Political Parties: A Sociological Study of the Oligarchical Tendencies of Modern Democracy

By Robert Michels; Cedar Paul et al. | Go to book overview
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Chapter 4
Anarchism as Prophylactic

ANARCHISTS WERE the first to insist upon the hierarchical and oligarchical consequences of party organization. Their view of the defects of organization is much clearer than that of socialists and even than that of syndicalists. They resist authority as the source of servility and slavery, if not the source of all the ills of the world. For them constraint is "synonymous with prison and police."1 They know how readily the individualism of the leaders checks and paralyses the socialism of the led. In order to elude this danger, anarchists, notwithstanding the practical inconveniences entailed, have refrained from constituting a party, at least in the strict sense of the term. Their adherents are not organized under any stable form. They are not united by any discipline. They know nothing of obligations or duties, such as elections, pecuniary contributions, participation in regular meetings, and so on.

It is a necessary consequence of these peculiarities that the typical anarchist leader differs considerably from the typical socialist leader, the characteristic product of the last twenty- five years. Anarchism has no party organization which can offer lucrative positions, nor does the anarchist pathway lead to parliamentary honors. Consequently there are fewer opportunities for contagion, fewer temptations, and much less field for personal ambition. Thus it may be expected, as a logical consequence of the theory that environment makes character, that in the average anarchist leader idealism should be more conspicuous than in the average socialist leader. The anarchist lives remote from the practice of politics, with all its passions, all its appetites, and all its allurements; consequently he is more objective in his judgment of persons and of things, more contemplative, more self-enclosed -- but also more of a dreamer, more remote from reality. Among anarchist leaders we find many learned, cultivated, and modest men who have not lost the sentiment of true friendship, and to whom it is a

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1
Ferdinand Domela Nieuwenhuis, Der staatssozialistische Charakter der Sozialdemokratie, Archiv für Sozialw.," xxviii, fasc., i, p. 144.

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