Now and After

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Now and After: The ABC of Communist Anarchism
Now and After cover.jpg
Title page of the first edition.
Author Alexander Berkman
Genre Political philosophy
Published 1929 (Vanguard Press)
Media type Print
OCLC 83572649
Preceded by The Bolshevik Myth

Now and After: The ABC of Communist Anarchism is an introduction to the principles of anarchism and anarchist communism written by Alexander Berkman. First published in 1929 by Vanguard Press, after parts of it had appeared in the Freie Arbeiter Stimme, Now and After has been reprinted many times, often under the title What Is Communist Anarchism? or What Is Anarchism?.[1] Because of its presentation of anarchist philosophy in plain language, Now and After has become one of the best-known introductions to anarchism in print. Anarchist Stuart Christie wrote that Now and After is "among the best introductions to the ideas of anarchism in the English language".[2] Historian Paul Avrich described it as "a classic" and wrote that it was "the clearest exposition of communist anarchism in English or any other language".[3]


The anarchist movement was under siege during the 1920s. The United States had deported hundreds of anarchists, including Berkman and Emma Goldman, in 1919. In the newly created Soviet Union, Russian anarchists were being arrested by the Cheka and imprisoned or executed.[4] In Ukraine, an anarchist army led by Nestor Makhno had been defeated by the Red Army.[5] Hundreds of Russian anarchists were fleeing to exile in Germany and France.

In an effort to revive the movement, the Jewish Anarchist Federation in New York asked Berkman in 1926 to write an introduction to anarchism intended for the general public.[3] By presenting the principles of anarchism in plain language, the New York anarchists hoped that readers might be swayed to support the movement or, at a minimum, that the book might improve the image of anarchism and anarchists in the public's eyes.

The book[edit]

Berkman's work explains anarchist philosophy in terms that uninitiated readers can understand. The book's chapters are brief, and many of them begin with questions (e.g., "Is Anarchism Violence?", "Will Communist Anarchism Work?"). A number of the ideas he discusses are similar to those proposed in The Conquest of Bread by Peter Kropotkin, whom Berkman cites throughout. Berkman avoids the sort of jargon and technical language that is often used by political writers in favor of plain language. As he writes in his foreword:

Anarchist books, with few exceptions, are not accessible to the understanding of the average reader. It is the common failing of most works dealing with social questions that they are written on the assumption that the reader is already familiar to a considerable extent with the subject, which is generally not the case at all. As a result there are very few books treating of social problems in a sufficiently simple and intelligible manner.

For the above reason I consider a restatement of the Anarchist position very much needed at this time—a restatement in the plainest and clearest terms which can be understood by every one. That is, an ABC of Anarchism.[6]

In 1929, Now and After was published by Vanguard Press in New York. In 1937, a year after Berkman's death, a second edition was published with a preface by Emma Goldman. A British edition was published in 1942 by Freedom Press in London. Since then, the book has been reprinted many times.[1]



  1. ^ a b Berkman, p. viii (Introduction by Barry Pateman).
  2. ^ Christie, Stuart (July 24, 2005). "Building a Library: Anarchy". The Independent. Retrieved January 4, 2013.  (subscription required)
  3. ^ a b Avrich, p. 206.
  4. ^ Raleigh, p. 169.
  5. ^ Kenez, p. 45.
  6. ^ Berkman, p. xiii.

Works cited[edit]

  • Avrich, Paul. Anarchist Portraits. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1988. ISBN 0-691-00609-1.
  • Berkman, Alexander. What is Anarchism? Oakland: AK Press, 2003. ISBN 1-902593-70-7.
  • Kenez, Peter. A History of the Soviet Union from the Beginning to the End. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006. ISBN 0-521-86437-2.
  • Raleigh, Donald J. Experiencing Russia's Civil War: Politics, Society, and Revolutionary Culture in Saratov, 1917-1922. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2002. ISBN 0-691-11320-3.

External links[edit]

Online editions of Now and After: The ABC of Communist Anarchism: