The purpose of this paper is to contribute for the special number Protest and Activism With(out) Organisation.
Elisée Reclus (1830-1905) wrote in 1851 that “anarchy is the highest expression of order”. This statement, clashing with the bourgeois commonplaces on anarchy as chaos, anticipated the theories, elaborated collectively by the anarchist geographers Reclus, Pëtr Kropotkin (1842-1921), and Léon Metchnikoff (1838-1888), on mutual aid and cooperation as the bases of a society more rationally organised than the State and capitalist one. If a (minority) part of the anarchist movement, in the following decades, assumed this sort of “natural order” to argue that there was no necessity of a political organisation, many militants stated on the contrary the necessity of a formal anarchist (or anarcho-syndicalist) organisation to prepare the revolution and to put in practice the principle of an horizontal and federalist society starting from daily life.
The author’s main argument is that the idea of a public and formalized anarchist organisation has been consistent with the claims of the anarchist geographers for the possibility of an ordered anarchist society and that it was a very geographical conception, as the spatial and territorial activity patterns of anarchist individuals, groups, and federations was a central issue among anarchist organisers.
Drawing on present literature on geography and anarchism and on the multidisciplinary transnational turn of anarchist studies, the author addresses, through primary sources, the contentions and openings of the organisational question in anarchism from Reclus, Kropotkin, and Metchnikoff to the anarchist federations of present day, and its links with the issue of constructive anarchism and with the problem of violence.
The author wants to especially acknowledge all the past and present members of the Anarchist Federation of Reggio Emilia – FAI, for the more than 20 years of exchanges on anarchism and organisation. The author also acknowledges Carl Levy and Davide Turcato for their insights on (and active commitment to) the Anglophone outcomes of Malatesta’s thought and praxis. Thanks a lot to the anonymous referees for their suggestion and mainly to the paper’s editor, Richard White, for his essential and generous help in the preparation of author’s paper.
Ferretti, F. (2016), "Organisation and formal activism: insights from the anarchist tradition", International Journal of Sociology and Social Policy, Vol. 36 No. 11/12, pp. 726-740. https://doi.org/10.1108/IJSSP-11-2015-0127Download as .RIS
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