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Social anarchism is the branch of anarchism that sees individual freedom as interrelated with mutual aid. Social anarchist thought emphasizes community and social equality as complementary to autonomy and personal freedom. It attempts to accomplish this balance through freedom of speech maintained in a decentralized federalism, with freedom of interaction in thought and subsidiarity. Subsidiarity is best defined as "that one should not withdraw from individuals and commit to the community what they can accomplish by their own enterprise and industry" and that "[f]or every social activity ought of its very nature to furnish help to the members of the body social, and never destroy and absorb them", or the slogan "Do not take tools out of people's hands".
Social anarchism has been the dominant form of anarchism. As a term, social anarchism is used in contrast to individualist anarchism to describe the theory that places an emphasis on the communitarian and cooperative aspects in anarchist theory while also opposing authoritarian forms of communitarianism associated with groupthink and collective conformity, favoring a reconciliation between individuality and sociality. Self-determination, worker's self-management, education and empowerment are all emphasized in social anarchism while illegitimate authority is removed through inspection and vigilance. A do-it-yourself (DIY) mentality is combined with educational efforts within the social realm. Social anarchism has also advocated the conversion of a portion of present-day and future productive private property be made into social property. It advocates this to offer individual empowerment through easier access to things such as tools or parts and a sharing of the commons while retaining respect for personal property.
Social anarchism is considered an umbrella term that mainly refers to the post-capitalist economic models of anarcho-communism, collectivist anarchism and sometimes mutualism. It can also includes non-state controlled federated guild socialist, dual power industrial democracy and economic democracy, or federated worker cooperatives and workers' and consumers' councils replacing much of the present state system whilst retaining basic rights. In addition, it includes the trade union approach of anarcho-syndicalism, the social struggle strategies of platformism and specifism and the environmental philosophy of social ecology. As a term, social anarchism overlaps with libertarianism, libertarian socialism and left-libertarianism, emerging in the late 19th century as a distinction from individualist anarchism after anarcho-communism replaced collectivist anarchism as the dominant tendency.
Other names that have been used to refer to social anarchism or class-struggle anarchism include:
Anarchist socialism, anarcho-socialism and socialist anarchism are terms used to refer to social anarchism, but this is rejected by most anarchists since they generally consider themselves socialists of the libertarian tradition and are seen as unnecessary and confusing when not used as synonymous for libertarian or stateless socialism vis-à-vis authoritarian or state socialism. Anarchism has been historically identified with the socialist and anti-capitalist movement, with the main divide being between anti-market anarchists who support some form of decentralized economic planning and pro-market anarchists who support free-market socialism, therefore such terms are mainly used by anarcho-capitalism theorists and scholars who recognize anarcho-capitalism to differentiate between the two. For similar reasons, anarchists also reject categorizations such as left and right anarchism (anarcho-capitalism), seeing anarchism as a radical left-wing or far-left ideology.
While most anarcho-capitalists theorists and scholars divide anarchism into social anarchism vis-à-vis individualist anarchism meaning socialism vs. capitalism, seeing the two as mutually exclusive although accepting all anarchist schools of thought under panarchy on the basis of voluntaryism, anarchist theorists and scholars opposing to anarcho-capitalism reject this, not seeing them as a struggle between socialism and capitalism or as mutually exclusive, but instead as complementary, with their differences mainly being based on the means to attain anarchy, rather than on their ends, arguing against certain anarcho-capitalist theorists and scholars who see individualist anarchism as pro-capitalist and reiterating that anarchism as a whole is socialist, meaning libertarian and anti-statist socialism. As an example, many anarcho-communists regard themselves as radically individualists, seeing anarcho-communism as the best social system for the realization of individual freedom. Anarchism is generally considered an individualist philosophy, opposing all forms of authoritarian collectivism, but one which does see the individual and the communiy as complementary rather than mutually exclusive, with anarco-communism and social anarchism in particular most rejecting the individualist–collectivist dichotomy. Notwithstanding the name, collectivist anarchism is also seen as a blend of individualism and collectivism. In the United States, social anarchism can also refer to Murray Bookchin's circle and its omonymous journal.
To differentiate it from individualist anarchism, most anarchists generally prefer using social anarchism, a term used to characterize certain strides of anarchism vis-à-vis individualist anarchism, with the former focusing on the social aspect and generally being more organisational as well as supporting decentralised economic planning and the latter focusing on the individual and generally being more anti-organisational as well as supporting a free-market form of socialism, respectively, rather than seeing the two categories as mutually exclusive or as socialist vis-à-vis capitalism, leading to anarchism without adjectives. The mutualist theory of Pierre-Joseph Proudhon is seen as the middle or third category between social anarchism and individualist anarchism, although it is often considered part of social anarchism and sometimes part of individualist anarchism. Proudhon spoke of social individualism and described the mutualism and the freedom it pursued as the synthesis between communism and property.
Social anarchism sees "individual freedom as conceptually connected with social equality and emphasize community and mutual aid". It rejects private property, seeing it as a source of social inequality, positing instead a future society in which private property does not exist and is replaced by reciprocity and egalitarian society. As a term, social anarchism is used to specifically describe tendencies within anarchism that have an emphasis on the communitarian and cooperative aspects of anarchist theory and practice, aiming for the "free association of people living together and cooperating in free communities". Bookchin identifies social anarchism with the left, by which he refers to the "great tradition of human solidarity and a belief in the potentiality for humanness, [...] the internationalism and confederalism, the democratic spirit, antimilitarism, and the rational secularism".
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Social anarchism emphasizes mutual aid, social ownership and workers' self-management. Social anarchism has been the dominant form of classical anarchism and includes the major collectivist, communist and syndicalist schools of anarchist thought. Mutualism is also sometimes included within this social anarchism tradition, although mainly advocated by individualist anarchists.
The social ownership advocated by social anarchists can come through collective ownership as with Bakuninists and collectivist anarchists; common ownership as with communist anarchists; and cooperative ownership as with mutualist and syndicalist anarchists.
It has come in both peaceful and insurrectionary as well as anti-organizationalist and platformist tendencies. It operates heavily within labour syndicates, trade unions and workers' movements, emphasizing the liberation of workers through class struggle.
Mutualism emerged from early 19th century socialism and is generally considered a market-oriented strand within the libertarian socialist tradition. Originally developed by Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, mutualism typically accepts property rights, but with brief abandonment time periods. In a community in which mutuality property rules were upheld, a landowner would need to make continuous use of the land. If failing to do so, the ownership rights would be extinguished and the land could be homesteaded by someone else. A mutualist property regime is often described as one rooted in possession, occupancy-and-use, or usufruct.
Nevertheless, mutualism is also associated with the economic views of 19th century American individualist anarchists such as Benjamin Tucker and William Batchelder Greene. Today, Kevin Carson is a contemporary mutualist and author of Studies in Mutualist Political Economy who describes this work as "an attempt to revive individualist anarchist political economy, to incorporate the useful developments of the last hundred years, and to make it relevant to the problems of the twenty-first century".
Collectivist anarchism is a revolutionary form of anarchism commonly associated with Mikhail Bakunin and James Guillaume. It is a specific tendency, not to be confused with the broad category sometimes called collectivist or communitarian anarchism.
The tendency emerged from the most radical wing of mutualism during the late 1860s. Unlike mutualists, collectivist anarchists oppose all private ownership of the means of production, instead advocating that ownership be collectivized, being made the joint property of the commune (municipality). This was to be achieved through violent revolution, first starting with a small cohesive group through acts of armed insurrection, or propaganda by the deed, which would inspire the workers and peasants as a whole to revolt and forcibly collectivize the means of production.
Collectivization was not to be extended to the distribution of income as workers would be paid according to time worked, rather than receiving goods being distributed "according to need" as in anarcho-communism. This position was criticised by later anarcho-communists as effectively "uphold[ing] the wages system".
Anarcho-communist and collectivist ideas were not mutually exclusive. Although the collectivist anarchists advocated compensation for labor, some held out the possibility of a post-revolutionary transition to a communist system of distribution according to need, claiming that this would become more feasible once technology and productivity had evolved to a point where "production outstrips consumption" in a relative sense. Collectivist anarchism arose contemporaneously with Marxism, but it opposed the Marxist dictatorship of the proletariat despite the stated Marxist goal of a collectivist stateless society.
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Anarcho-communism is a theory of anarchism that advocates the abolition of the state, markets, money, capitalism and private property. Politically, anarcho-communists advocate replacing the nation-state and representative government with a voluntary confederation of free communes (self-governing municipalities), with the commune replacing the nation as the core unit of social-political administration. Economically, anarcho-communists believe in converting private property into the commons or public goods while retaining respect for personal property. In practice, this means common ownership of the means of production, direct democracy with production organised through a horizontal network of voluntary associations and consumption based on the guiding principle: "From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs". Some forms of anarcho-communism such as insurrectionary anarchism are strongly influenced by egoism and radical individualism, believing anarcho-communism is the best social system for the realization of individual freedom. Most anarcho-communists view anarcho-communism as a way of reconciling the opposition between the individual and society.
The ideas associated with anarcho-communism developed out of radical socialist currents after the French Revolution, but it was first formulated as such in the Italian section of the First International. The theoretical work of Peter Kropotkin, who believed that in anarchy workers would spontaneously self-organize to produce goods for all of society, took importance later as it expanded and developed pro-organizationalist and insurrectionary anti-organizationalist sections. In terms of its vision for a post-capitalist economy, it differs from anarcho-syndicalism in seeing the centre of political-economic organisation as the commune, rather than the workplace, with economic issues being administered primarily on a communal (territorial), rather than unionist (industrial), basis. Although most anarcho-syndicalists agree with the communist method of distribution—"From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs"—they disagree with the commune-based method of organising production and structuring society, making them communists in one sense, but not the other. To date, the best known examples of an anarcho-communist society (i.e. established around the ideas as they exist today and achieving worldwide attention and knowledge in the historical canon) are the anarchist territories during the Spanish Revolution and the Free Territory during the Russian Revolution.
Through the efforts and influence of the Spanish anarchists during the Spanish Revolution within the Spanish Civil War starting in 1936, anarcho-communism existed in most of Aragon, parts of the Levante and Andalusia as well as in the stronghold of anarchist Catalonia before being crushed by the combined forces of the regime that won the war, Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini as well as Spanish Communist Party repression backed by the Soviet Union and economic and armaments blockades from the capitalist countries and the Spanish Republic itself. During the Russian Revolution, anarchists such as Nestor Makhno also worked through the Revolutionary Insurrectionary Army of Ukraine to create and defend anarcho-communism in the Free Territory of Ukraine from 1919 before being conquered by the Bolsheviks in 1921 during the Russian and Ukrainian civil wars.
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In the late 19th and early 20th century, revolutionary syndicalism emerged as a form of radical trade union activism, sharing a close relationship with social anarchists of both the collectivist and communist tendencies. In the early 1920s, anarcho-syndicalism arose as a distinct school of thought within anarchism.
With greater focus on the labour movement than previous forms of anarchism, syndicalism posits radical trade unions as a potential force for revolutionary social change, replacing capitalism and the state with a new society, democratically self-managed by the workers. Like anarcho-communists, anarcho-syndicalists seek to abolish the wage system and private ownership of the means of production, which they believe lead to class divisions. Important principles include workers' solidarity, direct action (such as general strikes and workplace recuperations) and workers' self-management of enterprises and the economy as a whole.
In terms of post-capitalist vision, anarcho-syndicalists most often subscribe to communist or collectivist anarchist economic systems on the issue of distributing goods. The aim is to use a radical trade union movement to achieve either a collectivist or communist (moneyless) mode of distribution; or first the former and then the latter, once a certain degree of technical-productive capacity has enabled production to outstrip consumption, making a moneyless economy more viable. However, anarcho-syndicalists differ from anarcho-communists on wanting federations of (trade-based) workers' syndicates as the locus of organising the economy, rather than confederations of (territory-based) free communes. Its advocates propose labour organization as a means to create the foundations of a trade union centered anarchist society within the current system and bring about social revolution. An early leading anarcho-syndicalist thinker was Rudolf Rocker, whose 1938 pamphlet Anarcho-Syndicalism outlined a view of the movement's origin, aims and importance to the future of labour.
Although more often associated with labor struggles of the early 20th century (particularly in France and Spain), many syndicalist organizations are active today, united across national borders by membership in the International Workers' Association, including the Central Organisation of the Workers of Sweden in Sweden, the Italian Syndicalist Union in Italy, the National Confederation of Labour and the General Confederation of Labour in Spain, the Workers Solidarity Movement of Ireland and the Industrial Workers of the World in the United States.
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Platformism is a tendency or organized school of thought within the anarcho-communist movement which stresses the need for tightly organized anarchist organizations that are able to influence working class and peasant movements to achieve anarcho-communism. It is in many ways identical to specifism (especifismo) and has an antecedent in the work of Mikhail Bakunin, advocating a strategy of "organisational dualism" which entails: (1) building specifically anarchist organisations with a general agreement on ideas and practices; and (2) anarchists working within broader popular organisations and movements that aren't specifically anarchist, hoping to maintain theoretical consistency as well as pushing popular movements in a more anarchistic direction from within.
Platformist/specifist groups reject the model of Leninist vanguardism. They instead aim to "make anarchist ideas the leading ideas within the class struggle" while also opposing the anarcho-syndicalist tendency of seeing the class struggle and anarchist struggle as synonymous; holding that non-union political organisations are a necessary part of achieving anarchist ends. According to the Organisational Platform for a General Union of Anarchists, the four main principles by which an anarchist-communist organisation should operate are the following:
In general, these groups aim to win the widest possible influence for anarcho-communist ideas and methods in the working class and peasantry (the popular classes), oriented towards "ordinary" people, rather than to the extreme left milieu. This usually entails a willingness to work in single-issue campaigns, trade unionism and community groups and to fight for immediate reforms while linking this to a project of building popular consciousness and organisation. They therefore reject approaches that they believe will prevent this, such as insurrectionist anarchism, as well as "views that dismiss activity in the unions" or that dismiss anti-imperialist movements.
The name platformist derives from the 1926 Organisational Platform of the General Union of Anarchists (Draft). It was published by the Group of Russian Anarchists Abroad in their journal Dielo Truda (Workers' Cause). This group, consisting of exiled Russian anarchist veterans of the October Revolution of 1917 (notably Nestor Makhno who played a leading role in the anarchist revolution in the Ukraine of 1918–1921), based the Platform on their experiences of the revolution and the eventual victory of the Bolsheviks over the anarchists and other groups. The Platform attempted to address and explain the anarchist movement's failures during the Russian Revolution outside of the Ukraine.
The document drew both praise and criticism from anarchists worldwide and sparked a major debate within the anarchist movement. Today, platformism is an important current in international anarchism. Around thirty platformist and specifist organisations are linked together in the Anarkismo.net project, including groups from Africa, Latin America, North America and Europe. Further theoretical developments of platformism/specifism include the Manifesto of Libertarian Communism (1953) by Georges Fontenis and Social Anarchism and Organisation (2008) by FARJ (Anarchist Federation of Rio de Janeiro).
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More recent political tendencies which emerged from social anarchism are the post-capitalist economic models of inclusive democracy and participatory economics (both of which could be regarded as updated forms of the collectivist anarchism of Bakunin) as well as the environmental philosophy of social ecology and its associated politics of post-scarcity anarchism and Communalism.
Inclusive Democracy is a political theory and political project that aim for direct democracy, economic democracy in a stateless, moneyless and marketless economy, self-management (democracy in the social realm) and ecological democracy. The theoretical project of Inclusive Democracy (ID; as distinguished from the political project that is part of the democratic and autonomy traditions) emerged from the work of political philosopher, former academic and activist Takis Fotopoulos in Towards An Inclusive Democracy and was further developed by him and other writers in the journal Democracy & Nature and its successor The International Journal of Inclusive Democracy, an electronic journal freely available and published by the International Network for Inclusive Democracy.
According to Arran Gare, Towards an Inclusive Democracy "offers a powerful new interpretation of the history and destructive dynamics of the market and provides an inspiring new vision of the future in place of both neo-liberalism and existing forms of socialism". As David Freeman points out, although Fotopoulos' approach "is not openly anarchism, yet anarchism seems the formal category within which he works, given his commitment to direct democracy, municipalism and abolition of state, money and market economy".
Participism is a 21st-century form of libertarian socialism which comprises two related economic and political systems called participatory economics or parecon and participatory politics or parpolity.
Parecon is an economic system proposed primarily by activist and political theorist Michael Albert and radical economist Robin Hahnel, among others. It uses participatory decision making as an economic mechanism to guide the production, consumption and allocation of resources in a given society. Proposed as an alternative to contemporary capitalist market economies and also an alternative to centrally planned socialism or coordinatorism, it is described as "an anarchistic economic vision" and it could be considered a form of socialism as under parecon, the means of production are owned by the workers. The underlying values that Parecon seeks to implement are equity, solidarity, diversity, workers' self-management and efficiency (efficiency here means accomplishing goals without wasting valued assets). It proposes to attain these ends mainly through the following principles and institutions: workers' and consumers' councils utilizing self-managerial methods for decision making, balanced job complexes, remuneration according to effort and sacrifice and participatory planning. Under parecon, the current monetary system would be replaced with a system of non-transferable credit which would cease to exist upon purchase of a commodity.
Parpolity is a theoretical political system proposed by Stephen R. Shalom. It was developed as a political vision to accompany Parecon. The values on which parpolity is based are freedom, self-management, justice, solidarity and tolerance. According to Shalom, the goal is to create a political system that will allow people to participate as much as possible in a face to face manner. Participism as a whole is critical of aspects of modern representative democracies and capitalism arguing that the level of political control by the people is not sufficient. To address this problem, parpolity suggests a system of nested councils which would include every adult member of a given society. With five levels of nested councils it is thought, could represent the population of the United States.
Under participism, the state as such would dissolve into a mere coordinating body made up of delegates, who would be recallable at any time by the nested council below them.
Social ecology is closely related to the work and ideas of Murray Bookchin and influenced by anarchist Peter Kropotkin. Social ecologists assert that the present ecological crisis has its roots in human social problems and that the domination of human-over-nature stems from the domination of human-over-human.
Bookchin later developed a political philosophy to complement social ecology that he called Communalism (spelled with a capital C to differentiate it from other forms of communalism). While originally conceived as a form of social anarchism, he later developed Communalism into a separate ideology that incorporates what he saw as the most beneficial elements of anarchism, Marxism, syndicalism and radical ecology.
Politically, Communalists advocate a network of directly democratic citizens' assemblies in individual communities/cities organized in a confederal fashion. This method used to achieve this is called libertarian municipalism which involves the establishment of face-to-face democratic institutions that are to grow and expand confederally with the goal of eventually replacing the nation state. Unlike anarchists, Communalists are not opposed to taking part in parliamentary politics—especially municipal elections—as long as candidates are libertarian socialist and anti-statist in outlook.
Economically, Communalism favours the abolition of markets and money and the transition to an economy similar to libertarian communism and according to the principle "From each according to his ability, to each according to needs".
The term libertarian as used in the US means something quite different from what it meant historically and still means in the rest of the world. Historically, the libertarian movement has been the anti-statist wing of the socialist movement. Socialist anarchism was libertarian socialism.
The same may be said of anarchism: social anarchism—a nonstate form of socialism—may be distinguished from the nonsocialist, and, in some cases, procapitalist school of individualist anarchism.
They [the Marxists] maintain that only a dictatorship—their dictatorship, of course—can create the will of the people, while our answer to this is: No dictatorship can have any other aim but that of self-perpetuation, and it can beget only slavery in the people tolerating it; freedom can be created only by freedom, that is, by a universal rebellion on the part of the people and free organization of the toiling masses from the bottom up.
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