Archive for the 'Anarchism' Category

Murray Bookchin, in praise of hippie “Youth Culture” and “life-style” (1970)

hip cultureWe must break away from the traditional Marxian outlook, with its limited interpretation of the class struggle, of the motive forces for revolution, and of the revolutionary process, to understand the revolutionary implications of the Youth Culture. …

Nourished by the relative abundance produced by a new, potentially revolutionary technology, young people began to develop a post-scarcity outlook—however confused, rudimentary, and intuitive its forms—that has been slowly eroding the ages-old psychic complicity between oppressor and oppressed—a complicity that had made hierarchy, domination, patriarchy, renunciation, and guilt a condition of the human spirit, not only the institutional and psychological instruments of class-rule and the state. It is difficult to convey what a historic breach this emerging Youth Culture produced in the social desert that was once America. …

The explosion of the Youth Culture shattered this decade-long edifice and its mythology [i.e., the social conformity of the 1950s—RA] to their very foundations and, almost alone, is responsible for the massive alienation that permeates American youth today. For the first time in the history of this country, every verity not only of bourgeois society but of hierarchical society as a whole is now in question. Mere critique of the kind so endearing to the orthodox Marxists might have produced nothing more than a sense of cynical engagement, so similar to Salinger’s young hero in “Catcher in the Rye.” But the Youth Culture went further—into the realm of positive, utopian alternatives. In its demands for tribalism, free sexuality, community, mutual aid, ecstatic experience, and a balanced ecology, the Youth Culture prefigures, however inchoately, a joyous communist and classless society, freed of the trammels of hierarchy and domination, a society that would transcend the historic splits between town and country, individual and society, and mind and body. Drawing from early rock-and-roll music, from the beat movement, the civil rights struggles, the peace movement, and even from the naturalism of neo-Taoist and neo-Buddhist cults (however unsavory they may be to the “Left”), the Youth Culture has pieced together a life-style that is aimed at the internal system of domination that hierarchical society so viciously uses to bring the individual into partnership with his/her own enslavement. …

The Youth Culture has spread from the Haight-Eastside axis into the most remote towns of the United States, areas that no radical movement in the past could have hoped to colonize, disrupting all the time-honored ties, institutions, and values of these communities. Owing to its increasing influence on working class youth, the culture has now begun to rework the labor reserves of bourgeois society itself—the reservoirs from which it recruits its industrial proletariat and soldiers—until recently, perhaps the most intractable element to radical ideas and values.

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Murray Bookchin, “The Youth Culture: An Anarcho-Communist View,” in Hip Culture: 6 Essays on Its Revolutionary Potential; Yippie, Third World, Feminist, Marxist, High School Student, Anarchist (New York: Times Change Press, 1970), 54, 55, 58–59, 60.

RADICAL ARCHIVES NOTE: Bookchin became quite well-known late in life for his scathing attacks on a bogeyman he called “lifestylism”—a ridiculous strawman composed of wildly disparate parts of the early 1990s anarchist milieu, united mostly by the fact that he didn’t like them. But Bookchin’s early, favorable view of the 1960s counterculture made a coherent argument in favor of its potential, and, if it had a failure, it was that it was too uncritical in its assessment.

Chumbawamba, the Pentagon, and the Bombing of Iraq (1998)

“Martial Music”

The tentative U.S. military campaign against Iraq already has its own unofficial theme song. Last week, senior Pentagon staffers privately circulated an audio-file E-mail with a pro-war parody of “Tubthumping,” a hit from the British band Chumbawamba. The blend of drinking song and rugby cheer (“I get knocked down, but I get up again”) has been transformed into a jingoistic war cry: “Let’s hunt him down and shoot him in the head, / Let’s beat the crap outta Saddam…. And if he won’t let us look for all his nerve gas / The U.S. Army is gonna kick him in the a–.” An ethereal voice chimes in with “Don’t screw with the U.S.A.”

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U.S. News and World Report, March 2, 1998

Ian Bone: How Crass’s Penny Rimbaud Saved EP Thompson from Being Decapitated by Class War

[Ian Bone describes how Class War is being confrontational towards speakers at a CND rally in Hyde Park in October, 1983]

Next up is silver-mained EP Thompson, author of The Making of the English Working Class, a book we all hold in great esteem and whose mob traditions we even feel we’re part of. But no matter—[Class War’s] Doc Whelan’s limited patience threshold has well and truly been breached. He has a glass cider flagon which he was reserving for Kinnockio [Neil Kinnock] but decided ‘some fucking professor’ will do just as well for a target. He has a sighting heave with a piece of concrete which whistles past EP Thompson’s locks on a still rising trajectory. He starts to spin like a hammer thrower with the flagon as the hammer. EP Thompson’s health is seriously at risk, and I’m doing fuck all to protect one of my favorite writers from decapitation. Thankfully, others aren’t so paralyzed. A firm arm grabs Doc’s wrista move usually likely to incur the dreaded Whelan forehead crunching down on the bridge of your nose. Doc recognizes the owner of the arm as Penny Rimbaud. ‘He’s not the one that deserves that,’ says Penny, ‘save it for later.’ Wise words and Doc concurs.

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Ian Bone, Bash the Rich: True-Life Confessions of an Anarchist in the UK (Bath, UK: Tangent Books, 2006), pp 139-40.

Jason Adams, “Nonwestern Anarchisms: Rethinking the Global Context” (2001)

“The future of anarchism must be appraised within a global context; any attempt to localize it is bound to yield a distorted outcome. The obstacles to anarchism are, in the main, global; only their specifics are determined by local circumstances.”
– Sam Mbah

“To the reactionists of today we are revolutionists, but to the revolutionists of tomorrow our acts will have been those of conservatives”
– Ricardo Flores Magon

 

Introduction

The purpose of this paper is to help anarchist / anti-authoritarian movements active today to reconceptualize the history and theory of first-wave anarchism on the global level, and to reconsider its relevance to the continuing anarchist project. In order to truly understand the full complexity and interconnectedness of anarchism as a worldwide movement however, a specific focus on the uniqueness and agency of movements amongst the “people without history” is a deeply needed change. This is because the historiography of anarchism has focused almost entirely on these movements as they have pertained to the peoples of the West and the North, while movements amongst the peoples of the East and the South have been widely neglected. As a result, the appearance has been that anarchist movements have arisen primarily within the context of the more privileged countries. Ironically, the truth is that anarchism has primarily been a movement of the most exploited regions and peoples of the world. That most available anarchist literature does not tell this history speaks not to a necessarily malicious disregard of non-Western anarchist movements but rather to the fact that even in the context of radical publishing, centuries of engrained eurocentrism has not really been overcome. This has been changing to an extent however, as there here have been several attempts in just the past decade to re-examine this history in detail in specific non-Western countries and regions, with works such as Arif Dirlik’s Anarchism in the Chinese Revolution, Sam Mbah’s African Anarchism and Frank Fernandez’ Cuban Anarchism. It is within the footsteps of this recent tradition that this paper treads further into the relatively new ground of systematically assessing, comparing and synthesizing the findings of all of these studies combined with original investigation in order to develop a more wholly global understanding of anarchism and its history. To begin our inquiry we first must make clear what it is that is actually meant by the term “Western anarchism.” Going back to the debates within the First International, it quickly becomes apparent that this term is a misnomer, as it is actually the opposite case that is true; anarchism has always been derived more of the East / South than of the West / North. As Edward Krebs has noted “Marx (and Engels) saw Russianness in Bakunin’s ideas and behavior” while “Bakunin expressed his fears that the social revolution would become characterized by ‘pan-Germanism’ and ‘statism.’” This debate has led some to characterize it as largely between Western and Eastern versions of socialism; one marked by a fundamental commitment to order and the other marked by a fundamental commitment to freedom (1998, p. 19). So in this sense anarchism can be understood as an “Eastern” understanding of socialism, rather than as a fully Western tradition in the usual sense of the term. At the same time it should be remembered that there also developed an extremely contentious North / South split between the more highly developed nations of England and Germany and the less developed semi-peripheral nations of Spain, Italy and others. This split was based on differences of material reality but developed largely along ideological lines, with the northern Anglo-Saxon nations siding primarily with Karl Marx and the southern Latin nations siding with Mikhail Bakunin (Mbah, p. 20). So in both the East / West and the North / South sense, anarchism has often been the theory of choice for the most oppressed peoples; particularly in those societies whose primarily feudal nature writes them out of historical agency in the Marxist understanding of the world. This may explain a good deal of why anarchism became so popular throughout Latin America, and why immigrating anarchists from the Latin nations of Europe were so well received in country after country that they visited, attempting to spread the anarchist vision.

Continue reading ‘Jason Adams, “Nonwestern Anarchisms: Rethinking the Global Context” (2001)’

Bakunin: the “reactionary” consequences of national liberation movements (1866)

“Today no revolution can succeed in any country if it is not at the same time both a political and a social revolution. Every exclusively political revolution – be it in defense of national independence or for internal change, or even for the establishment of a republic – that does not aim at the immediate and real political and economic emancipation of people will be a false revolution. Its objectives will be unattainable and its consequences reactionary.”

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from Mikhail Bakunin, “National Catechism,” 1866. In Bakunin on Anarchism, edited by Sam Dolgoff (Montreal: Black Rose, 1972/2002), page 99. The entire essay is online here.

RADICAL ARCHIVES NOTE: There are is shortage of workerist anarchists who wish to turn Bakunin and classical anarchism into a bottom-up version of the Marxist-Leninism that many of these workerists are strongly influenced by. One of the more outrageous claims they attempt to marshall evidence for, usually by selective quotations of Bakunin’s work on federalism, is that he supported national liberation movements (eg after his pan-Slavist period). Since Bakunin made explicit denunciations of national liberation struggles that were not also thoroughly and completely radical struggles, these writers are clearly banking on most anarchists’ ignorance of their own tradition.

Bakunin in Paris, February 1848

At last the February revolution burst forth. No sooner had I learned that they were fighting in Paris than, taking an acquaintance’s passport against any contingency, I set out again for France. But the passport was not necessary; the first word that greeted us at the border was: “La Republique est proclamee a Paris.”* [“The Republic is proclaimed in Paris.”] Chills ran up my spine when I heard this news. I arrived in Valenciennes on foot because the railroad had been cut. Everywhere there were crowds, wild shouts, red banners in all the streets and squares and on all public buildings. I had to go a roundabout way; the railroad was cut in many places. I arrived in Paris on 26 February, the third day after the proclamation of the republic. I enjoyed the trip. Now what shall I say to you, Sire, of the impression produced on me by Paris! This huge city, the center of European enlightenment, had suddenly been turned into the wild Caucasus: on every street, almost everywhere, barricades had been piled up like mountains, reaching the roofs, and on them, among rocks and broken furniture, like Lezghians* [A tribe of the Caucasus Mountains] in ravines, workers in their colorful blouses, blackened from powder and armed from head to foot. Fat shopkeepers,  épiciers*  [Grocers] with faces stupid from terror, timidly looked out of the windows. On the streets and boulevards not a single carriage. And the dandies, young and old, all the hated social lions with their walking sticks and lorgnettes, had disappeared and in their place MY NOBLE OUVRIERS in rejoicing, exulting crowds, with red banners and patriotic songs, reveling in their victory! And in the midst of this unlimited freedom, this mad rapture, all were so forgiving, sympathetic, loving of their fellow man—upright, modest, courteous, amiable, witty—that only in France, and in France only in Paris, could one see such a thing! Later I lived for more than a week with some workers in the Caserne de Tournon, two steps from the Luxembourg Palace. These barracks were formerly the barracks of the Municipal Guard; at this time they with many others were turned into a red republican fortress, into barracks for Caussidiere’s guard. Now I lived in them at the invitation of an acquaintance, a democrat who commanded a detachment of five hundred workers. Thus I had an opportunity to see and study these last from morning till night. Sire! I assure you, in no class, never, and nowhere have I found so much noble selflessness, so much truly touching integrity, such sincerely considerate good manners, and so much amiable gaiety combined with such heroism as I found in these simple, uneducated people, who always were and always will be a thousand times better than all their leaders! What is so striking about them is their deep instinct for discipline; in their barracks no established regimen, no Jaws, no compulsion could exist, but God grant that any disciplined soldier could so precisely obey, anticipate the wishes of his officers, and observe order as religiously as these free men. They demanded orders, they demanded leadership, they obeyed with punctiliousness, with fevor; they would perform heavy work for twenty-four hours at a stretch without eating and never grow despondent, but were always cheerful and amiable. If these people, if the French workers in general, found a leader worthy of them, one who was able to understand and love them, he could work wonders with them.

Sire! I am in no condition to give you a clear account of the month I spent in Paris, for it was a month of spiritual intoxication. Not only I but everyone was intoxicated: some from reckless fear, others from reckless rapture, from reckless hopes. I got up at five or even four in the morning and went to bed at two. I was on my feet all day, participated vigorously in all the meetings, gatherings, clubs, processions, outings, demonstrations; in a word, I imbibed with all my senses, through all my pores, the ecstatic atmosphere of revolution. It was a feast without beginning and without end. Here I saw everyone and saw no one because all were lost in one infinite, aimless crowd. I spoke with everyone, but I do not remember either what I said to them or what they said to me because at every step there were new topics, new adventures, new information. News that was arriving continually from the rest of Europe also helped no little to maintain and strengthen the general delirium. One constantly heard such things as, “On se bat a Berlin; Ie roi a pris Ia fuite, apres avoir prononce un discours! On s’est battu a Vienne, Metternich s’est enfui, Ia Republique y est proclamee! Toute l’Allemagne se souleve. Les italiens ont triomphe a Milan, a Venise; les autrichiens ont subi une honteuse defaite! La Republique y est proclamee; toute !’Europe devient Republique. Vive Ia Republique!”* [“They are fighting in Berlin; the King has taken flight after having made a speech! They have fought in Vienna, Metternich has fled, the Republic has been proclaimed there! All Germany is rising. The Italians have triumphed  in Milan, in Venice; the Austrians have suffered a shameful defeat! The Republic has been proclaimed there; all Europe is becoming a republic. Long live the Republic!”] It seemed that the whole world had been turned upside down.

The inconceivable had become the usual, the impossible possible, and the possible and the usual unthinkable. In a word, minds were in such a state that if someone had arrived and said, “le bon Dieu vient d’etre chasse du ciel, Ia Republique y est proclamee!”* [“The good Lord has just been chased out of heaven, the Republic has been proclaimed there!”] then everyone would have believed him and no one would have been amazed. And it was not only the democrats who were in such a state of intoxication; on the contrary, the democrats were the first to become sober, for they had to get down to work and secure the power that had fallen into their hands by some unexpected miracle. The conservative party and the dynastic opposition, which in one day had become more conservative than the conservatives themselves—in a word, people of the old order believed in all miracles and all impossibilities more than did the democrats. They really thought that two times two had ceased to be four, and Thiers himself announced that “il ne nous reste plus qu’une chose, c’est de nous faire oublier.”* [“Only one thing remains for us: to make ourselves forgotten.”]  This alone explains the haste and unanimity with which all cities, provinces, and classes in France accepted the republic. (46)

endnote 46: The anarchist and Bakunin scholar Max Nettlau, commenting on the preceding pages, maintained that “This veritable poem to Paris of the February barricades…, sung in the face of the Tsar” should put to rest the insinuations that Bakunin had abased himself before the Tsar and compromised himself by writing the Confession (notes to the French edition of the Confession [1932; reprint Paris, 1974], p. 218….)

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From The Confession of Mikhail Bakunin, with marginal comments of Tsar Nicholas I, trans. Robert C. Howes, introduction and notes by Lawrence D. Orton (Ithaca & London: Cornell University Press, 1977), pp. 54–57. Written by Bakunin in 1851 while imprisoned in Tsarist Russia after the failure of the democractic revolts in the West, and before his political transformation to anarchism.

Mina Graur: Rudolf Rocker debates Otto Strasser

In 1930 the FAUD [the anarcho-syndicalist Free Workers’ Union of Germany] accepted an invitation from Otto Strasser, an activist in the National Socialist Party [e.g., the Nazi party], to a series of debates. It was an interesting challenge for the syndicalists, and Fritz Kater suggested that Rocker should represent their camp. (fn90) Otto Strasser belonged to a faction within the National Socialist Party that differed in many respects from Hitler’s mainstream. Indeed, Strasser’s disagreements with Hitler led to his expulsion from the party in June 1930. After his expulsion, he founded the “Revolutionary National Socialists” organization, later known as the “Black Front.” (fn91) The debate was conducted, therefore, just before Strasser was driven out of the Nazi party.

Three meetings were arranged, each dedicated to a different topic. At the first, Rocker debated Strasser on the issue of nationalism and race, and the role they play in the shaping of history. Rocker claimed that since nationality is not known to be an inherited trait, it follows that the idea of nationality is enforced on men by their surroundings. (fn92) The second session was dedicated to the meaning of socialism. Since Strasser could not attend the meeting due to illness, his place was taken by Dr. Herbert Blank. Blank argued that the historical importance of the National Socialist Party was that it had discovered the true foundations of socialism, since what passed until then as socialism was only the Marxist interpretation. Rocker ridiculed the argument, pointing to the obvious fact that the Nazis had probably never heard of libertarian socialism and its many thinkers, who were in no way connected to Marx and his followers, and who rejected Marxism altogether. At the third debate, Rocker was replaced by Erich Mühsam at the request of Strasser, who felt threatened by Rocker’s rhetorical tactics. Rocker, however, was asked to deliver the closing remarks. Although both camps knew that the differences between them were too wide to be bridged over, and that no side was going to win new converts, the series of debates constituted an interesting experience. The debates were the only time that the anarchists aired their opinions freely in front of a Nazi audience. After the National Socialists came to power, the anarchist movement was extinguished, its members exiled, imprisoned, or sent to concentration camps.

footnotes:

90. Rocker dated the event at around 1928 or later. According to the articles in Fanal reporting the event, it occurred in 1930.
91. Allan Bullock, Hitler, A Study in Tyranny (New York: Harper, 1964), pp. 156-158.
92. Rocker, Revolutsie un Regresie, Vol. 2, p. 29. The issue is elaborated upon in Nationalism and Culture.

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from Mina Graur, An Anarchist “Rabbi”: The Life and Teachings of Rudolf Rocker (New York: St. Martins Press / Jerusalem: The Magnes Press, 1997), pp. 174-75.



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