Celtic anarchism

Celtic anarchism

Celtic anarchism is a new tendency within the larger anarchist movement. It is not an ideology, but an attempt to bring together disparate aspects and tendencies within the existing anarchist movement and re-envision them from a "Celtic" perspective. The tendency is strongly influenced by indigenism, anti-state forms of nationalism, Irish republicanism, the pan-celtic movement, Celtic reconstructionism, Anarchist People of Color, and many other sources. There are no formal publications promoting this tendency, rather it is organized loosely through the use of internet listserves [ [http://lists.riseup.net/www/info/anarchistcelts Anarchist Celts] on RiseUp.net] and a website. [ [http://celticanarchy.org CelticAnarchy] ]

Celtic anarchism is syncretic and diverse, incorporating a wide range of sources, as is to be expected from a tendency representing a diaspora community.


The most basic aspect of the tendency is the belief that pre-Roman Celtic societies had aspects in common with anarchist ideals of how society should be structured, and that modern anarchists would do well to investigate these early models. Celtic Ireland, prior to Cromwell's invasion, is frequently held up as a positive example. The tendency is thus similar to indigenism in that it seeks inspiration for anarchism in the history and practices of ancestors, rather than relying solely on political theory and speculation.

=Celtic Ireland (650-1650)= In Celtic Irish society of the Middle Ages and Early Modern period, courts and the law were largely anarchist, and operated in a purely stateless manner. This society persisted in this manner for roughly a thousand years until its conquest by England in the seventeenth century [ [http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/02753a.htm Catholic Encyclopedia - The Brehon Laws] ] . Preconquest Ireland was not in any sense "primitive": it was a highly complex society that was, for centuries, "the most advanced, most scholarly, and most civilized in all of Western Europe," and furthermore "this was also a society where not only the courts and the law were largely libertarian, but where they operated within a purely state-less and libertarian society." [Murray Rothbard, For a New Liberty, [http://www.mises.org/rothbard/newliberty11.asp 12 The Public Sector, III: Police, Law, and the Courts] ] A leading authority on ancient Irish law wrote, "There was no legislature, no bailiffs, no police, no public enforcement of justice... There was no trace of State-administered justice. [Joseph R. Peden, “ [http://www.mises.org/journals/jls/1_2/1_2_1.pdf Property Rights in Celtic Irish Law] ,” "Journal of Libertarian Studies" I (Spring 1977), p. 83; see also pp. 81–95. For a summary, see Peden, “ [ Stateless Societies: Ancient Ireland] ,” The Libertarian Forum (April 1971), pp. 3–4.]

All "freemen" who owned land, all professionals, and all craftsmen, were entitled to become members of a tuath. [P.W. Joyce, MA, LL.D., TCD, MRIA: A Smaller Social History of Ireland [http://www.alia.ie/tirnanog/sochis/iv.html Chapter IV - The Brehon Laws, 1. The Brehons] , Longman, Greens and Co. London, New York, and Bombay Dublin : M.H. Gill & Son, Ltd. 1908] Each tuath's members formed an annual assembly which decided all common policies, declared war or peace on other tuatha, and elected or deposed their "kings." In contrast to tribal organizations, no one was stuck or bound to a given tuath, either because of kinship or of geographical location. Individual members were free to, and often did, secede from a tuath and join a competing tuath. Professor Peden states, "the tuath is thus a body of persons voluntarily united for socially beneficial purposes and the sum total of the landed properties of its members constituted its territorial dimension. [Peden, “ [ Stateless Societies] ,” p. 4.] The "king" had no political power; he could not decree or administer justice or declare war. Basically he was a priest and militia leader, and presided over the tuath assemblies. The Tuath is thus one of the earliest verifiable examples of Stateless and non-hierarchal political organization in the western world, and it's law code was "known collectively as 'Fenechas', the law of the Feine (Freemen), or more commonly, the Brehon Law. These laws are probably the oldest in Europe" [L. MacDonald, [http://web.archive.org/web/20061006163541/http://www.droitsweb.com/Druids/brehon.html Dalriada Magazine, 1993] ] . Celtic Ireland survived many invasions, but was finally vanquished by Oliver Cromwell's reconquest in 1649-50.


The intersections between Celtic culture and anarchism are particularly evident within the radical wing of the environmentalist movement, particularly Deep Ecology. Earth First! is one of the largest networks organizing around these issues and is organized along anarchist lines with many of the people who work under its banner self-identifying as anarchists. It is perhaps natural that the British and Irish Earth First movements in particular would seek inspiration from and consciously seek linkages with Celtic identities, given that the ancient Celts are commonly portrayed as being more in touch with nature than modern consumer society. "The Earth First Journal", the main publication of the movement, organizes its printing schedule around the neopagan Wheel of the Year, which consists of four Gaelic festivals and four Germanic ones, with issues named for Beltane, Eostar, Brigid, Samhain, Yule, Mabon, and Lughnasadh. [ [http://www.earthfirstjournal.org/back_issues.php the EarthFirst! Journal] ]


While many anarchists are atheists, many others have sought spiritual inspiration in a wide range of traditions ranging from Taoism and other eastern philosophies to Christianity, neo-paganism, and indigenous religious traditions. For Anarchists in the British Isles and among the Celtic Diaspora who are interested in indigenous and tribal traditions, the desire to avoid cultural appropriation has led many to investigate Celtic reconstructionism; which seeks to reconstruct and revive ancient Celtic religious practices in a modern context. The process works in the other direction as well and some individuals who enjoy the egalitarianism of these religious traditions find themselves drawn to Anarchism.


Paganism and/or neopaganism have grown immensely in influence in recent years. Prominent anarchist pagans such as Starhawk have gone out of their way to incorporate ritual into protests and neopagans are very much present in the anti-globalization movement. While explicitly pagan anarchist groupings like Reclaiming [ [http://www.reclaimingquarterly.org/index.html "Reclaiming Quarterly", the organizations main publication.] ] are a minority both within the pagan community and the anarchist movement, they are quite assertive in promoting the idea of a linkage between their neo-druidic spiritual practice and the ideals of liberty, egalitarianism, and mutual aid that form the basis of anarchist thought.

Celtic Christianity

Recent years have also seen an attempt to revive the ancient Celtic Christianity, both in the form of organized churches such as the Celtic Catholic Church, and by individuals who seek to re-envision Christianity along lines more consistent with ideals of gender equality. Christian anarchism has a long tradition going back at least to Leo Tolstoy, with some claiming that its roots go back much further. Within anarchist circles, attempts to ground Christian anarchism in Christian history lead adherents to look to the early Christian church, prior to the adoption of Christianity as the state religion by the Roman Emperor Constantine I. The Celtic Christian church was the last Christian church in Western Europe to be brought under the control of Rome, and is thus seen as an inspiration for Christian anarchists seeking an example of an early egalitarian Christianity.

Liberation Theology

Irish Catholic priests and missionaries have played a large role in the spread of Catholicism since very early in the history of the Catholic Church. In Latin America in particular, many clergy embraced what was known as Liberation Theology, which has been described as "a marxist interpretation of the gospel," [ [http://www.acton.org/publicat/randl/article.php?id=29 Did It Liberate? Liberation Theology: Post Mortem] ] and alternatively as the search for a biblical "Promised Land" which is "not so much a geographic place as it is a hope and a vision of a just social order" [Robert V. Andelson and James M. Dawsey, From Wasteland to Promised land:Liberation Theology for a Post-Marxist World [http://www.landreform.org/reading0.htm 1. Land: The Hope of the Oppressed on Every Continent] ] While there are clear differences between anarchism and marxism, the two share a basic commitment to social justice and have influenced each other over the years. Liberation Theology has also been influential within Irish Nationalist movement.

Atheistic humanism

Anarchism, and especially anarchist communism, have traditionally been associated with atheism and humanism and these ideas remain powerful among anarchist Celts, as well as among the larger anarchist movement.


Anarchism and nationalism have a long history, going back to Bakunin's early involvement in the Pan-Slavic movement. Anarchists have participated in left-nationalist movements in China, Korea, Vietnam, Ireland, Britanny, Ukraine, Poland, Mexico, Israel, and many other nations. Modern anarchist organizations working on national liberation struggles in the Celtic Nations include the CBIL In Brittany and the Workers Solidarity Movement in Ireland.

At root, the basic difference between anarchism and anti-state nationalism is that in nationalism the primary political unit is the nation, or ethnic group, whereas in an anarchist system the primary political unit is either the individual (in individualist anarchism) or the local community (in social anarchism). Celtic anarchism is therefore clearly distinct from any form of nationalism in that it does not seek to keep the nation as the primary political unit. Just as social anarchists seek to create a socialist economy but oppose the tyranny of Marxist state socialism, Celtic anarchists advocate for self-determination, the defense of local cultures, and an end to imperialism; but oppose the tyranny of nationalism.

Irish nationalism

The armed struggle against British rule in Ireland, particularly up to and during the Irish War of Independence, is portrayed as a national liberation struggle with the Celtic anarchist milleau. Anarchists, including the Irish Workers Solidarity Movement, support a complete end to British involvement in Ireland, a stance traditionally associated with Irish Republicanism, but are also very critical of statist nationalism and the Irish Republican Army (IRA) in particular.

In two articles published on Anarkismo.net, Andrew Flood of the WSM outlines what he argues was the betrayal of class struggle by the IRA during the war of independence, [http://www.anarkismo.net/newswire.php?story_id=2861&search_text=1916%20insurrection%20in%20Ireland Insurrection in Ireland] from Anarkismo.net] and argues that the statism of traditional Irish nationalism forced it to place the interests of wealthy Irish nationalists who were financing the revolution ahead of the interests of the vast majority of Ireland's poor.

Anarchists are also extremely critical of the modern Provisional Irish Republican Army, both because of its use of terrorist violence and because of its internal authoritarianism. From the anarchist view, British and Irish nationalisms are both statist, authoritarian, and seek to dominate and exploit the Irish nation to empower their competing states. Anarchism would instead create a political system without states and where communities are self-governing on the local level. The achievement of home-rule, or political self-determination, is therefore a precondition for and a consequence of anarchism. At root then, the anarchist objection to Irish nationalism is that nationalists use reprehensible means to demand far too little.

Still, anarchists seek to learn from and examine the liberatory aspects of the Irish nationalist movement and the WSM includes a demand for complete British withdrawal from Ireland in its platform.


External links

[http://www.libertarian.ie/historical_cases.html Libertarian.ie Historical Cases]

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