Anarchist history is rich in intellect and action. Theories about what form anarchism should take or how it can best serve people range widely, from anarcho-syndicalism and anarchist-communism, to mutualism, collectivism, individualism and beyond. Anarchist struggles have always been unique, in that they call for a social revolution, instead of a political one. Political revolutions replace one master for another, while social revolutions call for the permanent abolition of all rulers. Anarchist struggles have manifested themselves throughout history in the Paris Commune, the Haymarket Affair, the powerful Cuban anarcho-syndicalist movements, the Russian revolution, the Chinese revolution, the massive Argentine anarchist struggles, the Brazilian anarchist labor movements and most notably the Spanish revolution of 1936 (arguably the most successful and important revolution in history). Recent revivals within the anarchist movement have expressed themselves in the massive anti-corporate globalization actions, recent anti-authoritarian anti-war efforts, and a growing network of global peace and justice movements expressing anarchist principles. Prominent anarchists of history include Pierre Joseph Proudhon, Mikhail Bakunin, Louise Michel, Peter Kropotkin, Rudolph Rocker, Emma Goldman, Annie Netter, Lucy Parsons, the Haymarket martyrs, Voltairine de Cleyre, Errico Malatesta, Kate Austin, Alexander Berkman, Marie Louise Berneri, Ricardo Flores Magon, Mollie Steimer, Leo Tolstoy, Henry David Thoreau, Lizzie Holmes, Sacco and Vanzetti, Luisa Capetillo, Buenaventura Durruti, Federica Montseny, Syusui Kotoku, Murray Bookchin, Augustin Souchy, Esther and Sam Dolgoff, Noam Chomsky, Natasha Notkin, Lorenzo Ervin and countless others all over the world.
At the core of anarchist theory and practice lies a historic tendency to be free of the conditions, institutions and social aberrations which thwart the progress of human development. Anarchists view the state, their corporate masters, and the myriad of oppressors which result from these institutions as not only unnecessary, but counter-productive to human freedom and aspirations. Anarchists believe that most of society's inequities, violence and conflict stem from unequal power relations between rulers and ruled. Wars, social violence, widespread racism, poverty and oppression are all primarily the results of arbitrary social relations designed to serve the interests of the rich and powerful and their authoritarian institutions. Anarchists seek to identify these hierarchies, authorities and other forms of oppression and challenge their legitimacy. If they fail to serve the interests of human freedom and aspirations they should be considered illigitimate and abolished.
The history of anarchist thinking and movements has always been about advancing certain principles. Whereas neo-liberalism and state power promote doctrines of violence, authoritarianism, competition and greed, anarchism promotes principles of peaceful co-existence, freedom, solidarity and mutual aid. Principles of freedom and mutual aid extend back as far as human history is recorded, long before anarchism was ever known or heard of. Anarchism is the highest and most evolved expression of these principles, "the very finest thing," wrote Alexander Berkman, "that humanity has ever thought of." It continues as a permanent trend in the ongoing struggles for freedom and the fuller development of human potential.
Anarchism today has begun to encompass a broader analysis of power and inequality, realizing the importance of equal struggles on behalf of class, race, gender, sexual preference and orientation, and every form of oppression that enslaves humanity and keeps people from being free. Wherever and in whatever form hierarchies emerge, whether it's the state over its people, bosses over workers, race over race, or man over woman, anarchists are beginning to challenge these problems of power and attempt to build democratic, peaceful and collectively empowering alternatives. Anarchism is diverse, broad and demands social and cultural freedom in every sphere of life. Anarchists now, and have always, envision advancing a future world built on principles of freedom, direct democracy, mutual aid, solidarity and equality without rulers or masters.