Proposal for an Anarchist Survey

In 1926, “Los Iconoclastas” of Steubenville, Ohio conducted an international survey of anarchists, who were asked to provide answers to eight questions related to the present state and future prospects of the anarchist movement. Then in 1928, Emma Goldman and Alexander Berkman circulated a similar survey, in preparation for a gathering of prominent anarchists that, ultimately, did not take place. This was, of course, also the period during which the first section of the Encyclopédie Anarchiste (1925–1934)—which shared some elements with the surveys, with its multiple entries on many subjects—was produced.

By the 1920s, anarchism had both spread and diversified to a point where it was no longer possible to say quite what it was. In a 1924 call “To the Anarchists of All Nations,” which preceded the specific proposal for the Encyclopédie, the authors lamented the gap between what anarchism ought to be and the realities it faced:

Anarchism is essentially international.

Every manifestation of anarchist propaganda—by speech, by writing, by action—must therefore have a global impact and a universal significance.

In practice, this is not the case and, as a result, anarchists are only informed about anarchist movement and action in the countries where they live and are little, badly or even completely uneducated about what happens in other countries.

Of course, anything that might have been said then about anarchism’s internal diversity and anarchist’s uneven knowledge almost certainly falls far short of the present reality. So it is worth asking whether it is once again time to make the attempt to consult among ourselves regarding some basic aspects of our present anarchist reality. My own sense is that the time is indeed again ripe, so I want to simply push forward and propose a first set of basic questions, which might be expanded or amended, then distributed and translated, so that the collected responses might serve as a resource.

  1. How would you most succinctly define anarchism? Is there a shared “anarchist project” — and, if so, how would you characterize it?
  2. What is the relationship between anarchism and the concept of anarchy?
  3. What is the value of tradition within the anarchist milieus and what might be its uses?
  4. What, specifically, is the role to be played in the present by the anarchist literature — whether theoretical or artistic — of the past?
  5. What are the most significant challenges facing anarchists — and anarchism, as you understand it — in the present?
  6. How would you characterize the present state of anarchist activity (outside the realm of theory and propaganda)?
  7. How would you characterize the present state of anarchist theory and propaganda?
  8. What are the most urgent changes to be made in anarchist practice moving forward?
  9. What is the role of some kind of “anarchist unity” moving forward? What form could or should that unity take?
  10. What are the greatest needs with regard to new anarchist theory, propaganda, literature and art?
  11. Do you currently identify with any particular anarchist current or tendency — and, if so, how do you characterize your position?
  12. What additional questions would it be useful to pose to a broad anarchist audience?
  13. Would you be interested in participating in future surveys, perhaps addressing more specific elements of anarchist theory, practice and culture?

I welcome feedback, additional questions, individuals interested in adding their names to a general call for responses, etc.

About Shawn P. Wilbur 1961 Articles
Independent scholar, translator and archivist.