Posts Tagged 'Nietzsche SpencerSunshine EmmaGoldman RudolfRocker GustavLandauer MurrayBookchin Bookchin Anarchists Anarchism Situationist FredyPerlman'

Spencer Sunshine: “Nietzsche and the Anarchists” (2005)

The proposal to combine Nietzsche and anarchism must sound audacious to many people. Even if one doesn’t hold to the old belief that the “working class” (whoever that might be today) are the only ones who can make revolutionary change, wasn’t Nietzsche an influence on the fascists, and an individualist who championed the right of the strong to rule over the weak? And doesn’t Nietzsche himself repeatedly denounce the anarchist movement of his day, calling them “dogs” and accusing them of ressentiment?

Without consulting Nietzsche’s works themselves in an attempt to “prove” or “disprove” whether he is compatible with anarchism or not, I believe that a more fruitful way to approach this proposed conjunction is to look at the historical record of how left-wing anarchists have approached Nietzsche. The surprising answer is that many of them quite liked him, including the “classical anarchists”; in fact, some of them even used his ideas to justify anarchist beliefs about class struggle.

The list is not limited to culturally-oriented anarchists such as Emma Goldman, who gave dozens of lectures about Nietzsche and baptized him as an honorary anarchist. Pro-Nietzschean anarchists also include prominent Spanish CNT–FAI members in the 1930s such as Salvador Seguí and anarcha-feminist Federica Montseny; anarcho-syndicalist militants like Rudolf Rocker; and even the younger Murray Bookchin, who cited Nietzsche’s conception of the “transvaluation of values” in support of the Spanish anarchist project.

There were many things that drew anarchists to Nietzsche: his hatred of the state; his disgust for the mindless social behavior of “herds”; his (almost pathological) anti-Christianity; his distrust of the effect of both the market and the State on cultural production; his desire for an “overman” — that is, for a new human who was to be neither master nor slave; his praise of the ecstatic and creative self, with the artist as his prototype, who could say, “Yes” to the self-creation of a new world on the basis of nothing; and his forwarding of the “transvaluation of values” as source of change, as opposed to a Marxist conception of class struggle and the dialectic of a linear history.

Continue reading ‘Spencer Sunshine: “Nietzsche and the Anarchists” (2005)’