Pierre-Joseph Proudhon (1809 – 1865) was the first one to call himself an anarchist. He was also one of the most influential writers within the 19th century Left of France and Belgium. Together with anarchists like Mikhail Bakunin and Elisée Reclus, he has been very important for the historical anarchist movement in these countries.
Proudhon (lying at his death bed at the picture) openly opposed nationalist movements in Poland, Hungary, and Italy. In 1851 he declared : “If then science, and no longer religion or authority, is taken in every land as the rule of society, the sovereign arbiter of interests, government being void, all the legislation of the universe will be in harmony. There will no longer be nationality, no longer fatherland, in the political sense of the words: they will mean only places of birth.”
And 11 years later he wrote : "I will never put devotion to my country before the rights of Man. If the French Government behaves unjustly to any people, I am deeply grieved and protest in every way that I can.”
In the Principle of Federation (1863) he argued that nationalism inevitably leads to war. To reduce the power of nationalism Proudhon called for a Federal Europe. He advocated a federation of autonomous communes. He believed that Federalism was "the supreme guarantee of all liberty and of all law, and must, without soldiers or priests, replace both feudal and Christian society." Proudhon went on to predict that "the twentieth century will open the era of federations, or humanity will begin again a purgatory of a thousand years."
But his antinationalist notions and strong opposition to the ideas of Napoleon Bonaparte were somewhat diluted by his own Francophilism. Proudhon (1851) : “It was the mania for annexation which, under the Convention and the Directory, aroused the distrust of other nations against the Republic, and which, giving us a taste for Bonaparte, brought us to our finish at Waterloo. Revolutionize, I tell you. Your frontiers will always be long enough and French enough if they are revolutionary.”
In 1995, Murray Bookchin wrote that Proudhon “attempted to formulate a fairly concrete image of a libertarian society. Based on contracts, essentially between small producers, cooperatives, and communes, Proudhon's vision was redolent of the provincial craft world into which he was born. But his attempt to meld a patroniste, often patriarchal notion of liberty with contractual social arrangements was lacking in depth. The craftsman, cooperative, and commune, relating to one another on bourgeois contractual terms of equity or justice rather than on the communist terms of ability and needs, reflected the artisan's bias for personal autonomy, leaving any moral commitment to a collective undefined beyond the good intentions of its members.”
Indeed, Proudhon did not advocate the principle “from each according to ability, to each according to need”. Leftists like Karl Marx, Errico Malatesta and others did do that later. The phrase summarizes the idea that, under a communist system, every person shall produce to the best of his or her ability in accordance with his/her talent, and each person shall receive the fruits of this production in accordance with his/her need, irrespective of what he or she has produced.