The Institute for Anarchist Studies at Twenty, by Paul Messersmith-Glavin

Perspectives offers this reflection on the IAS’ first twenty years from the current anarcha-feminisms issue, available here, by an IAS member who has been involved since the beginning. In order to assemble a growing history of the IAS that’s as rich and multi-vocal as possible, we are inviting additional reflections from those who have been involved as board members, authors, grantees, and readers, which we can post throughout the year.

The Institute for Anarchist Studies (IAS) has received applications for writing grants throughout various waves of organizing over the last two decades. From Zapatista solidarity organizers in the nineties, to anti-capitalist globalization activists in the early ‘00s, Occupy folks over the last several years, and most recently from those working under the banner of Black Lives Matter. In 1996, the IAS was established to do just that.  We have offered material support in the form of funds that allow people to take time off work or hire childcare, so they can devote time to reflection and writing.
Some time in 1995 my friend and comrade Chuck Morse asked me to join a new organization he was forming to support the development of anarchist theory.

He was inspired by right-wing think tanks that funded the development and dissemination of their ideas, and thought the antiauthoritarian Left would benefit from something similar.  What he envisioned, he explained, was a group that would raise money and award grants to people to devote time to thinking and writing, thereby assisting anarchism to live up to its full potential.  He felt that contemporary anarchists needed financial help in the task of elaborating an anarchism that adequately responded to current conditions.

I immediately said “Yes” to Chuck, and became part of the group that founded the Institute for Anarchist Studies.  The idea of developing structured, directly democratic organizations was important to us, and founding an institute made sense. Chuck incorporated the IAS as a 501(c) 3 non-profit organization and away we went. We raised money through contributions of anything from twenty dollars from movement organizers, to several thousands from well-off radicals, and began soliciting applications for writing grants.  The next year we also began publishing our newsletter, Perspectives on Anarchist Theory, the name for which came from a brochure Chuck had seen at his bank, Perspectives on Banking.

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