Cover of Anarchism: Arguments For and Against which features a white marionette with its strings cut readding a book with the anarchy A on the cover on a black background

Anarchism: Arguments for and Against

by Albert Meltzer Author

Everything you ever wanted to know about anarchism but were afraid to ask. A new revised and updated edition of the definitive pocket primer. From the historical background and justification of anarchism, to the class struggle, organization and the role of an anarchist in an authoritarian society, this slim volume walks the reader through the salient points, theory and practice of this much maligned philosophy. From workers' self defense to the myth of taxation, the second half of the book runs through the gamut of objections and queries from Marxist-Leninists, liberal democrats, fascists, and the average person. If you're constantly wishing you were better informed, or just mildly curious, this is the place to start.

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Comments & Reviews


What is that j. omar guy doing here? I really doubt you're in any position to be talking about all the evil that goes on when you can't even speak to people with different views to your own without abusing and degrading them.


The majority of the 100,000 years of modern human development, and the 4.5 million years of human existence, people lived under a primitive form of anarchism. No, this was NOT barbarism. Contrary to popular belief, although some competition between tribes probably existed, humans had to live in a fairly cooperative state in order for humanity to survive for so long. Hierarchies emerged, either by the invention of religion, or by people starting to create private property whilst simultaneously plundering the lands of other tribes.

Anarchism in a modern form HAS existed, and continues to exist. In the Russian Revolution, before the Bolshieviks seized power, the workers formed self-managed collectives, and the peasants formed decentralized communes. During the Civil War in what was to become the Soviet Union, the anarchist Nestor Makhno and his Insurgent Army helped the peasants of the Ukraine to create free, non-hierarchical communes that they managed themselves. The Spanish Civil War of 1936-1939 is perhaps the most common example of anarchism in action. For a few years, entire areas of Spain were controlled by the peasants and the workers, with decisions being made by the community members themselves, and not by politicians. While all of these societies were crushed through the outside influence of State forces, this does not mean that the societies themselves were not viable forms of organization.
Currently, there are hundreds of anarchist organizations and affinity groups that practice direct democracy and consensus decision-making. There are also millions of squatters all over the world that occupy shelters without any outside influence. In Chiapas, Mexico, the Zapatistas, while not anarchists, practice forms of direct democracy in their collectives and communities. There are also everyday examples of anarchism. When you and your friends cooperatively decide on what movie to see, that is anarchism. When you offer to help someone cross the street, that is anarchism. When you and others take a day out of the week to clean up trash in your neighborhood, that is anarchism.
Also, human nature largely depends on the society one lives in. If you live in a society with domineering social values that places profits before basic human needs, a common human trait will be avarice and competition. However, if you live in a society that values voluntary cooperation between people, and in which people make decisions for themselves, a common human trait will be compassion. And, like Tym said, humans often go against the predominant human nature, so even in hierarchical societes, there are people that are willing to help others.
Omar pointed out that his economic and social situation, like that of others, causes most working class people to think about surviving rather than anarchism, or even simply living a freer life. This, though, is all the more reason why people in Omar's situation should BE anarchists--to fight for a better, freer, and more egalitarian existence. There are plenty of people in Omar's situation that have become anarchists, some of whom, like Sherman Austin, were arrested for their beliefs. That working class people feel helpless is reflexive of the economic exploitation they suffer everyday at the hands of capitalists, as well as the social, economic, and propoganda factors that those in power do to prevent those on the bottom from rebelling. Working class anarchists (and those in the middle class) should combat this sense of helplessness by educating people and participating in community-support actions.


Without law and government, we would return to life in the State of Nature, which, as a clever old Brit informed us a very long time ago is "nasty, poor, brutish, and short."

A particular law may be unjust; a particular government may be tyrannical and/or corrupt. But ABUSUS NON TOLLET USUS.


The P must stand for PUTO. They are not anarchist you whacky trick, they have their own form of hierachy, whether it's a king or a cheif at the TOP! Do any of you dry shits realizzze that i'm not against anarchism? P for PUTO, you failed to respond to my argument that anarchism cannot work in a huge ass
society. Shit, if we have to march on washington and form black
panther parties for REFORM, how you figure the whole mess uf us
weel sum day b anarkits?


Don't be a piece of shit, believe it or not most indeginous South American, North American, South Pacific and African societies are anarchist, by definition.


i bought thedamn book thnx 2 Tym. hvn't changed my mind.good luck to u'r freinds in madagascar, but they're irrelevant in my world. wene i speak, it's not on intellectual terms, your ideologies and philosophies are innaplicable & dissmisable in the hoods and varrios here in dallas. drugaddicts prostitutes,& immigrant conservative catholics 2 whom i try to explain how captlsm got them here, along with myself wouldn't care to live as anarchist. we wouldn't know how nor is it a priority u dumb bitch. obtaining ressidency is. wene i have to go back & help out my parents because my moms job just got shipped to mexico, anarchism doesn't mean shit to me. nor is it shit wene i'me working with groups 2 stop child trafficing & sex tourism. & don't talk to me about human love n compassion cuz like i said, " although cruelty n xploitation make the world go round, PIPE DREAMS LIKE YOURS KEEP IT AFLOAT." meaning, cruelty will always be prevalent, butt so will hope and ressistance.u big dummy.anarchism is not feasible for mass popular application. its not that im racist in any form (were do you get off?!) it's that your ego and self admirration made you get ahead of yourself.


its pretty closed minded to limit humanity to since its first formed cities (which is when civilization is said to start). before that a large amount of human existance was stateless and fairly egalitarian. now i'm not advocating the position that we all go back to it, but it really makes you think. anthropolists usually place organized religion as the beginnings of meaningful hiearchy within human societies, although it wasn't universal. anthropologists such as David Graeber, Harold Barclay, Pierre Clastres and Mauss (along with many others) have studied cultures that existed or still exist today that are very anarchistic. and not all are kinshiped based (aka "primitive" to use the archaic term) as david graebers study of inner madagascar shows.
also, j., i find your attempt to give a singular human nature really ignorant also. true humans have a large capacity for cruelty, but they also have a large capacity for love and compassion. while you look at some human societies and they are really egalitarian, you look at others and they are downright malicious seeming. however both are sure to have aspects that seem to go against their basic nature. you are trying to lump western and/or industrialized societies as being the basis for all humanity, as if it was humanity at its peak. that's not only wrong but really its downright racist (after all, your assuming the society your from is "The People of Earth").
and no one is saying anarchist society would be one free of conflict. hell i wouldn't even advocate it as a utopian one. all societies are at war with themselves to some degree, and to live is to be in conflict really. however what is being said is "hey, this is a way of living that's a a good few steps less fucked up than what's already out there."
really, weak arguement j. omar.


WHAT?!Who R these anthropologist? the first civilization was born 11,500 years ago,how many since have been anarchist AND SURVIVED? Wene I say "human nature" I mean all aspects of it. 4 anarchy to work we would need 100% participation. What of the capitalist,child traffickers,drug lords, R they not part of humanity? r they going to pitch in 4 the good of all? Don't underestimate the human capacity 4 cruelty and 2 exploit, it's what makes the world go round,but pipe dreams like yours r what keep it afloat. Nice try Lance!


As made clear in the work of numerous anthropologists (really, not just some wacko anarchists saying this, this is anthropology 101), people lived pretty much like anarchists for something like 99% of their existence. It's not "against human nature," if anything it's merely a manifestation of it.


The anarchist movement will always have a place in my heart, BUT, like religion it's flawed in the fact that it's against human nature. We need laws and a fair, working gov., which is something actually worth fighting for. Aside from cool stickers, rock n roll & shirts, I don't think so, sorry.