Elisée Reclus: On Anarchist Colonies

We are not preparing an “exit” from society, we know very well there is no escape from wildfires, pandemics, authoritarianism, surveillance, fascism, and capitalism. Yet we believe that it’s our duty to build permanent autonomous zones, not as an “escape” plan but as planting seeds for the future. Among the many inspirations for ISSA is Elisée Reclus and his writings on the Earth and nature, mutual aid, and resistance. And especially his short essay On Anarchist Colonies which deconstructs the myth that anarchism – or any attempt of Autonomy – necessarily means “withdrawal” into some “walled-off paradise”.

“We’re not preparing a withdrawal. On the contrary, we are building a sort of Noah’s Ark.”

“But even though we are not thinking of withdrawing from the world in order to found a kind of “City of the Sun”, inhabited exclusively by the elect, there can be no doubt that over the course of our centuries-long struggle against oppressors of every category, we shall encounter repeated opportunities to temporarily unite our efforts, practicing the new ways of mutual respect and complete equality. It will often happen that the unforeseen vicissitudes of the struggle will ineluctably bring us together, and in these cases it would be impossible for our associations not to be constituted in conformance with our common ideal.”

Therefore, on no pretext and for no reason whatsoever should we ever shut ourselves off from the world: it is necessary to remain in the wider world, in order to receive from it all of its impulses, in order to take part in all its vicissitudes and to learn all its lessons. For a handful of friends to withdraw to the countryside to take walks and talk about things eternal like the disciples of Aristotle, is to abandon the struggle, and, as Lucretius said, it is to unleash the positivity of life only in order to take hold of it as a fiction

In fact, those of our comrades who are seduced by the idea of withdrawing from the world into some walled-off paradise, have fallen prey to the illusion that anarchists constitute a party separate from society, which is absolutely false. We take pleasure and engage passionately in the practice of what we deem to be egalitarian and just, not only among our comrades, but amidst everyone in the world. Humanity is much bigger than anarchy in its most elevated ideal. How many things that are presently unknown will be revealed to us by the profound study of nature, by kindly solidarity with all men, with all the unfortunates who have like us suffered from the influence of the irrational environment that we seek to restore under its harmonious form! In our plan of existence and struggle, it is not the little chapel of the comrades that interests us, it is the whole wide world. Our ambition consists in conquering the entire planet for the truth, with friends and enemies, even those who, subjected to a terrible education, all the atavism of caste, and the virus of the churches, have been regimented and armed to be set loose like wild beasts against the truth.”

You can read the full text by Elisée Reclus here.