Note:  Because Guerin’s work here encompasses a lot- especially within the confines of a mere 159 pages- I’m offering my review of this text in several parts, mostly to coincide with the format of the book (Part 1: The Basic Ideas of AnarchismPart 2: In Search of a New Society,Part 3: Anarchism in Revolutionary Practice, which dragged on for a second post, and this final Part, which will cover Guerin’s “By Way of Conclusion” plus his post-script “May 1968″).  Breaking the text down into several parts gave me the added luxury of fleshing more out of each one, and expanding and interjecting my own views where they agreed or differed.  This final post will be short and sweet: I gave you plenty in the previous installments.


Concluding Anarchism in 1965, Guerin is not so much feeling libertarianism defeated and lost:

The defeat of the Spanish Revolution deprived anarchism of its only foothold in the world.  It came out of this trial crushed, dispersed, and, to some extent, discredited.  History condemned it severely and, in certain respects, unjustly.  It was not in fact, or at any rate alone, responsible for the victory o the Franco forces.  What remained from the experience of the rural and industrial collectives, set up in tragically unfavorable conditions, was on the whole to their credit.  This experience was, however, underestimated, calumniated, and denied recognition.  Authoritarian socialism had at last got rid of undesirable libertarian competition and, for years, remained master of the field.  For a time it seemed as though state socialism was to be justified by the military victory of the U.S.S.R. against Nazism in 1945 and by undeniable, and even imposing, successes in the technical field.

However, the very excesses of this system soon began to generate their own negation.  They engendered the idea that paralyzing state centralization should be loosened up, that production units should have more autonomy, that workers would do more and better work if they had some say in the management of enterprises.  What medicine calls “antibodies” were generated in one of the countries brought into servitude by Stalin.  Tito’s Yugoslavia freed itself from the too heavy yoke which was making it into a sort of colony.  It then proceeded to re-evaluate the dogmas which could now so clearly be seen as anti-economic.  It went back to school under the masters of the past, discovering and discreetly reading Proudhon.  It bubbled in anticipation…. Among other things it dug out the (Marxist and socialist) concept of the withering away of the State, which had not, it is true, been altogether eliminated from the political vocabulary, but had certainly become no more than a ritual formula quite empty of substance. (p. 144-145)

Guerin goes on to explore what was, at the time, the potentially exciting development of workers councils that were bringing a surprising degree of self-management into Yugoslavia and Algeria.  Guerin noted the limitations of these quasi-libertarian developments, given that they were sanctioned and- most importantly- financed by heavily authoritarian and centralized single-party State’s.  Nonetheless, 30 years after the end of the Spanish Revolution ended, these developments were some of the most glaringly anarchist-like in global politics.  As for the future of anarchism:

To sum up, self-management (in the workplace) meets with all kinds of difficulties and contradictions, yet, even now, it appears in practice to have the merit of enabling the masses to pass through an apprenticeship in direct democracy acting from the bottom upward; the merit of developing, encouraging, and stimulating their free initiative, of imbuing them with a sense of responsibility instead of perpetuating age-old habits of passivity, submission, and the inferiority complex left to them by past oppression, as is the case under state communism.  This apprenticeship is sometimes laborious, progresses rather slowly, loads society with extra burdens and may, possibly, be carried out only at the cost of some “disorder.”  Many observers think, however, that these difficulties, delays, extra burdens, and growing pains are less harmful than the false order, the false luster, the false “efficiency” of state communism which reduces man to nothing, kills the initiative of the people, paralyzes production, and, in spite of material advances obtained at a high price, discredits the very idea of socialism. (p. 150)

Finally ending his work, Guerin rightfully admits to what Anarchism succeeds at:

In the preceding pages I have tried to show that this (chaos, disorder, violence) is not a true picture of anarchism.  Bakunin’s works best express the nature of constructive anarchism, which depends on organization, on self-discipline, on integration, on federalist and noncoercive centralization. (p. 154)

Only Guerin wasn’t entirely done, because he came back a few years later to offer a post-script on the events of Paris in 1968.  Though written elegantly, Guerin nonetheless feels the self-serving need to spend the first of this 4 page post-script detailing his own predictions about what was possibly building in France as early as 1958.  Correctly though, Guerin sees the re-birth of anarchism and libertarian ideas in the events of May ’68 and he excitedly welcomes it.  He notes that while the Revolution stopped short- just short- of spreading beyond the youth and into bona-fide worker self-management, the events in Paris were, regardless, a re-awakening of the possibilities of socialism and libertarianism; most importantly, Paris in 1968 showed that the political left rejection of capitalism didn’t need to be, and no longer would be, defined as state communism.  Guerin notes that this very book only became a best-seller once the 1968 uprising was upon them, and that it’s subsequent English translation (for which he was writing this post-script) signaled an un-mistakable and generally un-predicted return to interest for anarchist ideas.  Now, nearly 40 years later, the whole of it continues today and Guerin’s Anarchism serves as a great place to begin to learn about the anarchist tradition and experience.