Max Nettlau, Adjectives and the Possibility of Panarchy

[Originally posted at Responsibility, Solidarity, Strategy]

I’m setting up this new corner of the Libertarian Labyrinth archive in order to gather material for some forthcoming volumes of work by Max Nettlau, but also to explore more fully his persistent “heresy,” the possibility of “mutual tolerance” between anarchist and non-anarchist currents as a key to advancing the anarchist project. Nettlau drew from the current of “anarchism without adjectives” among Spanish collectivists in his day, but also found inspiration in Paul-Émile de Puydt‘s 1860 proposal for “panarchy,” a sort of “free market in governmental systems.” More than anything, however, he seems to have been driven by a strong sense that much anarchist strategy was dependent on assumptions about existing society, and particularly about the character of the working classes, that were simply not true.

I find myself, in these initial phases of my research, very sympathetic to Nettlau’s critiques of anarchist strategy, and generally sympathetic to the “sin adjetivos” approach, but rather skeptical about the practical possibility of panarchy or “mutual tolerance” as viable projects. My sense, however, is that if something like Nettlau’s strategic heresy was indeed practicable, it would amount to one of the most tough-minded approaches to the anarchist project we have seen. It would certainly be worlds apart from the sort of indifferent or opportunistic versions of “anarchism without adjectives” that seem unfortunately common.

So this will be a space to assemble writings from the relevant currents, as well as transcriptions and translations from Nettlau’s writings destined for publication, and to reflect on the various strategies contained in all of that.

About Shawn P. Wilbur 2703 Articles
Independent scholar, translator and archivist.