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

Black Flame Chapter IV – Roads to Revolution: Mass Anarchism versus Insurrectionist Anarchism

…We have dispensed with the commonly used categorisations of different types of anarchism, such as the notions of “philosophical anarchism,” “individualist anarchism,”and “spiritual anarchism,” stressing that anarchism is a coherent intellectual and political current dating back to the 1860s and the First International, and part of the labour and left tradition. It is at the level of strategy, we would suggest, that distinctions between the types of anarchism should be drawn.

Chapter IV

Fantin Reading Group: Summer Reading Black Flame

 Starting 2pm Sunday 15/1/2012 & fortnightly thereafter

Chapter 1 available as a Pdf for easy online viewing here

Or as a printable-as-zine Pdf here

At the first Fantin Reading Group session we ran back in 2009, we started with the first chapter of Michael Schmidt & Lucien van der Walt’s Black Flame: The Revolutionary Class Politics of Anarchism and Syndicalism.

This is a great book that was published in 2008 and which covers most if not all of the issues in establishing the core ideas of anarchism, accompanied by a huge amount of historical research. More info on the book can be found at The South African organisation Zabalaza, to which the authors belong, is also a good resource for solid anarchist critiques on a broad range of topics.

On Sunday 15 January we will be repeating the first chapter, which sets out the “broad anarchist tradition” in general terms and outlines the rest of the book. We will then embark upon reading the whole book at the following fortnightly meetings.

You can purchase copies of Black Flame through Anarres Books at MAC or at

All welcome to attend Fantin Reading Group.