Tag Archive | anarchists

International Workers Day

Because it is states which create legal holidays, there are not many which celibrate anarchists. I only know of one, which is May Day, International Workers Day.

May Day 2014 Indonesia

May Day 2014 Indonesia

What is curious about this holiday is that it is very widely recognized around the world, often officially, but it is not recognized in the US, which is it’s country of origin. According to the Industrial Workers of the World (aka the IWW and “the wobbilies”) it is a commemoration of a labor protest which happened in 1886 in Haymarket Square in Chicago.

May Day 2014 - Italy

May Day 2014 – Italy

On May 1, 1886, more than 300,000 workers in 13,000 businesses across the United States walked off their jobs in the first May Day celebration in history. In Chicago, the epicenter for the 8-hour day agitators, 40,000 went out on strike with the anarchists in the forefront of the public’s eye.

May Day 2014 - South Korea. The signs sat

May Day 2014 – South Korea. The signs sat “We deserve a better president”

The city was braced for violence, but the strikers did not bring it on. And so it was peacefully for two more days and the crowd in Chicago swelled to 100K protesters. After the last firey speech two detectives encouraged the police to rush the podium which they did thru a thining crowd.

May Day 2014 - Turkey

May Day 2014 – Turkey

Someone threw a bomb at the police and not surprisingly the police opened fire on the protesters. No one knows who threw the bomb, it was almost certainly not one of the eight arrested anarchists. We know his because five of them were not even at the event and the other three were in plain sight. None the less, five were sentenced to death by a jury that was composed exclusively of business leaders. Three others would serve 6 years in prison before the governor pardoned them all and went on to publicly lambasted the judge on a travesty of justice.

May Day 2014 - UK

May Day 2014 – UK

The fight for the 8 hour day and 40 hour week were won. Child labor was banned.  But as these pictures clearly show, there is much to do around the world for workers everywhere.

“Don’t Mourn, Organize”

What Anarchism Isn’t

I generally don’t read Time Magazine anymore.  I am more interested in other less sanitized views of the world.  But i did find myself with the “Person of the Year” issue honoring Pope Francis.  Early in the long article there is a section about how the Pope can’t please everyone in his church.

The papacy is mysterious and magical: it turns a septuagenarian into a superstar while revealing almost nothing about the man himself. And it raises hopes in every corner of the world—hopes that can never be fulfilled, for they are irreconcilable. The elderly traditionalist who pines for the old Latin Mass and the devout young woman who wishes she could be a priest both have hopes. The ambitious monsignor in the Vatican Curia and the evangelizing deacon in a remote Filipino village both have hopes. No Pope can make them all happy at once.

The reason i bring this up is not because i want to talk about Catholicism, but rather because i want to compare this big church with another, which i actually identify with: anarchism.  I stumbled across this comic on Facebook.

who sez?

who sez?

The definition is pretty much right on, but the explanation below leaves me grumpy.  There is nothing inherent in anarchy which preclude chaos or lawlessness.  Especially when governments collapse there can certainly be periods of lawlessness which ensue and this can certainly be an anarchistic circumstance.

And it is definitely not the case that all anarchists are peaceful, even if you try to leave out the issue of self defense.  I have some anarchist friends who believe that the only way to move from the current extremely dangerous situation to a better one is to use violence against agents of the state – especially the police, the military and political leaders.

Perhaps the most famous anarchist, Emma Goldman, supported her lover Alexander Berkman’s efforts to kill Henry Clay Frick, the chairman of the Carnegie Steel Company for his ruthless treatment of mill workers and miners.  US President William McKinley was assassinated by Leon Czolgosz who identified as an anarchist.  There is no accrediting organization for anarchists, anyone who says they are an anarchist just might be – or they might be messing with you.

Some anarchists choose violence

Some anarchists choose violence – Czologosz kills the president circa 1901

More recently, black block/autonom protesters have chosen violent tactics and strategies in their struggles with police at demonstrations around the world, from anti-nuclear protests in Germany, to the famous WTO protest in Seattle in 1999, to the teachers protest in Brazil last fall.

Most anarchists i know don’t embrace violence.  This can be because of the “pre-figurative” arguments – we don’t want to use tools to create revolution which we are not planning on using once the revolution is complete.  Other anarchists argue that violence is not a very effective tool, because the state has superior access to violence, including a court system which almost never addresses excessive police violence.  And because in many cultures you can not win the hearts and minds of the populace using violent techniques.

Occupy was a pre-figurative exercise.

Occupy was a pre-figurative exercise.

I’ve been doing political organizing for over 3 decades and in all that time, in many countries and several cultures i have never been convinced that embracing violence was going to advance our political goals.  [I should be clear that violence is when someone gets hurt, property destruction is not violence and has on occasion been a tactic groups i work with employ.]

A paradoxical quip i quote is “All people who generalize are fools.” And so it is with generalizing about the large church of anarchism.  There is not much you can say that is true about all anarchists, except that they don’t think the government is going to solve their problems.

If this is interesting to you, consider reading:

[Edited by Judy Youngquest]