Claude Guillon, Comment Peut-on Etre Anarchiste?

Author:Frigerio, Vittorio
Position:Book review

Claude Guillon, Comment Peut-on Etre Anarchiste?

Paris: Libertalia, 2015; 444pp; ISBN 9-782918-059592

Claude Guillon is a well-known French writer and historian, whose books have at times attracted considerable interest. His reflections appear regularly in the French anarchist press and online (notably on his blog: This sizeable volume collects fifty articles or pamphlets published since the beginning of the twenty-first century. It is not the totality of his production, but rather a collection of texts the author deems still current, and likely to stay that way. The answer to the question posed by the title, 'How is it possible to be an anarchist?' (one may want to add 'today') is given right in the first page of the preface, saving the reader much suspense: 'By being an activist, by writing', the two things being inseparable, and indeed, writing becoming 'a self-evident means to realise action' (p9). Given that, it may appear slightly surprising that few chapters deal with writers or theoreticians. Indeed, in an interview with Caroline Granier reproduced in the book, Guillon concludes rather sadly that 'there are no anarchist intellectuals, and I think there aren't any because the movement doesn't want any ... The anarchist movement doesn't have any intellectuals because it doesn't deserve them!' (p36). Certainly, the few intellectuals whose works are discussed here find little sympathy with the author. Noam Chomsky's libertarian commentary is described as self-contradictory, detached from the realities of actual contemporary American life, and generally imbued with the trappings of the star system. Michel Onfray, the French philosopher whose persona and declarations have in recent times come increasingly under attack from the media (including left-leaning ones), is denounced as a fraud whose knowledge of actual anarchism is sorely insufficient. It would seem from these examples that if the movement doesn't deserve the intellectuals, the opposite is also true. Generally speaking, media personalities or activists that make use of mass media are consistently criticised in this book, in a manner that is lucid, though at times rather dismissive. Such is the fate of the Femen group, portrayed as ideologically confused and caught in a...

To continue reading