Pan-Anarchism: Its Basics and Its Relationship to Other Movements and Ideologies

Keith Preston

In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, anarchism was the premiere revolutionary movement throughout both the Western world and in the pre-industrial world. For instance, even many contemporary anarchists do not realize that anarchism was about as large a movement in Latin America and China as it was it Europe. During the twentieth century, anarchism was eclipsed by other movements and ideologies for a variety of reasons. The economic and technological expansion of the twentieth century, along with population growth, helped to facilitate a general tendency towards centralization and bureaucratization (see James Burnham’s “The Managerial Revolution’). The seeming “success” of the Bolshevik Revolution, the prestige of the Soviet Union, the appeal of Marxism to intellectuals, and influence of the Communist Parties helped to insure Communism’s hegemony on the Left. Additionally, there was the defeat of the Anarchists in the Spanish Civil War, and escalating repression at the hands of communist, fascist, and capitalist regimes. Lastly, there was the growing tendency of many people to look towards the state as the means of alleviating the problems associated with capitalism, a tendency that proved to be an unprecedented disaster.

Anarchism slowly began a resurgence in the late twentieth century due to the failures of Marxist states, and the growing influence of cultural radicalism, and anarchism has continued to grow in the twenty-first century while simultaneously exhibiting an increasing ideological diversity within its own ranks. Meanwhile, many of the same conditions that gave rise to the classical anarchist movement have started to reappear. As was the case during the nineteenth century and the period of the industrial revolution, the present era of globalization has brought with it an unprecedented integration of markets, and an unprecedented expansion of technological capabilities, and yet the result of this has similarly been an unprecedented concentration of wealth and political power on an international scale. Consequently, class divisions have widened dramatically within both individual nations and between the Global North and the Global South. At the same time, American imperialism has achieved the level of global hegemony once held by British imperialism and the European colonial empires, and beyond.

Contemporary anarchism has continued to grow due to the rise of the anti-globalization movement, the “Occupy” movement, the anarchist youth culture and, in North America, the emergence of the various libertarian currents. Indeed, in the form of the Kurdish independence movement, led by the PKK, YPG, and YPG, anarchists now have a contemporary prototype for an anarchist revolution that parallels the anarchist insurgency led by the CNT-FAI of the Spanish Civil War.

American Revolutionary Vanguard and Attack the System were founded at the turn of the century for the purpose of reclaiming the position held by anarchism a century earlier as the world’s principal revolutionary force, for unifying and synthesizing the various anarchist currents, for organizing resistance to U.S. imperialism within the mother country of the empire, for challenging the global plutocratic super class, for moving past the doctrinaire leftism of many contemporary anarchists, and for engaging in outreach and discussion with opposition movements from all across the political spectrum.

Pan-anarchism is oriented towards the purpose of opposing and overthrowing statism, capitalism, and imperialism, and replacing these with, for example, autonomous municipalities (Bookchin), decentralized cooperative economics (Proudhon), libertarian law codes based on the non-aggression principle (Spooner, Tucker, Rothbard), non-imperialist militia defense systems (PKK/YPG/YPG and CNT/FAI), and self-determination for cultural, ethnic, and religious communities (Bakunin, Landauer, Rocker).

Pan-anarchism recognizes the legitimacy of the many different types of anarchism and prefers to emphasize the commonalities of these rather than their differences. Likewise, pan-anarchism regards the many differences of opinion among different types on anarchists on a wide range of topics to be a matter of in-house debate.

As for the relationship of pan-anarchism to other movements and ideologies, it might be argued that pan-anarchism is compatible with other movements and ideologies to the degree that these embrace some degree of libertarianism, decentralism, anti-authoritarianism, anti-statism, anti-capitalism, or anti-imperialism. For example, those wishing to form libertarian-capitalist “seasteads” are to a great degree compatible with pan-anarchism. Those wishing to form autonomous “neo-reactionary” city-states are to great extent compatible with pan-anarchism. Those wishing to form religious communes functioning independently of liberal consumer society are compatible with pan-anarchism. Ordinary liberals or conservatives wishing to form regional independence or secessionist movements are likewise worthy of engagement and dialogue.

Pan-anarchism does not endorse one particular cultural model. While many anarchists have adopted a “hard left” cultural outlook, pan-anarchism does not regard this as necessary or mandatory, nor does pan-anarchism seek uniformity of agreement on ordinary contentious public issues, but instead encourages freedom of speech, inquiry, opinion, and association.

Lastly, pan-anarchism holds to a populist conception of political struggles in the form of the people versus the elite, the individual against the state, and the producers against the exploiters.

The purpose of pan-anarchism is the formation of anarchist and populist federations on the local, regional, national, and international level for the purpose of carrying out revolutionary struggle.


    • Assange, I think the question you are actually asking is: “Who will pay for roads to be built?”

      My answer to that is: “Those who want to use them.”

      But there’s a deeper question. If group A want a road from X to Y, and group B don’t (perhaps because they live between X and Y, and don’t want to be disturbed or even kicked out of their homes), how in a pan-anarchist society is it decided whether the road will be built or not?

      The “conventional” libertarian position seems to be that property rights override everything else, so the road should not be built. This seems to me to be unduly conservative; but I confess I haven’t found another “solution” yet.

      I wonder what Keith Preston thinks on this issue?

      • With anarchism, decisions concerning when, where, and how to build roads, and who pays, will be made by the relevant communities, property owners, or collectives of property owners (whether individual or common property).

        “If group A want a road from X to Y, and group B don’t (perhaps because they live between X and Y, and don’t want to be disturbed or even kicked out of their homes), how in a pan-anarchist society is it decided whether the road will be built or not?”

        I don’t know that there’s a ready made anarchist answer to this question, but my own inclination in such a scenario would be to merely say, “Too bad for Group A,” and to deny their right to impose their wishes on Group B without their consent.

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