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Anarchism Frequently Asked Questions / Anarchism for beginners

Discussion in 'Anarchism and radical activism' started by ungovernable, Apr 13, 2010.

  1. ungovernable

    ungovernableAutonome Staff Member Uploader Admin Team Experienced member




    Aug 21, 2009
    Male, 35 years old
    Canada United States
    I noticed the same questions are frequently asked on this forum and some young members seems to be confused and doesn't know where to start. Here is an useful link that is a good place where to start your reading and understand the basis points of anarchism

    An Anarchist FAQ | Anarchist Writers

    Another good point to start is the multi-lingual anarchist wiki/encyclopedia


    Members can also use this topic to post other referrences for frequently asked questions and anarchism for beginners
    Last edited by a moderator: Jan 10, 2019

  2. colton_and

    colton_andExperienced Member Experienced member




    Mar 24, 2010
  3. Vegetarian Barbarian

    Vegetarian BarbarianExperienced Member Experienced member Forum Member




    Oct 19, 2009
    I dont think starting a thread like this will work in regards to cutting down on the same questions. It needs to be a constant bulletin for new users or something (maybe an automatic message when they first sign up?). Maybe title a thread READ BEFORE POSTING A TOPIC/THREAD!!!! or something then keeping it at the top.
  4. ungovernable

    ungovernableAutonome Staff Member Uploader Admin Team Experienced member




    Aug 21, 2009
    Male, 35 years old
    Canada United States
    Well at least we can just copy and paste the link to this thread and tell them to read the stuff instead of always answering the same questions over and over again :p
  5. Anxiety69

    Anxiety69Experienced Member Uploader Experienced member Forum Member




    Oct 18, 2009
    Male, 44 years old
    Long Beach CA United States
    i actually think it's a good idea for new registerees to have to read the faq before posting... as well as the who we are post, and make them check a box saying they have read it.
  6. Anom

    AnomExperienced Member Experienced member Forum Member




    Dec 21, 2009
  7. squatpunk

    squatpunkMember Forum Member




    Dec 30, 2009
    yes thats a very good idea, lets make every new member memorize everything that a web page says anarchism is. but seriously isn't one of the functions of this topic to exchanges ideas about what anarchism means to you and to learn from each other. so i think that people new to the world that is anarchism and this forum should not be scared off by reading obligations but encouraged to do it them selfs. links are a good idea to give people some basic knowledge. and even the same old questions should be re discussed and re discussed otherwise we run the risk of tunnel vision.
  8. Wid

    WidMember Forum Member




    Apr 25, 2010
    I think we have to have some shared ideas about what concepts mean, and about the history of movements, in order to have usefull discussions. Of course nothing is set in stone, and our goal is at least in part to create productive change in the anarchist tradition. But in order to even talk about anarchism, we need a common understanding of words and ideologies. The popular culture we live in seeks to destroy this, and it would be very dangerous to buy into that. Saying that people need to know what anarchism is to talk meaningfully about anarchism is basically a tautology. I've read the links provided, but I could talk about anarchism informedly well before I did so as a result of reading other stuff. But I am well aware such links would be usefull to me were I to be a beginner in the ideas involved. It would be absurd to assume that every vistor to this site could use all of the terminology and ideology we use here as soon as they visit, and providing a broad introduction to anarchism for such people seems necessary to me, provided we do not enforce such an understanding as law, like some sort of latter day Stalinists.
  9. punkmar77

    punkmar77Experienced Member Uploader Experienced member




    Nov 13, 2009
     United States
    Anarcho-syndicalist methods

    * CNT-AIT (France)
    * anarcho-syndicalism
    * direct action
    * organisation

    A text from the French CNT-AIT written in March 2006, covering anarcho-syndicalist tactics and strategy.

    Thursday 29th July 2010

    The following text was written to help people discover, remind themselves or popularize the various syndicalist methods of struggle because in any battle, one must start from a few key ideas:

    Hitting the enemy harder than they can hit you, or better - hitting them so they can't hit back.

    Analyzing the power balance:
    -How great are our numbers
    -How much other workers and the general population will sympathize with or reject our struggle
    -What are our financial constraints, ie. financial and material resources available to continue the fight

    Avoiding exhaustion: fighting too arduously from the start can be a weakness: the employers are prepared to overcome short term difficulties by transferring production, resuming production in other places, maintaining stocks, using scabs, financial reserves, etc.

    Knowing how to stop a fight, avoiding fighting to the end when the situation is unfavorable. A continued minority occupation of a business ends up offering the boss discontented people who can he can turn against the strikers. Wages lost become so great that resuming a struggle becomes difficult. Disillusionment makes mobilization harder.

    Allowing for a return to the struggles or demands.

    Analyzing the history, strategy, and objectives of the forces in play: Bosses/workers: (moderate or hard-line employers, combative or passive employees) Organization/struggles (whether the unions are weak or radical, if the fights benefit from autonomous experience etc..)

    ---The fights are defined by the employment category, territorial extent or by their content.---

    Employment category: struggles of unskilled workers, skilled workers, postal workers or nurses, white collar workers, teachers, technicians etc … called sectional struggles. If the struggle involves the entire company or institution and deals with claims for all staff, the struggle is industrial.

    Territoriality: if the struggle takes place in one particular location of a business, it is a local fight. Example: Visteon.

    A fight at the group level is located in several places but within the same company: Example: the postal strikes.

    The struggle may be in a sector or industry: examples: the health sector or education sector. The struggle can take place in all business lines and sites.

    Content: content of the struggle can be material (wages, pensions, working conditions hours, health and safety), political (changing a law, a critique of anti social policy, gaining new union rights, the formation of worker counter-power within a company...) It can also of course combine the two aspects: for example the simplification and standardization over grades and qualifications in a given industry. This material claim allows the unification of workers in the same industry and thus open the prospect of larger struggles.

    The fight may also simply be held in solidarity with other struggles.

    ---The different types of struggle---

    Verbal protest : this type of struggle is the most simple.

    Petition: a written denunciation, a complaint, expressing a desire, a disapproval. The petition can, sometimes, exert influence to obtain a list of benefits, often illusory, insubstantial or demagogic (designed for political power by appealing to rhetoric). Some unions which do or wish to do little or nothing engage in petitions for an election or to keep their conscience clean.

    Walkout: the cessation of activity for a few hours at most. The stoppage expresses a greater dissatisfaction, the birth of a certain radicalization. The stoppage is used as pressure for negotiations on short term or minor claims. Example: the lack of ventilation or heating, breaks, bonus issues, problems with safety equipment etc.

    Partial strike: Workers stopping in rotation. Advantage: minimum loss of wage to individuals whilst the company is practically paralyzed and the company still pays its employees who are now less productive or indeed idle. Employers try to put to work non striking employees, supervisors, agency staff or contractors. If this proves insufficient it may close the company for a while, locking workers out rather than paying people to be idle.

    Go slow: a reduction in the rate or work to become as unproductive as possible.

    Work to rule: excessively strict observance of instructions and regulations which hinders the proper functioning of the work.

    Limited strike: workers stop working for a specific amount of time.

    Indefinite strike: cessation of work by employees until they have resolved the issues in the conflict (or otherwise decide to return) Advantage: expresses a degree of radicalization, involvement in struggle, blocks all or part of production. Disadvantage: substantial loss of wages for the striking workers. The company may continue production with non striking workers, contracted staff or they may move production to another site.

    Picket line: The creation of barriers to prevent non striking workers entering the workplace. The material conditions of pickets are often deplorable: no shelter, being subject to the weather. Some non striking workers sometimes manage to enter the premises or remain inside to ensure continued production.

    Occupation: The striking workers occupy the workplace and evacuate all non striking workers. They take control of meeting rooms, canteens, dormitories, copiers, telephones and vehicles.

    The internal action: limited to within the company, confined within the institution.

    The exterior action: the invasion and occupation of institutions, establishments, administrations or government departments favorable to the employer: the Department for Work and Pensions, courts, city halls, local political offices, newspaper headquarters, the Chamber of Commerce, management's living quarters, or a company to which production has been moved or which is linked to the conflict.

    The fight should seek to obtain the support and collusion of the general public, explain the demands and avoid disturbing other workers and the public where possible.

    Local demonstration: It publicizes the conflict, popularizes the fight, maintains pressure, helps to assess the balance of power.

    National or international demonstration: follows the same rules as local but on a large scale.

    Rumors: spread rumors, information of all types to weaken the enemy.

    Discredit: make public criticisms of the quality of the products or facilities of the business.

    Sabotage: (See “Sabotage” by Emile Pouget) This ancient method of fighting is quick and direct. It is still practiced but not publicized. It should be handled by people aware of the risks. Catastrophic destruction can even result in the closure of the company. Perhaps a scale of actions may be made to avoid major problems. Sabotage is very effective, low cost for the strikers whilst very damaging to the employer. Always remember that the action must be harmful to the employers but not to users themselves, eg. utilities, transport, electricity, health care, food etc...

    Re-appropriation: Recovery and control by workers of goods produced by the company - that is to say produced by the workers themselves.

    (Unauthorized) Sale of stock: Selling the company's stock to build a war chest and compensate workers.

    Autonomous production: The strikers use the company's machines to produce good which can be sold directly to the people at lower cost. This will satisfy everyone and bring funds to the strikers.

    Unauthorized work: using their own tools strikers repair, manufacture or provide services to individuals for a fee. The proceeds are put into the strike fund. (Example: hairdressers in Rennes, cut people's hair in a public square. In Australia the tram drivers ran the trams freely for the population.)

    Boycott: On the request of workers struggling in a company people do not buy the products or services provided by that company.

    Civil disobedience: refusal to comply with the laws of the state. Eg. To support and assist repressed people. Refusal to pay taxes, refusing to show identification etc.

    Generalized strike: A strike situation which affects one or several sectors of production (or commerce) in a region, country or several countries.

    General strike: A strike which crosses sectors in a region, country or internationally. It is a conscious and concerted action, which differentiates it from the generalized strike. It is the weapon desired by and defended by anarcho-syndicalists. It is an act by the masses, the population, which is anarcho-syndicalist whether they understand it or not. Indeed, at this stage, people want and intend to fight and challenge their adversaries. They do not rely upon governmental elections, or promises for the future, to effect reform. The people struggle, here and now, relying on direct action, intend to resolve their demands. The general strike expresses the conflict of opposed classes clearly. If it is large, the balance of power is favorable and new choices may appear.

    The insurrectionist general strike: for various reasons the strikers form barricades, create disorder and riots. Everywhere the people rise up in arms, opening the prospect of the expropriation of the capitalists.

    The expropriation general strike: the strikers, masters of the street, seize the means of production, exchange and communication. Businesses, commerce, governments are under the control of the committees of struggle. This is the prelude to a profound social change which, in our opinion, will lead to libertarian communism.

    ---Some Advice---

    A number of techniques of struggle from syndicalist history and practice have been presented. It is necessary for everyone to judge their usefulness. Each technique must match the stake. It is not necessary to deploy heavy means for a small gain. Example: for a small struggle, walkouts, partial strikes, go-slows and work to rule are sufficient.

    After applying a technique, evaluate it. If it proves to be insufficient, graduate to a more radical method. Always keep the pressure applied. Starting at too high a level and stepping back may expose, or be considered to be, weakness which the enemy can take advantage of.

    Beware of false radicals: consider whether those who spread radicalism are sincere or not (even if they are right at that moment in what they say). There are those who come forward and push for unsuitable conflict, they try to play hard in order to stick with and gain the trust of the strikers, eventually to do away with the movement or kill the fight, or knowing that defeat is assured, they wish to capitalize on the trust they have gained in an election. If they are in collusion with the enemy, they will start a tough and ultimately doomed struggle which will weigh heavily when the boss attacks later (with restructuring, redundancies, etc.), because the previous defeat will make it hard for the workers to fight back.

    Analyze the relationships of power: for example, upcoming union or political elections which will pressure the powers that be to avoid conflict.

    Analyze the level of public discontent, and the financial and economic situation at the company where the strike action is to occur.

    Analyze the status of stock held by the company, if they have large amounts the employers will continue to sell their products whilst simultaneously reducing their payroll due to the strike. In contrast, low levels of stocks, or perishable stocks will disadvantage the employers a great deal. Note that after the strike the employer may attempt to force increased overtime work in order to make up for losses suffered during the strike and catch up on delayed orders.

    Review the status of upcoming orders, the extent of financial reserves, possibilities for transferring production to other locations. We can prepare the ground for a fight by using a combination of techniques such as a go slow, limited strikes, sabotage, work to rule, or absenteeism to reduce production.

    Avoid retaliation by ensuring that the identities of those taking action remain unknown. Make sure the employer knows as little as possible about who is who and who does what. Obscure the number of people involved in the conflict, as well as dates and locations of meetings. Agree to actions at the last minute to avoid disclosure.

    Opt for a strike committee which is wider than the union branches. The strike committee must emanate from and be directed by the general assembly of the strikers.

    Multiply the base of your actions: media, propaganda, finance, independent production and unauthorized work in support. This forces the enemy to draw upon more of their resources to fight the strike.

    Apply direct democracy in the general meetings to avoid having a small group seizing control for purposes other than those decided upon by the general assembly. Close attention is required when people advocate a vanguard party or trade union: even if legal it cannot serve the interests of the people. If conspiracies are suspected, or closed meetings, document and report them.

    It is useless to send people to negotiate with the boss, the director or the board of directors. Nor is it useful to send staff representatives or 'experts' in negotiation. They serve no purpose except make you believe in them, and impose a delegation of responsibility, persuading people of the necessity of reformist unions. The bourgeoisie knows how to use tools to analyze unrest. For example, production slows or quality falls, absenteeism and sabotage increase. The employers will quickly understand that the workers are unhappy, even if they try to deny or hide this. The management knows the grievance and what it will propose to the workers: representatives are useless.

    Send to the press, the population and the employer a list of demands signed by the strike committee.

    If the employer wants to negotiate or offer to meet some demands, they can make their proposals known through the media, publishing them in the press, by posting a notice or by speaking to the workers at an assembly. The committee will respond in writing. There is no need to send delegates to a negotiation who risk being satisfied with crumbs, or will defend their own ideas instead of remaining with the agenda of demands, especially if they are representatives of a reformist trade union.

    Force the opponent to sign an agreement not to engage in repression after the conflict. Require pay for strike days. Try to minimize the financial impact of the conflict for employees, so if the management decided to counter attack, the employees are not weakened and can bring about a new conflict.

    With the same thing in mind, raise funds, hold concerts and festivals to gain financial support for the fight. Take action to seek material support for the fight.

    ---Legalism – Illegality---

    You should stay within the law as far as possible in order to avoid repression. But we should note that the law does not support our interests. Very quickly, workers have to act illegally in order to meet their goals: picketing, occupations, independent production. But we need to analyze calmly the advantages and implications. You'll quickly discover that the law, legitimized by the state, is not neutral and serves the interests of the bourgeoisie above all.

    Based on Bakunin's idea “Law merely reflects the existing state of affairs backed by force” what we impose will become legal.

    ---Violence – Non Violence---

    The situation doesn't necessarily have to be one or the other, it could be a largely non-violent struggle with occasional violent incidents, or vice versa.

    Sometimes a non violent and determined conflict can be effective, sometimes not. A large well behaved protest can be effective, but a rowdy one can be even more so. It's a question of context and the choice of the people engaged in the struggle.

    However, be cautious about violence and who is provoking it (whether it is the strikers or their opponents).

    Anarcho syndicalists are supporters of a world without violence, without weapons: this is our goal. But we also see that aggressive resistance of employees can be legitimate violence against the violence of the bourgeoisie: repression, prisons, exploitation, lay-offs, wars, pollution etc...

    ---Organizing Ourselves---

    We must now consider the type of organization appropriate to the fight. Does the unionist left defend the interests of the workers, or other interests? Does it prepare for the fight, defend it, without introducing models of conciliation and mediation favorable to the bourgeoisie? Does it pacify struggle? Can it be radicalized? Is the legal protection of trade union representatives effective? Do recognized unions guarantee the protection of union members?
    Apparently, given the thousands of union members who have been laid off: no. In any case, recognized or not, protected or not, participating in illegal actions will expose you to lay-offs. So the protection is in this case useless.

    Worse, trying to protect themselves through legal means leads the supporters of these methods to comply with laws which are favorable to the employers, to not engage in fights outside the legal framework and therefore to defend the bourgeois legality become counter revolutionary.

    Engaging in double talk: having the facade of legality whilst acting illegally, is unsustainable because union officials will be obliged, consciously or unconsciously, to defend the legal framework, strengthening themselves whilst weakening their critics in order to maintain the legal protections they enjoy. Furthermore, when the legal framework protects some individuals it becomes difficult to reject it.

    And don't doubt: if the struggle threatens the bourgeoisie's position they will ignore the law, and union officials will be left to reflect upon their supposed rights under the law.

    An anarcho-syndicalist militant.
  10. Raise Your Fist

    Raise Your FistExperienced Member Uploader Experienced member Forum Member




    Apr 11, 2010
  11. SurgeryXdisaster

    SurgeryXdisasterExperienced Member Experienced member Forum Member




    Oct 8, 2009
    Yeah that one is great, tons of information
  12. DisorderlyCitizen

    DisorderlyCitizenActive Member Forum Member




    Jan 19, 2011
  13. horrorpunk666

    horrorpunk666Member Forum Member




    Aug 18, 2011
    .. anarchism isnt a religion, its not a high school course, or a political group... theres nothing you "need to know" if your an anarchist, then you have a singular belief that unties you with other anrachists... that government can stuff it... if you are a beginning anrachist ill tell you what, fill int the following sentance, and if it works, congradtulations, becasue your an anarchist, and quote me in your replies, i want to see what people have to say...

    "i believe the government shouldnt exist and/becasue _________________________________________"
  14. punkmar77

    punkmar77Experienced Member Uploader Experienced member




    Nov 13, 2009
     United States
    they are grammar Nazi's !!!! :lmao: :lmao: :lmao:
  15. horrorpunk666

    horrorpunk666Member Forum Member




    Aug 18, 2011
    hahahahaha i put that in there so if someone wanted to say "and it shuold be replaced by a communist state" they could.. but good one

  16. Mitja

    MitjaActive Member Forum Member




    Sep 2, 2011
    Thanks for all the links now i have something to read :a:
  17. Danarchy

    DanarchyExperienced Member Experienced member Forum Member




    Jan 16, 2012

    crude, symplistic, counter-productive, ignorant.

    Obviously you aren't interested in 'thinking'. Free market capitalist might answer your question 'because the government interfere's with the financial market", or Monsanto may say "because they interfer with our ability to force GMO's down people's throats', does that make them Anarchists? I think not. Read some of the amazing history and philosophy of Anarchist movements and thinkers then at least you will have something to say beyond shopping mall, Sex Pistols consumer 'Anarchy'.
  18. Danarchy

    DanarchyExperienced Member Experienced member Forum Member




    Jan 16, 2012
    Maybe the Mods can stiky a bunch of FAQ, anarchist sites as "recommended reading" still doesn't "force" people to read them or think but it provides the opportunity for those who are novice or inexperienced to develop a base understanding of the theory, historical discussions and moments from history.
  19. butcher

    butcherExperienced Member Uploader Experienced member Forum Member




    Sep 8, 2009
    Firstly, yr replying to a user who has not posted here for around six months.
    Secondly, yeah, is a well daft definition.
    It does however, relate to yr subsequent comment:
    We outline our position in our 'introduction and points of unity' text (viewtopic.php?f=5&t=2) which is relatively prominent on the home page. Whether or not people read it before signing up/posting is merely speculative (I doubt many do); but it does provide us mods with the ability to exclude persons who, for instance, are 'anarcho'-capitalists ("our tolerance has some limit and we refuse to let fascists or capitalists reappropriate our community"), as but one example.
    In short, our ability to give users a (relatively) solid grounding in anarchist history, theory and practise is largely dependent on their willingness to engage with any material we provide (if we assume what we provide isn't shit).

    However, maybe we can improve on the way we currently provide this sort of information, making it easier to access for those who are interested? Perhaps yr suggestion may be a means of doing so?
    If we were to produce a highly visible 'recommended reading' list, who are we producing it for? What do we wish to provide? What would we include? (How would we avoid the tendency to make it into a rather specific list of texts dealing with obscure arguments- a tendency I may struggle to overcome, :ecouteurs: )

    I think its an ok idea, but I'd be seeking more input from others in regards the questions I posed above (as to make it as reflective of our regular users) before proceeding.
  20. Wide-Eyed Sluggard

    Wide-Eyed SluggardMember Forum Member




    Jun 14, 2012
    Wow, I had forgotten all about the anarchism faq. It's been helpful not only personally but in explaining myself to others when they're curious. Honestly curious, not derisive. Which is rare...