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(en) Ireland, Anarchist Workers Solidarity #112 - Review of Black Flame by Anarcho

Date Thu, 03 Dec 2009 11:39:07 +0200

This is an excellent work. It is wide ranging, both in terms of subjects covered and
geography. The latter makes a welcome break from most accounts of anarchism, which are
sadly all-too Eurocentric. The former sees anarchist analysis expanded from the usual
subjects of political authority and economic class into gender and imperialism (and
national liberation struggles). It covers such perennial issues as anarchist organisation
(including ‘Platformism’), the Spanish Revolution and a host of others. ---- Black Flame:
The Revolutionary Class ---- Black Flame gets almost everything right. It concentrates on
the mainstream of anarchism, class struggle anarchism (collectivist, communist and
syndicalist anarchism, in other words). It is comprehensive, discussing all important
issues, people and movements.

The authors are right in showing the anarchist roots of syndicalism and exposing the
Leninist myth that anarchism and syndicalism are fundamentally different. They debunk the
notion that Sorel was the creator or main theoretician of syndicalism. They place
anarchism where it should be: as part of the wider socialist movement, its libertarian
wing. It is right to say that anarchism is “a product of the capitalist world and the
working class it created” (p. 96) and that thinkers and activists alike “defined anarchism
as an anti-capitalist ideology and a form of socialism.” (p. 46)

I have two somewhat minor quibbles about it. The first, minor criticism is the claim that
Daniel De Leon, Big Bill Haywood and James Connolly can be included in the broad anarchist
tradition. They were Marxists! By no stretch of the imagination can they be considered
anarchists. Syndicalism is an anarchist tactic, and like other tactics can be utilised by

My major criticism is their relegation of Proudhon to being a forerunner of anarchism. It
is strange to read that Proudhon was not an anarchist and that “the anarchists took [from
him] the notion of the self-management of the means of production, the idea of free
federation, a hatred of capitalism and landlordism, and a deep distrust of the state”! (p.
84) So, except for anti-statism, anti-capitalism, anti-landlordism, federalism, communes,
self-management, the vision of a revolution from below, the name “anarchist”, what has
Proudhon done for us?

It rightly rejects the “dictionary definition” of anarchism – as if a rich socio-economic
theory and social movement can be summed up in such a way! As Black Flame stresses,
anarchism needs to be defined in terms of its ideas and history, not by whoever calls
themselves an “anarchist” or has been so-labelled.

Black Flame is a wonderful book which every anarchist will enjoy reading. It is well
researched, well argued and should be read by every one interested in anarchism.
Politics of Anarchism and Syndicalism

Lucien Van der Walt and Michael Schmidt
AK Press (2009) This is an edited version of a longer review that can be read at the link

Review of Black Flame http://www.wsm.ie/news_viewer/6225
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