A Romp Through Anarchism [Review of Facing the Enemy by Alexandre Skirda]

Facing the Enemy: A History of Anarchist Organization from Proudhon to May 1968 by Alexandre Skirda

AK / KSL ISBN: 1902593197 £12.00 $17.95

Anarchism is not well served by its histories, at least the English language ones. We have good studies of particular countries, groups or individuals but general ones are most often written by puzzled, dazzled or hostile outsiders.

This history of European Anarchism asks how the movement goes from the initial negative of opposition to taking steps to bring about the new world we want. How do we increase our effectiveness without surrendering initiative and freedom to authority and bureaucracy? Skirda clearly sees thought, organisation and action as parts of a whole, not separate or contradictory specialisms.

It's tempting to describe this as a romp through Anarchist history, with its short punchy chapters and especially Skirda's acid style. Can you beat this as a book review? "Jacques Duclos, a GPU-loving messenger boy who had strained his constipated bowels to bring us his Ombres et Lumiere - Bakunin et Marx (Shadows and Light - Bakunin and Marx) better forgotten."

Skirda puts his cards on the table in favour of the platformist approach, so some 'anti-organizationalists' are unlikely to like the message, but he's not daft enough to take the "it's an organisation, it must be good" line, either. Still, the biographical details of all the activists he discusses, quotes from original materials and primary documents produced in the appendices make it obvious this is not just a rant.

Anyone wanting a punchy introduction to where Anarchism comes form, what it wants and how it tries to get it now thankfully has an alternative to Woodcock's 'Anarchism'. Comrades involved in debate on what we do now also get 120 years of condensed experience to help carry the discussion forward.