Original titre ; Une brève histoire de l’anarchisme, Éditions du Monde libertaire, 2021. This English version has been slightly modified and extended.
par Eric Vilain
For a very long time now, I’ve been accumulating in my archives half a dozen educational documents intended to set out in a simple way the broad outlines of the history of the anarchist movement, or of its doctrine, as I see it. This “Brief History” is only one version among others.
Originally my text was entitled “A History of Anarchism for Dummies”, but a very wise person pointed out to me that I was only stating my point of view and that the dummies were not necessarily the readers. That was absolutely right.
When I talk to myself, I call these projects, sketches and drafts my “mummies”, because there they are, motionless on my hard drive, waiting, like the ancient pharaohs, to be resurrected, or whatever they did when they were placed in their pyramids.
I even have one hand-written version on paper, from the time when I didn’t have a computer : that’s how long it’s been. The funny thing is that one day I compared these documents, and I realised that they don’t say the same thing at all. In fact, I think it’s impossible to explain anarchism in 50, or even 100 pages, because if you want to do a quick synthesis, you have to choose one angle of approach and abandon other angles of approach, which is terrible.
I even have a “Heterodox History of Revolutionary Syndicalism”, something I wrote years ago because I’d been really irritated by the nonsense being spouted by certain authors claiming to be part of this current : Between those who say that revolutionary syndicalism, anarcho-syndicalism and anarchism are the same thing and that the first two are only variants of the third, and those who say that anarcho-syndicalism caused the defeats of revolutionary syndicalism and of the Red International of Labour Unions, we don’t know where to turn.
In short, I decided to exhume one of my “mummies”, just to give it a breath of fresh air and see what happens. Perhaps one day I’ll decide to exhume others.
Updated November 2019
Translated September 2023