Perspectives on Anarchist Theory

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Vol. 3 - No. 2
Fall, 1999

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What's Happening: Books & Events

Noam Chomsky has exposed international politics and exposed the hypocrisy of ruling elites for decades and fortunately his efforts show no signs of slowing. In his latest release, The New Military Humanism: Lessons from Kosovo (Common Courage Press, September 1999), Chomsky blasts NATO countries for responding to the Serbian atrocities while ignoring ethnic cleansings in other countries and warns about a new colonialism cloaked in moralistic righteousness.

Luce Fabbri

Those looking for an introduction to Chomsky’s views or simply an anti-authoritarian analysis of contemporary political issues will want to read The Struggle for Democracy: Political Writings of Noam Chomsky edited by Mark Pavlick (400 pages, Common Courage Press, January 1999).  This book contains many of Chomsky’s classic yet hard to find essays as well as some of his more recent writings (including his interviews with Michel Foucault and William Buckley).  With essays on human nature, human rights, Indochina, the responsibility of intellectuals, and other subjects, this anthology will provide an overview of Chomsky’s political ideas. For philosophical essays in the anarchist tradition as well as biographical sketches, Spanish readers will want to explore La Libertad entre la Historia y la Utopia: Tres Ensayos y Otros Textos del Siglo XX by Luce Fabbri (145 pages, REA, December 1998, trans: Freedom in History and Utopia; Three Essays and Other Texts of the 20th Century). Fabbri, a life-long anarchist, theorist, and central figure of the Uruguayan anarchist community, offers essays on fascism, international politics, the idea of utopia, as well as biographical pieces on her father Luigi Fabbri, Simón Radowitzky, and other important figures of twentieth century anarchism.  

Erich Mühsam

Several new works explore the aesthetic dimension of radical politics. Revolutionary Romanticism: A Drunken Boat Anthology (260 pages, City Lights Books, July 1999), edited by Max Blechman, draws on two centuries of the intertwined traditions of cultural and political subversion. The anthology attempts to recapture and transvalue the transgressions of the past for the benefit of contemporary struggles. It contains essays on William Blake, William Morris, Erich Mühsam, Walter Benjamin, Guy Debord, and others. The life and work of Herbert Read, a poet, novelist, art critic, and ‘philosophical anarchist’ are treated in Herbert Read Reassessed edited by David Goodway (334 pages, Liverpool University Press, 1998). This anthology treats topics such as Read and World War I, Read’s organic aesthetic, Read and design, and his use of Freud. An overview of Read’s life is presented in the introduction and a bibliography of his work is also included. German readers will want to pick up Pinsel und Dolch. Anarchistische Ideen in Kunst und Kunsttheorie 1840-1920 by Dieter Scholz (477 pages, Reimer, 1999) (Trans: Paintbrush and Dagger: Anarchist Ideas in Art and Art Theory 1840-1920) Primary documents from the radical feminist movement will be easier to examine thanks to the publication of Radical Feminism: An Historical Reader edited by Barbara Crow (480 pages, NYU Press, November 1999). Cover of magazine from the Redstockings This book contains pivotal documents written by U.S. radical feminists in the 1960s and 1970s and combines both unpublished and previously published manifestos, position papers, meeting minutes, and newsletters essential to the development of radical feminism during this time. The collection is organized around the issues of sex and sexuality, race, children, lesbianism, separatism, and class. It includes original work by groups such as The Furies, Redstockings, Cell 16, and the Women’s Liberation Movement. For the direct testimony of earlier generation of radical women, Spanish readers will want to consult Mujeres Libres, Luchadoras Libertarias (191 pages, Fundacion Anselmo Lorenzo, 1999). This book contains commentary from 13 members of the Mujeres Libres, an anarcha-feminist organization active during the Spanish Civil War, on themes such as culture, work, and socialization.

Several new books offer important contributions to the comprehensive history of anarchism.  The Encyclopedia of Political Anarchy edited by Kathlyn and Martin Gay (300 pages, ABC-Clio, August 1999) examines the ancient roots of the movement, spotlights key individuals, and explores important groups, organizations, events, legal cases, and theories. It is the first English language encyclopedia on anarchism. Facing the Enemy: A History of Anarchist Organization from Proudhon to May 68 by Alexandre Skirda (299 pages, AK Press, October 1999) traces the history of anarchism as a political movement and ideology across the 19th and 20th centuries, offering biting and incisive portraits of the major thinkers and organizers as well as their opposition. (French readers may wish to pick up the reprint of Skirda’s Nestor Makhno, Le Cosaque Libertaire and la Guerre Civile en Ukraine, 1917-1921 (491 pages, Essais et Documents, 1999).)

A full treatment of anarchist history would be seriously incomplete without an examination of the struggles, successes, and failures of Spanish anarchists from 1936 to 1939.  Poster of the CNT-FAI Research on anarchism during this period will be greatly enhanced by the publication of Robert Alexander’s two volume Anarchists in the Spanish Civil War. (Vol 1: 720 pages, Vol. 2: 768 pages, Janus Publishing Company, 1999). This voluminous book analyses the part played by the anarchists during the Civil War and their unique social and economic experiments behind the lines. Alexander casts fresh light into many areas, notably the anarchist’s defense of Madrid and also life in the worker-controlled rural and urban collectives. The book is substantiated throughout and contains interviews with anarchists from the period. Researchers will also be happy to know that Abel Paz’s massive biography of Durruti has been transformed into a 55 minute video by Paco Ríos (Fundación de Estudios Libertarios Anselmo Lorenzo). Another contribution can be found in a new pamphlet from the Kate Sharpley Library entitled Umberto Marzocchi: Remembering Spain, Italian Anarchist Volunteers in the Spanish Civil War (28 pages, Kate Sharpley Library, 1999).

Two new works will help fill the gaps in the literature on anarchism outside of Europe and the United States. The first book length treatment of Cuban anarchism will be published this fall. Cuban Anarchism: The History of a Movement (128 pages, See Sharp Press, October 1999, trans. Chaz Bufe) by Frank Fernandez of the Movimiento Libertario Cubano covers the period from the 1850s to the present and concludes with an essay on Cuba’s possible future. El Expreso: Un Intento de acercamiento a la Federación Anarquista del Centro de la Republica Mexicana (1936-1944) by Chantal López and Omar Cortés (80 pages, Ediciones Antorcha, 1999) is a Spanish language book-length pamphlet analyzing the history of this organization, containing both commentary as well as many appendices.

The history of American labor radicalism will become a little broader thanks to Howard Kimeldorf’s Syndicalism, Pure, and Simple: Wobblies, Craft Unionists, and the Battle for American Labor (University of California Press, 275 pages, December 1999). Kimeldorf looks at how organized labor in the United States has both mounted some of the most aggressive challenges to employing classes anywhere in the world yet also warmly embraced the capitalist system of which they are a part. Rejecting conventional understandings of American unionism, Kimeldorf argues that there has been distinctive reliance on worker self-organization and direct economic action among American labor and that this can be seen as a particular kind of syndicalism. He brings this syndicalism to life through two case studies of unionization efforts by Philadelphia longshoremen and New York City culinary workers during the opening decades of the twentieth century. He shows how these workers, initially affiliated with the radical IWW and later the conservative AFL, pursued a common logic of collective action at the point of production that largely dictated their choice of unions.

Anyone with an interest in cities and a commitment to direct action will welcome the following books. No Trespassing! Squatting, Rent Strikes, and Land Struggles Worldwide by Anders Corr (256 pages, South End Press, October 1999) is an international study on how people have taken over vacant buildings and unused land. Corr presents a study of fired banana plantation workers in Honduras, whose homes, churches, and schools were bulldozed by Chiquita Brands International, and how they forced the Cincinnati-based multi-national to allot alternate land, rebuild homes and infrastructure, and provide for new self-managed business collectives. He also sketches a vivid portrait of the San Francisco squatting organization Homes Not Jails, taking readers along as activists open vacant buildings and house dozens of homeless people every night. Armando Perez, a New York community activist who was recently murdered. The book is addressed not only to activists and academics interested in a global perspective on land and housing, but anyone searching for strategies of social change and sources of popular revolt. Also worthy of note is Avant Gardening: Ecological Struggle In The City & The World edited by Bill Weinberg and Peter Lamborn Wilson (169 pages, Autonomedia, June, 1999). This anthology contains writings about the cultural, social and political aspects of ecology, with particular emphasis on the ecological struggles currently taking place in New York City. There are essays on community gardening as well as other aspects of a reconstructive and oppositional urban strategy. Visitors as well as residents of New York now have a good opportunity to explore the history of opposition in New York thanks to the release of Bruce Kayton’s Radical Walking Tours of New York City (206 pages, Seven Stories Press, 1999). This book is both a tour guide and a social history, containing information about specific social struggles (such as the battle for Tompkins Square Park) as well as individuals and organizations that have nourished radical movements in New York throughout its history.

Anarchist booklovers will want to attend the Fifth Annual Bay Area Anarchist Book Fair to be held in the Hall of Flowers in Golden Gate Park on April 15, 2000. There will be speakers, entertainment, and many, many books. For more information contact Bound Together Books at 1369 Haight Street, San Francisco, CA 94117.

Readers of Italian should welcome the appearance of Libertaria, a quarterly magazine devoted to the discussion of left libertarian culture and politics scheduled to appear for the first time this October. Libertaria will contain original and contemporary research in philosophy, politics, science, music, art and literature in order to nourish anarchist solutions to the problems posed by the final decline of authoritarian communism and the emergence of a new hegemonic global capitalism. It will contain leading editorial articles, research and interviews, in-depth analysis of alternative culture, articles and news appearing in the international libertarian press, as well as reports on art, cinema, theatre, music and literature. Please write the editorial office at Libertaria, casella postale 10667, 20110 Milano, Italy or e-mail. For subscriptions, please write to Editrice A, sezione Libertaria, casella postale 9017, 00167 Roma, Italy.

IAS allies should consider submitting their work to two publications in particular. Democracy & Nature: the International Journal of Inclusive Democracy (D&N) would like to encourage IAS grant recipients, applicants, and supporters to consider writing for their tri-annual publication. The journal provides sharp, sophisticated coverage of democratic and green ideas, publishing contributions by radical thinkers from around the globe. In hopes of facilitating dialogue, D&N offers a forum for the discussion of inclusive democracy (derived from a synthesis of two major historical traditions—the classical democratic and the socialist—as well as radical green, feminist, indigenous, and Third World movements) and other radical views. As a focus point for debate, a theme is employed in each issue. Although articles whose subject matter is not directly relevant to a theme may also be accepted, priority is given to “thematic” essays. The upcoming issues are: Postmodernism and the Democratic Project (submissions by 11/30/99); and Democracy and Ethics (submissions by 3/31/00). Additionally, D&N’s book review section features critiques of works that add to contemporary currents of thought. Reviews do not have to relate to the theme of each issue. For general information on the journal and how to submit a manuscript, see D&N’s Home Page. Manuscripts should be sent (preferably by e-mail) to the editor, Takis Fotopoulos (20 Woodberry Way, London, N12 0HG, U.K.; FAX: +44 0 181 446 1633; E-mail. Social Anarchism, a refereed journal of anarchist commentary and analysis now in its 19th year, would also like to encourage IAS supported writers and allies to submit articles. They are especially interested in analyses of popular culture and everyday events from an anarchist perspective, although they also welcome pieces on other issues. The fall issue will contain an index of the journal spanning the entire history of the publication and they are also searching for a new editor. For more information contact Social Anarchism at 2743 Maryland Avenue, Baltimore, MD 21218.


Contacts & Addresses:

AK Press
P.O. Box 40682
San Francisco, CA
94140 – USA

City Lights
261 Columbus Avenue
San Francisco, CA 94133

Common Courage Press 
P.O. Box 702
Monroe, ME  04951

Ediciones Antorcha
Av. Cuauhtémoc 1177
Col. Letrán Valle
Delegación Benito Juárez
03650 – México, D.F.

Fundación “Anselmo Lorenzo”
Paseo de Alberto Palacios, 2,
28021 Madrid, Spain

Kate Sharpley Library
BM Hurricane
London, WC1N 3XX

See Sharp Press
P.O. Box 1731
Tucson, AZ 85702
Phone: (520) 628-8720

Seven Stories Press
140 Watts Street
New York, NY 10013
(212) 226-8760
(212) 226-1411 (fax)