement, and the named Bakunin, its foremost champion and prophet, was as well known among the workers and radical intellectuals of Europe as that of Karl Marx, with whom he was competing for leadership of the First International.

In contrast to Marx, Bakunin had won his reputation chiefly as an activist rather than a theorist of rebellion. He was born into the Russian landed gentry in 1814, but as a young man abandoned his army commission and noble heritage for a career as a professional revolutionist. Leaving Russia in 1840, aged twenty-six, he dedicated his life to a struggle against tyranny in all its forms. He was not one to sit in libraries, studying and writing about predetermined revolutions. Impatient for action, he threw himself into the uprisings of 1848 with irrepressible exuberance, a Promethean figure moving with the tided revolt from Paris to the barricades of Austria and Germany. Men like Bakunin, a companion remarked, “grow in a hurricane and ripen better in stormy weather than in sunshine.”1 But his arrest during the Dresden insurrection of 1849 cut short his feverish revolutionary activity. He spent the next eight years in prism, six of them in the darkest dungeons of tsarist Russia, and when he emerged, his sentence commuted to a life term of Siberian exile, he was toothless from scurvy and his health seriously impaired. In 1861, however, he escaped his warders and embarked upon a sensational odyssey that encircled the globe and made his name a legend and an object of worship in radical groups all over Europe.
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MODERN SCIENCE AND ANARCHISM by Peter Kropotkin. eBook — £1.00

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Dec 102015
 

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In ‘Modern Science and Anarchism’ Kropotkin argues that the Idea of anarchism originated not with individual thinkers, but from among the people and that it will preserve its vitality and creative force only for as long as it remains a movement of the people. Kropotkin claims in this work that throughout history ‘two currents of thought and action have been in conflict in the midst of human societies,’ — the ‘mutual aid’ tendency, as exemplified in tribal custom, village communities, medieval guilds, and, in fact, all institutions ‘developed and worked out, not by legislation, but by the creative spirit of the masses’. The other current is the authoritarian one, beginning with the ‘magi, shamans, wizards, rain-makers, oracles, and priests’ and continuing with the recorders of laws and the ‘chiefs of military bands’. ‘Kropotkin concludes ‘that anarchy represents the first of these two currents. … We can therefore say that from all times there have been anarchists and statists.’ Kropotkin postulates that the roots of anarchism lie in ‘the remotest Stone-age antiquity’; from this highly personal view of prehistory he continues through all rebellious movements to the rise of the early trade unions, concluding that ‘these are the main popular anarchist currents which we know of in history’. The book’s roots go back to 1887 when Kropotkin wrote an article entitled “The Scientific Bases of Anarchy” for the Nineteenth Century, the magazine edited by James Knowles which published most of Kropotkin’s major works in essay form before they appeared as books. Modern Science and Anarchism originated out of a burst of activity on Kropotkin’s part related to the rise of the clandestine anarchist movement in Russia. The first edition was printed in Russian, in London, in 1901; a later, German edition, was published in 1904, while the English and French versions did not appear until 1912/13. Kropotkin’s intention in writing Modern Science and Anarchism was, apparently, to clarify the basic methodological principle of anarchism, and establish the fact that anarchism is a broad based modern sociological science, i.e. political economy broadly defined, including political sociology, psychology, and law. Far from endorsing ‘the government of science’, he wanted to see established: “A society in which all the mutual relations of its members are regulated, not by laws, not by authorities, whether self-imposed or elected, but by mutual agreement… and by a sum of social customs and habits—not petrified by law, routine, or superstition, but continually developing and continually readjusted, in accordance with the ever-growing requirements of a free life, stimulated by the progress of science, invention, and the steady growth of higher ideals” (Modern Science and Anarchism).

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Anarchism: Arguments For and Against by Albert Meltzer. eBook £1.00

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Dec 082015
 

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This is the revised edition of Anarchism: Arguments For and Against that Albert Meltzer was working on at the time of his death on May 7th, 1996. The book was important to Albert, and it was one whose arguments he returned to often in his other writings.

Albert had become increasingly concerned about what he saw as the ghettoisation of anarchism. Separated from the working class base so necessary to achieve social revolution, anarchism could easily fall into the twin traps of philosophical radicalism or revolutionary arrogance — the “we’re more militant than anyone else” approach. Both strands have manifested themselves in British anarchism together with a sometimes demoralising and destructive incestuous approach to revolutionary change. Anarchists tend to talk only to other anarchists and are unable to relate to the majority of people who do not share their ideas and see anarchism as a rather exotic or illogical idea.

This was Albert’s attempt to examine and counter arguments people may have about anarchism. He examines the basic tenets of anarchist thought and practice and challenges some of the myths about anarchist theory and action— a vade mecum for those who hope to win over sceptics to anarchist ideas and break down the walls of the ghetto in which anarchism has been contained for many years.
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THE POLITICS OF OBEDIENCE. The Discourse of Voluntary Servitude by Étienne de la Boétie. Translated by Harry Kurz. (Kindle, Kobo or direct from our eBookstore at £1.00)

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Dec 032015
 

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Étienne de la Boétie (1530-1563) wrote the following essay on the ultimate source and nature of political power in the early 1550s, while still a law student at the University of Orleans. In it he considers the origins of dictatorship and the means by which people can prevent political enslavement and liberate themselves. The Discourse deserves a prominent place in the literature of political theory.

The Discourse of Voluntary Servitude is lucidly and coherently structured around a single axiom. a single insight into the nature not only of tyranny but, implicitly, of the State itself. Many medieval writers had attacked tyranny, but La Boétie delved deeply into its nature, and that of State rule itself. His fundamental insight was that every tyranny must necessarily be grounded upon general acceptance. In short, the bulk of the people themselves acquiesce in their own subjection. If this were not the case, no tyranny, indeed no government, could long endure. Hence, a government does not have to be popularly elected to enjoy general public support; for general public support is in the very nature of all governments that endure — including the most oppressive of tyrannies. The tyrant is but one person, and could scarcely command the obedience of another person, much less of an entire country, if most of the subjects did not grant their obedience by their own consent.

For La Boétie the central question of political theory is why people consent to their own enslavement? He cuts to the heart of what is, or rather should be, the central problem of political philosophy — the mystery of civil obedience. Why do people, in all time and places, obey the commands of government, which always constitutes a small minority of the society? To La Boétie the spectacle of general consent to despotism is both puzzling and appalling.