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The Ever Flowing River:
Anarchism Through the Ages

Part I Part II Part III
-Bill Burns


The desire to know freedom to have real choices in our lives to feel empowered and satisfied in our daily activities to know love, caring, and appreciation for who we are in cooperative relationship with other humyn beings. These are basic needs which we have wanted and worked for throughout her-history. In the eons of time there have walked courageous womyn and men who believe that these things can be achieved, that freedom and responsibility, structure and individual empowerment can be balanced and reconciled within a collective whole.

To these our revolutionary forbears we owe much. As weavers of social change they have woven together certain basic threads or tenets that many of us share. They believed that property should be held in common, and that no external God, law, custom, government, or individual despot could, would, or should tell them what to do. In addition they believed that relationships and a collective group process approaching consensus is paramount. Our forebears have gone by many collective names. Sometimes they were called Anarchists by the 'powers that be' but oftentimes they resisted any label or had their own particular names. That's cool! They may not have been Anarchists in a strict sense but we may find in their thoughts and actions much that flows into present-day anarchism!!!!

They our forebears go back far. With a broad brush let's look at a few of them.

In the third century B.C. in China there lived Chuang Tzu, a proponent of the Taoist philosophy. He contended that "in the universal process of constant flux all things are equalized from the point of view of Tao (the ever flowing river of being). At the same time, since everything transforms in its own way, its individual nature us to be respected."

Taoists held that we are one with nature, that we can see the connections between all which is. We do not need to arrange the world into a hierarchy of parts. The Taoist thought and practice was at variance with a concurrent school of thought called Confucianism. Confucius reduced the world to a hierarchy of moral codes, disconnections and parts, and it is this very philosophy, Confucianism, that supplied the underpinnings of the Chinese Emperor-State.

At around the same time there existed in China the Moist school of thought founded by Mo Tsu, who held that all people should be loved, not just one's own family. This clearly distinguished the Moists from the Confucianists, who believed that the patriarchal father was to be held above and revered, as was the Emperor-State.

Moving on, let's look at the early mystics of the early Christian, Moslem, and Jewish faiths. Each held that God is not a hierarchial God, but rather that we are one with God, in us, in spirit, and all which is. It was only with these cultures' development into Nation-States that a disconnected God became a necessity. I mean damn, how could you have regular folks communicating with God? That was the providence of the Emperor-King and his minions.

In 1311 A.D. we see Margaret of Parete tried for High Treason in Paris, convicted, and then taken from her cell and burned at the stake. All this because in her book, The Mirror of Simple Souls, she taught that one needs no Church, priesthood, or Bible, and that when one is consumed with the love of God one could do anything that the sensual body desired. Obviously the shit hit the fan.

In the area of Bohemia (present day Czech Republic) there existed a large area controlled by people who called themselves Taborites. They practiced communism in consumption and production, mined huge gold reserves, and maintained a large army. They were the first in Europe to use artillery as a tactical weapon.

The 1400's through the 1600's saw large peasant armies throughout Europe, in rebellion, having the desire to live in their own way practicing a simple communism. This struggle for freedom and collectivity led to decades-long wars between the peasants and the powers-that-be.
It is with the Age of Enlightenment of the 18th and 19th centuries that there begins to develop a coherent philosophy in Europe and its colonies that the humyn mind and its power to reason takes precedence over superstition and custom.

In the writings of Voltaire, John Locke, Thomas Paine, and Thomas Jefferson we see authority and Kings challenged in the most articulate way. It is in their writings and this ever flowing river of revolutionary forebears before them that a foundation is laid for the writings of William Godwin. It is with Godwin that we first see a concept developed and defined as Anarchism. Godwin wrote that "coercion cannot convince, cannot conciliate, but on the contrary alienates the mind against whom it is employed. We therefore look forward to the auspicious period, the dissolution of political government." All this in 1793-Bet he upset a few folks!

So the stage was set. The river of Liberty began to build and overflow the banks of tyranny. Anarchism, which stands for the ending of all hierarchies be they the State, racism, homophobia, patriarchy, capitalism, etc., began to grow and nurture itself in the writings of Proudhon, Bakunin, Kropotkin, Goldman, and Malatesta.

In 1871 Communards put many Anarchist principles into play in the city of Paris, when workers of all kinds came together and established the Paris Commune. The Communards were brutally suppressed by government troops who killed 30,000 womyn, men and children.

Sixteen years later, on November 11, 1887 four Anarchists in Chicago were murdered by the State by 'legal hanging'. We continue to remember the Haymarket Anarchists!!

Anarchists fought back throughout the rest of that century and into the next. Brutally murdered, tortured and suppressed throughout the world, they developed out of necessity a doctrine known as "Propaganda by the Deed," in which they targeted for assassination those aristocrats and government authorities who were attempting to destroy the Anarchist Social revolution. Heads of State from Europe to the Americas, haughty and scornful of all working people, quivered at the mention of the word ANARCHIST, and wondered if on some journey an Anarchist dynamite stick might roll between the wheels of their carriage! The Anarchist social movement survived and moved on.

In the early 1900's large and flourishing collectives,communes, and working class movements of an Anarchist nature were being built in Russia, Spain, Western Europe,and the Americas. At the same time in the United States a large working class movement with strong Anarchist overtones - the INDUSTRIAL WORKERS OF THE WORLD (IWW) - began to take off. Literally thousands of workers throughout the country traveled from town to town walking, and 'riding the rails,' spreading the doctrine of ONE BIG UNION, class struggle, direct democracy, and the GENERAL STRIKE! The IWW provided the front line shock troops that took on the ruling class in a most vital way, and in so doing helped to achieve the eight- hour working day for workers in this country. By 1918 the U.S. government, because of the IWW stance against WWI, had 1000's of them locked up or deported. The I.W.W. did not die. It is an ember that will not be extinguished - as long as working people who abhor bureaucracy come together! [Local branch meetings of the IWW may soon be meeting at the Autonomous Zone. Call (773) 252-6019 for info.]

The fires of passion for social revolution continued to burn strong in the hearts of all Anarchists. With the Russian Revolution of 1917, Anarchists fought side by side with Marxists and other left revolutionaries as factory committees formed and land was collectivized throughout Russia and the Ukraine. Anarchist militia armies coordinated by Nestor Mahkno in the Ukraine successfully defeated Austro-Hungarian troops, as well as the so-called 'white armies' supported by the Western Europe 'democracies'. But these Anarchists stood for real COMMUNISM, DIRECT DEMOCRACY, CHOICE, and CONSENSUS. As they pushed these demands for real social revolution, the Marxists Red Army under Trotsky began to round up Anarchists throughout Russia and with mock trials and firing squads the Anarchist movement was suppressed. By 1920 the armies with Nestor Mahkno were also defeated.

But the Anarchist spark did not die. Today Anarchist organizations are springing up again all over Russia.

By the turn of the century in Spain, scores of Anarchist newspapers existed. Anarchists were establishing schools, cooperatives, and info-shops called Anteneos. By the time of the Spanish Civil War in 1936, there existed an anarchist-Syndicalist labor union called the C.N.T. which had 800,000 to one million members.

This flowering in Spain can be traced back to 1868, when the Russian anarchist Bakunin asked one of his comrades, a man named Fanelli, to visit Spain and communicate to workers there Anarchist principles. Fanelli was very successful. When the civil war in Spain occurred, Anarchists in turn began to put the principles of Anarchist-Communism into practice.

Hundreds of thousands of people collectivized the land and many of the structures of civic life. It was an exciting time as young and old alike built places of innovation and creativity. Anarchism on a practical basis was being achieved. People were coming to know what real DIRECT DEMOCRACY is all about to protect the new structures that they were building, young anarchist womyn and men flocked to the front lines of the civil war, to fight the right-wing forces of General Franco. Anarchists organized in their own militia columns, without officers, putting principles of solidarity and cooperation into effect. Anarchist militias such as the Durruti column, Land and Liberty, and the Iron Column inspired all those around them with their courage and determination! In the savage, relentless Spanish Civil War, the right-wing was receiving weapons from Nazi Germany and Italy. The Marxists and Socialists were receiving aid from the Soviet Union. Both sides quickly noticed the valor with which Anarchists fought.

As Statists, the right, left, monarchists, liberals, etc., were all equally determined that the Anarchists by all means must be eliminated. Inferior arms were given to the Anarchists' militias. Anarchists detachments were sent on suicide missions. Anarchist workers were massacred and their schools, factories, Anteneos, and farms were destroyed by Marxists - who they were supposedly fighting a revolution with. Lessons were learned. The Anarchists' Social Revolution in Spain was suppressed for the moment.

-Bill Burns

This ends Part I. of 'The Ever Flowing River.'
In Part II of our next newsletter, we will discuss the development of Technological Fascism and the Anarchists' strategy of resistance to it.

Part I Part II Part III


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