Defining Anarchism: An Anarchist Dictionary for Today

Ableism: A form of workplace oppression and social stigmatization that affects people who suffer from physical and/or mental disabilities. Many physically disabled people face issues being able to work or become disabled by working under physically demanding conditions and face economic and social marginalization as a result. People who suffer from mental disorders, including addiction, often become unable to work or carry out certain functions of daily living and become marginalized as a result. Both types of disability can be debilitating and victims often end up being locked out of the workforce, are denied medical care, or end up homeless or living in poverty. Many anarchists, and even medical professionals, see the culture created by modern capitalism as a contributing factor to both mental and physical disabilities.

Bourgeoisie: The bourgeoisie, also known as the ruling or employing class, is a distinct historical social group that grew out of social relations in Europe during the fall of the previous feudal aristocratic society and the rise of capitalism. Anarchists sometimes shy away from the term as outdated and instead use ruling class or employing class to distinguish the group’s unique social position of power and privilege in the modern era. Generally, anyone who owns capital and can employ or fire workers can be said to be a member of this group, although definitions vary. Some anarchists and other socialists (especially Marxists) define an intermediary other class groups, such as a managerial or bureaucratic class that doesn’t share the interests of workers and represents and protects the interests of the employing class.

Capitalism: For most anarchists, and almost all socialists, capitalism is a specific social arrangement that historically emerged, at different times, from, and in oppositions to, feudal social relations. Karl Marx’s critique of capitalism as an instrument of social and economic oppression of workers by a bourgeois class is almost universally accepted by socialists of every school of thought. Capitalism, since the time of Marx, has grown into a new, complex system of social and cultural relations that has embedded itself into every aspect of modern life. Capitalist interests are closely tied to those of modern states (especially Western states) in such a way that military or economic force is often used to protect those interests, placing workers in some states in a privileged position over those in other states. This has the effect of dividing the working class and complicating any hope of a revolutionary overthrow of capitalism by workers. As such, many anarchist and socialist groups are re-evaluating their theories to combat this new form, called neoliberal capitalism, and broadening their perspectives to include international social, political, and economic issues in their theories. Right libertarians and anarcho-capitalists sometimes use the term “capitalism” in a more abstract sense to mean the exchange of goods and services in a free market without intervention from the state. Left libertarians generally see all markets as oppressive and open for exploitation, although some left anarchists (notably mutualists) do support certain types of markets.

Communism: Communism with a small ‘c’ (sometimes called “full communism”) is generally accepted by most socialists as a society free from classes (and hence, oppression and exploitation of one class by another) and the absence of a state to enforce private property. Many anarchists consider themselves communists. Communism with a capital ‘C’ represents a particular school of Marxism that calls for the overthrow of capitalism and its replacement with a workers State (a “dictatorship of the proletariat”) during the transition to full communism. This transitional period is referred to as socialism. Anarchists have argued as early as the mid-1800’s that such a transitional state will necessarily devolve into the rule of one class over another. In the Soviet Union this was seen as the rule of a vanguard party over the masses of workers. Many Marxists have, since the failure of the Soviet Union to achieve full communism, attempted to refine their theories, in much the same way anarchists attempted to refine theirs after the failures of the Spanish Civil war, to address the problem of transition from capitalism to full communism.

Consensus: Consensus is a form of direct democratic decision-making that seeks to reconcile everyone in a community’s concerns and make a decision that works in the interests of everyone involved. This usually means that on any given issue everyone agrees to the final decision, although there are modified forms of consensus that only require a certain majority (say 90%) to approve or allow a veto if anyone will be immediately harmed by the proposed decision. The consensus process can take longer to reach a final decision, but one of the fundamental ideas is that once the decision is made everyone will go along with and implement it more readily, having already agreed to it. The process is designed to take concerns that might negatively affect minority groups into account. Everyone might not agree with all aspects of the final decision, but they should agree that it best reflects the will of the entire community. Many worker-owned cooperatives use a consensus process to make decisions that affect business decision in the workplace.

Direct Action: Any action a person or group of people takes to directly improve their conditions, at work or in their community. The idea of direct action comes from the workers movement, especially radical unionism, where workers took matters into their own hands to win things like an 8-hour day, an end to child labor, and the right to form unions. Direct action is intended to exert the collective power of oppressed groups to negotiate better conditions for themselves and/or others. Traditional forms of non-violent direct action include strikes, boycotts, industrial sabotage, work slowdowns, and workplace occupations. In contrast, indirect action would consist of things such as petitions, reliance on electoral politics for change, diplomacy, negotiations, or most types of protests. Non-violent direct action was crucial to the US Civil Rights movement (as was armed self-defense) and continues to be used by workers, unions, students, and political activists for a variety of purposes. Some newer activists confuse the tactics of indirect and direct action (notably around mass demonstrations, protests, and performance art).

Direct Democracy: Direct democracy is a form of government where people vote directly on issues that concern them rather than electing representatives to do it for them, often in a face-to-face setting. While slaves, women, resident aliens, etc. didn’t have a vote, ancient Greece is often provided as an example of how direct democracy might function. An important aspect of direct democracy is that everyone’s vote counts equally and everyone’s concerns are taken into consideration in the voting process. Direct democracy does not necessarily mean a system in which the majority rules; sometimes decisions in a directly-democratic group are are made by consensus or supermajority. Directly-democratic groups do not elect representatives, although they may elect delegates, who are immediately recallable and bound to make decisions in the interest of the group, at meetings between federations or confederations of groups.

Ecology and Social Ecology: A framework for building a sustainable, healthy relationship between humans and the rest of the world. It is dedicated to finding ways to satisfy human social needs, such as food, shelter, water, and community infrastructure, in a healthy balance with nature. Ecology is built around the idea of biocentrism, which sees natural resources as more than mere commodities for extraction in the pursuit of profit and seeks to build a healthy relationship between humanity and nature. Social ecology is the science of building communities that function in harmony with the natural world. It was spearheaded by Murray Bookchin, who identified as an anarchist for many years, but formally broke with anarchism toward the end of his life to pursue his own ideology of Communalism. Proponents of social ecology, and especially eco-anarchism, argue that capitalism, with its unquenchable thirst for ever-increasing profits, is incompatible with maintaining a healthy environment or a continued human existence on the planet.

Fascism: Fascism is a distinct form of capitalism that emerged as a political ideology in the 1920’s-30’s across Europe, especially in Germany, Italy, Portugal, and Spain. Fascists used socialist and syndicalist language and imagery to appeal to workers, but their ideas were distinctly separate from traditional anarchism, communism, and socialism. In fact, anarchists and communists were (and still are) some of the most adamant fighters against fascism. In Spain, the CNT and anarchists fought against the fascist forces of General Franco, who had the backing of the Hitler and Mussolini. Soviet troops fought passionately against fascism, killing 8 of every 10 Nazis who died during World War II. In modern times, fascism has emerged as a means for right-wing workers and populist capitalist politicians to combat social progress (especially of minorities) in many parts of the world. Anarchists and communists are generally united in their battle against these reactionary forces, often to the point of vocal confrontation or physical violence.

Federalism/Confederalism: Federalism, or democratic confederalism, is the idea that groups or communities in different areas maintain local autonomy and work together on a regional, national, or international level to coordinate relations between groups or to decide matters that affect all groups. The way this plays out can vary, but it is generally agreed that autonomous local groups elect one or more delegates to represent the group at meetings of regional groups. These delegates are immediately recallable and are bound by the group to vote a certain way, usually determined in advance. Organizing in this way provides local groups collective resources they might not have on their own and allows groups to coordinate actions collectively in advance of revolution and to manage social relations after the state has been dissolved. It is also intended to alleviate conflicts between different local groups over resources or concentrations of power.

Gentrification: A social, and some would argue political, trend whereby residents and businesses in impoverished urban areas are displaced by wealthier people, usually from suburban areas. Gentrification generally happens with some collusion from state or local governments and businesses under the premise of “urban renewal” programs. This process, while often sold as a way to improve life in disadvantaged communities, has the effect of pricing long-time residents out of their homes or businesses due to increasing rent or property values (and taxes) or removing people from their homes by force. This displacement also destabilizes community support structures like churches, schools, locally-owned businesses, and community groups. Resident are often scattered to other impoverished urban communities or suburbs, where they lack social support networks, easy access to jobs, and have poor access, if any, to public transportation.

Government: Government, in contrast to the state, is any organization used to manage social interactions. In this way, a union, a community organization, or even a charity, could be considered a government body. A government could also be used to manage social, political, and economic relations in the absence of a state. Government need not necessarily be oppressive. In fact, if it is organized horizontally (non-hierarchically) in such a way that everyone has equal say and everyone’s concerns are taken into consideration, it can be consistent with many schools of libertarianism or anarchism. The terms “government” and the “state” are often conflated, either intentionally or unintentionally, by many anarchists.

Imperialism: A system where the state and the ruling class of certain countries collude to use their superior economic, political, and military advantages to dominate and exploit people and resources in other countries or regions. The rise of European imperialism is closely tied to the rise of capitalism. Today there exists a powerful new network of global imperial powers that use not only resource extraction and exploitation of foreign labor, but the insurmountable accumulation of debt, the threat of austerity and credit defaults, and the threat of military intervention (the US is especially guilty of this in Latin America and the Middle East) to advance their interests. This system of global power relations that mingle state and corporate interests is commonly called neoliberalism. There was a notable increase in interest around neoliberalism after NAFTA (1994) and the 1999 rebellion in Seattle against the World Trade Organization. It’s not uncommon to find right libertarians and anarcho-capitalists just as opposed to this new form of capitalism as leftists. Many people, not just anarchists, see neoliberalism as an imminent threat to society as we know it. Resistance to modern imperialism is sometimes called anti-globalization or alter-globalization.

Insurrectionary anarchism: A revolutionary tendency within anarchism that often focuses on spontaneous or mass insurrection, usually at least in part by means of violence or force. Insurrectionists focus on loosely-connected, informal groups to carry out attacks on class enemies and/or property and are critical of formal organizations like labor unions and federations of anarchists. Propoganda-of-the-deed, the idea that vandalism, illegalism, or acts of violence against certain targets will lead the masses to spontaneously revolt, is a central concept to insurrectionism (although not exclusive to it). While many insurrectionists identify with the communist tradition, social anarchists are generally critical of insurrectionists as short-sighted and their tactics as counter-productive to working class interests and solidarity.

Intersectional Feminism: The idea, born out of the radical black feminist movement, that oppressed groups, especially minority groups, are oppressed in different ways. For example, a black lesbian woman faces different types of oppression in her daily life than a heterosexual white woman or a heterosexual black man might. This isn’t meant to create a hierarchy of oppressions or insist that one group is more oppressed than another, but rather to provide a more precise method of analyzing institutional oppression. The concept of intersectionality is central to anarchist feminism, (which is not a separate school of anarchism, but rather an anarchist method of approaching feminism). Some Marxists and other socialists dismiss a need for feminism, arguing that all workers are oppressed and the removal of capitalism will eliminate oppression of women or that there is a difference between oppression of women and exploitation of workers. Some anarchists, notably post-left anarchists, dismiss intersectionalism and the focus on sex/gender/race/etc. issues as identity politics that needlessly isolate certain people (usually heterosexual white men).

Left anarchism: Generally anarchist communism (sometimes called libertarian communism or libertarian socialism), the idea that workers should own the means of production in a meaningful way, without the need for a state or central authority to manage political, economic, or social resources. There are several branches within left anarchism, some with seemingly opposing interests. For example, anarcho-syndicalists, platformists, and especifists often have more in common with certain schools of Marxism than they might with individualist or post-left anarchists, especially regarding tactics. Still, almost all left anarchists seek a world where current social relations are transformed to be explicitly non-authoritarian and egalitarian and where economic resources and the means of production (if they exist at all) are collectively owned by workers and/or the community with the presence of a state to enforce social and economic hierarchy.

Individualist anarchism: The idea that the authority of the individual takes precedence over the authority of the community. This idea is strongly rooted in the Enlightenment and early thinkers of anarchism. It is still influential in many anarchist circles today and is strongly associated with the ideas of refusal to work, squatting, militant veganism, and social protest. Individualist anarchism is sometimes seen as incompatible with social anarchism. Some anarchists make no distinction between individualist or social anarchism while other anarchists dismiss individualists as lifestyleistswho don’t pose a serious threat to capitalism and refuse to consider their claim to be anarchists as legitimate. Some anarcho-capitalists and right libertarians consider themselves ideological successors to the original school of individual anarchist thinkers (like Max Stirner), while many individualists are adamantly anti-capitalist.

Means of Production: The means of production are anything used by workers to create products for sale that result in a profit for employers. Traditionally this was seen as, for example, machinery in a factory or tools to extract raw materials, but in an increasingly service-oriented society where workers are isolated from these machines, the means of production might also include computer or telecommunication networks, software code, equipment used to make or serve coffee and food, scientific equipment, etc. The conflict between workers and employers centers on ownership of the means of production and the exploitation created when employers benefit from the profit created by workers’ labor. The main idea behind most socialist theories argues that workers can overcome their oppression and exploitation by expropriating the means of production for themselves as a class. Worker control of the means of production exists within modern capitalism in the form of worker-owned cooperatives, although some would argue they are still subject to oppressive capitalist market forces and even exploit secondary workers in other areas.

Mutual Aid: An organizational theory and practice based on the reciprocal exchange of goods and services for mutual benefit. This concept was revolutionized by Russian anarchist and zoologist Peter Kropotkin, who noticed a tendency between animals of the same species to work cooperatively toward mutual survival goals. This idea has been further strengthened by anthropological studies of early humans and primates that show a tendency toward cooperation in hunter-gatherer and early agricultural societies. Mutual aid directly challenges the capitalist idea of advancement through competition, which most anarchists argue benefits only a small minority at the great expense of everyone else. Mutual aid organizations are distinct from charity organizations and are generally organized in a democratic, horizontal, participatory fashion where decisions are made cooperatively. Common examples include Food Not Bombs, harm reduction programs for sex workers and drug users, and various community groups, especially in the wake of natural disasters like Hurricanes Katrina and Sandy, where government services are nearly or completely absent.

Paris Commune: The Paris Commune was a society established during a 2-month period of 1871 where workers took control of Paris and the National Guard, sent to quell the rebellion, sided with the workers. The members of the Commune (called Communards) created a socialist government and managed social relations within the city from March until May. The Commune was eventually crushed by the French Army, with support from Prussia, but its legacy continues to make a lasting impression on socialist thought around the world. It notably led to a change in the political thoughts of Karl Marx and the social anarchists, which eventually led to a split between Marxist and libertarian communists that had lasting ramifications. Many of the participants in the Paris Commune were killed or imprisoned and the Commune’s legacy serves as a lasting inspiration to modern communists and socialists of all schools.

Patriarchy: A system of male domination, heteronormativity, and gender oppression. It is based on the idea that people oppressed in this way face special issues that affect them in unique ways. The fight against patriarchy is rooted in the idea that women occupy a special place in capitalism and that domestic labor, which often goes unremunerated, is a particularly problematic form of exploitation. The fight for gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender rights, queer liberation, and the struggle against gender norms are deeply tied to most schools of modern anarchism. These issues are sometimes grouped together under the name heteropatriarchy or in conjunction with race and gender issues as white-male-heteropatriarchy.

Platformism: Not so much a type of anarchism as an attempt to inform anarchist practices to influence and help anarchists in organizing workers and peasants, especially influential in anarcho-syndicalism. The name is drawn from theOrganizational Platform of the General Union of Anarchists, an attempt to address the shortcomings of anarchism during the Russian Revolution and the ultimate defeat of regional anarchist groups at the hands of the Bolshevik Soviet State. It is especially associated with Ukranian anarchist Nestor MakhnoThe Platform places emphasis on a need for tightly-organized anarchist groups organized into federations, tactical unity between anarchist groups, and an emphasis on appealing to the masses (especially workers), rather than dedicated revolutionaries, to achieve wide support for mass social movements and revolution. Some anarchists regard platformism as a move toward anarchist vanguardism (the sort advocated by Leninists). One glaring absence from the original Platform is any mention of women’s liberation issues, traditionally an important aspect of anarchist practice, which isolated platformists from some groups within the wider anarchist movement. Especifismo is an updated form of platformism that orignizated in Brazil and has been particularly influential in Latin America. It stresses a need for social insertion to ground anarchists and their theories in grassroots workers’ movements and to expose mainstream workers to more radical ideas.

Praxis: The process by which theory is carried out. Brazilian educator and philosopher Paulo Freire defines praxis as “reflection and action directed at the structures to be transformed.” Praxis is an essential component of anarchism; it is literally the real world implementation of anarchist theory. Historically, anarchist theory has not been as well-developed as most schools of Marxist theory. Indeed, many early anarchists relied heavily on spontaneous organization of workers during and after revolution. Historically this has had very poor results. While some anarchists still rely on this idea, modern social anarchists place a stronger focus on theory, using lessons learned from real-world successes and failures to inform their practices. Especifismo especially focuses on developing a “living praxis” that serves as a strategic program based on analysis to guide the actions of revolutionaries. Many groups, including Occupy Wall Street, the Zapatistas, and grassroots social movements in Latin America, use anarchist praxis such as horizontal organization, directly democratic decision-making, and confederalism, without necessarily being anarchist.

Proletariat: The proletariat, often called the working class, is a distinct social group whose interests are generally considered in direct conflict with those of the employing class (bourgeoisie). The term “working class” has different connotations to different groups, but most anarchists consider anyone who must work for someone else to earn a living to be part of the working class. Some exceptions to this, in varying degrees, might be managers, bureaucrats, police, and sometimes members of the military, who more often represent the interests (and generally carry out the orders of) the employing/ruling class. The working class has a meaningful place in anarchist and socialist history as they are seen as having the collective power to challenge, and even defeat, the ruling class through concerted actions like strikes, walkouts, work slowdowns, boycotts, and industrial sabotage. The proletariat was once central to the idea of revolutionary anarchism (and especially syndicalism), but as workplace relations grow ever more complicated, many socialists are looking for additional routes to confront global capitalism in communities, schools, and peasant populations.

Reformism: The idea that social change, especially for working people, can be achieved through incremental reforms of existing institutions or by representatives in state or local governments. Most anarchists, especially revolutionary anarchists, oppose a reliance on reformism. American anarchist and labor activist Lucy Parsons said, “Never be deceived that the rich will allow you to vote away their wealth.” Most anarchists, and revolutionary socialists and communists, believe the state is a bourgeois institution that represents the interests of capitalists and the employing class. As such, they place little faith in the idea that meaningful change for working people can be achieved through electoral means. However, some anarchists are not opposed to reforms when they represent material gains for workers and communities or if they represent strategic gains on the road to a revolutionary change in social relations.

Revolution: Many schools of anarchism are revolutionary, but what they mean by “revolution” can be very different. Revolution can be violent or nonviolent and can consist of workers taking control of the means of production through a general strike, a social revolution that alters power relations between the working class and the ruling class, armed struggle between revolutionaries and the state, riots, or a combination of these and other tactics. Some anarchists advocate different levels of violence during revolution, but even those who don’t advocate forcible removal of the state or capitalism acknowledge that neither will allow themselves to be replaced peacefully. Therefore, armed self-defense is a critical component of revolutionary theory. The revolutionary period will bring about a drastic change in social relations, but even with a successful transition to full communism, society will continue to evolve. In his Manifesto of Libertarian Communism, Georges Fontenis argues “the act of Revolution brings an immediate transformation in the sense that the foundations of society are radically changed, but a progressive transformation in the sense that communism is a constant development.” Social relations and distribution of property will be more equitable under communism, and after the period of revolution, but that doesn’t mean social problems will cease to exist.

Right anarchism: Generally anarchist capitalism (sometimes called libertarian capitalism or, in the US, simply libertarianism). The idea that people should be free to exchange goods and services in an open market without government interference. Many take this to mean there should be no state or government, as its primary function would be to interfere with these markets and disrupt free interaction between consenting people. Many anarchists don’t see this as a valid form of anarchism because such markets would inevitably lead to an accumulation of wealth, property, and resources that would necessarily be oppressive or detrimental to workers, communities, animals, and the environment. Some anarchists, notably mutualists, advocate markets within a system where the means of production are owned collectively.

Social anarchism: Generally, but not exclusively, anarchists who focus on organizing socially around more than just the idea of individual freedom. This includes organizing in labor unions, community organizations, issue-specific organizations (environmentalism, for example), and working with members of other groups, including non-anarchists, in concert on social issues. They generally believe that only the collective power of workers and community members can successfully overthrow oppressive social relations. They might be known as anarcho-communists, libertarian communists,libertarian socialists, or anarcho-syndicalists. Mutualists are often grouped into this category. The term social anarchism gained popular usage when Murray Bookchin attempted to isolate certain groups of self-proclaimed anarchists, calledlifestylists, whose tactics and goals he saw as counterproductive to the wider anarchist and socialist movements.

Many anarchists consider socialism to simply mean worker ownership of the means of production. This is sometimes synonymous with communism or full communism, though full communism would also require abolition of the state and the capitalist class. In Marxist theory, socialism is a distinct period of transition between capitalism and full communism where the workers control the means of production but the state has not been eliminated. They argue that the workers’ state will eventually transition into communism, but anarchists argue this has never happened, nor could it feasibly happen (the Russian Revolution and Soviet Union are a common example). Some right libertarians, conservatives, and reactionaries might label anything done by the government to benefit the collective community (especially the less advantaged) as “socialism.” This is probably because of social democrat parties in Europe or American leftists who are influenced by some Marxist ideas, but represent a distinctly different ideology and a significant departure from orthodox Marxism.

Solidarity Unionism: A type of workers union that depends on direct action of workers and/or members of a community to fight for better conditions in the interest of workers. It generally relies on the legal definition of a union (under the Wagner Act of 1935) as two or more workers in a workplace working in concert to improve material conditions in their workplace (although was recently been found that even one worker working in the interest of other workers can legally qualify as a “union”). This means workers can operate as a union without having to rely on the lengthy and tedious government-managed election process to establish an officially-recognized union. Many unions of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) are solidarity unions that don’t see any value in using the government process to establish legal recognition. They operate only under the legal protection that they can’t be fired for working to obtain better conditions. While the goal of workplace syndicalism is generally expropriation of the means of production from the capitalists, solidarity unionism is usually much more focused on immediate goals. Solidarity unionism is also the basis for solidarity networks, which use syndicalist tactics to address workplace and community issues.

The State: Most anarchists generally accept the state as, at a minimum, the institutionalized oppression of one group by another through government. The primary role of the State, then, is to enforce private property and the social privilege of one group over another. In the modern era this is generally viewed as a ruling class (the bourgeoisie) oppressing the working class (the proletariat) socially and (especially) economically, although the present global situation seems much more complicated, with different groups being oppressed in different ways. Early anarchist thinker Mikhail Bakunindescribed the State as a minority group oppressing the masses, which could apply equally to nominally-democratic capitalist states like the US or Britain and Communist states like the Soviet Union or China. All anarchists call for abolition of the State. Bakunin called for the liquidation of the state, but different anarchists disagree on what should replace the State. Bakunin, for example, argued that workers and communities would spontaneously form new social relations to replace the State but, historically, a reliance on these spontaneous relationships has created an opening for the ruling class to re-emerge. How to replace the state, and with what, remains a topic of debate in anarchist circles. Many revolutionary anarchists advocate a dual-power approach, where democratic organizational structures are created as a means of both challenging the State during revolution and replacing its social functions after. Such an approach would remove the need for a “workers’ State” that has led to authoritarian rule by a vanguard party in the wake of many Communist revolutions. French anarchist George Fontenis describes the transition from the State to a stateless society as requiring the removal of all the instruments and institutions of the old capitalist system, not merely a transfer of ownership.

Syndicalism: While closely associated with anarchism, syndicalists are not necessarily anarchists. Syndicalists traditionally believe in worker control of the means of production and see democratic, worker-led labor unions as the means to that end. Two of the most well-known syndicalist groups are the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW), founded in the US in 1905, and the Spanish Confederacion Nacional de Trabajadores (CNT). The CNT is noted for their role in the Spanish Civil War and the installation of an anarchist society in Catalonia from 1936-37. The IWW was influential in the militant labor movements of the early 1900’s and have recently re-emerged to become influential in the food and retail industries. Syndicalists, while still active in the anarchist movement, lost much of their momentum when the Spanish anarchists ultimately failed, through a series of strategic mistakes, to defend Catalonia against the re-emergence of the bourgeois class and the fascists in the lead up to World War II.

White Supremacy: An institutional form of oppression that is deeply intertwined with the historical development of capitalism and slavery. Often reduced to simple racism, white supremacy is much more complicated and existed before the popular existence of racism. The idea developed, almost simultaneously, in Spain, as a part of the effort to rid the Spanish kingdom of Jews, and in England, as a justification for the colonization of Ireland and oppression of Irish Catholics (who weren’t considered “white” at the time). This idea was taken to the Americas and used as justification for the superiority of European culture and the subjugation and extermination of the indigenous peoples. It was later used as a tool of oppression to justify slavery and divide the working class, especially rebellious white and black workers, servants, and slaves, and to create a social caste system based on skin tone in South America. White supremacy continues into the present in a variety of forms, most notably as racism and the idea of white cultural superiority to other races, marginalization of immigrant groups, and the continued economic and cultural isolation of indigenous peoples. White supremacy is closely-related to the rise of neo-fascism.

Working Class: A somewhat nebulous term that has been expropriated by other groups to appeal to the masses. Most anarchists and communists consider the working class to be anyone who has to sell their labor to someone who owns the means of production. Usually those who are dependent on someone else, another worker or the government, for survival are considered part of the working class. This might include students, unemployed workers, disable people, and unpaid domestic workers (especially women). The idea of a conflict between workers and the capitalists (the employing class) is central to traditional anarchism and Marxism. For meaningful social change that ensures the benefit of all people, the means of production and natural resources must be expropriated from the capitalists and distributed among the working class (to which the capitalists would presumably belong after a successful revolution). How this might be achieved is a point of conflict between different socialist tendencies.

Zapatistas: The Zapatistas represent a specific movement in the southern Mexican state of Chiapas that has been strongly influenced by indigenous Mayan culture. The Zapatistas and their army, the EZLN, began as Maoist communists but quickly emerged as a much more complicated political tendency. While many anarchists call the Zapatistas anarchists, the Zapatistas themselves deny the label. Still, their practice and theory are largely consistent with anarchism and they have been extremely influential in the modern worldwide anarchist movement. They operate a network of autonomous, horizontally-organized towns and villages where community resources and land are collectively owned and managed. They have resisted constant attempts by the Mexican state to reclaim territorial authority for over 20 years. The Zapatistas inspired an indigenous feminist movement across Latin America and are part of a larger grassroots social movement that has posed a considerable threat to left and right-wing governments and neoliberal capitalism. These movements, while not strictly anarchist, are informed by anarchist practices and theory and, likewise, inform global anarchist thought in the modern era.

Common Acronyms and American Anarchist-Related Organizations

AID: Action In Dahlonega, a collective dedicate to working on community issues in the North Georgia mountains through mutual aid, community syndicalism, and direct action
ABCF: Anarchist Black Cross Federation, a network of prisoner rights advocates and supporters
APOC: Anarchist People of Color, a loose collective of anarchists dedicated to addressing racial issues and creating safe spaces within the movement for people of color
AK Press: a worker-managed publisher of radical left and anarchist literature international network of platformist/especifista groups, anarchist news website
ARA: Anti-Racist Action, an international network of militant opponents of racism and fascism
Black Autonomy Federation: a network of black anarchists in the US
BRRNBlack Rose/Rosa Negra, a libertarian socialist federation of US anarchist groups
CNTConfederacion Nacional de Trabajadores, Spanish confederation of anarcho-syndicalist labor unions
Common Struggle: a US platformist/especifist group founded in 2011
Copwatch: a collective dedicated to filming police encounters and training people in dealing with police
CrimethInc: a decentralized collective of autonomous anarchist groups well-known for their flashy literature
Critical Resistance: a prison abolition group dedicated to dismantling the prison-industrial complex
DAN: Direct Action Network, confederation of anti-capitalist groups integral to the creation of the alter-globalization movement
EZLN: Ejercito Zapatisa de Liberation Nacional, the Zapatista National Liberation Army (Chiapas, Mexico)
Food Not Bombs: a mutual aid organization that serves vegetarian/vegan food in protest of war
Heat Index: an Atlanta-based revolutionary anarchist collective
IAS: Institute for Anarchist Studies, a non-profit group dedicated to studying developing anarchist thought
IMC: Independent Media Center, a global network of independent leftist journalists and media
IWA: International Workers’ Association, an international federation of anarcho-syndicalist labor unions
IWW: Industrial Workers of the World, an international syndicalist labor union founded in Chicago in 1905
Popular Resistance: a group dedicated to resisting neoliberal capitalism and imperialism
WSA: Workers’ Solidarity Alliance, a US anarcho-syndicalist group

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