[sixties-l] Its time for the left to reclaim the term anarchy.

From: radtimes (resist@best.com)
Date: Thu Aug 02 2001 - 15:18:48 EDT

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    Fighting Word

    It's time for the left to reclaim the term 'anarchy.'


    by Brooke Shelby Biggs
    July 27, 2001

    "Anarchism does not mean bloodshed; it does not mean robbery, arson, etc.
    These monstrosities are, on the contrary, the characteristic features of
    capitalism. Anarchism means peace and tranquility to all."
    -- August Spies, Haymarket protester <http://www.chicagohistory.org/dramas/>

    If you've watched the news much in the past two years, the term "anarchist"
    probably evokes balaclava-clad ruffians with no political agenda beyond
    breaking windows, burning police cars, and looting stores. Mention the word
    and the world tunes out; violent thugs can't possibly have a message worth
    listening to. The term has been used to paint all activists with the same
    brush and to justify violent responses
    against peaceful and aggressive protesters alike. The New York Post
    even called Carlo Giuliani, the protester killed by Italian carabinieri at
    the G-8 summit in Genoa, an "anarchist berserker" who "deserved what he got."
    As it happens, it was during another protest, more than 100 years ago, that
    the word "anarchist" first made headlines. On May 1, 1886, an anarchist
    group called the Chicago Knights of Labor, whose supporters included Mary
    Harris "Mother" Jones <http://www.motherjones.com/about_us/mojo_bio.html> ,
    staged a peaceful march for an eight-hour workday. The event led to a
    days-long general strike involving thousands of workers; at one rally,
    police arrived and without provocation sprayed the crowd with gunfire,
    killing at least one demonstrator.
    Laborers gathered the next day at the city's Haymarket Square
    <http://www.chipublib.org/004chicago/timeline/haymarket.html> to protest
    the violence. As the police chief shouted at the crowd to disperse, a bomb
    exploded nearby, killing one officer. Startled and angry, police shot into
    the crowd; seven more officers died in the melee, as did four striking
    To this day, the identity of the Haymarket bomber is unknown. A number of
    strike leaders were charged in connection with the crime, and four were
    ultimately hanged. The campaign to clear their names inspired anarchist
    movements worldwide, and led to May 1 being declared International Workers
    Day, a holiday in much of the world.
    But the word "anarchist" never was resuscitated. Writes historian W.T.
    Whitney <http://www.igc.org/laborstandard/Vol1No3/MayDay.htm> ,
    "Unfortunately, the events surrounding the execution of the Haymarket
    martyrs fueled the stereotype of radical activists as alien and violent,
    thereby contributing to ongoing repression."
    In fact, the word is derived from the Greek "an", meaning "without," and
    "archos," meaning "ruler" or "authority. Historically, anarchism has been
    defined as a philosophy opposed to hierarchy and exploitive power
    structures, an idea many lefties could love.
    Problem is, the media, a significant portion of the left
    <http://commondreams.org/views01/0724-03.htm>, and even some academics
    <http://www.foreignaffairs.org/articles/Nye0701.html> misuse and
    misunderstand the term <http://www.anarchy.org/library/miscon.html>
    "anarchy." The kid in the turtle costume marching peacefully in Seattle,
    Quebec, or Genoa may be as much an anarchist as the guy smashing the
    windows at The Gap. It isn't violence that makes the anarchist; it's the
    "Anarchism emerged out of the socialist movement as a distinct politics in
    the nineteenth century," says the Institute for Anarchist Studies
    <http://flag.blackened.net/ias/>, a New York-based nonprofit. "It asserted
    that it is necessary and possible to overthrow coercive and exploitative
    social relationships, and replace them with egalitarian, self-managed, and
    cooperative social forms."
    So perhaps there is good reason why the term is so rarely used properly: A
    nuanced debate about anarchism would lend credence to a set of ideas that
    challenge the status quo.
    "This process of misrepresentation is not without historical parallel,"
    argues the Anarchism FAQ <http://www.geocities.com/CapitolHill/1931/>, an
    anarchist overview of the philosophy. "For example, in countries which have
    considered government by one person (monarchy) necessary, the words
    'republic' or 'democracy' have been used... to imply disorder and
    confusion. Those with a vested interest in preserving the status quo will
    obviously wish to imply that opposition to the current system cannot work
    in practice, and that a new form of society will only lead to chaos."

    The Web is full of resources about the history, meaning, and application of
    anarchism. In addition to the links above, check out the Anarchist Archives
    <http://ispp.org/Anarchist_Archives/anarchisthistory.html>, the Utne Reader
    Online's Anarchism 101
    Noam Chomsky's thoughts on anarchism
    <http://www.zmag.org/chomsky/interviews/9612-anarchism.html>, and
    Britannica.com's anarchists on film

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