Now and After

Now and After
Now and After: The ABC of Communist Anarchism  
Now and After cover.jpg
Title page of the first edition
Author(s) Alexander Berkman
Subject(s) Anarchism, Anarchist communism
Genre(s) Political philosophy
Publisher Vanguard Press
Publication date 1929
OCLC Number 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 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 historian Paul Avrich described Now and After as "a classic" and wrote that it was one of "the clearest exposition[s] of communist anarchism in English or any other language".[2]



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.[3] In Ukraine, an anarchist army led by Nestor Makhno had been defeated by the Red Army.[4] 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.[2] 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

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?"). 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 the "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.[5]

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. ^ a b Avrich, p. 206.
  3. ^ Raleigh, p. 169.
  4. ^ Kenez, p. 45.
  5. ^ Berkman, p. xiii.


  • Avrich, Paul. Anarchist Portraits. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1988. ISBN 0691006091.
  • Berkman, Alexander. What is Anarchism? Oakland: AK Press, 2003. ISBN 1902593707.
  • Kenez, Peter. A History of the Soviet Union from the Beginning to the End. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006. ISBN 0521864372.
  • Raleigh, Donald J. Experiencing Russia's Civil War: Politics, Society, and Revolutionary Culture in Saratov, 1917-1922. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2002. ISBN 0691113203.

External links

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

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