Just Released: The Emergence of the New Anarchism

1 post / 0 new
Joined: 1-07-08
May 10 2009 16:34
Just Released: The Emergence of the New Anarchism

This is the second volume of what is now projected to be a three volume anthology of anarchist writings from ancient China to the present day. Volume 1, subtitled From Anarchy to Anarchism (300CE-1939), begins with a Chinese Daoist text, “Neither Lord Nor Subject,” from around 300 CE, and concludes with the positive accomplishments and defeat of the Spanish anarchists in the Spanish Revolution and Civil War (1936-1939). That defeat has sometimes been portrayed as the end of anarchism both as a living body of thought and as a movement. What I hope to show in this second volume, which covers the period roughly from 1939 to 1977, is the falsity of such a portrayal. Even before the remarkable resurgence of anarchistic movements and ideas during the 1960s, anarchism had begun to move in new and exciting directions, albeit without the mass base of support it had enjoyed previously in such varied places and times as France during its revolutionary upheavals in 1789, 1848 and 1871, in the development of revolutionary working class movements in Europe and Latin America, in liberation movements in Japan, Korea and China, and in the Russian Revolution and civil war, particularly in Ukraine.
When the Second World War began in 1939, the world’s various anarchist movements were in eclipse, suppressed by Fascist, Communist, military and other government forces (Selections 2, 3 & 5). Even in those countries where a modicum of freedom of expression was tolerated, wartime censorship and persecution of anarchists for their anti-militarist activities made it difficult for anarchists to communicate and to organize. Nevertheless, anarchists in England and North America were able to continue publishing, and in the process began a transformation in anarchist ideas that has continued to the present day. In England, people like Herbert Read (Selections 1, 19 & 36), Marie Louise Berneri (Selections 4, 15 & 75), Alex Comfort (Selections 12 & 20), Ethel Mannin (Selection 14), and George Woodcock (Selection 69) wrote not only on more typical anarchist themes such as anti-militarism, war resistance, the State and revolution, but also about spontaneity, creativity, art, freedom of expression, technology, sexuality, utopia and personal liberation, themes that were again to come to the fore in the 1960s. In North America, Paul Goodman (Selections 17 & 37) and Dwight Macdonald (Selection 13) pursued similar lines of enquiry, arguing against hierarchical organization, mass society, consumer culture and technological domination. In Israel, Martin Buber, Gustav Landauer’s friend and literary executor, sought to revive the “utopian” tradition in socialist thought exemplified by Landauer, Fourier, Proudhon and Kropotkin (Selection 16).
In Europe anarchists opposed both Fascism and Stalinist Communism, with predictable results. Many perished in concentration camps, others were imprisoned or died fighting in France, Italy, Spain and later in Eastern Europe, particularly in Bulgaria (Selection 7). As the Second World War came to a close, the anarchists sought to regroup but were relatively isolated as a result of their refusal to support either post-war imperialist power bloc, following Marie Louise Berneri’s dictum, “Neither East Nor West!” (Selections 6, 8 & 10). In Asia, the pre-war anarchist movements in Japan, China and Korea (Selection 9) never really recovered, but in India Gandhi’s movement for nonviolent revolution was continued by people like Vinoba Bhave and Jayaprakash Narayan (Selection 32), who advocated decentralized, relatively self-sufficient, egalitarian village communities based on human-scale technology, a vision similar to the communitarian anarchism of Kropotkin, Landauer, the “pure anarchists” of pre-war Japan and post-war anarchists like Paul Goodman.
Anarchism enjoyed a resurgence in the arts, with surrealists such as André Breton (Selection 23) and the Automatistes in Quebec (Selection 22) coming out in favour of “resplendent anarchy.” In New York, Julian Beck, Judith Malina and the Living Theatre (Selection 24) pioneered new approaches to performance art, seeking to break down the barriers between artist, performer and audience in a manner consonant with anarchist ideals. Anarchists emphasized the need and value of living anarchistically in an authoritarian world, giving rise to communalist experiments and projects that sought to transform both the individual participants and the larger societies in which they lived. A decade before small-scale communes became popular among disaffected youth in the 1960s, David Dellinger (Selection 40) was writing about them in the anarchist paper, Resistance, edited by David Thoreau Wieck, which sought to expand the various spheres of freedom in existing society as part of a broader project of social transformation (Selection 39).
These new developments in anarchist theory and practice were not welcomed by all anarchists. Some anarchists, such as the Impulso group in Italy, continued to look to the working class as the agent of revolutionary change and denounced anarchist advocates of personal liberation and cultural change as “pseudo-revolutionaries” (Selection 38). Whether advocates of revolutionary class struggle or more piecemeal social change, anarchists opposed post-war European colonialism (Selections 28, 29 & 31) and sought to turn opposition to war, conscription and nuclear weapons into opposition to capitalism and the nation-state through direct action and mass disobedience (Selections 30, 31, 33 & 34). Echoing Bakunin’s critique a century earlier, Alex Comfort exposed the relationship between authoritarian power structures and criminality (Selection 26) and Geoffrey Ostergaard discussed the rise to power of the middle class intellectuals through the process of “managerial revolution” (Selection 27). This critique of the “new class” and their role in the rise of the “techno-bureaucracy” was to be considerably expanded in the subsequent analyses of Louis Mercier Vega (Selection 66), Nico Berti (Selection 67) and Noam Chomsky (Selection 68).
Herbert Read continued to advocate libertarian education through art (Selection 36), and Holley Cantine discussed the perversion of art and play in capitalist societies (Selection 21). The anarchist architect, Giancarlo de Carlo, emphasized the necessary role of the people themselves in rebuilding and designing their communities, and the uses of such direct action tactics as squatting and rent strikes in obtaining affordable housing (Selection 18).
To the surprise of many, including some anarchists, these various currents in anarchist thought resurfaced in the 1960s, when various movements, from the anti-war movements, to the student movements, the nascent ecology movement and movements for sexual, female, black and gay liberation, began to coalesce into new, broad based movements for social change that challenged the very basis of contemporary society. Murray Bookchin, drawing on the work of Herbert Read, argued for the necessary connection between anarchy and ecology (Selection 48). The Provos in Holland challenged the complacency, consumerism and regimentation of modern society using creative forms of direct action, such as placing free white bicycles around Amsterdam to undermine automobile culture (Selection 50). Daniel Guérin (Selection 49), Jacobo Prince (Selection 52), Diego Abad de Santillan (Selection 53), Nicolas Walter (Selection 54) and Noam Chomsky (Selection 55) brought to the attention of a new generation the positive accomplishments and living legacy of the historic anarchist movement. Some members of that new generation, such as the Cohn-Bendit brothers in France, translated these ideas into action during the May-June 1968 events in France, when a series of student strikes and workplace occupations almost brought down the government (Selection 51).
The May-June 1968 events in France revived interest in workers’ self-management, or “autogestion,” which Guérin traced back to Proudhon (Selection 49), and which various anarchists, particularly anarcho-syndicalists, had continued to advocate, some favouring factory councils or committees (Selection 59), others a combination of industrial, trade union, communal and regional organization (Selections 58, 60 & 61). Both Murray Bookchin (Selection 62) and Colin Ward (Selection 63) have sought to go beyond these “forms of freedom,” to embrace more expansive concepts of nonhierarchical community in which each person, regardless of his or her specific role (or lack thereof) in the production process, exercises effective control over his or her daily life.
The role of the state in the rise of hierarchical society and in the decline of communal self-regulation and mutual aid are considered by the anthropologist, Pierre Clastres (Selection 64), and by Michael Taylor (Selection 65). George Benello describes the “wasteland culture” that arises from our technological and organizational imperatives (Selection 44). George Woodcock discusses the role of the technology of time-keeping in the regimentation of society (Selection 69), and Paul Feyerabend launches a whole-scale attack on scientific reason and the hegemony of science in modern societies (Selection 71). Paul Goodman (Selection 70) and Ivan Illich (Selection 73) develop some criteria for evaluating technology, and Murray Bookchin sets forth his concept of “eco-technology,” or “libertarian technics,” in the context of his vision of an ecological society (Selection 74).
Volume 2 ends with a chapter on sexual and social revolution, beginning with Marie Louise Berneri’s early analysis of Wilhelm Reich (Selection 75), whose ideas were extended by Daniel Guérin in his writings on gay liberation (Selection 76). Guérin sees social and sexual liberation as necessary to each other and as part of a broader process of liberatory social transformation. Paul Goodman discusses the “politics of being queer” (Selection 77), while Penny Kornegger (Selection 78) and Carol Ehrlich (Selection 79) connect the anarchist critique of domination to feminist critiques of male domination and heterosexuality.
Each chapter ends with a brief note relating the material in Volume 2 to the material that will be included in Volume 3 of this anthology, which will cover the period from 1974 to the present day.
Although I have striven to include in this anthology material going beyond the standard scope of other anthologies of anarchist writings, my focus has been on the origin and development of anarchist ideas. This anthology was never intended to be a documentary history of the various anarchist movements around the world, an altogether different and gargantuan project. Anarchists have participated in and written about many events that are not specifically addressed in this anthology, but I hope that the ideas conveyed in the selections that I have included also convey the richness and diversity of anarchist thought, and suggest how anarchists would respond to any number of topics and issues.
Since the publication of Volume 1 in 2005, I have set up a web blog to provide additional commentary and selections that have not been included in the published volumes: Readers are invited to contact me there with any comments or suggestions that they may have.