I moved the “Events in the 19th century” here because, (i) it was incorrectly labeled the 19th century (ii) as such it should be here and not on the last post (iii) and it makes the last post a bit less dense in the reading time so there are tactical as well as logical reasons for this move.

Anarchism really got a boost in popularity (or you could say infamy) in the 20th century, here are just some of the things that happened:

Some 20th Century Events

Assassinations and violent sabotage was all the rage with bombings of senators and judges in America and elsewhere the attempted assassination of cruel bosses and tyrannical rulers it was easy for the media to collectivize and call anarchist hoodlums and bomb throwers. Unfortunately this stereotype has not gotten any less by the media conflating the anti-globalist and anti-capitalist movement as anarchist especially when they destroy things. Persecution of anarchism was also very strong resulting in the unjust imprisonment of 7 anarchists during what would be called the Haymarket Affair and the trial and execution of Sacco and Vanzetti. Most anarchists did not live long and were either killed or died of diseases, associations like the IWW were formed out of anarchist sentiments but eventually died down and many intentional communities with anarchists trappings were established and most eventually failed.

Places like Somalia have been called anarchic though this point has been disputed among anarchists, for more information on Somalia there are some readings located here, here, here and here. Catalonia Spain was supposed to be a left-anarchists paradise (left-anarchist as in anarcho-socialist/communist/syndicalist, etc.) but this has brought up a debate among the “anarcho-capitalist” Bryan Caplan in The Anarcho Statists of Spain but then a reply was made to him which can be found here.

Anarchist Schools of Thought in the 20th Century

What about the schools of thought though? How were they developing? Well one of this writers favorite anarchist schools of thought, that of the American Individualist Anarchist school was being built by some very important individuals. Not only that but schools of thought like anarcho-socialism and insurrectionist-anarchism (that is anarchists who advocated violence as means of abolishing the state and generally the system of capitalism they said exploited workers, women, people in general, take your pick) were also heavily popular within the time of the early 20th century as mentioned about with bombs mailed to judges and other government officials.


Insurrectionist anarchism was done by those who oppose capitalism in most cases and thought that violence was the best way to get rid of the state once and for all. This was done through violent sabotage by workers, assassination attempts on government officials through bombs or other weapons by prominent anarchist organizations or thinkers. It was also done through something called “propaganda of the deed” or alternatively by the deed in which major officials were assassinated not as a means to see the revolution but a start in other people’s minds that the ruling class was weak and beatable if the poor rose up and revolted. But of course this method failed as the article states,

“Propaganda by deed inherently failed in its purpose. It led to the public associating violence with the ideals of anarchism. People had difficulty relating to someone they viewed as a murderous fanatic. This in turn alienated people from the ‘fanatic’s’ cause.

Another problem with the attentat (political assassination) is that many a time it has given governments licence to introduce further oppressive laws.”

Nevertheless some insurrectionist anarchists are worth discussing even if this means of abolishing the state never panned out in the short time it was so popular (or again infamous).

Luigi Galleani

One of the more prominent insurrectionist-anarchists was Luigi Galleani who was well known for his publication of an Italian newsletter that ran for 15 years before it was shut down the US government. He influenced many to join him and use violence against the system but the violence he advocated never worked even in his long life. At the age of 70 Galleani died of a heart attack, never seeing the violent world in which he hoped to end through his own violence.

Johann Most

Most was at first a socialist or a democratic socialist but eventually came to anarchism and soon started advocating violent revolution against the US government to get it abolished. He’s also noted for getting his ass kicked by Emma Goldman after making remarks about her lover Alexander Berkman via her whip during a speech he was giving. She remarked,

“At Most’s next lecture I sat in the front row, close to the platform. My hand was on the whip under my long grey cloak. When he got up and faced the audience, I rose and declared in a a loud voice: “I’ve come to demand proof of your insinuations against Alexander Berkman. There was instant silence, then Most mumbled something about “hysterical woman,” but nothing else. I then pulled out my whip and leaped towards him. Repeatedly I lashed him across the face and neck, then broke the whip over my knee and three the pieces at him. It was done so quickly that no one had time to interfere. ” (Source: http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/USAmost.htm)


Anarcho-socialism can also be called libertarian socialism or other times left-libertarianism or even other times left-anarchism and is used to differentiate between the three main schools of present anarchist thought, collectivist, socialist and individualist (though I’d say that there is a fourth that being capitalist and that individualist is not necessarily capitalist and can be mutualism or egosim or can be free market anarchism which is not necessarily capitalist because the free market does not equate to capitalism in my view). Keith Preston talks about how an anarcho-socialist economy may look. He says,

“In short, I aim to abolish the state altogether. On this point, market anarchists and I would agree. However, I also wish to go a step further and convert from an economic order where capital commands labor to one where labor commands capital. The pertinent question at this point is the matter of how this can be done without a coercive state apparatus. Indeed, a systemic economic conversion of this type must be done non-coercively and without a state. Otherwise, the centralization of capital into the hands of the state would produce a new type of ruling class as we have seen in such political degenerations as the Soviet Union, Peoples’ Republic of China, Democratic Republic of Vietnam and so on. ”

And further down he says,

“[…] [T]he dominant forms of economic organization in an authentic free market would be worker-owned and operated industries, partnerships, cooperatives, a mass of small businesses, modestly sized private companies and self-employed persons. Industries that remained nominally owned by outside shareholders would largely function on a co-determined basis, that is, as partnerships between shareholders and labor with labor having the upper hand.(8) So the traditional anarcho-syndicalist ideal of an industrial system owned and operated by the workers could, for the most part, be achieved in the context of a stateless free market.”

And so anarcho-socialists would favor a generally decentralist society in which the state is abolished and the worker’s bargaining power is much more focused on then whether the capital is monopolized and focused on bosses and top-down hierarchies. Instead anarcho-socialists would advocate a sort of egalitarian (egalitarian in the sense of equality in authority not an expectation for everyone to be the same or some sort of equality in socioeconomic outcome or input) and horizontal organizations competing in a market system based on anti-capitalist (in the sense of anti-state capitalism) free associations.

Prominent thinkers of anarcho-socialists would be Emma Goldman, Benjamin Tucker (who also advocated individualist anarchism and is most known for that though he regarded himself as a “socialist” in the Thomas Hodgeskinian sense), Thomas Hodgeskin himself, Pierre Joseph Proudhon could have also been said to advocate anarcho-socialism in the form of mutualism as noted before. Anarcho-socialism can also be called social-anarchism for it’s emphasis on the social aspects that need to be free in order to have a free society as well as economic considerations.

The wide-spectrum of anarcho-socialists leads me to be hesitant to talk about one out of all of these people because some could also be considered market anarchists or individualist anarchists in some aspects as well. The line between the schools of anarchists thought is something I shall write about at more length in an essay at some point.

Individualist Anarchim

As mentioned before this is my favorite school of thought because it contains where I personally subscribe to which is free market anarchism (with a leftward bent and inclinations towards libertarian socialism though I’d never call myself such nor a free market socialist as I believe the word socialist is about as dead as capitalism is) which is a certain subset of individualist anarchism. Benjamin Tucker, Josiah Warren, Max Stirner, Pierre Joseph Proudhon can be put here as well. Lysander Spooner, Stephen Pearl Andrews, Thoreau, Godwin, and Herbert Spencer could all be called this as well, though none decidingly called themselves anarchists let alone individualist anarchists. Even Rothbard and Samuel Edward Konkin III could be considered individualist anarchists though this is only if you want to conflate individualism with capitalism which I do not and do not regard as a useful equivocation. I shall discuss three of the thinkers who I think were legitimately individualist anarchists, regardless of what they called themselves.

Lysander spooner

Although Spooner never said he was an anarchist explicitly he had all of the trapping it, from his work to his life and also more on his life here. Specifically in his work No Treason: The Constitution of No Authority which can be read there or heard here by Marc Stevens. Spooner was led by natural rights and so was a somewhat close associate known as Benjamin Tucker until he later became an egoist and made the split between individualist anarchists into natural rights and egoism even bigger and more noticeable.

Spooner can be more personally noted in his life to (although he was a lawyer and somewhat well respected one at times) never really live in any fame or massive wealth he was more often then not scraping by and portrayed the stereotypical “starving artist” in some ways. Spooner also attempted to outcompete the US postal service causing it to drive it’s prices down and have the US government eventually shut his company down. Oh, and finally Spooner is noted (along with Tucker) or at least should be noted for having a kickass beard.

Josiah Warren

I have mentioned Warren briefly before but now I shall go more in depth with his views and his life. For more on his life there is a short biography done by his son George Warren here. Josiah is noted for his theory on prices, the “sovereignty of the individual” and his work with the more state-socialist (though Warren did not know it at the time) community of Robert Owen called Utopia and later tried to find a community of his own in Ohio. He also started a time store and was an inventor of sorts. Tucker in his work State Socialism and Anarchism talked about Warren briefly when he said,

“From Smith’s principle that labor is the true measure of price – or, as Warren phrased it, that cost is the proper limit of price – these three men made the following deductions: that the natural wage of labor is its product; that this wage, or product, is the only just source of income (leaving out, of course, gift, inheritance, etc.); that all who derive income from any other source abstract it directly or indirectly from the natural and just wage of labor; that this abstracting process generally takes one of three forms, – interest, rent, and profit; that these three constitute the trinity of usury, and are simply different methods of levying tribute for the use of capital; that, capital being simply stored-up labor which has already received its pay in full, its use ought to be gratuitous, on the principle that labor is the only basis of price; that the lender of capital is entitled to its return intact, and nothing more; that the only reason why the banker, the stockholder, the landlord, the manufacturer, and the merchant are able to exact usury from labor lies in the fact that they are backed by legal privilege, or monopoly; and that the only way to secure labor the enjoyment of its entire product, or natural wage, is to strike down monopoly.”

Benjamin Tucker

The last thinker I shall discuss for this school of thought and most likely my favorite thinker in some aspects is Benjamin Tucker, who is talked about here, here, also the biggest collection of his works Instead of a Book can be found on that link, I intend to get to it at some point and read it all. Tucker is most noted for having distinguished between state socialism and anarchism as well as the four monopolies which have been a good topic to discuss specifically among left-libertarians and anarchists of most stripes those predominately the left variants. Tucker, later in life repudiated his natural rights theories and embraced egosim which lead him to (in my opinion and others who prefer natural rights theory) some horrible conclusions such as that children were the property of their parents and that getting involved in child abuse was a violation of the parents property rights. He also began to regard land and property as something no based on use and occupancy but by might although slightly backtracked and then said that in the end though people would find use and occupancy the most useful in a free society. Whatever Tucker’s theories though his intellectual achievements such as translating The Ego and his Own by Max Stirner And Proudhon’s What is Property? and his anarcho-individualist periodical Liberty should never be disregarded. Tucker had a huge impact on anarchism and this can be seen today through more modern philosophies of “anarcho-capitaism” and free market anarchism as well as mutualism and libertarian socialism.

Some remarks on “anarcho-capitalism”

Finally I’d like to make a brief mention of the idea of “anarcho-capitalism” and explain why I put this in quotes at times. First off I don’t really have anything against those who identify as such what I DO have a problem with however is the label and how it’s been used and a basic bastardization of individualist anarchism. While it’s true no type of anarchism has a monopoly on the idea (kind of self-defeating isn’t it?) I can’t really say I like the fact that anarcho-capitalists just rehash what has already been said and just add Austrian economics, a liking of Any Rand, a denial of the labor theory of value (which I admit I’m not sold on either though the cost principle when it was explained to me by a mutualist friend of mine sounded good) and then slap the gross title of “anarcho-capitalism” on to it. I consider this just a different version of market anarchism (perhaps “right” market anarchism if we want to put even MORE division into the anarchist schools of thought, though I think it should be limited to collectivist, mutualist and individualist with anarcho-capitalism (again) being “rightward” of other forms of individualist anarchism like libertarian socialism, left-libertarianism, and so on) within the limits of individualist anarchism. Mutualism is an anarchist economic theory that is market related but staunchly anti-capitalist in most senses hence why it would be a school of it’s own. But again the lines of all of these schools are hard to untangle and I shall bring this up an essay I plan on doing at some point. I want to be clear though that in the end those who call themselves “anarcho-capitalists” I have no substantive issue on most things and gladly call them comrades in the evolution towards statelessness and individual liberty, I do however think some of the anarcho-socialists criticisms of them are certainly not unwarranted however.

Towards the current century and the future

Although I wanted to do both the 20th century and the current one I’d like to not make this even more dense than it already is and so I will stop here and talk about current anarchism and whether it has a future at all in the next post.