Anarchism and the First International

  • Robert Graham


The International Workingmen’s Association (the so-called First International, 1864–1880) marked a watershed moment in the history of anarchist movements and ideas. For it was through the debates and struggles within the International regarding the proper direction of working-class movements that the principles of modern anarchism were first clearly articulated. Anarchists were at the forefront of the debates within the International regarding collective property, the family and education, the roles of the state, trade unions, cooperatives and mutual aid societies, political participation and the structure and purpose of the International itself as an organisation dedicated to the emancipation of the workers by the workers themselves. The anarchists articulated a revolutionary socialist alternative to both social democratic parliamentary politics and revolutionary dictatorship, rejecting the state as a transitional or permanent institution. After the International was split in two with the expulsion of Bakunin at the Hague Congress in 1872, the debates within the anti-authoritarian wing of the International gave expression to virtually every anarchist tendency that was to follow—from anarcho-syndicalism, to anarchist communism, communalism, insurrectionism, anti-organisationalism and illegalism—as anarchism emerged as a distinct force on the revolutionary left.

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© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Robert Graham
    • 1
  1. 1.Independent ScholarVancouverCanada

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