Monday Anarchist Bloggy

Cool. A new (April 2008) blog by anarchist historian Robert Graham.

Robert Graham’s Anarchism Weblog | Anarchism: A Documentary History of Libertarian Ideas “is intended to provide additional commentary and selections to accompany my anthology of anarchist writings, Anarchism: A Documentary History of Libertarian Ideas. Volume 1, subtitled From Anarchy to Anarchism (300CE-1939), was published in 2005 by Black Rose Books. Volume 2, tentatively subtitled The Anarchist Current (1939-2007), should be out sometime in 2008. It’s possible that Volume 2 will be split into two volumes, Between Apocalypse and Utopia and The Anarchist Current, with Volume 2 covering the period from the beginning of the Second World War to the 1970s, and Volume 3 going from there to the present day.”

Kick arse.

For those of you who came in late, anarchism wasn’t borne out of the overflowing brains of Proudhon, Bakunin, Stirner, Kropotkin or Makhno; nor is it bourgeois grrls (like Goldman) gone wild, or a recipe for making bombs.

Preface to Anarchism: A Documentary History of Libertarian Ideas, Volume One: From Anarchy to Anarchism (300CE-1939)

Anarchy, a society without government, has existed since time immemorial. Anarchism, the doctrine that such a society is desirable, is a much more recent development.

For tens of thousands of years, human beings lived in societies without any formal political institutions or constituted authority. About 6,000 years ago, around the time of the so-called dawn of civilization, the first societies with formal structures of hierarchy, command, control and obedience began to develop. At first, these hierarchical societies were relatively rare and isolated primarily to what is now Asia and the Middle East. Slowly they increased in size and influence, encroaching upon, sometimes conquering and enslaving, the surrounding anarchic tribal societies in which most humans continued to live. Sometimes independently, sometimes in response to pressures from without, other tribal societies also developed hierarchical forms of social and political organization. Still, before the era of European colonization, much of the world remained essentially anarchic, with people in various parts of the world continuing to live without formal institutions of government well into the 19th century. It was only in the 20th century that the globe was definitively divided up between competing nation states which now claim sovereignty over virtually the entire planet…

It was only after hierarchical societies arose that people within them began to conceive of anarchy as a positive alternative. Some, such as the early Daoist philosophers in China, looked back to an age without government, when people lived in peace with themselves and the world. Various Christian sects looked forward to the second coming, when the egalitarian brotherly love of Christ and his disciples would triumph over evil. Rationalists, such as Zeno, the founder of Stoicism in ancient Greece, and later Renaissance and Enlightenment thinkers, envisaged a new era of enlightenment, when reason would replace coercion as the guiding force in human affairs.

Although none of these early advocates of anarchy described themselves as anarchists, what they all share is opposition to coercive authority and hierarchical relationships based on power, wealth or privilege. In contrast to other radicals, they also reject any authoritarian or privileged role for themselves in the struggle against authority and in the creation of a free society.

We find similar attitudes among some of the revolutionaries in the modern era. During the French Revolution, the enragés and the radical egalitarians opposed revolutionary dictatorship and government as a contradiction in terms, and sought to abolish all hierarchical distinctions, including that between the governed and the governors.

But it was not until around the time of the 1848 Revolutions in Europe that anarchism began to emerge as a distinct doctrine. It was Pierre-Joseph Proudhon in France who was the first to describe himself as an anarchist in 1840. Anarchist ideas soon spread to Germany, Spain and Italy. Following the failure of the 1848 Revolutions some expatriates, disillusioned by politics, adopted an anarchist position.

As the political reaction in Europe began to ebb in the 1860s, anarchist ideas re-emerged, ultimately leading to the creation of an avowedly anarchist movement from out of the anti-authoritarian sections of the socialist First International. The Paris Commune, despite being drowned in blood, gave renewed inspiration to the anarchists and helped persuade many of them to adopt an anarchist communist position. The anarchist communists championed the Commune, but insisted that within the revolutionary commune there should be no ruling authority and no private property, but rather free federation and distribution according to need.

Although anarchist communism was perhaps the most influential anarchist doctrine, soon spreading throughout Europe, Latin America and later Asia, the First International had bequeathed to the anarchist movement another doctrine of comparable significance, anarcho-syndicalism, a combination of anarchism and revolutionary trade unionism based on direct action and anti-parliamentarianism.

Of lesser significance were anarchist collectivism, where distribution of wealth was to be based on labour, and individualist anarchism, which for the most part was but a footnote to Max Stirner.

At the beginning of the 20th century, a new era of revolutions began, first in Mexico, then in Russia, culminating, at least for the anarchists, in Spain. At the same time, anarchists had to deal with a devastating war in Europe and the rise of totalitarianism.

Anarchist ideas spread throughout Latin America, China, and Japan and Korea. I was fortunate to obtain for this volume translations of considerable material from these areas and from Europe that has never before appeared in English. I have also included several translations from now out of print sources that would otherwise be unavailable. Generally, I have organized the selections chronologically, but with a specific theme for each chapter, to try to convey the scope of anarchist ideas, as well as their historical development.

This is the first of a two volume documentary history of anarchist ideas. The final chapter of this volume, with selections from Emma Goldman, Herbert Read and Errico Malatesta, constitutes both an epilogue to volume one, and a prologue to volume two, which will cover the period from 1939 to the present day. I regard all three as important figures in the transition from “classical anarchism,” covering the period from Proudhon to the Spanish Revolution, to modern anarchism as it developed after the Second World War.

A review of the material in this volume alone demonstrates how remarkable was the breadth and depth of anarchist thinking for its time. Anarchists and their precursors, such as Fourier, were among the first to criticize the combined effects of the organization of work, the division of labour and technological innovation under capitalism. Anarchists recognized the importance of education as both a means of social control and as a potential means of liberation. They had important things to say about art and free expression, law and morality. They championed sexual freedom but also criticized the commodification of sex under capitalism. They were critical of all hierarchical relationships, whether between father and children, husband and wife, teacher and student, professionals and workers, or leaders and led, throughout society and even within their own organizations. They emphasized the importance of maintaining consistency between means and ends, and in acting in accordance with their ideals now, in the process of transforming society, not in the distant future. They opposed war and militarism in the face of widespread repression, and did not hesitate to criticize the orthodox Left for its authoritarianism and opportunism. They developed an original conception of an all-encompassing social revolution, rejecting state terrorism and seeking to reduce violence to a minimum.

And they paid dearly for it. Several of the contributors to this volume were executed, murdered or killed fighting for their ideals (Pisacane, Landauer, the Haymarket Martyrs, Ferrer, Guerrero, Kôtoku Shûsui, Ôsugi Sakae, Itô Noe, Arshinov, Isaac Puente), as were countless of their comrades. Others died in prison or prematurely as a result of imprisonment (Bakunin, Most, Wilde, Flores Magón, Makhno, Shin Chaeho). Others were the objects of attempted assassinations (Michel, de Cleyre, Malatesta). Still others died in tragic circumstances (Déjacque, Gross, Berkman). Virtually every one of them was imprisoned at various times for advocating anarchy. Anyone honestly assessing the impact of anarchist ideas, or the lack thereof, cannot fail to take this pervasive repression into account. The “competition of ideas” has never been a fair one.

Speaking of authors and historians, there’s a new edition of Peter Marshall‘s Demanding the Impossible: A History of Anarchism available. Along with George Woodcock’s (1912–1995) Anarchism: A History of Libertarian Ideas and Movements (First edition 1962; Second edition 1986), a standard text on anarchist history.

Speaking of anarchic academics, I stumbled upon a groovy-sounding thesis, ‘Australian Anarcha-punk zines: Poststructuralism in contemporary anarchist and gender politics’ by Lucy Katherine Nicholas (2005, PDF). Also:

    The smog of academic consensus
    A ‘conservative studies’ professor is exactly what calcified universities need.
    Crispin Sartwell
    The Los Angeles Times
    May 29, 2008

Like Robert, Crispin also gotta blog: eye of the storm.

While Crispin thinks a ‘conservative’ on campus may be cool, the sentencing of Briana Waters has come a cropper courtesy of Jennifer Kolar, a co-defendant turned co-operating witness.

Sentencing delayed for UW arsonist
Gene Johnson
May 30, 2008

SEATTLE — Sentencing has been indefinitely delayed for a woman convicted in an arson at the University of Washington, following new developments about evidence that was presented at her trial.

Briana Waters was convicted this year of two counts of arson for her role as a lookout in the 2001 Earth Liberation Front fire that destroyed the university’s Center for Urban Horticulture. Her sentencing was set for Monday at U.S. District Court in Tacoma, with prosecutors requesting 10 years in prison.

But that sentencing was stricken from the court calendar today after the U.S. attorney’s office learned new information about a small piece of evidence used at the trial: anarchist articles that Waters supposedly gave to Jennifer Kolar, a witness who had pleaded guilty to arson and related charges in the UW fire and then testified against Waters.

Kolar identified Waters as a participant, and while on the stand she testified that Waters had given her the anarchist articles in a folder — supposed evidence of Waters’ mind-set around the time of the fire. Kolar testified she never read the articles, and she put them in a plastic tub that she stored at her house until she turned them over to her lawyer.

Kolar’s lawyer contacted the U.S. attorney’s office on Tuesday to say her testimony was misleading: In reality, after Kolar was contacted by the FBI about the arson, she asked a friend to remove the tub from her home. Eventually the tub was returned to Kolar and her lawyer, who turned it over to investigators.

The identity of the friend was redacted in court papers, but defense lawyers identified the person as someone Kolar used as a “secret intermediary” when dealing with others in the radical environmentalist movement. That another person had custody of the documents raised questions about the integrity of the evidence.

Prosecutors called the development insignificant, and they said much more substantial evidence proved Waters’ role, but they acknowledged defense attorneys should have two or three weeks to investigate.

Waters’ lawyers told U.S. District Judge Franklin Burgess they planned to ask for a new trial. They argued in a court filing that the materials in the folder were a “centerpiece of the government’s case.”

“Had Ms. Kolar told the full story in her testimony … the defense challenge to Ms. Kolar’s general credibility would have been stronger,” they wrote. “Not only was it clear that Ms. Kolar was deceptive to the government when talking about the tub, but the fact that she had secretive communications with the third party to hide the tub, the fact that she failed to disclose these communications for years, and the fact that she had the ability to access the tub after her lawyer retrieved it would have been quite useful to show her lack of credibility on other points.”

They also asked that in light of the new developments Waters be released pending sentencing; previous requests to that effect have all been rejected.

The fire, which destroyed the plant research center, was one of at least 17 fires set from 1996 to 2001 by an Olympia and Eugene, Ore., cell of the Earth Liberation Front and the Animal Liberation Front. In all, more than a dozen people were arrested in connection with the 17-plus arsons around the West, and four remain at large. Waters was the only one of those arrested who went to trial rather than plead guilty.

Kolar was one of two convicts who testified against Waters, and rental-car records suggested Waters obtained a vehicle used in the crime.

In March, during Waters’ trial, arsonists attacked a luxury-home development northeast of Seattle, causing $7 million in damage. Those fires remain under investigation.

The university rebuilt the horticulture center at a cost of $7 million. It was targeted because the ELF activists mistakenly believed researchers there were genetically engineering poplar trees.

Water’s conviction was based on circumstantial evidence — such as that referred to above — and the testimony of two of her co-defendants, Jennifer Kolar and Lacey Phillabaum. At present, Kolar awaits sentencing for her crimes; Phillabaum is awaiting sentence on June 6. June 14 is a day of solidarity with Jeff ‘Free’ Luers, currently serving a 10-year sentence (recently reduced on appeal from 23) for torching a couple of SUVs (estimated damage: about $40K). Having been incarcerated since June 2001, all going well, Jeff could be released as early as December 2009. You can watch a documentary film about Jeff’s case, 22/8, on YouTube.

About @ndy

I live in Melbourne, Australia. I like anarchy. I don't like nazis. I enjoy eating pizza and drinking beer. I barrack for the greatest football team on Earth: Collingwood Magpies. The 2024 premiership's a cakewalk for the good old Collingwood.
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