Beyond a footnote: ‘Class struggle anarchism’

When and why did the phrase ‘class-struggle anarchism’ come into use? In The government of no-one, (reviewed above) Ruth Kinna says ‘the origins of the term are difficult to pin down.’ She thinks it’s connected to something Murray Bookchin said in the sixties (I have my doubts). It probably did arise in the 1960s. The earliest reference I’ve seen comes from 1967. Maurice Brinton uses it in his introduction to Ida Mett’s The Kronstadt Commune. ‘Ida Mett writes from an anarchist viewpoint. Her writings however represent what is best in the revolutionary tradition of “class struggle” anarchism.’ [1] Brinton doesn’t have a lot of time for anarchism so presumably has picked up a term that others were using at that time.

In 1974, Black Flag said that the Organisation of Revolutionary Anarchists ‘remains within the same concept of class struggle anarchism as we do’. [2] Stuart Christie’s introduction to Albert Meltzer’s The anarchists in London (1976) points outs its value to ‘libertarian revolutionaries, few of whom are aware of the tradition of class-struggle anarchism simply because it has not been presented to them before’. Interestingly, the ‘About ourselves’ in this pamphlet talks about Black Flag being ‘the organ of an international revolutionary fraction. It follows “classical” class war anarchism’. So, though the term existed, it was not the only way to describe that tendency. Has anyone seen earlier uses (or definitions) than these?


2, ‘Wildcat: New paper, established tendency’ Black Flag, v3, n14 (October 1974) p 10