Readings in Political Ideology

After a longish hiatus, the Fantin Reading Group has returned for 2018 with a course of readings in classical political ideology. The texts have been chosen both to provide a general introduction to modern political thought, as well as a grounding in the broader philosophical context with which anarchism must contend. Discussion will aim to subject the texts to anarchist critique, as well as improve participants’ understanding of anarchism by situating it amongst its siblings and rivals.

The seven readings selected here are presented with a gesture of gratitude to Verity Burgmann, who delivered her excellent course on Modern Political Thought at the University of Melbourne from 1981–2012, and from whose reader from that subject the following excerpts were taken.

The Enlightenment (and Romanticism)
Jean-Jacques Rousseau, “A Discourse on the Origin of Inequality” [1753]
(2pm, Sun. 13 May)

John Stuart Mill, “On Liberty” [1859]
(2pm, Sun. 10 June)

Classical Marxism
Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, “The Communist Manifesto” [1848]
(2pm, Sun. 8 July)

Mikhail Bakunin, “State and Society” [1867–1871]
(2pm, Sun. 12 Aug.)

V. I. Lenin, “The State and Revolution” [1917]
(2pm, Sun. 9 Sept.)

Benito Mussolini, “The Doctrine of Fascism” [1932]
(2pm, Sun. 14 Oct.)

Oscar Wilde, “The Soul of Man Under Socialism” [1891]
(2pm, Sun. 11 Nov.)

All welcome.

Winter readings in Castoriadis

The Fantin Reading Group returns this winter with a selection of interviews and essays from Cornelius Castoriadis.  The texts have been selected as introductory-level readings with relevance to anarchism. While they should be of interest to those already familiar with Castoriadis’ thought, no specialist knowledge is required.

Sunday 22 June, 4pm
“The Project of Autonomy Is Not a Utopia” (1993), ASA
“Autonomy Is an Ongoing Process” (1990), ASA

Sunday 6 July, 4pm
“Revolutionary Perspectives Today” (1973), ASA
“Market, Capitalism, Democracy” (1990), ASA

Sunday 20 July, 4pm
“Is it Possible to Create a New Form of Society?” (1977), ASA
“The Stakes Today for Democracy” (1986), ASA

Sunday 3 August, 4pm
“Ecology Against the Merchants” (1992), ASA
“The Revolutionary Force of Ecology” (1993), RTI

All readings can be found in the following two texts, which have been translated and published anonymously as a community service and hosted on the website of the autonomous journal Not Bored!:

All welcome.

Chris Ealham’s “Anarchism and the City” – 2pm every second Sunday, starting 17 November 2013

Over the Summer months, the Fantin Reading Group will be tackling Chris Ealham’s Anarchism and the City: Revolution and Counter-Revolution in Barcelona, 1898-1937 (2010, AK Press).  It has been described by Barry Pateman as “the finest study of working-class anarchist life and culture since Paul Avrich’s The Haymarket Tragedy [… and] comes closer than any other English-language work in understanding what anarchism and its practice meant to Spanish working class people at the time.”

The Fantin Reading Group will be discussing a chapter each fortnight as follows:

  • Ch.1 The making of a divided city (Nov 17, 2pm)
  • Ch.2 Mapping the working-class city (Dec 1, 2pm)
  • Ch.3 The birth of a republican city (Dec 15, 2pm)

 «New Year Break»

  • Ch.4 The proletarian city and the Second Republic (Jan 12, 2pm)
  • Ch.5 The struggle to survive (Jan 26, 2pm)
  • Ch.6 Militarised anarchism (Feb 2, 2pm)
  • Ch.7 Cultural battles: class and criminality (Feb 16, 2pm)
  • Ch.8 An ‘apolitical’ revolution (Mar 2, 2pm)

Copies may be found on sale at the MAC Info-shop, or ordered directly from AK Press.  Alternatively, online and eBook versions of the 2005 Routledge impress of the same work (published under the title Class, culture and conflict in Barcelona, 1898-1937) may accessed at by following the link provided.

All welcome.

Castoriadis “Recommencing the Revolution” – Sunday, 20th October 2013, 1:30pm

In October, the Fantin Reading Group will turn its attention to the next in a series of essays from the pen of Cornelius Castoriadis, tacking his 1964 article, “Recommencing the Revolution”, originally published in Issue 35 of Socialisme ou Barbarie.

The article is both theoretically and historically important.  In it, Castoriadis announces his formal break with the philosophy of Marxism, arguing that if the socialist revolutionary project has stalled, it is due both to the various aporia that exist within orthodox Marxism, and the fact that Marxism has itself become an orthodoxy.  Thus, if the revolution is to recommence, it must start with a critique of Marxian theory.  In “Recommencing the Revolution, Castoradis begins this critique, which he will continue in next month’s reading “Marxism and Revolutionary Theory”.

“Recommencing the Revolution” is also significant in that it provoked a split, that ultimately lead to the break-up and demise of the Socialism or Barbarie group, between Castoriadis – who felt the revolution could only be progressed by radicalising the project of critical interrogation, even if it meant, as he believed it did, going beyond Marx – and those committed to defending the continuing validity of Marx’s theoretical legacy.

The a photocopy of the text can be downloaded here: Castoriadis Reader Ch4 – Recommencing the Revolution (1964).  All welcome.

Castoriadis “On the Content of Socialism” – Sunday, 22nd September 2013, 2pm

Fantin is returning for 2013, commencing with some readings from Cornelius Castoriadis, social theorist, philosopher, economist, psychoanalyst, and animating figure behind the Socialisme ou Barbarie group.  Combining a critique of Marxism with lessons drawn from studies in phenomenology, German Idealist and Romantic Philosophy and the emergence of democracy in Ancient Greece, Castoriadis developed a highly distinctive theory of human creativity and historical change, and was a life-long promoter of the possibility of re-creating society around the values of individual and collective autonomy and worker’s self-management of production.

“On the Content of Socialism” is a collection of excerpts from a series of papers of same title, which were published in the journal Socialisme ou Barbarie between 1955 and 1957, and which were collated and summarised for publication in The Castoradis Reader (ed. David Ames Curtis, 1997, Blackwell Publishing).  Also planned for discussion is the introductory statement published in the first edition of SouB in 1949, expressing the aims of the journal.  Photocopies of the relevant sections can be downloaded through the following links:

Fantin is back!

Yes, after a considerable hiatus, the Fantin Reading Group is back – about time! We will be meeting more often from now on, so watch this space for future sessions.

Join us on Sunday 9th September at 2pm as we kick things off again in a special session that is being hosted by the Direct Action Collective.The text we will be reading is an excellent essay by Robert Sparrow entitled “Anarchist Politics and Direct Action” which you can download here: rob-sparrow-anarchist-politics-direct-action

The Direct Action Collective is a joint initiative of MAC & the Anarcho-Syndicalist Federation of Melbourne. The DAC is an informal collective of Anarchists – that is, libertarian socialists/libertarian communists & anarcho-syndicalists. Together, we aim: to be engaged in working class struggles & socially progressive movements; to maintain an Anarchist presence at protests, strikes and other direct actions; to unite revolutionary Anarchists; and to promote the ideas of Anarchism to the public.Why march alone? JOIN US! If you want to get involved, send an email to

Light finger food and refreshments will be available, but feel free to bring something for yourself and others, especially now that we have a well equipped kitchen!

Don’t forget that the MAC Infoshop is now open every Sunday from midday to 5pm.In addition to hosting an Anarchist bookshop, we also have a library and social space. Did you know that MAC is also available for hire for film & documentary screenings and other causes?

Black Flame Chapter VIII

The broad anarchist tradition has consistently stressed the significance of ideas for the libertarian and socialist reconstruction of society as well as the need for a “fundamental transvaluation of values” and the removal of the “authority principle” from the hearts and minds of the popular classes. Even the insurrectionist anarchists, for example, saw armed action as important primarily for its educative function. The same concern with the centrality of ideas is seen in the mass anarchist strand, the promotion of revolutionary countercultures, Bakunins emphasis on anarchism as a “new faith,” Malatestas stress on the “revolutionary imagination,” the intellectual work of figures like Reclus, Foster s idea of a militant minority, and so on.

The issue that arises, however, is how best to spread the new faith, and it is here that we encounter a wide range of different tactical positions on a crucial question: Is it necessary for the militant minority of anarchists or syndicalists to form themselves into a specifically anarchist or syndicalist political organisation in order to promote their ideas and pursue their strategies? If so, how should such a group be organised?

There are a number of key positions. There is an “antiorganisationalist” one, which argues for an informal network of revolutionaries. There is the view of some syndicalists that a revolutionary union can undertake all the tasks of an anarchist or syndicalist political organisation, making such an organisation redundant. Finally, there is organisational dualism, which is the stance that there must be a specific and distinct anarchist organisation that would promote anarchist or syndicalist ideas.

Download Chapter 8 here.

Chapter VII

In this chapter and the one that follows, we will shift our analysis toward an examination of anarchist tactics, asking, What were the different positions adopted in pursuit of long-term anarchist strategies? This chapter will explore two main sets of tactical issues. The first deals with the tactical issues posed by the activities of the state machinery, and how the movement responded to questions of warfare, labour law, and state welfare systems. How can the military operations of the state be opposed? Should anarchists and syndicalists participate in statutory industrial relations systems? Should anarchists and syndicalists support state welfare systems?

Chapter VII

Black Flame Chapter VI: Ideas, Structure, and Armed Action: Unions, Politics, and the Revolution

Both insurrectionist and mass anarchism are faced with a series of difficult challenges. In this chapter, we explore syndicalism in more depth, addressing ourselves to several critical issues: how can a syndicalist union avoid evolving into orthodox unionism, which focuses solely on immediate issues, and typically develops large and moderate bureaucracies? If anarchism is about the emancipation of the popular classes as a whole, how can syndicalism address the needs of those sectors of the working class and peasantry that are outside wage labour? Finally, assuming a revolutionary general strike takes place, can syndicalism effectively deal with the threat of armed counterrevolution?

Chapter VI