6th century BC
The first clear expression of an anarchist sensibility may be traced back to the Taoists in ancient China from about the sixth century BC. Indeed, the principal Taoist work, the Tao te ching, may be considered one of the greatest anarchist classics.
taoism and anarchism
The best exponent of anarchist philosophy in ancient Greece was Zeno (342-267 or 270 BC), from Crete, the founder of the Stoic philosophy, who distinctly opposed his conception of a free community without government to the state-utopia of Plato. He repudiated the omnipotence of the state, its intervention and regimentation, and proclaimed the sovereignty of the moral law of the individual - remarking already that, while the necessary instinct of self-preservation leads man to egotism, nature has supplied a corrective to it by providing man with another instinct - that of sociability. When men are reasonable enough to follow their natural instincts, they will unite across the frontiers and constitute the cosmos. (1)
In medieval Europe the pantheistic Brothers and Sisters of the Free Spirit rejected all authority and advocated communism of goods and women. During the Hussite wars, Peter Chelcicky (c. 1930-c. 1460) taught that since all compulsion is from the devil, the state is evil and must disappear along with class distinctions. Anabaptists of the 16th century believed themselves freed from all law by Christ's grace, refused to pay taxes or tithes, and held wives and property in common. (2)
The English Diggers (1649-50)
- The Diggers were a group of agrarian communists who flourished in England in 1649-50 and were led
by Gerrard Winstanley (q.v.) and William Everard. In April 1649 about 20 poor men
assembled at St. George's Hill, Surrey, and began to cultivate the common land. These Diggers
held that the English Civil Wars had been fought against the king and the great
landowners; now that Charles I had been executed, land should be made available for the
very poor to cultivate. (Food prices had reached record heights in the late 1640s.) The
numbers of the Diggers more than doubled during 1649. Their activities alarmed the
Commonwealth government and roused the hostility of local landowners, who were rival
claimants to the common lands. The Diggers were harassed by legal actions and mob
violence, and by the end of March 1650 their colony was dispersed. The Diggers themselves
abjured the use of force. The Diggers also called themselves True Levelers, but
their communism was denounced by the leaders of the Levelers.
(Encyclopaedia Britannica, 1994)
|| It was William Godwin (1756-1836),
in his Enquiry
concerning Political Justice (2 vols., 1793), who was the
first to formulate the political and economical conceptions of anarchism,
even though he did not give that name to the ideas developed in
his remarkable work.(1)
|| Joseph Proudhon (1809-65)
was the first to use, in 1840 (Qu'est-ce que la propriete?
first memoir - See: Proudhon's
Collected Works), the name of anarchy with application to the
no government state of society. The name of 'anarchists' had been
freely applied during the French Revolution by the Girondists to
those revolutionaries who did not consider that the task of the
Revolution was accomplished with the overthrow of Louis XVI (1)
From: May Day - The Real Labor Day by Luther Gaylord ...
In 1884, the Federation of Organized Trades and Labor Unions passed
a resolution stating that eight hours would constitute a legal
day's work from and after May 1, 1886. The resolution called for
a general strike to achieve the goal, since legislative methods had
already failed. With workers being forced to work ten, twelve, and
fourteen hours a day, rank-and-file support for the eight-hour
movement grew rapidly, despite the indifference and hostility of
.many union leaders. By April 1886, 250,000 workers were involved
in the May Day movement.
The heart of the movement was in Chicago, organized primarily by
the anarchist International Working People's Association.
Businesses and the state were terrified by the increasingly
revolutionary character of the movement and prepared accordingly.
The police and militia were increased in size and received new and
powerful weapons financed by local business leaders. Chicago's
Commercial Club purchased a $2000 machine gun for the Illinois
National Guard to be used against strikers. Nevertheless, by May
1st, the movement had already won gains for many Chicago clothing
cutters, shoemakers, and packing-house workers.
on May 3,
1886, police fired into a crowd of strikers at the McCormick Reaper
Works Factory, killing four and wounding many. Anarchists called
for a mass meeting the next day in Haymarket Square to protest the
The meeting proceeded without incident, and by the time the last
speaker was on the platform, the rainy gathering was already
breaking up, with only a few hundred people remaining. It was then
that 180 cops marched into the square and ordered the meeting to
disperse. As the speakers climbed down from the platform, a bomb
was thrown at the police, killing one and injuring seventy. Police
responded by firing into the crowd, killing one worker and injuring
Although it was never determined who threw the bomb, the incident
was used as an excuse to attack the entire Left and labor movement.
Police ransacked the homes and offices of suspected radicals, and
hundreds were arrested without charge. Anarchists in particular
were harassed, and eight of Chicago's most active were charged with
conspiracy to murder in connection with the Haymarket bombing. A
kangaroo court found all eight guilty, despite a lack of evidence
connecting any of them to the bomb-thrower (only one was even
present at the meeting, and he was on the speakers' platform), and
they were sentenced to die. Albert Parsons, August Spies, Adolf
Fischer, and George Engel were hanged on November 11, 1887. Louis
.Lingg committed suicide in prison, The remaining three were
finally pardoned in 1893.
See also, ANARCHIST-SYNDICALIST HISTORY:
Anarchism and Other Essays: by Emma Goldman (1869-1940) published
January 24 -
Execution of twelve anarchists in Japan. (3)
Emma Goldman deported.
Judge Julius M. Mayer declares that as an alien, she has no constitutional rights. (3)
May 3, 1937 -
In an ongoing attempt by the Spanish Communists and their allies, the Left Republicans, to dislodge the power of the Anarchists in Catalonia region, an assault on the Telephone Exchange in Barcelona was made on May 3, 1937. The Telephone Exchange was controlled by the Anarcho-Syndicalist labor union, the CNT (Confederacion Nacional del Trabajo).
--The Barcelona Uprising
The Spanish Civil War:
Anarchism in Action by Eddie Conlon
The Digger Archives is an ongoing Web project to preserve and present the history of the anarchist guerilla street theater group that challenged the emerging Counterculture of the Sixties.
- "Anarchism", By Peter Kropotkin, The Encyclopaedia Britannica, 11th edition. (1910)
- Catholic Encyclopedia, topic: ANARCHISM
- Emma Goldman: A Guide to Her Life and Documentary Sources @SunSITE