LIBERTARIAN ANTHOLOGY II: “THE ANCIENT GREEKS AND THE ANARCHIST TRADITION”

It has been a tradition amongst the nucleus of the Spanish Libertarian Movement and in particular the organisation in exile since 1939 to either debate or initiate within the anarchist newspapers or magazines polemics in an endeavour to ascertain as to whether or not Ancient Greece saw the first western instance of anarchism as a philosophical ideal. One recalls numerous conferences held in the Exile of North Africa -with guest speakers like Miguel Celma and José Muñoz Congost to only name a few- and the passion with which the topic was debated during question time.

History informs us that the Cynics Diogenes of Sinope and the Crates of Thebes were both supposed to have advocated anarchistic forms of society, although little remains of their writings. Zeno of Citium, the founder of Stoicism, who was much influenced by the Cynics, described his vision of a utopian society around 300 BC. Zeno’s Republic advocates a form of anarchism in which there are no need for state structures. Zeno was, according to Peter Kropotkin, “the best exponent of Anarchist philosophy in ancient Greece”.

Kropotkin tells us that Zeno “repudiated the omnipotence of the state, its intervention and regimentation, and proclaimed the sovereignty of the moral law of the individual”. Within Greek philosophy, Zeno’s vision of a free community without government is opposed to the state-Utopia of Plato’s Republic. Zeno argued that although the necessary instinct of self-preservation leads humans to egotism, nature has supplied a corrective to it by providing man with another instinct sociability.

Like many modern anarchists, he believed that if people follow their instincts, they will have no need of law courts or police, no temples and no public worship, and use no money (free gifts taking the place of the exchanges). Zeno’s beliefs have only reached us as fragmentary quotations.

The question must therefore be asked – Is it true that the experience and ideas of the ancient Greeks are still relevant for us today? This question is answered from an anarchist point of view with a detailed study of Athenian democracy and of anarchist aspects of Greek philosophy. It also includes reprints of two remarkable and long unobtainable essays on the social implications of Greek drama: Wilbur Burton on Aristophanes and Henry Nevinson on he Antigone of Sophocles.

We have also included as the final article to this issue the translation of a letter received from a Spanish compañero who recently travelled through Greece.

This second issue of Libertarian Anthology is a full reprint of the British publication, Anarchy 45, published in November 1964, with the exception of the article Anarchism in Greece today.

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