Anarchism: reading guide

Anarchism: reading guide's reading guide on anarchism, anarchist theorists and their development through history.

Recommended introductions

Pierre Proudhon

French mutualist philosopher and first person to call themselves an 'anarchist'.

  • What is Property? - Influential work on the concept of property in which Proudhon declared "property is theft!".
  • The Philosophy of Poverty
  • The General Idea of the Revolution in the Nineteenth Century
  • The Principle of Federation

Mikhail Bakunin

Russian revolutionary, considered the original theorist of collectivist anarchism.

Peter Kropotkin

Russian revolutionary (as well as scientist, zoologist, geographer and evolutionary theorist!) who was the first to advocate a communist society free from central government and based on voluntary associations between workers - anachist-communism.

  • The Conquest of Bread - Classic work explaining the defects of feudal and capitalist economic systems and how they can be replaced by a decentralised economic system based on mutual aid and voluntary cooperation.
  • Mutual Aid: A Factor of Evolution - Kropotkin's response to Social Darwinism in which he explains the phenomenon of co-operation in evolution.
  • Fields, Factories and Workshops - Hugely influential work outlining how a society based on mutual aid and voluntary association could work.
  • Anarchism; & Anarchist communism - Two excellent essays explaining the history of anarchism and the inseparable relationship between anarchism and communism.
  • Memoirs of a Revolutionist - Autobiography recounting his aristocratic beginnings to his transformation into the revolutionary he would be for the rest of his life.
  • The State--Its Historic Role - Classic work on the state and its function in society.
  • Act for Yourselves: Articles from Freedom 1886-1907 - Collection of articles written for Freedom newspaper.

Errico Malatesta

Highly influential Italian anarchist-communist who wrote and spoke widely across Italy and spent many years either in jail or in exile.

Emma Goldman

Lithuanian-born anarchist who emigrated to the USA, where she became highly involved in radical unions, anti-war and feminist activism. Became known as "the most dangerous woman in America".

Alexander Berkman

Lithuanian-born anarchist-communist Alexander "Sasha" Berkman, who became a leading figure in the American anarchist movement and was sent to prison for attempting to assassinate Henry Clay Frick, the steel boss responsible for the deaths of workers in the 1892 Homestead strike.

  • Alexander Berkman, 1870-1936 - Biography.
  • What is anarchism? - Absolutely indispensable classic introduction to anarchism.
  • Prison memoirs of an anarchist - Autobiographical account of his experience in prison after being sentenced to 22 years for the attempted assassination of an industrialist.
  • The Russian Tragedy - Berkman's anaylsis the failure of the Russian Revolution, written 1922.
  • The Bolshevik Myth - Book describing his experiences in post-revolution Russia from 1920 to 1922
  • The Kronstadt Rebellion - Berkman's analysis of the crushing of the Kronstadt uprising by the Bolshevik government.

Rudolf Rocker

Prominent anarcho-syndicalist who organised extensively amongst the Jewish community in the East End of London.

Nestor Makhno

Ukrainian anarchist-communist who led a revolutionary army during the 1917 Russian revolution which fought against both the old Tsarist regime and the new Bolshevik one.

Daniel Guerin

French anarchist and revolutionary supporter of gay liberation.

Albert Meltzer

British anarcho-syndicalist print worker who fiercely opposed individualist strains within anarchism and was a major figure in the British anarchist movement.

Murray Bookchin

American libertarian socialist and founder of social ecology who severely criticised individualist and spiritual elements within radical politics.

  • Bookchin remembered - Obituary written by Iain Mackay.
  • Social Anarchism or Lifestyle Anarchism - Essay against the increasingly individualist, misanthropic, mystical and anti-organisational trends in US anarchism.
  • Listen, Marxist! - An anarchist criticism of Marxism, aimed predominantly at the Maoist Progressive Labor Party in America.
  • Post-Scarcity Anarchism - Collection of essays envisioning an anarchist society without scarce resources, if we rely on technology.
  • Anarchism, Marxism and The Future of The Left - Collection of texts including accounts of his years as a teenage Communist during the Great Depression, his experiences and reflections on the 1960s and his vision of a libertarian communist society, libertarian politics and the future of anarchism.
  • The Spanish Anarchists: The Heroic Years 1868-1936 - History of the day-to-day activism of Spanish anarchists in the decades leading up to the famous civil war and revolution of 1936.

Other media

  • Noam Chomsky on anarchism - interview by Barry Pateman - Video of an interview by Barry Pateman with Noam Chomsky about anarchism.
  • Living utopia - Unique feature-length documentary which chronicles the origins and evolution of the Spanish anarchist movement and its important role during the 1936-1939 Spanish Revolution. In Spanish with English subtitles.


klas batalo
Sep 29 2012 16:43

Nice glad you are putting these up! I wish these existed when I first became an anarchist. A lot more to chose from than just the @FAQ

Sep 29 2012 16:46


A quick question though, is anything missing? I get the feeling that maybe Malatesta is a bit thin on the ground but I don't know his stuff well-enough to say what should be put in..

klas batalo
Sep 29 2012 16:49

For Malatesta I'd just add his Anarchism and Syndicalism, At the Cafe, and Between Peasants

Sep 30 2012 07:35
Sep 30 2012 08:34

The approach you have taken is interesting and accessible, I would raise three things; could and should Collin ward be added?, the AF's Basic Bakunin should be listed, and Fabbri's poverty of statism is probably the best introduction I have ever read and it should be listed somewhere.

Sep 30 2012 09:32

Yeah, Colin Ward should probably go in.. only problem is that the only thing by him I've read is 'Anarchy in Action', ten years ago, and we don't even have that in the library.. not sure about the other libcom lot, but I don't think they've read much by him either..

If you fancied, you could edit in a list of a few important Colin Ward books, with little descriptions and putting links to the ones we've got in the library.

Fabbri and Basic Bakunin; I like Fabbri a lot, will have a look at him to see if maybe he should get his own inclusion.. not sure that Poverty of Statism is that great an introduction.. a good text, yeah, but I'm not sure I'd give it to someone as a first read. Might stick in Basic Bakunin though..

Sep 30 2012 10:25

Just added Makhno, btw.. don't know how that got forgotten!

klas batalo
Sep 30 2012 19:43

Actually "Anarchy in Action" was my real introduction to more serious anarchism, after I read Crimethinc, so highly suggested that at least get in there. It has to be pirated on the internet somewhere by now right?

Sep 30 2012 20:02
Colin Ward

What have mutuals and co-ops got to do with class struggle anarchism?

Juan Conatz
Sep 30 2012 20:01

Well, if you're going to add that, I just put it in the library

Don't have time to write an intro or find a pic though

Oct 5 2012 20:47

The Philosophy of Poverty

The bloody book is entitled System of Econonic Contradictions! the Philosophy of Poverty is th sub-title... Extracts of this, and other works, by Proudhon can be found on the Property is Theft! webpage

Nov 28 2012 14:09

What have mutuals and co-ops got to do with class struggle anarchism?
They are part of anarchism history and can inspire action: you must expect people to be abel to read critical.

Nov 28 2012 20:33

This is very useful!

I wonder if you could expand this reading guide into an introduction that includes multimedia etc? There are some movies that convey anarchist ideas quicker than some of those quick large books. You could also include some anarchist sci-fi etc and other fiction. It all depends on the purpose. If this is a reading list for those who are already keen on reading long text, then it works really well.

The first section aside, and not to dismiss the important of the works listed, I always feel mainly having anarchists from those generations makes anarchism look like its not for this century. Guerin's, while being more contemporary, largely basis his work in the same historical period. I wonder if there should be a separate general section for important articles from more modern anarchists, but who may not have enough articles to justify a sub-header on their own.

I think it's always good to have intros that meet two needs: the new and not yet captivated and the deeply committed, those with short attention span and the hyper-focused, the skimmers and the wallowers. Perhaps make a recommendation from each author and then further reading?

And a final suggestion, which I've made elsewhere for this site itself, what about a summary of different relevant topics? More people come to anarchism because of a particular issue than because of anarchism itself. How about some areas with the best introduction on those issues and some articles on particular instances of the issue, i.e. war and palestine. Some other topics could include workplace organising, climate change, poverty etc.

Keep up the good work!


Nov 11 2014 20:12

There are a lot of good suggestions on this list too.

The 100 Best Anarchist, Communist, & Socialist Books

Mar 3 2015 19:04

I would like to suggest adding Max Stirner also to this list.

Serge Forward
Mar 3 2015 19:50
zunord wrote:
I would like to suggest adding Max Stirner also to this list.

WUM grin

Oct 12 2015 12:33

I'd really recommend the following Colin Ward books. Great accessible introductions which I often recommend to people just starting to learn about anarchism, but for whom more explicitly confrontational class struggle anarchism might initially put them off. Good tasters of what anarchist ideas look like when applied to everyday life.

Anarchy in action - Colin Ward

Anarchism: A very short introduction - Colin Ward