Perspectives on Anarchist Theory

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Vol. 6 - No. 1
Spring, 2002


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What's Happening: Books & Events
By Chuck Morse

The Battle After Seattle: Politics
There is a growing body of literature documenting and analyzing the most militant, anti-authoritarian tendencies in the movement against global capital. This literature reflects the increasing political importance of today’s revolutionary movement and provides invaluable resources for anarchists seeking to deepen and clarify its vision. The Battle of Seattle: Debating Capitalist Globalization and the WTO is one useful work (Soft Skull Press, 2002, 400 pages). This anthology, edited by Eddie Yuen, George Katsiaficas, and Daniel Burton Rose, places recent anti-capitalist protests in a broader historical context that includes things such as resistance to the IMF and neo-liberalism in Venezuela, Korea, and Chiapas, the mass organizing campaigns of the nuclear-freeze movement in the 1980s, and the innovative direct action tactics of environmentalists in the US. The book combines street-level reporting with inquiries into questions such as: how can a movement that claims to be global root itself in local communities? What happens to non-violent tactics in an environment of increasingly ruthless policing? Can NGOs be agents of social transformation or are they only a mirror of the dominant society within the movement? How can a predominantly white activist scene in the US and Europe form respectful ties with activists of color? Does trashing Starbucks damage capitalism itself? Another valuable contribution can be found in
On Fire: The Battle of Genoa and the Anti-capitalist Movement (various authors, One-Off Press, 2002, 143 pages). This book contains reports and analyses from the most militant elements of the anti-G8 demonstrations in Genoa in July 2001.  It examines these protests to encourage the theoretical and political growth of the anti-globalization movement’s most confrontational wing. Spanish readers should pick up Globalización Capitalista: Luchas y resistencias  (Trans: Capitalist Globalization: Struggles and Resistances) by F. Durán, M. Etxezarreta and M. Sáez (Editorial Virus, 2001, 240 pages). This book is a analysis of the acceleration of capitalist globalization, its social and economic costs, the present situation of the anti-globalization movement, and its possibilities for the future. Those who need a break from reading should check out a new film from the Cascadia Media Collective: A Year in the Streets: WTO Seattle to the Bush Inauguration. This film criss-crosses the U.S. to provide a street-level view of the clash between radical activists and the state. It covers the anti-WTO protests in Seattle, protests against the IMF/World Bank in Washington D.C., demonstrations at the Democratic National Convention in Los Angeles, and many others.  

And Theory
Two forthcoming books attempt to explicate some of theoretical premises of a contemporary revolutionary perspective. John Holloway’s Change the World Without Taking Power: The Meaning of Revolution Today takes its point of departure from the failure of state-centered revolutionary movements and the emergence of revolutionary movements that do not aim to take power (such as the Zapatistas, the anti-globalization movement, and others). He asks: how we can reformulate our understanding of revolution as the struggle against - not for - power? Holloway tries to answer this question with an inquiry that draws on “Western Marxist” thinkers such as Adorno, Bloch, and Lukacs and Marx’s concept of "fetishization" (Pluto Press, March 2002, 240 pages). Another theoretical work with roots in the anti-globalization movement is The Anti-Capitalism Reader (Akashic Books, June 2002). This anthology, edited by Joel Schalit, contains writings on the theory, practice, and history of anti-capitalist politics from activists and scholars in the movement. Among the topics explored are the presence of anti-capitalist movements in everyday life, the history of anti-capitalism, strategies of anti-capitalist resistance, regionalism and anti-capitalism, and anti-capitalism and intellectual property. It also includes a brief selection of some of the most historically important criticisms of the free market from theorists such as Marx, Gramsci, and other Marxist, anarchist, and Situationist thinkers. 

Chomsky
No one has greater stature in today’s radical movements than Noam Chomsky. Understanding Power: The Indispensable Chomsky (edited by Peter Mitchell and John Schoeffel) assembles many of Chomsky's recent talks on the past, present, and future of the politics of power (published here for the first time). Chomsky covers topics from foreign policy the during Vietnam War to the decline of welfare under the Clinton administration. And, as he explores the connection between America's imperialistic foreign policy and the decline of domestic social services, he tries to discern the necessary steps toward social transformation (New Press, 2002, 432 pages). Jeremy Fox’s Chomsky and Globalisation provides a summary of Chomsky's recently published views on globalization and the “New World Order” (Totem Books, 2001, 80 pages).

The Return of the Repressed
Although we will never recreate the anarchist movement of yesteryear, we must certainly learn its lessons to build a new one. Fortunately, many of these lessons are being documented with greater and greater thoroughness. David Berry’s The History of the French Anarchist Movement, 1917-1945 is the first full-length English-language history of France’s interwar anarchist movement (Greenwood Publishing, April  2002, 296 pages). This book analyzes the anarchists' responses to the Russian and Spanish revolutions and the creation of the international communist movement. It details the dilemmas facing anarchism at a crucial moment in the movement's history, characterized by serious questioning of "traditional" anarchist theory and practice. During this key era, leading militants within the movement sought to clarify anarchist theory regarding the nature of 20th-century revolutions, to challenge the rejection of organization, and to integrate anarchism more fully into the broader socialist and trade union movements. The anarchists were capable of organizing large and efficient campaigns and their analyses of developments on the left and in the trade union movement were often more prescient than those of the socialists and communists. Barry takes seriously the anarchists' attempts to come to terms with the challenges of revolution and to respond positively to them in a distinctly libertarian socialist way. Ultimately, they were only partially successful in such efforts, and this accounts in large part for the failure of the movement. 

The sexual radicalism of the older anarchist movement has often been noted but rarely explored in its complexity. This will be corrected to some extent by Xavier Díez’s Catalan-language Utopia Sexual a la Premsa Anarquista de Catalunya (trans. Sexual Utopia in the Catalonian Anarchist Press, Pagès editors, 2001, 191 pages). This book focuses on the periodical Etica-Iniciales (1927-1937) to explore the anarchist attempt to construct a new morality that held sexual liberty as its premise.

Salvador Puig Antich

Anti-fa
Anarchist participation in anti-fascist resistance has been poorly documented, although fortunately some of this rich history is now being told. German readers should check out Anarchisten gegen Hitler: Anarchisten, Anarcho-Syndikalisten, Rätekommunisten in Widerstand und Exil (trans: Anarchists Against Hitler: Anarchists, Anarcho-syndicalists, and Council Communists in the Resistance and in Exile). This anthology, edited by Andreas Graf, seeks to rectify the omission of anarchists from historical accounts of workers' resistance groups and activities during the Nazi period. It focuses on anti-Nazi resistance in Germany, France, Italy, and Spain, and avoids either glorifying or omitting anarchists by studying the roles anarchists actually played in the resistance (Lukas Verlag für kunst-und Geistesgeschichte, 2001, 317 pages). Spanish readers should pick up Cuenta Atrás. La Historia de Salvador Puig Antich by Francesc Escribano (trans: The Store Behind: The History of Salvador Puig Antich). This book tells the story of a young Catalan anarchist militant executed by the Spanish state for fighting Franco’s fascist regime (Península, 2001, 204 pages)

Ann Hansen

Just Yesterday
The recent history of the anarchist movement is only beginning to be documented. Ann Hansen’s Direct Action: Memoirs of an Urban Guerrilla (AK Press, 2002, 490 pages) narrates the story of a pivotal moment in the movement in the early 1980’s. Hansen was a member of Direct Action, a Canadian anarchist urban guerrilla group, that was responsible for a campaign of dramatic actions culminating in the bombing of the Litton Systems Hydroelectric plant in Toronto and three pornographic video stores. Hansen served seven years in prison and now tells her story for the first time. The book contains a probing analysis of the political context during those years that will doubtlessly resonate with those lived through the events as well as those who did not. Also of interest is a new 140-minute double CD from AK Press: Mob Action Against the State: Collected Speeches from the Bay Area Anarchist Bookfair (July 2002). The CD includes speeches from Barry Pateman (Kate Sharpley Library/Emma Goldman Papers Project), Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Jello Biafra, Christian Parenti, Ruthie Gilmore, and others.

More Books
The New Formulation: An Anti-Authoritarian Review of Books is a new biannual journal featuring comparative book reviews from an anarchist perspective. Its goal is to “help clarify the distinctness of an anarchist approach to social affairs, to provide a forum for the integration of new works and insights into the anarchist project, and to give authors struggling to redefine the tradition a setting in which to share their research and reflections”. The first 46-page issue contains reviews of works on the prison industrial complex, prison life generally, the anti-globalization movement, and the Black Panther Party. It also contains a statement against the war. Annual subscriptions to the journal, which is edited by the author of the article you are presently reading, are $7 in the U.S. and $10 elsewhere (payable to Charles Morse). Write to The New Formulation, 2620 Second Avenue, #4B, San Diego, CA, 92103 - U.S.A.. The full text of the first issue can be found online at: http://flag.blackened.net/nf/index.htm

La Ciudad de México
The Institute for Social Ecology is sponsoring a special Mexico City Study Tour from May 19th to May 27th. This program will use classroom lectures and participatory tours throughout the city to explore the evolution of Mexico City’s social structures and the opposition movements that have challenged them. Special emphasis will be placed on the contributions and dilemmas of anti-authoritarian activists in the city’s history. More information is available here: http://www.social-ecology.org/programs/winter/mexico.html and from the ISE at 1118 Maple Hill Road, Plainfield, VT, 05667, USA. Tel/Fax.: 1 (802) 454-8493

Mexico City’s Biblioteca Social Reconstruir is suffering a grave financial crisis and needs the support of sympathizers around the world to continue their work. Please send a donation to:  Biblioteca Social Resconstruir, A.P. 9090, C.P. 06002, Mexico 1 D.F. (make checks payable to Martha Cecilia Garcia Juarez). More information about the library can be found here: http://www.libertad.org.mx/   


Perspectives on Anarchist Theory - Vol. 6, No. 1 - Spring 2002