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Deep Ecology, Anarchosyndicalism, and the Future of Anarchist Thought

Murray Bookchin's response to Social Ecology, Anarchism and Trades Unionism, by Graham Purchase.

Featured in Deep Ecology & Anarchism - A Polemic, Freedom Press, 1993

There is very little I can add to the outstanding criticism Brian Morris levels at deep ecology. Indeed, Morris’s contribution to the debate around eco-mysticism generally has been insightful as well as incisive, and I have found his writings an educational experience that hopefully will reach a very wide audience in the United States in addition to Britain.

I should hope that his review of Arne Naess’s Ecology, Community and Lifestyle has revealed the intellectual poverty of the ‘father of deep ecology’ and the silliness of the entire deep ecology ‘movement’. Rodney Aitchtey’s rather airy, often inaccurate, and mystical Deep Ecology: Not Man Apart, it would seem to me, is perhaps the best argument against deep ecology that I have seen in quite a while. But after dealing with deep ecologists in North America for quite a few years, I have reluctantly come to the conclusion that the acolytes of Naess et al operate on faith and are motivated in their allegiances by theological rather than rational impulses. There is no reasoned argument, I suspect, that will shake a belief-system of this kind — hence I will leave discussion of the issues involved to others who still have the energy to deal with mindless dogmas.

I would add — or possibly reinforce — only one observation to the incisive ones that Morris makes. One wonders whether deep ecology’s biocentric maxim that all living beings can be equatable with one another in terms of their ‘intrinsic worth’ would have had any meaning during the long eras of organic evolution before human beings emerged. The entire conceptual framework of deep ecology is entirely a product of human agency — a fact that imparts to the human species a unique status in the natural world. All ethical systems (including those that can be grounded in biotic evolution) are formulated by human beings in distinctly cultural situations. Remove human agency from the scene, and there is not the least evidence that animals exhibit behaviour that can be regarded as discursive, meaningful, or moral. When Elisee Reclus, the anarchist geographer, tells us that pussycats are (as cited by George Woodcock in his introduction to the Marie Fleming biography of Reclus) ‘natural anarchists’, or worse, that ‘there is not a human sentiment which on occasion they [i.e. cats] do not understand or share, not an idea which they do not divine [sic!], not a desire but what they forestall it’, Reclus is writing ethological and ecological nonsense. That anarchist writers celebrate the author of such an anthropomorphic absurdity as ‘ecological’ is regrettable to say the least. To the extent that ‘intrinsic worth’ is something more than merely an agreeable intuition in modern ecological thought, it is an ‘attribute’ that human beings formulate in their minds and a ‘right’ that they may decide to confer on animals and other creatures. It does not exist apart from the operations of the human mind or humanity’s social values.

To turn from the silliness of deep ecology to the preposterous elucidation of anarchosyndicalism that Graham Purchase advances is a thankless task that I would ignore were it not scheduled to be published in book form. Purchase’s piece, ‘Social Ecology, Anarchism and Trade Unionism’, is a malicious essay that begins by accusing me of writing belligerently and ‘insult(ing) American anarchists and trade unionists’, then goes on to heap upon me some of the most vituperative and ad hominem attacks that I’ve encountered in a long time. Not only am I ‘at best unconstructive and at worst positively harmful’, Purchase warns his readers, but worse, I am consumed by ‘an insatiable appetite for controversy’. Having advanced this no doubt balanced, unprovocative, and objective evaluation of my role in the anarchist movement, Purchase displays his psychoanalytic acumen by alleging that I suffer from ‘an unhealthy desire to be the intellectual leader and founder of a ‘new’ ecological movement’, that I exhibit evidence of ‘intellectual schizophrenia’, and finally that I ‘filch all the major ecological insights of anarchist theory and practice [and] dress them up in a socialist-feminist [!] cum neo-hegelian garb and go on to more or less claim them as [my] own’. As if this level of vituperation were not enough — no doubt it is intended to subdue my own ‘insatiable appetite for controversy’! — Purchase goes on to characterize the body of views that I have advanced over a dozen or so books and scores of articles as ‘an intellectual outrage’.

To correct Purchase’s often convoluted account of the evolution of my views — presumably I was an ‘anarchist-ecologist’ in the late 1960s and 1970s, only to mutate into an ‘outrageous’ anti-syndicalist and hence anti-anarchist ‘social ecologist’ in the 1980s and 1990s — would be as tedious as it would be futile. I shall leave it to serious readers of my work to sort out the absurdities of his account. Suffice it here to make a few points. No one, least of all I, believes that we can radically alter society without the support of the proletariat and working people of all kinds. But to assume that industrial workers will play the ‘hegemonic’ role that Marxists traditionally assigned to them — and that the anarchosyndicalists merely echoed — is to smother radical thought and practice with a vengeance. My criticism of theories that assign a hegemonic role to the proletariat in the struggle for an anarchist society — generically denoted by labour historians as ‘proletarian socialism’ — is simply that they are obsolete. The reasons for the passage of the era of proletarian socialism into history have been explored not only by myself but by serious radical theorists of all kinds — including anarchists. From decades of experience in my own life, I learned that industrial workers can more easily be reached as men and women, husbands and wives, fathers and mothers, brothers and sisters, indeed, as neighbours and citizens. They are often more concerned about community problems, pollution, public education, democracy, morality, and the quality of their lives than about whether they ‘control’ the factories in which they are ruthlessly exploited. Indeed, the majority of workers and trade-union members with whom I worked for years in foundries and auto plants were more eager to get out of their factories after working hours were over than to ponder production schedules and vocational assignments.

Is it inconceivable that we have misread the historical nature of the proletariat (more a Marxian failing, I may add, than a traditional anarchist one) as a revolutionary hegemonic class? Is it inconceivable that the factory system, far from organizing and radicalizing the proletariat, has steadily assimilated it to industrial systems of command and obedience? Have capitalism and the working class stood still since the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, or have they both undergone profound changes that pose major challenges to — and significantly vitiate the claims of — anarchosyndicalists as well as traditional Marxists? With remarkable prescience, Bakunin himself expressed his fears about the possible ‘embourgeoisement’ of the working class and, more generally, that the ‘masses have allowed themselves to become deeply demoralized, apathetic, not to say castrated by the pernicious influence of our corrupt, centralized, statist civilization’. Bakunin’s fears were not merely an expression of a strategic view that applies only to his own time, but a historic judgment that still requires explication, not equivocation. Today, so-called ‘progressive’ capitalist enterprises have succeeded quite admirably by giving workers an appreciable share in hiring, firing and setting production quotas, bringing the proletariat into complicity with its own exploitation.

Purchase not only ignores these momentous developments and the analyses that I and others have advanced; he grossly misinterprets and demagogically redefines any criticism of syndicalism, indeed, trade-unionism, as an expression of hostility toward anarchism as such. Assuming that Purchase knows very much about the history of anarchism and syndicalism, this line of argument is manipulative and an outright distortion; but to be generous, I will say that it reveals a degree of ignorance and intolerance that deserves vigorous reproval. In fact, in the late nineteenth century, when syndicalism emerged as an issue among anarchists, it was furiously debated. The outstanding luminaries of the anarchist movement at the the turn of the century — such as Errico Malatesta, Elisee Reclus, Emma Goldman, Sebastian Faure, and others — initially opposed syndicalism for a variety of reasons, many of which show a great deal of prescience on their part. And in time, when they came to accept it, many of them did so in a highly prudent manner. Malatesta, in his fundamental criticism of syndicalism, argued that the generation of a revolutionary spirit ‘cannot be the normal, natural definition of the Trade Union’s function’. Although he eventually accepted anarchosyndicalism with apparent reluctance, he continued to call for a far more expansive form of anarchist organization and practice than many syndicalists were prepared to accept.

In practice, anarchist groups often came into outright conflict with anarchosyndicalist organizations — not to speak of syndicalist organizations, many of which eschewed anarchism. Early in the century, the Spanish anarchocommunists, influenced primarily by Juan Baron and Francisco Cardinal, the editors of Tierra y Libertad, furiously denounced the anarchosyndicalists who were later to form the CNT as ‘deserters’ and ‘reformists’. Similar conflicts developed in Italy, France, and the United States, and perhaps not without reason. The record of the anarchosyndicalist movement has been one of the most abysmal in the history of anarchism generally. In the Mexican Revolution, for example, the anarchosyndicalist leaders of the Casa del Obrero Mundial shamefully placed their proletarian ‘Red Battalions’ at the service of Carranza, one of the revolution’s most bloodthirsty thugs, to fight the truly revolutionary militia of Zapata — all to gain a few paltry reforms, which Carranza withdrew once the Zapatista challenge had been broken with their collaboration. The great Mexican anarchist Ricardo Flores Magon justly denounced their behaviour as a betrayal.

Nor can much be said in defence of the leaders of the CNT in Spain. They swallowed their libertarian principles by becoming ‘ministers’ in the Madrid government late in 1936, not without the support of many of their followers, I should add, and in May 1937 they used their prestige to disarm the Barcelona proletariat when it tried to resist the Stalinist counterrevolution in the Catalan capital. In the United States, lest present-day anarchosyndicalists get carried away by legendary movements like the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW), they should be advised that this syndicalist movement, like others elsewhere, was by no means committed to anarchism. ‘Big Bill’ Haywood, its most renowned leader, was never an anarchist. Still other IWW leaders, many of whom tilted toward an anarchist outlook, not only became Communists in the 1920s but became ardent Stalinists in the 1930s and later. It is worth noting that serious Spanish anarchists, even those who joined the CNT, regarded the influence of the CNT’s trade-unionist mentality on the FAI (Iberian Anarchist Federation) as deleterious and ultimately disastrous. Toward the end of the civil war, it was questionable whether the FAI controlled the CNT or, more likely, whether the CNT, with its strong trade-union mentality, had essentially diluted the FAI’s anarchist principles. As Malatesta had so perceptively declared, even as he cautiously accepted the amalgamation of anarchist with syndicalist principles under the pressure of a growing syndicalist movement in Europe, ‘trade unions are, by their nature, reformist and never revolutionary’ (emphasis added). For an oaf like Graham Purchase to bombastically equate syndicalism with anarchism — an act of arrogance that is as fatuous as it is ignorant — and then to go on and essentially equate trade unionism with syndicalism deserves only disdain.

The authentic locus of anarchists in the past was the commune or municipality, not the factory, which was generally conceived as only part of a broader communal structure, not its decisive component. Syndicalism, to the extent that it narrowed this broader outlook by singling out the proletariat and its industrial environment as its locus, also crucially narrowed the more sweeping social and moral landscape that traditional anarchism had created. In large part, this ideological retreat reflected the rise of the factory system in the closing years of the last century in France and Spain, but it also echoed the ascendancy of a particularly vulgar form of economistic Marxism (Marx, to his credit, did not place much stock in trade unionism), to which many naive anarchists and nonpolitical trade unionists succumbed. After the Revolution by Abad de Santillan, one of the movers and shakers of Spanish anarchosyndicalism, reflects this shift toward a pragmatic economism in such a way that makes his views almost indistinguishable from those of the Spanish socialists — and, of course, that brought him into collusion with the Catalan government, literally one of the grave-diggers of Spanish anarchism. Syndicalism — be it anarchosyndicalism or its less libertarian variants — has probably done more to denature the ethical content of anarchism than any other single factor in the history of the movement, apart from anarchism’s largely marginal and ineffectual individualist tendencies. Indeed, until anarchism shakes off this syndicalist heritage and expands its communalistic and communistic heritage, it will be little more than a rhetorical and mindless echo of vulgar Marxism and the ghost of an era that has long passed into history.

But as the Germans say,genug! I’ve had it with Purchase and his kind. Let them explore more thoroughly the historical and textual bases of anarchist theory and practice before they leap into print with inanities that reveal their appalling ignorance of the intellectual and practical trajectories of their own beliefs. And they should also take some pains to read what I have written on the history and failings of the workers’ movement before they undertake to criticize my own views. What I strongly resent, however, is the fatuous implication — one that even more sensible anarchists sometimes imply — that I ‘filch’ my ecological views from’ anarchist theory and practice’. In fact, I have been overly eager to cite anarchist antecedents for social ecology (as I call my eco-anarchist views), and I have done so wherever I could. The Ecology of Freedom, written in 1982 — that is, during the period when, according to Purchase, I abandoned my anarchist views for social ecology — opens with an epigraph from Kropotkin’s Ethics. In the Acknowledgments section of that book, I observed that ‘Peter Kropotkin’s writings on mutual aid and anarchism remain an abiding tradition to which I am committed’. For reasons that I shall explain, this is a bit of an overstatement so far as Kropotkin is concerned, but the text contains no less than nine favourable, often laudatory references to him, including an extensive quotation from Mutual Aid with which I expressed my warm approval. If I have not mentioned Elisee Reclus, it was because I knew nothing about his work and views until I read Marie Fleming’s 1988 biography of him for the first time only a few weeks ago. And in retrospect, I doubt that I would have quoted or cited him in any case.

Try as I have to cite my affinity with anarchist writers of the past, guardians of the anarchist ossuary often miss a very crucial point. Social ecology is a fairly integrated and coherent viewpoint that encompasses a philosophy of natural evolution and of humanity’s place in that evolutionary process; a reformulation of dialectics along ecological lines; an account of the emergence of hierarchy; a historical examination of the dialectic between legacies and epistemologies of domination and freedom; an evaluation of technology from an historical, ethical, and philosophical standpoint; a wide-ranging critique of Marxism, the Frankfurt School, justice, rationalism, scientism, and instrumentalism; and finally, an eduction of a vision of a Utopian, decentralized, confederal, and aesthetically grounded future society based on an objective ethics of complementarity. I do not present these ideas as a mere inventory of subjects but as a highly coherent viewpoint. The Ecology of Freedom, moreover, must be supplemented by the later Urbanization Without Cities, The Philosophy of Social Ecology, and Remaking Society, not to speak of quite a few important essays published mainly in Green Perspectives, if one is to recognize that social ecology is more than the sum of its parts.

Whether adequately or not, the holistic body of ideas in these works endeavours to place ‘eco-anarchism’, a term that to the best of my knowledge has come into existence entirely as a result of my writings, on a theoretical and intellectual par with the best systematic works in radical social theory. To pick this corpus apart by citing an antecedent, in the writings of some prominent nineteenth-century anarchists, for an idea that I developed in this whole, and thereby deal with only part of what I have tried to integrate into a meaningful and relevant whole for our times, is simply fatuous. One could similarly reduce systematic accounts of any body of social or even scientific theory by citing historical antecedents for various constituent fragments. If there is any ‘filching’ going on, it may well be by the guardians of the anarchist ossuary who have turned the rather smug boast ‘We said it long ago’ into a veritable industry, while themselves benefiting from whatever prestige anarchism has gained over the past decades by virtue of its association with social ecology.

I would not make such an assertion, had I not been provoked by the arrogance and dogmatism of these guardians in my encounters with them. To set the record straight: The fact is that Kropotkin had no influence on my turn from Marxism to anarchism — nor, for that matter, did Bakunin or Proudhon. It was Herbert Read’s “The Philosophy of Anarchism” that I found most useful for rooting the views that I slowly developed over the fifties and well into the sixties in a libertarian pedigree; hence the considerable attention he received in my 1964 essay, ‘Ecology and Revolutionary Thought’. Odd as it may seem, it was my reaction against Marx and Engels’s critiques of anarchism, my readings into the Athenian polis, George Woodcock’s informative history of anarchism, my own avocation as a biologist, and my studies in technology that gave rise to the views in my early essays — not any extensive readings into the works of early anarchists. Had I been ‘born into’ the anarchist tradition, as some of our more self-righteous anarchists claim to have been, I might well have taken umbrage at Proudhon’s exchange-oriented contractualism, and after my long experience in the workers’ movement, I would have felt smothered by the rubbish about syndicalism advanced by Graham Purchase and his kind.

Purchase’s fatuous attempt to distinguish my post-1980 writings on social ecology from my presumably ‘true-blue’ anarchist writings before that date leaves a number of facts about the development of social ecology unexplained. I wrote my earliest, almost book-length work on the ecological dislocations produced by capitalism, ‘The Problems of Chemicals in Food’, in 1952, while I was a neo-Marxist and had in no way been influenced by anarchist thinkers. Many of Marx’s views heavily contributed to my notion of post-scarcity, very much a ‘pre-1980’ outlook to which I still adhere. (Certain Spanish anarchists, I may add, held similar views in the 1930s, as I discovered decades later when I wrote The Spanish Anarchists.) I say all of this without being in the least concerned that my anarchist views may be ‘adulterated’ by some of Marx’s concepts. With Bakunin, I share the view that Marx made invaluable contributions to radical theory, contributions one can easily value without accepting his authoritarian politics or perspectives. For anarchists to foolishly demonize Marx — or even Hegel, for that matter — is to abandon a rich legacy of ideas that should be brought to the service of libertarian thought, just as the fascinating work of many biologists should be brought to the service of ecological thought. Which does not mean that we have to accept Marx’s gross errors about centralism, his commitment to a ‘worker’s party’, his support of the nation-state, and the like, any more than learning from Hegel’s dialectic means that we must necessarily accept the existence of an ‘Absolute’, a strict teleological system, a hybridized corporate-parliamentary monarchy, or what he broadly called ‘absolute idealism’.

By the same token, we will be deceiving nobody but ourselves if we celebrate the insights of traditional anarchism without dealing forthrightly with its shortcomings. Due honour should certainly be given to Proudhon for developing federalistic notions of social organization against the nation-state and defending the rights of craftspeople and peasants who were under the assault of industrial capitalism — a system that Marx dogmatically celebrated in so many of his writings. But it would be sheer myopia to ignore Proudhon’s commitment to a contractual form of economic relationships, as distinguished from the communistic maxim ‘From each according to his or her abilities, to each according to his or her needs’. His contractualism permeated his federalistic concepts and can scarcely be distinguished from bourgeois conceptions of ‘right’. I say this despite some attempts that have been made to cast his proclivity for contractual exchanges into a quasi-philosophical notion of ‘social contract’. Even if Proudhonism really were a social contract theory, this would be quite unsatisfactory, in my eyes. Nor can we ignore Richard Vernon’s observation in his introduction to Proudhon’s The Principle of Federalism that Proudhon viewed federalism as an abridgment of his earlier, largely personalistic anarchism. If thought out carefully, Proudhon’s views seem to be premised on the existence of free-floating, seemingly ‘sovereign’ individuals, craftspersons, or even collectives structured around contractual, exchangelike relationships and property ownership rather than on a communistic system of ‘ownership’ and distribution of goods.

Bakunin, in turn, was an avowed collectivist, not a communist, and his views on organization in particular were often at odds with themselves. (I might remind Purchase, here, that Fourier was in no sense a socialist, anarchist or even a revolutionary, despite his many rich insights.) Maximoff’s later assemblage of small portions of Bakunin’s many writings under the rubric of ‘scientific anarchism’ would probably have astonished Bakunin, just as many of Bakunin’s insights would shock orthodox anarchists today. I, for one, would generally agree with Bakunin, for example, that ‘municipal elections always best reflect the real attitude and will of the people’, although I would want to restate his formulation to mean that municipal elections can more accurately reflect the popular will than parliamentary ones. But how many orthodox anarchists would agree with Bakunin’s view — or even my qualified one? The extreme resistance I have encountered from anarchist traditionalists and ‘purists’ on this issue has virtually foreclosed any possibility of developing a libertarian, participatory, municipalist, and confederal politics today as part of the anarchist tradition.

Given his time and place, Kropotkin was perhaps one of the most far-seeing of the theorists I encountered in the libertarian tradition. It was not until the late sixties, when reprints of his works began to appear in American bookshops, that I became familiar with his Fields, Factories, and Workshops (and at a later time, Colin Ward’s excellent abridgment of this book), and it was not until the mid-sixties that I read portions of Mutual Aid — that is, the centre portion that deals with medieval cities. To be quite frank, these books did not appreciably affect my views; rather, they confirmed them and reinforced my commitment to anarchism. In much the same way, my 1974 book The Limits of the City, structured around a very large essay I wrote in 1958, unknowingly paralleled some of Marx’s observations on the relationship between town and country that he expressed in the Grundrisse, which was not available to me in English translation until the 1960s. Indeed, it was mainly my study of urban development over the course of history that nourished The Limits of the City, a work strongly influenced by Marx’s Capital. My book mentions Kropotkin only incidentally as figuring in the history of city planning in the later-appended pages. I cite this background to note how nonsensical Purchase’s distinction between my pre-1980 and my post-1980 development really is, and to point out how little Purchase seems to know about my writings, much less their ‘pedigree’ and the diversity of ideological, philosophical, and historical sources that have nourished my writings.

Far from pillaging from Kropotkin and other anarchist writers, I have tended in the past, let me repeat, to overstate my obligation to them. I never agreed with free-booting notions of anarchism that rest as much on ordinary professional and scientific associations as they do on the broader notion of a commune based on civic unity and popular assemblies. Moreover, a revolutionism that is primarily rooted in a ‘revolutionary instinct’ (Bakunin) and a mutualism that is primarily rooted in a ‘social instinct’ (Kropotkin) are little more than vague substitutes for serious explanations. Instinct theory has to be dealt with very cautiously, lest it devolve into outright sociobiology. Kropotkin’s rather loose attribution of ‘social instinct’ to animals generally in order to validate mutualism is particularly troubling, in my view, not only because it is based on a highly selective study of animals — he tends to ignore a host of solitary animals, including highly advanced mammals. Even more troubling is that he tends to confuse animal troops, herds, packs, and transient communities with societies: that is to say, with highly mutable institutions, alterable as they are by virtue of the distinctly human ability to form, develop, subvert, and overthrow them according to their interests and will.

Elisee Reclus, for his part, carried certain elements of Kropotkin’s outlook to the point of absurdity. I am at a loss to understand how cats ‘understand or share’ or ‘forestall’ our ‘sentiments’, ‘desires’, and ‘ideas’, as Reclus asserted they do in the quotation I cited near the beginning of this article. I am certain that my doubts about so saintly and gentle an anarchist as Reclus will place me in the bad graces of cat owners, but I find such anthropomorphism naive. His view that ‘secret harmony exists between the earth and people’, one that ‘imprudent societies’ will always regret if they violate it, is far too vague, at times even mystical, to be regarded as more than a generous sentiment. One may surely respect such sentiments, but countless writers (including some very reactionary nature romantics) have reiterated them more emphatically to regard them as eco-anarchist in nature. Deep ecology, eco-theology, and air-headed spiritualists have found more ‘secret harmonies’ between humanity and nonhuman nature than I know what to do with. I would certainly praise Reclus as an anarchist and a resolute revolutionary, but I would be disquieted if his particular views on the natural world were identified, apart from their good intentions, with eco-anarchism.

Yes, let us give Proudhon, Bakunin, Kropotkin, Reclus, Malatesta, and other leading anarchist thinkers due honour and respect for what they did in their time and what they have to offer to ours. But cannot anarchism go further than the terrain they charted out a century ago? If some of us try to do so, must we live under the tyranny of ossuary guardians like Graham Purchase, who can be expected to lift a bony finger from out of the crypt and reprove us for ignoring nineteenth-century anarchists’ passages on ecologically oriented social relationships and humanity’s relationship to nature — a hint here, an antecedent fragment there, even a sizable passage — whose formulations are inadequate today and were often quite erroneous to begin with? We can certainly build on views advanced by the great anarchist thinkers of the past. But must we ignore the need for more sophisticated notions of confederalism, anti-statism, decentralism, definitions of freedom, and sensitivity to the natural world, than those that they advanced? There are many notions that were central to their views that we are obliged to discard. Such advances, hopefully, and the coherence they provide are part of the history of cultural development as a whole. Is anarchism to be immunized from further developments and revisions by the guardians of its ossuary? I would hope not, especially since anarchism — almost by definition — is the exercise of freedom not only in the social realm but also in the realm of thought. To lock anarchism into a crypt and condemn any innovative body of libertarian ideas as booty ‘filched’ from a sacred precinct is an affront to the libertarian spirit and all that the libertarian tradition stands for.

Times do change. The proletariat and, more marginally, the peasantry to which anarchosyndicalism turned as a ‘historical subject’, or agents for revolution, are numerically diminishing at best or are being integrated into the existing system at worst. The most crucial contradictions of capitalism are not those within the system but between the system and the natural world. Today, a broad consensus is growing among all oppressed people — by no means strictly industrial workers — that ecological dislocation has produced monumental problems, problems that may well bring the biosphere as we know it to an end. With the emergence of a general human interest, largely the need to maintain and restore a viable biosphere, an interest around which people of highly disparate backgrounds and social strata may yet unite, anarchosyndicalism is simply archaic, both as a movement and as a body of ideas. If anarchist theory and practice cannot keep pace with — let alone go beyond — historic changes that have altered the entire social, cultural, and moral landscape and effaced a good part of the world in which traditional anarchism was developed, the entire movement will indeed become what Theodor Adorno called it — ‘a ghost’. If every attempt to provide a coherent, contemporary interpretation of the anarchist tradition is fragmented, shattered, and parcelled out to antecedents whose views were often more appropriate to their times than they are to ours, the libertarian tradition will fade back into history as surely as the anarchic Anabaptists have disappeared. Then capitalism and the Right will indeed have society completely under their control, and self-styled libertarian ideas may well become relics in an ideological museum that will be as remote to the coming century as Jacobinism is to our own.

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