Here are the writings of Pierre Joseph-Proudhon, the first person in modern history to proclaim themselves an anarchist. He was a firm advocate of the traditions of revolutionary France. Being born into poverty in rural France, he achieved a scholarship and became a brilliant student of philosophy and a socialist theorist. He was deeply involved in the movements of the revolution in 1848, writing for radical newspapers. Proudhon was at one point elected to the National Assembly, using these experiences of parliament and its failure, to practically theorise his anarchist ideas. He suffered repression and exile after the coup of Napoleon III in 1851.
His early anarchist ideas and experiences, provide the foundation stone, on which the anarchist movement is built, influencing deeply the development of Bakunin and Kropotkin, as well as Marx and Engels early on. His mutualist theories were superseded in development by Bakunin’s collectivism and Kropotkin’s libertarian communism. Proudhon became opposed to the developing strategy of political parties by communists like Marx and Engels, which is one reason why he came out so strongly against communism.
His writings on the critique of social institutions – capitalism, church and state – are crucial to the pursuit and understanding of freedom. His discussion of the revolution, organisation and federation are also essential. His main political work was ‘General Idea of Revolution in the Nineteenth Century’ and also important for organisational theory, ‘The Principle of Federation.’ All are worth reading. ‘The Philosophy of Misery’ and ‘The Principle of Federation’ are in the second parts only partially translated. Also important are ‘Confessions of a Revolutionary’, about his experience of 1848 and ‘The Political Capacity of the Working Classes’, both of which can be found in the Ak Press edition of ‘Property is Theft’, (https://libcom.org/library/property-theft-pierre-joseph-proudhon-anthology).
Pierre-Joseph Proudhon – General Idea of the Revolution in the Nineteenth Century
Pierre Joseph-Proudhon – The Principle of Federation
Pierre Joseph-Proudhon – What is Property?
Pierre Joseph-Proudhon – The Philosophy of Misery