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WHATVER HAPPENED TO ANARCHISM?: RENAISSANCE AND ADAPTATION IN POSTWAR AMERICA BY RYAN THOMPSON A Thesis Submitted to the Division of Social Sciences New College of Florida in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree Bachelor of Art s Under the sponsorship of Robert Johnson and Joseph Mink Sarasota, Florida May, 2008
ii Acknowledgments Many thanks to Professors Johnson and Mink for helping me get this project off the ground and for providing thorough readings as well a s general academic support and kindness for the past couple years. Professor Seales has also been a great teacher of (among other things) and during liminality. Elisabeth Salinas has given many readings and, more so, much love and companionship. Cullen Smi th has been a best friend and iconoclast role model since Latin class. Jolene Elberth stayed a night owl with me for a while now and given handy advice on thesis chapters Adam Roca, lo and behold, probably got this project started in Gulfport, Mississippi and sustained it elsewhere. The basketball court and the library and many of their denizens were partners all the while. And my mom and dad and siblings are, of course, near and dear.
iii Table of Contents Acknowledgments ii Abstract iv Introdu ction 1 The Cause Lost and Found 10 Anarch ism (Re)Considered 53 Bedrock Anarchy ? 110 Selected Bibliography 147
iv WHATEVER HAPPENED TO ANARCHISM?: RENAISSANCE AND ADAPTATION IN POSTWAR AMERICA Ryan Thompson New College of Florida, 2008 ABSTRACT This proj ect is a multidisciplinary study of anarchism in the postwar United States. Though anarchism -"the philosophy of a new social order based on liberty unrestricted by man made law" -had been declared obsolete in America in thought and movement by 1940 it wou ld reemerge by the early 1960s Anarchism's classical period -the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries -came with industrialization and modernity. Postwar anarchism evolved to another structural context: wealth, integration, centralization. The r ecovery of anarchism through historicization was contemporaneous with the renaissance. Paul Avrich was the exemplary chronicler of American anarchism. His research salvaged anarchism from distortion. The reassembly and continuity of anarchism was manifest through the work of intellectuals and the saga of Theodore Kaczynski, the Unabomber. Intellectuals used anarchism to understand and resist their alienation and powerlessness and to document and reject the complacency and subservience of other intellectuals When Kaczynski contacted the New York Times before his arrest he claimed
v to be part of an anarchist group, but his relationship with con temporary anarcho primitivists revealed a creative but cynical use of anarchism. Such examples sketch out broad chang es in the United States and how anarchism responded to them. For the project I conducted archival research at the Labadie Collection of the University of Michigan and the Tamiment Library of New York University and read primary and secondary sources. Throu ghout, I have been guided by the question of how and why anarchism could have been resilient, exploring thought and action, history and culture. Professor Robert Johnson Division of Social Sciences Professor Joseph Mink Division of Social Sciences
1 Introduction In her outstanding 1934 essay "Was My Life Worth Living?" Emma Goldman argued for anarchism's continuing relevance and prophesized its reemergence. Goldman began by writing of how she'd been a rebel for as long as she could remembe r, and of her disillusionment with America upon emigrating from Russia in 1885. She became a leader of the anarchist movement here and was deported for her radicalism in 1919. Despite the fact that Americans were "so easily hoodwinked by the sanctity of la w and authority" 1 Goldman was heartened by "a new spirit manifested in the youth which is growing up with the depression." 2 Even so, she thought, those radical youths of the Great Depression were confused in their search for messiahs and ready made utopias : revolution wo uld have to come from themselves and lead to economic and social freedom, personal liberty and cooperative well being. Goldman urged that anarchism should express the new radicalism: I consider Anarchism the most beautiful and practical p hilosophy that has yet been thought of in its application to individual expression and the relation it establishes between the individual and society. Moreover, I am certain that anarchism is too vital and too close to human nature ever to die. It is my co nviction that dictatorship, whether to the right or to the left, can never work that it never has worked, and that time will prove this again, as it has been proved before. When the failure of modern dictatorships and authoritarian philosophies becomes mor e apparent and the realization of failure more general, Anarchism will be vindicated. Considered from this point, a recrudescence of Anarchist ideas in the near future is very probable. 3 T h ough I would challenge Goldman's description of anarchism as "vita l" to human nature, there was, in fact, a recrudescence of anarchism shortly thereafter, but not in the United States. In 1936 the Spanish Civil War began. Anarchists fought on the Republican side. The anarchist CNT union counted some two million members a t the war's 1 Emma Goldman, "Was My Life Worth Living?," in An American Retrospective: Writing from Harper's Magazine 1850 1984 ed. Ann Marie Cunningham (New York: Harper's Magazine Foundation, 1984), 375 2 Ibid., 376. 3 Ibid., 376.
2 outbreak. 4 Anarchists spearheaded collectivization of rural lands, public utilities, and transportation. But the Spanish Civil War would be the closure of anarchism as a political movement. From then on anarchism has remained essentially as an idea -an ethical model and persuasion, whose grander idealism was moderated by changing structural contexts. Goldman's vision that humans would soon experience "an application of freedom corresponding to the early stages of an anarchistic society" 5 was rea lized only briefly in Spain. Anarchism then passed on to the intellectual and cultural scenes. Recognition that anarchism is adaptable (and beautiful in a way) informs the chapters that follow, which show why and how it adjusted and recurred in the postwa r United States. This thesis examines anarchism in America after mid century, after its proverbial heyday had passed. The twentieth century saw massive changes in society and culture. Anarchism found a way to navigate through contradictory environments. I seek out examples and offer interpretations of how that made sense. Goldman, who died in 1940, was perceptive about the changes within American culture and society that would only increase tremendously after the Second World War. But she also kept faith i n popular change. The conjuncture of dynamic capitalism and the robust nation state that Goldman predicted might lead to the cultivation of "advanced ideas" (e.g., anarchism) never brought about the anarchistic society in the US. But increasing centralizat ion, nationalism, armament, and technical supremacy contain the reasons for why, as we'll see, postwar historians were moved to salvage it, intellectuals to reason from it, ecologists to utilize it, and an anti civilization terrorist to masquerade behind i t. 4 Anthony Beevor, The Battle for Spain (New York: Penguin, 2006), 103. 5 Goldman, "Was My Life Worth Living?," 377.
3 What is anarchism? Chaos? Utopia? One way Goldman defined anarchism in "Was My Life Worth Living?" was to identify what stood between the contemporary world and anarchism and how that separation could be overcome. However, it is not only government i n the sense of the state which is destructive of every individual value and quality. It is the whole complex of authority and institutional domination which strangles life. It is the superstition, myth, pretense, evasions, and subservience which support au thority and institutional domination. It is the reverence for these institutions instilled in the school, the church, and the home in order that man may believe and obey without protest. Such a process of devitalizing and distorting personalities of the in dividual and of whole communities may have been a part of historical evolution; but it should be strenuously combatted by every honest and independent mind in an age which has any pretense to enlightenment. 6 Goldman's overture to "every honest and indepen dent mind" indicated resiliency and foreshadowed resurrection. When misunderstandings are corrected, anarchism becomes a serious, if romantic, philosophical belief and political motive. Any authority that obstructs freedom and cooperation is identified, questioned, and challenged. Sebastian Faure synthesized anarchism by explaining that there were "many varieties of anarchist, yet all have a common characteristic that separates them from the rest of humankind. This uniting point is the negation of the pri nciple of Authority in social organizations and the hatred of all constraints that originate in institutions founded on this principle." 7 Voluntary association and individual development are the ideals on the horizon for anarchists, and the standards by wh ich they think and organize. Initiative and spontaneity, the anarchist postulates, can eclipse authority and power and usher in the freedom and creativity that have been buried under tradition and institutions. Anarchism penetrates the disequilibrium of po wer relationships at every level. "In its narrower meaning anarchism is a theory of society without state rule. In its broader meaning it is a theory of society without any coercive 6 Ibid., 375. 7 Faure, Sebastian. Encyclopdie Anarchiste (Paris: Librairie Internationale, 1934), s.v. "Anar chy/Anarchist."
4 authority in any area government, business, industry, commerce, religion, education and the family." 8 "There is not, and there cannot be, a libertarian Creed or Catechism," Faure wrote. 9 Though eclectic, anarchists share great devotion in their beliefs. George Orwell observed the religiousness of anarchism when he fought in t he Spanish Civil War, the basis for his autobiographical Homage to Catalonia "It struck me that the people in this part of Spain must be genuinely without religious feeling religious feeling, I mean, in the orthodox sense.And possibly Christian belief wa s replaced to some extent by Anarchism, whose influence is widely spread and which undoubtedly has a religious tinge." 10 The point of citing Orwell is to establish that anarchism prompted faith in the unknown, that faith inspired fervor, and the fervor was constructive and sought to establish an Edenic realm on earth. To understand how anarchism reemerged it is important to understand what characteristics could have moved it through space and time. One ex anarchist's 1972 lament of anarchism conceals the pro phesying against sinful power that guarded anarchism from surveillance and control: "Anarchism is unthinkable in the United States. It is close to some primitive Christian faith." 11 Impetus and certitude meant that anarchism would adapt over various periods : from industrialization to post industrialization, disenfranchisement to enfranchisement, poverty to wealth, laissez faire to welfare state, prewar and interwar to postwar. Anarchism was nebulous by nature, radical in belief, and a source of practical int egration. 8 The Oxford Companion to Philosophy s.v. "Anarchism." 9 Faure, Encyclopdie Anarchiste. 10 George Orwell, Homage to Catalonia (San Diego: Harcourt Brace & Company, 1980), 81. 11 Paul Avrich, Anarchist Voices: An Oral History of Anarchism in America (Oakland: AK Press, 2005), 261.
5 Anarchism became expressed in thought more than militancy by mid century. Anarchists themselves believed anarchism would persist because rebelliousness was somewhat innate; Goldman remarked that "each child responds differently to his environme nt. Some become rebels, refusing to be dazzled by social superstitions." 12 Roger Baldwin, admirer of the anarchist Peter Kropotkin and founder of the American Civil Liberties Union, found anarchism, like Faure, to be "a philosophy taking many different form s. But they all agree on freedom of expression and resistance to controls by one person over another." As Baldwin saw it, anarchism "was never born and will never die. For it springs from the human soul and will last as long as man lasts." 13 While I do not seek to essentialize the sources or characteristics of anarchism these descriptions help explain the longevity of a belief that, on its surface, seems rather quixotic. Anarchism is the record of one basic explanation of power and the desire to live withou t unexamined and unjust authority. By 1974 a hundred and one year old anarchist named Lena Shlakman had become discouraged with the thought that people could not emancipate themselves and became resigned to never seeing anarchism. The concepts were so robu st, however, as to be everlasting. "We tried many experiments -schools, colonies -but only the ideas remain. Ideas -the ideas of anarchists and socialists -can remain forever. But it will not come in my time, and not in yours. If it does come, we won't be there." 14 The explanation of that centenarian ex militant points up the lack of optimism for anarchist revolution and society, and the durability of central values. Definitions of anarchism and hypotheses of the elements that gave it resiliency bring us to postwar (occurring after the Second World War ended in 1945) America. On 12 Goldman, "Was My Life Worth Living?," 374. 13 Avrich, Anarchist Voices 65. 14 Ibid., 328.
6 first impression, those decades were an unlikely context for such a radical idea. But affluence and dependency on institutions -which had become more centralized, bureaucratic, and powerful -brought many to anarchism and, more vaguely, anarchist ways of thinking and living. They were likely to be highly educated, middle class political and cultural radicals, whereas the bulk of prewar anarchists, who constituted a popular movement, were manual laborers and immigrants. Capitalism and a powerful state, the forces Goldman predicted, problematized the anarchist ideal of decentralized freedom. But frustration with, as she put it, "the whole complex of authority and institutional dominatio n which strangles life" through "a process of devitalizing and distorting personalities of the individual and of whole communities" produced the new anarchism. How was anarchism, as idea and as movement, destined in America's postwar era? Many studies on radicalism exist on, say, why a socialist party never developed in the US. I'm interested in failure, but even more so in that anarchism maintained value once the classical phase of anarchism was over, when the country had become more pluralistic and wealt hy. My focus is how, why, and in what form anarchism survived the "American century" in the face of integration, prosperity, and massive distortion about its means and ends. Anarchism, right as historians began picking over its skeleton, re emerged. What features of postwar anarchism are congruent with past forms, and which are different? What use do historians, academics, writers, artists, students, an anti civilization terrorist, and Barry Goldwater's former speechwriter have for the radical creed that makes room
7 for no gods and no masters? Did the converts (if they were that) recognize themselves as anarchists? Were they cognizant of anarchist history? Anarchism shifted from a popular movement to one that is more narrowly culturally and intellectually oriented. In documenting that transition I break chapters down along these themes, interpreting the story of anarchist evolution: history, thought, and reproduction. Using the texts and biographical details of the historian Avrich, my goal in the first ch apter is to establish how anarchism developed until the postwar, why anarchism became treated as history by the mid 1960s, how anarchism was evaluated, and what these histories meant for anarchism in practice. Historians became interested in redeeming and reclaiming anarchism. For Avrich failure was as worthy of documentation as success, if not more so. He popularized the biographical approach to anarchist history and dated anarchism's phases, helping classify schools and figures. Avrich humanized anarchist s, helping to change perceptions of what anarchism meant to educated readers. His relationships to anarchists, and to historical objectivity, are of particular intrigue. My goal here for the second chapter is to establish what anarchists had thought of in tellectuals, and how intellectuals used anarchism after mid century. Misunderstanding and derision of anarchism is -if anarchism gets mentioned at all -rife in academe as elsewhere. How did and how could theory and practice merge. Was anarchism anti intell ectual in the past, troubled by the power and mysticism of scholars? Is intellectualism good for a movement, does it signal pacification, or neither? I'll be examining thinkers like C. Wright Mills, Karl Hess, and Noam Chomsky; organizations like Students for a Democratic Society; the response of anarchists Paul Berman and Paul
8 Goodman to the Columbia University protest; and objections of class oriented anarchists like Albert Meltzer. Anarchists feared how even sym pathetic intellectuals would be have if giv en power. Yet in the postwar intellectuals began to use anarchism in significant ways. They derived from it an ethical set of principles; performance and reconceptualized certain matters of history (such as student movements) and theory from its perspectiv e; and understood and rebelled against institutions with anarchist sensibility. Their use of anarchism was constructive, but the tension of thought and action never completely disappeared. For the last chapter I try signify the growing awareness of ecolog y among contemporary anarchists, and to explain an interesting example of using anarchism as a cultural reference. Anarchism is probably best known for violence; acts of "propaganda of the deed" of various origins (to encourage the masses to make social re volution; to retaliate against suppression.) When Ted Kaczynski -the "Unabomber" -got his "manifesto" published, and after his 1996 arrest, anarcho primitivists mostly praised him. Anarcho primitivism is a branch of anarchism that began to develop in the l ate 1970s and has become significant in anarchism. Although the Unabomber had quarrels with his anarcho primitivist supporters he misled investigators before his arrest that he was part of a shadowy "anarchist group" called "FC." This description of the Un abomber and his relationship to anarchism looks at Kaczynski's appropriation and why he made that choice. More broadly it will ascertain why nature has become a main concern for anarchists.
9 Assimilation of immigrants, the consolidation of the welfare stat e, the cold war, and institutionalism all changed anarchism. But anarchism weathered history's forces, changing to operate in unlike environments. My preoccupation is to understand why anarchism had resiliency (if that can be said of a cause whose definite roots extend only back to the mid nineteenth century) and why many still found anarchism sensible in another structural context.
10 1. The Cause Lost and Found "To deal even remotely with all that is being said and done against Anarchism would n ecessitate the writing of a whole volume." Emma Goldman 15 In 1963 Paul Avrich, a young professor of Russian history at Queens College, set out to meet anarchists. On the advice of Alexandra Kropotkin, the daughter of the Russian anarchist Peter Kropotkin who lived in New York, he went to the annual banquet of the Fraye Arbeter Shtime a Yiddish anarchist newspaper that had been published since 1890. The anarchists met at the Tip Toe Inn, a delicatessen at 77 th and Broadway in Manhattan. "I walked down ther e all dressed up and carrying my briefcase. I wanted to [appear] to them as a nice young man." 16 The anarchists mistook Avrich for an FBI agent, but his earnest sincerity quickly won them over. He recalled the event at a 1986 memorial for Ahrne Thorne, the last editor of the Fraye Arbeter Shtime at the Libertarian Book Club (the paper folded in 1977.) Avrich wore the suit of "a junior executive or state official, blundering into this gathering of Jewish anarchists. I felt nervous and ill at ease. I was ther e as a historian to record this occasion and talk to the people and ask them about the Russian Revolution and the role of the anarchists in the revolution." His anxiety dissipated when he saw Thorne. "There was a man seated at the front table, black eyebro ws and curly dark hair, and with a naturally tanned complexion and a wonderful smile that lit up the entire room. As soon as I set eyes on this person -of course it was Ahrne Thorne -I immediately liked him. Suddenly I felt at home." 17 Soon Avrich began vis iting anarchists throughout the city, mostly migr Russian and Polish Jews from the Fraye Arbeter Shtime circle. Meeting old anarchists like Thorne, Avrich deepened a 15 Emma Goldman, Anarchism and Other Essays (New York: Mother Earth Publishing Association, 1911), 54. 16 Susan Phillips, "Lov e and Anarchy: A Profile and Interview with Paul Avrich," Dead Anarchists, http://www.deadanarchists.org/contemporaries/Avrich.html (accessed July 28, 2008). 17 Paul Avrich, "1986 Speech at Memorial Meeting for Ahrne Thorne," the dandelion 6, no. 21 (April 1997), 5 6.
11 process of reexamination that began with a 1961 discovery in Moscow of dusty materials o n Russian anarchism and factory committees. He would become the most significant historian of American and Russian anarchism. Through distortion and defeat anarchists had become, as a graduate school advisor warned Avrich in the early 1960s, pariahs not s uitable for respectable scholarship. Avrich's job as a historian was to establish context and reconstruct anarchism. This chapter examines postwar anarchism and history. It establishes some historical basis of anarchist thought and the anarchist movement leading up to the development of anarchism after the war. That context is interwoven with the historicization of anarchism as a discrete and important social theory and movement. The other purpose is a focus on anarchist historiography and how and to what ends history is produced. History was one medium through which anarchism was misrepresented. Postwar historians, like postwar anarchists, found value in the perspectives and idealism that made anarchism a lost cause. In lieu of a popular anarchist movement historian's restored a picture of those radical years, extending a usable past. Several themes stand out in Avrich's work on anarchism. The first is intimacy with anarchists themselves, and what this meant for objectivity and his relationship to the new a narchists. That may have prompted his methodology, which will be explored in depth. Second is the question that hung over anarchism: how come it had such a reputation for violence? Next is the matter of whether anarchism represents an indigenous radical tr adition or not. Finally there was the idealism of anarchists encountering historical circumstances and the historian's distrust. These problems are considered inside and outside text proper. A sketch of Avrich's life and work help explain
12 anarchism's relev ance in postwar America -the recollection of anarchism and its perseverance. Avrich's books are records of anarchism's classical period. The fact that he was writing about a turn of the century upheaval in the midst of the cold war and an age of American e xceptionalism, the military industrial complex, social welfare, suburbanization and the Sun Belt ascendancy, and deindustrialization, postmodernism, the rekindling of and then self doubts and exhaustion of radicalism, says much about the role of the histor ian of lost causes. They remind us of the could have been during the what is and demonstrate how the latter became the norm. Julie Herrada wrote after Avrich's 2006 death from complications of Alzheimer's disease that he was "the glue that held the old t imers together and even though he was at least a generation removed from them, it was he who gave them the sense of community they previously had." 18 He helped, for example, organize annual reunions of the Ferrer Modern School in Stelton, New Jersey. In the company of anarchists Avrich saw their humanity. Because Avrich was a sympathetic historian who started as an outsider, his work validated the faith of anarchists and protected them from forgetfulness. His involvement with them not only heightened his cri tical awareness but also gave the anarchists a sense of purpose and validation. Avrich's scholarship was meant to explain the beliefs of people like Thorne. "I've known thousands of anarchists and the percentage of them I didn't like is very small," he sai d in 2002. 19 After being elevated to Distinguished Professor at Queens College and the Graduate Center of CUNY in 1982 he remarked that "every good person deep down is an anarchist." 20 That revelation, while 18 Julie Herrada, "Paul Avrich: A Passionate Chronicler of Anarchism," Fifth Estate Spring 2005, 15. 19 Phillips, "Love and Anarchy." 20 Nadine Brozan, "Paul Avrich, A Histori an of Anarchism, Is Dead," The New York Times February 24, 2006.
13 not absolute, broadly informed his scholarly works : The Russian Anarchists (1967); Kronstadt 1921 (1970); Russian Rebels, 1600 1800 (1972); An American Anarchist: the Life of Voltairine de Cleyre (1978); The Modern School Movement: Anarchism and Education in the United States (1980); The Haymarket Tragedy (1984); Anarchist Portraits (1988); Sacco and Vanzetti: the Anarchist Background (1991); and Anarchist Voices: an Oral History of Anarchism in America (1995). Avrich's books and articles have done much to reshape perceptions of anarchism. Readers are enc ouraged to think of anarchism as having been a serious political movement and theory with a rich history, albeit one specked with darkness. His richly detailed narratives advise understanding, respect, and compassion for anarchists. The goal of them was, b y way of plentiful and generally unused primary documents and lyrical prose, to get readers to avail themselves of illusions. According to the philosopher Robert Paul Wolff, "in the United States, anarchists are popularly imagined to speak with Eastern Eur opean accents, to wear beards, and to favor the use of bombs." Christopher Hitchens, in a review of Avrich's Sacco and Vanzetti: The Anarchist Background pointed out the foundational problem of semantics the historian of anarchism must explain. "It's now easy to forget that the figure of the anarchist' -the swarthy, sullen bomb thrower -once haunted the official imagination even more than the word Bolshevik' or terrorist.'" 21 "Anarchism" became currency to withdraw fears of murder and nihilism that could overturn the hard won order that, in view of the Industrial Age, benefited the few at the expense of the many. "Portrayed in the daily press as a wild revolutionary fanatic, bent on chaos and destruction, he became the cartoonist's stereotype of the bewhi skered, foreign looking anarchist," Avrich wrote of the anarchist 21 Christopher Hitchens, "Sacco and Vanzetti: Proletarian Outlaws," Newsday March 6, 1991.
14 stereotype (modeled here on the German American firebrand Johann Most) that coagulated during Chicago's 1886 1887 Haymarket affair, "with a bomb in one hand and a dagger or pistol in the oth er, conspiring against rulers and capitalists and taxing the vigilance of the authorities to keep him in check." 22 Avrich doesn't absolve ruthless exploits from the story. Rather, he honors the full scope of anarchist history -native and immigrant, individu alist and communalist, philosophical and revolutionary. "From most existing accounts, unfortunately," Avrich wrote in the preface to An American Anarchist: the Life of Voltairine de Cleyre one gets little understanding of the anarchists as human beings, still less of what impelled them to embark on their unpopular and seemingly futile course. Anarchism as a result, has seemed a movement apart, unreal and quixotic, divorced from American history and irrelevant to American life. 23 That recognition was the f ulcrum of Avrich's histories of anarchism. Anarchism was a lost cause, but what had it been like before its overthrow? Avrich was, as V.L. Parrington expected in 1927, "exhumingburied reputations andrevivifyingdead causesthe familiar business of the hi storian, in whose eyes forgotten men may assume as great significance as others with whom posterity has dealt more generously." 24 Avrich's work has become the standard for those within and outside the movement. It gives a basic education of anarchism and re deems the anarchists. Reading Avrich uncovers many events and personalities forgotten or blurred. Mischaracterizations of anarchism loosen in his rich and comprehensive excavations. While Avrich may have been revivifying a lost cause through writing histo ry, anarchism was renewed around the time when Avrich began his research. But the 22 Paul Avrich, The Haymarket Tragedy (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1984), 61. 23 Paul Avr ich, An American Anarchist: the Life of Voltairine de Cleyre (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1978), xiii. 24 V.L. Parrington, Main Currents in American Thought 1927, quoted in Kevin Mattson, Intellectuals in Action (University Park: The Pennsylvani a State University Press, 2002), 263.
15 anarchism of the postwar years was quantitatively and qualitatively different from that of the classical period, which Avrich delimits globally from the Paris Commune of 1871 to the 1936 1939 Spanish Civil War; for the United States the peak was from Haymarket, which unintentionally galvanized anarchism, to the Red Scare following the First World War, in which radicals were persecuted in what H.L. Mencken called "a system of e spionage altogether without precedent in American history." 25 The last three quarters of twentieth century saw a revolutionary form hemorrhage, fragment, and reemerge. Avrich worked tirelessly to save anarchist memory from neglect. He was also surrounded b y the movement's renaissance from the early 1960s onward. Anarchism was discovered by its great American chronicler and rediscovered by a New Left that emphasized spontaneity and participatory democracy. The decline and reemergence of anarchism portended l arger trends during the twentieth century. Avrich posed that a key question for the historian must be why anarchy "was destined to remain a dream of comparatively small groups of men and women who had alienated themselves from the mainstream of American so ciety." 26 Even within the labor movement, which moved in the direction of reformism, anarchism was mostly loathed or at least misunderstood. Although rebellion on behalf of personal and social freedom had some inroads (Emma Goldman's defense of birth contro l, for example) the larger vision went unrealized. Anarchists engage in a noble but Sisyphean battle to live without masters. A reviewer of Avrich's The Russian Anarchists noted that 25 H.L. Mencken, Baltimore Sun September 27, 1920, quoted in Paul Avrich, Sacco and Vanzetti: the Anarchist Background (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1991), 176. 26 Avrich, An American Anarchist xvii.
16 his juxtaposition of the anarchists and communists was a "familiar lament but showed "the tragedy of human affairs is that grand ideals are perverted by unclean reality." 27 Anarchists were prescient critics of business and nationalism. The writings of turn of the century anarchist Voltairine de Cleyre, a somewhat obscure figure whom Avrich wrote the first biography on, "anticipate the contemporary mood of distrust toward the centralized bureaucratic state. She was one of the most eloquent and consistent critics of unbridled political power, the subjugation of the individual, the dehumanization of labor, and the debasement of culture." 28 By mid century such warnings about the menaces of centralization looked uncanny. Anarchism might have been a shot in the arm for an American left shaken by the Moscow Trials, the Nazi Soviet pact, the House Un American Activities Committee, the Peekskill Riots, Whittaker Chambers and Alger Hiss, Khrushchev's 1956 "Secret Speech," and for student radicals resisting a Maoist takeover of Students for a Democratic Society. The New York intellectuals of the 1930s and 1940s who gathered around Partisan Review, The New Masses and other left wing journals generally defected from the socialist cause for liberalism and/or a vengeful anti communism, bypassing anarchism. Rudolf Rocker, the last great anarchist t heorist of the classical period, died in upstate New York in 1958. What remained was memory. "I don't care what you call it," eighty four year old Jeanne Levey told Avrich in 1972, "but all the things that the anarchists said sixty or seventy years ago ha ve taken on respectability. If anarchism did nothing else but serve that purpose, it was worth it. But unfortunately it has been so distorted, so misunderstood. Otherwise it might have been a 27 "React ionary and Revolutionaries," The Times Literary Supplement July 27, 1967, 654. 28 Avrich, An American Anarchist xix.
17 great force for educating people, for liberating them." 29 Avrich brought a sobered historical perspective yet was motivated by the problem of why the dreams of Levey and other anarchists he had befriended would probably never be reached. As Frederic Jameson tells us: The productive use of earlier radicalismslies not in their triumphant reassemblage as a radical precursor tradition but in their tragic failure to constitute such a tradition in the first place. History progresses by failure rather than by success, as Benjamin never tired of insisting; and it would be be tter to think of Lenin or Brecht (to pick a few illustrious names at random) as failures -that is, as actors and agents constrained by their own ideological limits and those of their moments of history than as triumphant examples and models in some hagio graphic or celebratory sense. 30 If Lenin should be a yardstick for failure bear in mind that in 1901 he described anarchism as an "absurd negation of politics in bourgeois society" 31 and in 1905 rejected the anarchists application to the soviets and later, as we'll see, directed a brutal eradication campaign against them. Avrich was born in Brooklyn in 1931. Like the name of a Maxim Gorky poem he cited in The Russian Anarchists the world he came into was a "stormy petrel." By then anarchism had declined s ignificantly. In Anarchist Voices Avrich describes how the movement blossomed for several decades until the First World War. Of the twenty million or so who entered the United States from 1870 1920 tens of thousands joined the anarchist ranks. Up to the 18 80s the great majority originated in countries of northern and western Europe, but shifting patterns of immigration saw a decline in French, Germans, and Britons, who had formed the backbone of the anarchist movement, and a rise of southern and eastern Europeans, primarily Italians, Russians, and Jews, who furnished a new generation of recruits. They flocked predominantly to industrial cities and became unskilled or semiskilled laborers. Some had been anarchists in their countries of origin and brought with them their radical creed. Most, however, were converted after their arrival. 32 29 Paul Avrich, Anarchist Voices: an Oral History of Anarchism in America (Oakland: AK Press, 2005), 58. 30 Fredric Jameson, Postmodernism, Or, The Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism (Durham: Duke University Press, 1992), 209. 31 V.I. Lenin, Anarchism and Socialism vol. 5 of Lenin Collected Works (Moscow: Foreign Languages Publishing House, 1961), 327 330. 32 Avrich, Anarchist Voices 316.
18 The country that they came to disillusioned the prewar anarchists; the postwar anarchists were moved by injustice in the country where they were born. The structural cont ext changed but the basic anti authoritarian premise remained. Why did the anarchists of a century ago convert after their arrival? Nicola Sacco was one such example of early twentieth century anarchism. He came from relative prosperity and was "a young man of exemplary character, besides being an excellent worker." 33 Avrich wondered why Sacco became an anarchist and concludes that "the conditions he saw in America turned him towards anarchism." 34 Avrich's parents, Rose Zapol and Murray, had emigrated from Odessa, in modern Ukraine, around 1917, the bloody year when the Czar was finally overthrown. Odessa was, Morris Greenshner told Avrich in 1972, "a beautiful city on the Black Sea, with wide streets and trees on both sides." 35 Like many of the anarchists Av rich met his parents had escaped pogroms and war in Europe in search of freedom and prosperity in America. Rose was an actress in the Yiddish theatre and Murray manufactured dresses in the Lower East Side's heavily Jewish Garment District (anarchists were prominent, for example, in the International Ladies' Garment Workers Union.) The New York Sun guessed that Paul Avrich "could have been from anarchist stock himself, but described his politics as Independent.'" 36 Though Avrich may not have been a red diape r baby he was certainly a child of the Great Depression. In the background of his youth was palpable social and political unrest, largely organized by communists. However, the anarchists in America, at least since 33 Avr ich, Sacco and Vanzetti 24. 34 Ibid., 26. 35 Avrich, Anarchist Voices 379. 36 Stephen Miller, "Paul Avrich, 74, Historian of Anarchism," The New York Sun February 24, 2006.
19 Sacco and Vanzetti were executed in 1927, were barely an afterthought except as a symbol of lawlessness and disorganization. Avrich was part of the cohort of first generation unhyphenated Americans, but he was nevertheless raised in an enclave that was bursting with radical energy. David Koven, another of Avrich's interviewees, remembered the magical realist scenery of a Brooklyn neighborhood, during the 1930s: The social milieu in Brownsville was also exciting -the opening up of quasi romantic revolutionary life.Brownsville was one of the only places in the world where you had to reserve a copy of Turgenev or Tolstoy in the public library. Everybody was reading, and everybody was interested in political and social events and movements. 37 Whether 1930s radicalism had a prismatic effect on Avrich' s work as a historian is a matter of guesswork; too young to participate in the Depression struggles, his later work had a definite affinity for the politically, socially, and economically marginalized. A reviewer of Avrich's The Haymarket Tragedy (1984) c alled Avrich the "anarchists' advocate" and complained that Avrich, "shares the corrosive and apocalyptic vision that the anarchists held of American capitalism and its future at the end of the nineteenth century." 38 That feeling was recuperated during Av rich's youth. Anarchism was at low ebb during the interwar years, notwithstanding support for Sacco and Vanzetti and the Spanish Civil War. In 1973 the postwar anarchist Dwight Macdonald recognized the second event as "perhaps the last time in modern his tory when there was a really clear cut moral issue between the two combatants, and we know what happened there." 39 The First World War and the Russian Revolution forced radicals to 37 Avrich, Anarchist Voices 462. 38 Lewis L. Gould, "The Anarchists' Advocate," Time s Literary Supplement November 23, 1984, 1336. 39 Paul Kurtz, "Conservative Anarchism: An Interview with Dwight Macdonald," in Interviews with Dwight Macdonald ed. Michael Wreszin (Jackson: University of Mississippi Press, 2003), 81.
20 "put up or shut up," one anarchist recalled. 40 "The cynical Communist champio ns of dictatorship were getting even stronger with the left," Paul Berman wrote, "and the immigrant anarchists and Wobblies 41 (the trade union anarchists) with their idealistic zeal for freedom were fading into the shadows." 42 The expediency of authoritarian ism gained traction and vendettas like the 1919 1921 Palmer Raids -government round ups and persecutions of radicals, including deportation of anarchists and other radicals -caused great attrition. The movement was a shadow of what it had been a decade or two earlier. Integration was a more mundane subtracter. "Anarchism was a movement of poor immigrants," rued Jacques Dubois. "As soon as the children made money, they lost anarchism." 43 "Its adherents," Avrich writes, "mostly in their forties and fifties, ha d seen better days, while their children, born and raised in the United States, were entering the mainstream of American life." 44 The grandson of Johann Most, for example, would become a famous announcer for the Boston Celtics. John. J. Most, Jr., son of th e anarchist and father of the broadcaster, said to Avrich in 1979 that "you can see how sad our lives were and why I did not want to talk to you. I still share my father's ideas. My sonhas no interest in anarchism whatever. But my grandchildren are intere sted, very much so." 45 Those grandchildren were responding to the postwar environment, and Avrich gave them a usable past. Even when organization fell apart between the wars it was clear 40 Avrich, Anarchist V oices 269. 41 Industrial Workers of the World: syndicalist trade union begun in Chicago in 1905 to organize all workers to overthrow capitalism; waged significant free speech fights and organizing drives; declined by the First World War largely because of repression. 42 Paul Berman, "The Last of the Anarchists: a Working Class Hero Passes Away," Slate.com, September 25, 1996, http://slate.msn.com/?id=3277 (accessed July 27, 2008). 43 Avrich, Anarchist Voices 260. 44 Ibid., 319. 45 Ibid., 19.
21 that the anarchists ethical radicalism was safe. In that phase "they concerned themselves with the whole range of issues that confronted the worldnot least the rise of the communist and fascist dictatorships." 46 Rebukes of external and internal despotism thrust descendents to a libertarian analysis of power, hierarchy, and coercion. During the 1930s and 1940s anarchism underwent a sea change. Anarchists despaired for gloomy days ahead. The quashing of the Spanish Revolution (i.e. the CNT led experiments in collectivization that began in 1936) by communist meddling from w ithin and fascism from without bookended the classical phase. History was progressing by failure rather than success and devotees were numbed by the seeming evaporation of the anarchist tradition. Assimilation placated anarchists and dampened calls for soc ial reform. Many questioned whether anarchism had relevancy within a nominally democratic framework. "By the 1930s Father had ceased to believe in anarchism," Elmer B. Isaak told Avrich. "He never talked anarchism to me. He read The Nation and New Republic and became a good New Deal Democrat." 47 Goldman, the major figure of anarchism in America even after she was deported to the USSR in 1919, died in Toronto in 1940; her companion Alexander Berkman, deported with Goldman and 247 other non native radicals, co mmitted suicide in France four years earlier. In a 1990 requiem for the New York anarchist Sam Dolgoff, Paul Berman noted the unholy convergence that plagued anarchism from the 1920s onward: The New York Red Squad infiltrated his meetings at the old Labo r Temple on 14 th Street. And the Communist Party, USA, was still another bunch of bastards. The Wobblies and anarchists climbed on their soapboxes to do their public service -and Communist toughs shouted them down and beat them, too, if they could get a way with it. 48 46 Avrich, Sacco and Vanzetti 211. 47 Avrich, Anarchist Voices 28. 48 Paul Berman, "Death of a Wobbly: the Truest Heart of the American Left," Village Voice November 13, 1990.
22 Anarchism unraveled as a movement not only because of outside attacks and the Bolshevik victory in the Russian Civil War (a regime whose toughest enemies included the revolting sailors at Kronstadt whom Avrich portrayed in Kronstadt 1921 and the Ukrainian anarchist guerilla leader Nestor Makhno and his Black Army) but also endemic internal conflict. Sebastian Faure wrote that anarchism was but a "cluster of general principles, fundamental conceptions and practical applications" 49 for those opp osing authority. There were many divergences about how anarchism could be achieved and how an anarchist society should operate, whether it should be collectivist, communist, individualist and so on. But the fact that anarchism lacked cohesion might have be en its saving grace. Here and in the next chapter we see that many anarchists began to express doubts about the plausibility of their radical creed to overturn the highly rationalized order of wealthy and democratic postwar America. Avrich tells us in The Russian Anarchists that under the Czar the goal for anarchists in Russia was "nothing less than a clean sweep of bourgeois civilization,' with its growing regimentation and callous indifference to human suffering." Only that "could satisfy their thirst for the absolute.'" 50 Writing about Luigi Galleani, the spiritual father of early twentieth century Italian American anarchists like Sacco and Vanzetti, Avrich found "the depth of his hatred of capitalism moved him to denounce all partial reforms as corrupt ions and betrayals. He would brook no compromise with the elimination of economic and political oppression. Nothing less than a clean sweep of the established order would satisfy his thirst for the millennium." 51 The anarchists believed they could eliminate power and authority. But power and authority 49 Encyclopdie Anarchiste (Paris: Librairie Internat ionale, 1934), s.v. "Anarchy/Anarchist." 50 Paul Avrich, The Russian Anarchists (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1967), 3. 51 Avrich, Sacco and Vanzetti 51.
23 became more dense if not increasingly subtle as the twentieth century progressed. Sam Dolgoff's unreconstructed "syndicalism of 1910" looked reactionary as Rudolf Rocker, Augustin Souchy, and Diego Abad de Sant illn, anarcho syndicalist thinkers whom Berman calls Dolgoff's masters came out, after the Second World War, for democratic reform. They concluded that libertarian goals could fit within a liberal social democracy. The Gungara Libertaria [the journal of Movimiento Libertario Cubano en el Exilio] Miami Cubans and Fraye Arbeter Shtime circles in New York reached a similar conclusion. 52 Because of that rupture anarchism remained vital only as an idea, not a movement. Avrich's documentation of anarchism expl ains the material basis and frank idealism of classical anarchists. When contrasted with the new anarchists we see that it lost the motive and expectation of total regeneration. Many radicals and scholars have long confused anarchy with utopia, an equatio n anarchist s dispute by saying they are for the continuous development of human faculties, not a perfect and closed system. After the rise of left and right tyrannies radicals began to reconsider whether humans could overcome constraints and usher in a "G olden Age of equality and cooperation." Before coming back to anarchism Voltairine de Cleyre, Avrich explains, was by 1910 "coming to believe that human ignorance and prejudice were so deeply ingrained that they might never be overcome." 53 One wonders if sh e'd have returned to anarchism had she lived to witness more destruction in the twentieth century. The postwar radicals were more disenchanted than their prewar analogues, but the fact that anarchism undercut power at each level gave it resiliency. The ma jor phase of anarchism closed definitively on the eve of the Second World War. Yet, as modernity brought unprecedented centralization, others formed libertarian 52 Berman, "Death of a Wobbly." 53 Avrich, An American Anarchist 213.
24 appeals. A stream of anarchist theory and organization, from the poetry of Kenneth Rexroth to a spects of the 1956 Hungarian Revolution, was kept up through the early 1960s. Berman describes John Dos Passos' "lonely anarchist champion of a doomed working class ideal" in U.S.A. (1938) and contends that if "America's left wing was going to hell," by t he late 1920s, there were "always people who refused to be exploited or to exploit anyone else, who didn't want to be ruled or to rule over anyone else." 54 A great strength of anarchism was therefore a fluidity that overcame realism and hostile incursions. While the Spanish Civil War, World War II (1939 1945), and the rise of totalitarian communist regimes after 1949 were events that effectively ended the further development of the historical anarchist movement," George Esenwein wrote, "anarchist ideas and sensibilities were not as easily repressed." 55 By then anarchism, broadly speaking, had lost its base as interest from workers slackened, mutated elsewhere on the political spectrum, or became drained through institutionalism. Students, cultural radicals, a nd others were anarchists after the 1930s. The experiential foundation was not the same, but prewar and postwar anarchists shared common beliefs. When the volatility of the conflict between capital and labor relaxed, the downward slope of politicking morph ed into the realm of ideas; the historian, then, could reflect on the past. Now we can move more clearly to the postwar decades. During the war the reins of anarchism were taken up by former Trotskyites like David Thoreau Wieck and Paul Goodman. Groups (an d their publishing organs) such as Why?/Resistance confirmed that another generation would work towards what Alexander Berkman deemed "the very 54 Berman, "The Last of t he Anarchists." 55 New Dictionary of the History of Ideas s.v. "Anarchism."
25 finest thing that humanity has ever thought of." 56 Macdonald, an exception among the New York intellectuals, edit ed the semi anarchist journal Politics which featured contributors like Goodman, C. Wright Mills, and George Orwell, from 1944 1949. With Politics Macdonald said he "forsook the true Marxist faith to whore after the strange gods of anarchism and pacifism. 57 In 1945 The Libertarian Book Club was begun in New York by Valerio Isca and others to disseminate propaganda and host lectures. Isca preferred "libertarian," as in libertarian socialist, over "anarchist" because "anarchist' frightens people, drives the m away, destroys our potential following." 58 The LBC remained the most stable outlet for New York anarchists for over half a century. The Living Theatre, an experimental performance company, was founded in New York in 1947 by Judith Malina and Julian Beck t o promote "the beautiful nonviolent anarchist revolution." 59 Anarchists who lived when capitalism was less developed and the state more porous were discouraged by the prospects of anarchism. The Second World War was no better an organizing tool than the Fir st and had "left the anarchists in a shambles, and what had once been a flourishing movement shrank to the proportions of a sect." Notwithstanding fits and spurts, "throughout the 1940s and 1950s, anarchism in America was in the doldrums." 60 Anarchism was u p against the conformity and existential angst of the postwar years. "Because during the Fifties," Revolutionary Road author Richard 56 Paul Avrich, Anarchist Portraits (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1988), 200. 57 Avrich, Anarchist Voices 417. 58 Ibid., 146. 59 Bradford Martin, "Politics as Art, Art as Po litics: The Freedom Singers, the Living Theatre, and Public Performance," in Long Time Gone: Sixties America Then and Now ed. Alexander Bloom (New York: Oxford University Press, 2001), 178. 60 Avrich, Anarchist Voices 417.
26 Yates said, "there was a general lust for conformity over this country, by no means only in the suburbs a kind of blind, de sperate clinging to safety and security at any price." 61 How would anarchism become relevant? Ever confident in human agency and pliability, the anarchists lurched onward. While anarchism presumably vanished forever, smote under the weight of social and po litical realignment and crack downs, many stuck around in ideological hamlets and sustained countercultures. The belief that freedom would develop naturally once dominant institutions were overthrown remained. In 1963 Avrich met some of the faithful. That was the rut of anarchism when Avrich graduated from Cornell in 1952. Whereas the movement had been part of an insurgency, the cardinal anarchist values of spontaneity, freedom of association, direct action, and participatory and non hierarchical organizati on became the stamp of the dclass and avant garde. The second and third generations of the great immigration wave were outmigrating from city to suburbs. The postwar economic boom was on and busily moderating former radicals. The historian could ask ho w that had come to be when not a half century before anarchism was visibly active. The postwar radicals recaptured that zeitgeist. Avrich was no dyed in the wool radical. After Cornell he enlisted in the Air Force and was sent to language training school a t Syracuse University to study Russian. Assigned to West Germany, he worked as an intelligence officer charged with collecting information on Soviet airplanes docked in Europe. In 1957 Avrich enrolled as a PhD student at Columbia University to study Russia n history, a vogue cold war discipline. The next year the American and Soviet governments reached an agreement on entertainment, film, and student exchanges. In 1961 Avrich was among the first dozen students chosen 61 DeWitt Henry and Geoffrey Clar k, "An Interview with Richard Yates," Ploughshares Winter 1972.
27 to study abroad in the USSR. Poring over archives at Moscow's Lenin Library for three months, Avrich was astonished to learn about the anarchist movement before and during Russia's 1905 and 1917 revolutions and civil war. Russian anarchism was unknown to Anglophone readers. The experience gave Av rich the perspective to understand anarchism beyond the confines of his own culture. That Avrich's revelation occurred in Moscow was, Herrada notes, paradoxical. The Bolsheviks had defeated the anarchists and others in the 1917 1923 civil war that followe d the revolution. The anarchist movement there had been dwarfed and then purged by them. Soviet apparatchiks had worked to delete anarchism from collective memory. Avrich pressed on with retrieving the concealed past. By researching the anarchists Avrich w as not echoing Dos Passos' 1927 pledge that because "one of the most extraordinary things about industrial society of the present day is its idiot lack of memory.It is up to the writers now to see to it that America does not forget Sacco and Vanzetti so s oon as it would like to" 62 While a field of socially relevant scholarship had emerged by the early 1960s that challenged establishment thinking, Avrich resists that categorization as well. By researching the anarchists he didn't plan to broadcast Haymarket defendant August Spies' call moments before he was hanged in 1887 that "the time will come when our silence will be more powerful than the voices you strangle today!" 63 What Avrich unearthed on Russian factory committees and anarchism was completely happen stance but entirely consuming. He recognized that anarchists deserved a place in history that was incommensurate with the brevity and 62 Shelley Fisher Fishkin, From Fact to Fiction (New York: Oxford University Press, 1988), 181. 63 Avrich, The Haymarket Tragedy 393.
28 misconceptions he surely would have been familiar with. Avrich didn't write histories from an anarchist point of view. He humanized anarchists by recording their history. Avrich said he was ignorant of anarchism before he visited the USSR. But after reviewing stacks of minutes of factory workers meetings he found the more he read "the more I liked the anarchists because they seemed like decent, nice people." 64 Being abroad made him acutely sensitive to the mechanics of historical distortion. Avrich returned to New York and completed a dissertation titled "The Russian Revolution and the Factory Committees." He graduated from Co lumbia in 1961 and began teaching at Queens College of the City University of New York. While Avrich's research on anarchism was developing, the movement had further dissolved. Murray Bookchin grew up in New York a young Communist turned Trotskyite, then gradually moved toward anarchism during the 1950s and became a leading exponent of ecological anarchism. He recalled that "in the early 1960s anarchism was a very scarce commodity in the United States.I recall that it lived a fragile, almost senile existe nce in a small room in lower Manhattan; the majority of its members were pensioners, mostly foreign born, and puzzled by the emerging 1960s counterculture.'" 65 Headstrong veterans, like those at the 1963 banquet, continued to rail against capital and the s tate. The seismic change of 1960s and 1970s unrest loomed more than half a decade away and postwar affluence had, outside the Civil Rights Movement and precursors like the Beat poets, thus far blunted calls for social change. Anarchism wouldn't gain cohere nce until the New Left emerged, and even then it was reminiscent of the lost cause paradigm of anarchism. 64 Phillips, "Love and Anarchy." 65 Murray Bookchin, Post Sc arcity Anarchism (Oakland: AK Press, 2004), xl.
29 The platitudes of the cold war -the anarchists broke with socialism and capitalism -helped cause anarchism's renaissance in the early 1960s. The eth ical inquiry of anarchism was a useful way of calibrating and critiquing the modern world for some radicals. Thinkers found in anarchism characteristics that surpassed historical contingencies. Anarchism could spring from a large set of material circumstan ces. Historians, one could argue, could best recognize the causality and manifestation of those characteristics. The postwar layout of enormous and interconnected units of authority was vastly different from the prewar one. Mass society and the movement o f capital were profound recognitions; the flaws of historical materialism and the abject experience of revolutionary governments discredited Marxist socialism (which would be discredited again with the putsch of a desperate late 1960s New Left.) The Vietna m War and the Civil Rights Movement engendered protest. An emphasis on individual freedom and the potential beneficence of social groups against apathy and collusion was the framework of emerging radical analysis. Cultural radicals made political dissent a joyous exercise. In the midst of the coalescing imperial order anarchic forces, mostly unrecognized as such, were unleashed. Right beside were historians, Avrich the best among them. With preliminaries of how anarchism evolved we can now turn more fully to the historicization of anarchism. The questions outlined earlier -of relationships and objectivity, violence, idealism, and native radicalism -will then be detailed more fully. Avrich described his method in The Russian Anarchists : the Russian anarchi sts have long been ignored by those who regard all history through the eyes of the victors, Political success, however, is by no means the sole measure of the worth of a movement; the belief that triumphant causes alone should interest the historian leads, as James Joll recently observed, to the neglect of much in the past that is valuable and curious, and narrows our view of the world. Thus if one is to appreciate the true range and complexity of the Revolution of
30 1917 and the events that followed in its w ake, the role played by the anarchists must be taken into account. 66 He drew out the Russian anarchists principled refusal "to accept anything but the Golden Age of full liberty and equality" against the machinations of "a new despotism [that] arose upon t he ruins of the old." Because they wouldn't moderate "the anarchist movement was stamped out." 67 That unequivocal stance was both a fault and a virtue. The anarchists were somewhat unworldly in their faith, so could never bring a system into existence. Avri ch was impressed by those tenacious values. Because of their ethical radicalism they seldom compromised, which is precisely why anarchism was and would remain a lost cause. Avrich was by no means the torchbearer for the generations of historians who desc ribed structural forces and reclaimed actors who, like the Russian anarchists, have "long been ignored by those who regard all history through the eyes of the victors." Social history and New Left history began to peel away Great Men mythology of political and diplomatic history. It gave examination and voice to the forgotten (they often chose radicals), those whom Jameson alluded to when he spoke of "actors and agents constrained by their own ideological limits and those of their moments of history." These historians, emphasizing the common person and group agency ("history from below"), were often connected to goals of hatching and sustaining radical movements. But no motivation could overlook the pathos of anarchism. Besides, the Marxist and left wing d oyens of social and economic history generally thought anarchism was epiphenomenal. At their most vulgar they cursed anarchism as bourgeois escapism and for not having a singular class analysis. Histories of the Spanish Civil War, for example, 66 Avrich, The Russian Anarchists 4 5. 67 Ibid., 5.
31 are balkaniz ed by ideology. "Inevitably, anarchist historiography is concerned to recapture the exemplary character of those revolutionary experiences," such as the CNT collectivization efforts, Julian Casanova found, "while the Communists who witnessed collectivizati on produce diatribes against the experiment." 68 Writing about liberal and communist interpretations of that war, Noam Chomsky argued in 1969 that this predominantly anarchist revolution and the massive social transformation to which it gave rise are treate d, in recent historical studies, as a kind of aberration.Many historians would probably agree with Eric Hobsbawm that the failure of social revolution in Spain was due to the anarchists,' that anarchism was a disaster',' a kind of moral gymnastics'. 69 Anarchism was, in the way the Marxist historian Christopher Hill wrote of radicals such as the Diggers in the English Revolution in 1972's The World Turned Upside Down the "revolt within the revolution." 70 Berman argues that Avrich's work must not be over looked in the glut of history on the American left. In a wide ranging 2005 article he says that Daniel Bell's 1952 Marxian Socialism in the United States has been overtaken or complemented by the work of later writers -by James Weinstein on the old Social ist Party; by Maurice Isserman and other scholars on the grass roots of the Communist Party in its heyday; and by various writers on leftism among African Americans. I would add that Paul Avrich and other scholars have had a lot to say about non Marxist l eftisms of various sorts as well -the anarchists, the Wobblies, and the syndicalists. 71 Avrich's discovery of anarchism and the postwar embrace of it were simultaneous. The historian and the growing radical movement saw in anarchism a condemnation of power including a condemnation of left wing vanguardism, that was suited to postwar reality. Avrich's knowledge of Russian history made him uneasy about state socialism 72 and closeness to anarchists showed him they had deeply ethical values. Postwar (i.e., ear ly 68 Julian Casanova, "Anarchism and Revolution in the Spanish Civil War: The Case of Aragon," European History Quarterly 17, no. 4 (1987): 423 451. 69 Noam Chom sky, Chomsky on Anarchism (Oakland: AK Press, 2005), 43. 70 Christopher Hill, The World Turned Upside Down (New York: Penguin, 1975), 14. 71 Paul Berman, "Left Behind: Daniel Bell and the Class of '68," Bookforum April/May 2005. 72 Phillips, "Love and Anarch y."
32 New Left and post cold war) radicals availed themselves of dogmatic sectarianism for an open ended community that, at its best, was basically anarchist. Others preceded Avrich in the pursuit of anarchist history. Anarchists themselves, like Rocker and the anarchist Spanish Civil War veteran Abel Paz, diligently recorded anarchist events and theory, despite aggressive police encroachments (for which anarchists reserved a code of silence.) Anarchists got sustenance from the heroic example of predecessors. They were also remarkably literate, which eased the writing of systematic histories. "Most anarchists believed deeply, if at times naively, in the powerful proselytizing effects of the written word for their cause," said the Library of Congress' Informati on Bulletin after the LOC received the bulk of Avrich's 20,000 volume collection of anarchist materials in 1988. 73 Max Nettlau, an Austrian historian to whom Avrich dedicated An American Anarchist published the multi volume Geschichte der Anarchie (the thr ee first volumes came out from 1925 to 1931, three others during the 1980s, and the remaining volumes have yet to be published.) Nettlau was a member of the anarchist movement from 1885 until his death in 1944. He is described as "the veteran Anarchist mil itant and historian" beneath an article he wrote during the Spanish Civil War for the Information Bulletin of the CNT FAI, the massive trade union and its militant groups. 74 Nettlau inaugurated anarchist historiography; Rocker called him the Herodotus of an archism (one author said he's anarchy's Thucydides.) He proves that anarchists weren't against reflection and, significantly, that history could co exist with a movement and inform practice. 73 Library of Congress, "Paul Avrich Donates Collection of Anarchist Works to the Library," LC Information Bulletin January 4, 1988, 5. 74 Max Nettlau, "Some Impressions of the Events in Spain," Information Bulletin of the CN.T. and F.A.I. Labadie Coll ection of the Special Collections Library, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI.
33 Three notable works shortly preceded Avrich's: George Woodcock' s Anarchism: A History of Libertarian Ideas and Movements (1962); James Joll's The Anarchists (1964); and Daniel Gurin 's L'anarchisme: De la doctrine a l'action (1965; published in English as Anarchism: From Theory to Practice in 1970.) All concentrated o n reclaiming the skewed public image of anarchism, trading hysterics, exaggeration, and ignorance for generous analyses of anarchism's watersheds, characters, culture, geography, ideals, and philosophies. Because anarchism had been so encrusted with biases from anarchists and others, the act of salvaging became a minor resistance in and of itself. Woodcock, Joll, Gurin and others made it their project to separate myth from reality. Underlying all this research was a belief, expressed by each author, that anarchism deserved comprehensive reclamation. Gurin especially wanted to catalyze a new movement. Because anarchism's classical phase had culminated the historian could now mine that and deliver what Jameson called the "productive use of earlier radicalis ms." The historical profession had long enabled triumphalism; now scourges of the past were being nursed back to health. Anarchism's failures (and, less so, successes) were to be measured and reckoned with. Many decades of disparagement that had left anarc hism with an uncertain past could begin to recede. The relevance of anarchism and conflict over anarchist history become clear in Paul Goodman's 1965 review of Joll's monograph. "For now, any Marxist thought that makes sense is strongly libertarian, and both left wing Liberals and thoughtful conservatives are alert again to the dangers of authority and the need to multiply the centers of initiative and decision," Goodman wrote. That happened because "the salient present historical condition is the drift to 1984. Thus books
34 are being written about The Anarchists." 75 The anarchists were potent symbols who ceaselessly questioned and resisted power and authority. Unless we remember and honor through our actions, Goodman alludes, we entertain totalitarianism. Joll's reasons for historicizing anarchism echo Avrich's, and thus Jameson and Parrington's rationale: "Yet, if the aim of the historian," he argued, "like that of the artist, is to enlarge our picture of the world, to give us a new way of looking at thin gs, then the study of failure can often be as instructive and rewarding as the study of success." 76 Anarchism's failure becomes honorable in an unfriendly world. But Goodman's review expressed what expectations anarchists had of historians. In The Anarchis ts Joll explains they "have suffered as much as any minority from the historians' cult of success. They never made a successful revolution." 77 But, Goodman says, Joll leaves the reader thinking "the whole movement was a splendid failure and strictly for the past." Such criticism goes to the heart of the complications in writing about a lost cause becoming found. Woodcock's study, which favored the non violent aspects of anarchism, was also mocked for being presumptuous about the end of anarchism. Anarchism: A History of Libertarian Ideas and Movements prompted Michael Lerner to reflect in 1970 that Nine years ago George Woodcock surveyed the ghost of the historical anarchist movement' and concluded that there was no reasonable likelihood of a renaissance. History showed that the movements which fail to take the chances it offers them are never born again.' Seven years later, when id entifiably anarchist tendencies re emerged in the youth movements in England and Holland, Woodcock wondered whether I had b een rash in so officiously burying the historic anarchist movement.' 78 For Woodcock the movement was over (he argued that radicals now "became" anarchists 75 Paul Goodman, review of The Anarchists by James Joll, Liberation June/July 1965. 76 James Joll, The Anarchists (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1980), iii. 77 Ibid. 78 Michael Lerner, "Anarchism and the American Counter Culture," Government and Opposition 5 (Autumn 1970): 430.
35 rather than joined a group) but the ideal remained. Woodcock failed to predict the renewal of anarchi sm but was himself an anarchist. Even if the ideal is never reached, for Woodcock "the presence of such a concept of pure liberty can help us to judge our condition and see our aims." 79 Daniel Gurin was a militant freelance historian who didn't balk from political commitments. He willfully took up revolutionary causes. During Paris' May 1968 events he became a spokesman for autogestion or workers' self management. In 1973 Gurin told Avrich "ethics must take a back place to revolutionary struggle. The ma in task is to seize power; we must seize power in order to destroy it." 80 Despite that bluster Gurin also deemphasized the violent aspects of anarchism in favor of a normative combination of anarchism and workers management. "To fix one's attention on the stewpot' of Ravachol," a French terrorist and self described anarchist, "is to ignore or underestimate the fundamental characteristics of a definite concept of social reorganization. When this concept is properly studied it appears highly constructive and not destructive, as its opponents pretend." 81 Gurin advocated that position in his writing, interrogating a number of historical examples such as Italian factory councils during the "red years" after the First World War and, of course, the Spanish Civil W ar. Avrich and Gurin had very distinct purposes in their work but both were committed to anarchist history as a restorative endeavor. Noam Chomsky's 1970 introduction to Gurin 's influential survey notes that the historian has "undertaken what he describe s elsewhere as a process of rehabilitation' of anarchism. He arguesthat the constructive ideas of anarchism retain 79 Donald Cameron, "Pacific Anarchist," The Montreal Star Weekend Magazine July 26, 1975, 10. 80 Avrich, Anarchist Voices 468. 81 Daniel Gurin, An archism (New York: Monthly Review Press, 1970), 5.
36 their vitality, that they may, when re examined and sifted, assist contemporary socialist thought to undertake a new departure.'" 82 But what of Avrich? "Of all the major movements of social reform," he wrote in An American Anarchist "anarchism has been subject to the grossest misunderstandings of its nature and objectives. No group has been more abused and misrepresented by the authoritie s or more feared and detested by the public." 83 The project of anarchist history wasn't a small or quick one. History is never clean or settled, but Avrich had to work prolifically and cover many facets of anarchism to reverse so much innuendo. The context and analysis in Avrich's work result from a series of guiding questions which he restated in the prefaces to several volumes, contrasting their open endedness with received wisdom. In An American Anarchist: the Life of Voltairine de Cleyre he wondered wh o in fact were the anarchists? What did they actually say and do with regard to economic, social, and political issues? How did they cope with popular abuse and with official harassment and repression? How did they react to problems, both social and person al, which confronted them at different stages of their careers? What did they want and what did they achieve? 84 The questions he asked about Haymarket endeavored to explain the subject in "human as well as historical terms.with the interest that adheres t o men and women who have the courage to defy conventional standards of behavior and to withstand hardship and abuse for the sake of principles they believe to be right." 85 Avrich focused largely on anarchist luminaries, but his sympathy for the forgotten wa s nevertheless a trademark of social history. 82 Ibid., xviii. 83 Avrich, An American Anarchist xiii. 84 Ibid., xiv. 85 Avrich, The Haymarket Tragedy xii xiv.
37 Searching for answers the historian found a chasm between myth and reality, reason and unreason. Avrich sought to cleanse history of recalcitrant biases. He quoted a Haymarket contemporary who realized "the po wer of words, the force of phrases, the obdurate and terrible tyranny of a term. The men who had been hanged were called anarchists, when, as it happened, they were men, just men." 86 A biographical approach was not Avrich's intention when he began working on the project to document American anarchist history in the early 1970s But because the anarchists were "just men" (and women) he decided to use that. Avrich reflected on deficiencies in the record and planned a single comprehensive volume on anarchism i n America. Facing a vast amount of material he went in another direction. As my work progressed it became increasingly evident that much of what had happened in the movement had been due to the personal characteristics of its adherents, and that the nature of American anarchism might be profitably explored through the lives of a few individuals who played a central role in the movement and set the imprint of their personalities upon it. 87 Through biographical history he would cover the topography of anarchi st history, first in Russia, then in America. Although his ambitions were never fully realized (he was writing a biography on Alexander Berkman before he was incapacitated by dementia) he made biographical history the method par excellence of anarchist his toriography. As Bruce Nelson wrote in a 1991 review: "Following Paul Avrich's work, the heroic biography has become the quintessential form for anarchist historiography." 88 A passage from Sacco and Vanzetti: The Anarchist Background dramatizes the praisewo rthy characteristics of anarchism that Avrich recognized: "Walter Nelles, who had meanwhile replaced Donato as Elia's counsel, told his client that if he was able to 86 Ibid., 428. 87 Avrich, An American Anarchist xiii. 88 Bruce C. Nelson, review of Free Love an d Anarchism: The Biography of Ezra Heywood by Martin Henry Blatt, The American Historical Review 96, no. 1 (February 1991): 261.
38 deny being an anarchist he might avoid expulsion. Elia declined. This is my only title of honor,' was his reply." 89 Avrich's interactions brought him near other haunting testaments of faith. "Anarchism is a part of me," Alberico Pirani told him in 1975. "You take away my anarchist idea and you take away my life!" 90 For Avrich courage represented not nearsightedness but a moral fervor that defied, but was inevitably chased by, convention. Therein lies the resolve and defeat of anarchism. Biographical history had key strengths for Avrich's research. He could project outward from a single life to t he broad lay of anarchism, humanizing and condensing anarchism at once. De Cleyre, a figure Joll or Gurin do not even mention in their histories, overlapped many anarchist landmarks. "She lived through, and was profoundly affected by, the Haymarket hangin gs of 1887, the Homestead strike of 1892, and the McKinley assassination of 1901, dying a decade later, on the eve of the great war, when anarchism had reached its zenith and stood on the threshold of decline." 91 Biographies of and essays on individual anar chists were favored because the complexity of their personal lives and relationships pulled the proverbial dagger from their hands and explained a complex phenomenon. Probing Sacco and Vanzetti's lives altered the story of them as gentle "philosophical" anarchists by locating them in the early twentieth century Italian American anarchist scene that had definite violent tendencies (in the same book Avrich charges Mario Buda, a fellow Galleanasti, with planting the bomb on Wall Street that killed thirty eig ht in 1920.) A failure of past work, he noted in Sacco and Vanzetti: the Anarchist Background was ignorance of anarchist sources. For a case over which so 89 Avrich, Sacco and Vanzetti 195. 90 Avrich, Anarchist Voices 143. 91 Avrich, An American Anarchist 15.
39 much ink had been spilled it was noteworthy that Avrich was the first to extensively detail the anar chist background. He reserved judgment of Sacco and Vanzetti's guilt and innocence, the preoccupation of earlier studies, and concluded only that "the guilt of which they were conscious was that of anarchism, not of robbery and murder," devoting just a few pages to their capture and trial. 92 Because of Avrich's specialization he was able to plumb their beliefs and relationships. The revision was necessary because anarchism, as we have seen, was Sacco and Vanzetti's strongest passion, the guiding beacon of their lives, the focus of their daily interests and activities. To ignore it, as some writers have done, is to forfeit any apprehension of their motives and aspirations, so crucial to an understanding of the case. 93 Candace Falk wrote that by evoking the a tmosphere from which Sacco and Vanzetti emerged "makes their actions, and also the reaction to their militancy, understandable." 94 The method expressed Avrich's natural liking of anarchists, whom he sees as fundamentally decent. He was struck above all by their passionate hatred of injustice, of tyranny in all its forms, and by the perceptiveness of their warnings against the dangers of concentrated power, economic and political alike. They were among the earliest and most consistent opponents of totali tarianism, both of the left and of the right, marked by the growth of a police state, the subjugation of the individual, the dehumanization of labor, and the debasement of language and culture -in short, by what Herbert Spencer described a century ago as The Coming Slavery.' 95 But the heroes were also reminders of anarchism's decline. Related to criticisms of Joll and Woodcock, others felt that Avrich was needlessly detached from the contemporary movement. The approach was unsatisfactory for readers with strong claims. His biographical approach drew further complaints. A 1995 review said that Avrich (and Nettlau), 92 Avrich, Sacco and V anzetti 203. 93 Ibid., 45. 94 Candace Falk, review of Sacco and Vanzetti: The Anarchist Background by Paul Avrich, The Journal of American History 78, no. 3 (December 1991): 1123. 95 Avrich, Anarchist Portraits xii.
40 despite their impressive achievements, though, the work of both men has been marginalized not merely on account of their anarchist subjects and commitment but also because of their conservative, uninnovative conceptions of history. Avrich has remained extraordinarily untouched by the rise to maturity of social history concurrent with his own career as an historian. 96 What that complaint of "conse rvative, uninnovative conceptions of history" meant was that Avrich was uncomfortable abandoning a Great Men version of anarchist history, even if the subject itself was virtuous. Contemporary anarchists would be discouraged to think that classical anarchi sm was just a collection of social theorists and martyrs. Reviews of his work on Russian anarchism, the early explorations of a polarizing subject, demonstrate how split the reactions could be. "But it is unfortunate that the author of this otherwise inter esting book joins the vast army of American writers on Russia patiently engaged in decrying Lenin," noted a reviewer equating The Russian Anarchists to a bandwagon version of history. Were the anarchists making him self reflexive? That reviewer held the 19 67 book was "an obsessive tune of political apologetics. Obsessions stimulate, but they invariably stifle the historian's sense of reality, of historical reality." 97 Bookchin, on the other hand, found Avrich guilty by association with Leninism in Kronstadt 1921 In fact, Avrich left many anarchists upset for daring to include criticism of the sailors and soldiers in mutiny against the Soviet Union and refusing to unilaterally take sides with them in that book. Bookchin wrote that "Avrichis trapped by the no tion that Bolshevik rule was the only barrier to counterrevolution, this despite the evidence of his own material that the repression of Kronstadt was the counterrevolution." 98 The content of Avrich's research was such that, in the midst of a renaissance of anarchism, he 96 David Goodway, "The Anarchists Speak f or Themselves," Labour History Review 62, no. 2 (Summer 1997), 207. 97 "Reactionary and Revolutionaries," The Times Literary Supplement 98 Murray Bookchin, review of Kronstadt 1921 by Paul Avrich, Our Generation Winter 1972, 118.
41 was subject to questioning of whether he was revolutionary or counterrevolutionary, regardless of his declaration of non partisanship. Anarchists were for the most part glad to see their history reconstructed. A few were hopeful about the p otential of history to stimulate consciousness. "Right now is a good time for anarchist propaganda. Too bad Rocker is not alive!...I am much encouraged that students, especially students of history, are so interested in our movement. Change is on the way." 99 But others saw the study of past events as harmful towards, or at least useless for, grassroots mobilization. History made anarchism passive, a taxidermal display in the museum of revolutions. "It's a paradox," Sam Dolgoff said. "The interest in anarchis m grows as the movement declines. Then the historians enter on the scene to write its obituary." 100 Avrich himself saw "a spate of scholarly works on anarchist themes" responding to, not provoking or downplaying, the revival. 101 Do historians have an obligatio n to current events? Or does that necessarily make for teleology, working back from result to cause? Avrich's relationships with anarchists are the key reason why he reevaluated anarchist history. Anarchist Voices a book where he granted "preserving for posterity the story of the anarchists as they themselves have recalled it," was the culmination of Avrich's willingness to let the anarchists speak with a minimum of authorial judgment, and a work he described as perhaps the most important of his career. 102 Avrich learned several languages -French, German, and Yiddish, in addition to English and Russian -so he could reach out to the older anarchists. Beyond movement 99 Avrich, Anarchist Voice s 324. 100 Ibid., 427 428. 101 Avrich, Anarchist Portraits xi. 102 Avrich, Anarchist Voices xii.
42 sources, documents in Italian (like the bomb making pamphlet La Salute e in voi! "Health is In You!") reconfigured the picture of Sacco and Vanzetti. Multi lingualism was essential not only for reading foreign language primary sources but also communicating with anarchists themselves. Once Avrich went with Isca, the co founder of the Libertarian Book Club, to visit an old French anarchist near New York. Marianne Enckell, director of a Swiss center on anarchist research, described the peculiar encounter. "The guy was working in his garden, and seeing an unknown visitor he said : 'Qu'est ce que la proprit?' and Paul, obediently, answered 'La proprit, c'est le vol!' He was then allowed to enter the house." 103 La proprit, c'est le vol! ("property is theft!") was French anarchist Pierre Joseph Proudhon's famous construction from his 1840 book What is Property? The anecdote is telling because it fuses together Avrich's knowledge and persistence on behalf of anarchist memory. Avrich's research, as the early visit to the delicatessen makes clear, was not confined to archives. Friendships, as much as solitary work and reflection, explain Avrich's perspective. "Personal contacts are essential," he said, for "by revealing the inner recesses of anarchist life as perhaps no other sources can, these contacts have done much to broaden and deepen my knowledge of the subject." 104 Avrich did not feel a professional duty to seal himself off from subjects. As Herrada noted "many of Avrich's closest friends were his anarchist elders. He saw in them a genuine passion for their ideals and the ability to truly live them ." 105 The anarchist's valor is, we've seen, a thread that winds through Avrich's histories. Questions of objectivity are complex here. The vilification of anarchism reached academe as much as anywhere else. Richard Drinnon, 103 Marianne Enckell, e mail message to author, January 1, 2008. 104 Avrich, An American Anarchist xxi. 105 Herrada, "Paul Avrich: A Passionate Chronicler of Anarchism ."
43 before furthering his research for Rebel in Paradise his 1963 biography of Emma Goldman, regarded "along with everyone elseher anarchism as a particularly bizarre form of political lunacy. Months of research passed before I learned that my skepticism was pseudo sophistication and my cond escension was only conventional ignorance." 106 Avrich had the benefit of not only primary and secondary documents but also the relationships he cultivated with anarchists who embraced him as one of their own. He was unable to condescend toward those whom he loved. The act of writing history -narrative, descriptive, or analytical -requires taking sides. Drinnon reminded readers of Rebel in Paradise of Albert Camus's maxim: "To write is already to choose." For Drinnon "to choose Emma Goldman as a subject is al ready to say something forcibly, one way or another, about the writer's values." 107 We can judge that Avrich embraced anarchism insofar as he didn't chastise it, and the actions such values led to, as previous historians had. Herrada said Avrich was "inspiri ng us to keep the movement going." 108 While he may have inspired, he was never a movement intellectual in terms of political commitments. He mostly sought out anarchists as courageous models, perhaps of what he could have been had he been born a generation o r two earlier. Criticisms of Avrich's intimacy with anarchism, or lack thereof, are of several kinds. A review of The Haymarket Tragedy bemoaned that "Avrich writes as a partisan of the anarchists, convinced that no one on the prosecution side could hone stly have believed in their guilt." 109 When Avrich met Boris Yelensky at the Fraye Arbeter Shtime 106 Richard Drinnon, Rebel in Paradise: A Biography of Emma Goldman (Boston: Beacon Press, 1970), vii. 107 Ibid. 108 Herrada, "Paul Avrich: A Passionate Chronicler of Anarchism." 109 Gould, "The Anarchists' Advocate."
44 offices in 1963 the anarchist "seemed unfriendly, resenting my nonpartisan approach to the study of a movement to which he had dedicated his life." Anarchists w ere naturally defensive, as Yelensky shows, about protecting their ideal and its heritage. But the historian was not detached and "before long, however, we became good friends." 110 Avrich was comfortable working outside the wissenschaft principle of perfect scientific objectivity that early American historians strove for, but never became a doctrinaire mouthpiece. Anarchists seemed to enjoy his work as usable history. The anarchist Kate Sharpley Library collective (whose "aim is to give, as Pietro Gori writes 'flowers for the fallen' and allow the movement of today to learn from the past") 111 wrote in an obituary that Avrich's "honest and thorough approach grounded in primary sources may well have given anarchists, should they choose to read him, some of the t ools to succeed." 112 Another said "the anarchist movement has lost a great friend." 113 Avrich was considerate of the anarchists humanity but wasn't a propagandist. Because of the demystification of violence in Sacco and Vanzetti: The Anarchist Background a f ew anarchists regarded the book as a breach of trust. David Wieck, writing in 1987, four years before it was published, signaled what expectations anarchists might have. "But I truly didn't believe that Sacco or Vanzetti was involved,'" Wieck wrote, "and it is utterly snakeful that the [ New York Review of Books ] gives importance to the work of a hack historian like Russell." 114 A year after Sacco and Vanzetti: the Anarchist Background was published Avrich wrote Wieck that "as regards Sacco and 110 Avrich, Anarchist Voices 388. 111 Gurin, Daniel and Paul Sharkey, eds., No Gods, No Masters (Oakland: AK Press, 2005), 705. 112 Kate Sharpley Library Collective, "Paul Avrich 1931 2006: A Historian Who Listened to Anarchist Voices," KSL: Bulletin of the Kate Sharpley Library July 2006. 113 "Obituary : Paul Avrich (1931 2006)," Organise #66, http://blackend.net/af/org/issue66/avrich.html 114 David Wieck to Paul Avrich, June 17, 1987, Tamiment Library of New York University.
45 Vanzetti, suff ice it to say that I did the best that I could with a difficult subject. My heart goes out to the two men" 115 Avrich's consultation of non English sources for much of his research on American anarchism led to a further misconception about anarchism in the United States: that, in Hippolyte Havel's sardonic claim, anarchism was "a foreign poison imported into the States from decadent Europe by criminal paranoiacs." 116 While, if a plurality of anarchists were of foreign extraction, anarchism was not, in Avrich' s words an "alien phenomenon, a doctrine imported from Europe with few native roots or adherents." 117 For many believed anarchist tenets were also "an integral part of the American past, deeply rooted in native soil." 118 Berman noted that Isca's most cherished possession was a shelf full of Thoreau books. The individualist anarchist Benjamin Tucker proudly remarked that anarchists were "simply unterrified Jeffersonian Democrats." 119 In her essay "Anarchism and American Traditions" Voltairine de Cleyre found anarc hism "begotten of religious rebellion, small self sustaining communities, isolated conditions, and hard pioneer life." 120 De Cleyre and her mentor Dyer Lum "were native Americans with ancestral roots in New England Puritanism and abolitionism" 121 ; Emma Goldman had, as Fermin Rocker said, "a particular blend of heartiness and aggressiveness that fit the American temper" 122 ; Haymarket defendant Albert Parsons, an ex Confederate soldier, "was a picturesque specimen of that much quoted product known as the Typical 115 Paul Avrich to David Wieck, January 6, 1992, Tamiment Library of New York Unive rsity. 116 Avrich, An American Anarchist 156. 117 Avrich, The Haymarket Tragedy 3. 118 Avrich, An American Anarchist xiv. 119 Ibid., 155. 120 Ibid., 156. 121 Ibid., 58. 122 Avrich, Anarchist Voices 40.
46 A merican.'" 123 Avrich may overemphasize the indigenous aspects of anarchism, compensating for the swarthy foreigner stereotype. However, as we'll see in the next chapter, indigenous radicals could in fact be rather anarchistic. Familiarity let Avrich make th e case for anarchism's meaning for his own culture. Examples like Sacco and Vanzetti, Edmund Wilson found, "revealed the whole anatomy of American life, with all its classes, professions, and points of view and all their relations, and it raised almost eve ry fundamental question of our political and social system." 124 If anarchists were seers, and society hadn't been turned upside down over the span of a few generations, then Avrich's histories were pertinent. He argued for the relevance of knowing anarchist history, if not for having active libertarian formations: in short, a study of American anarchism is essential to an understanding of such subjects as labor and immigration, pacifism and war, birth control and sexual freedom, civil liberties and political repression, prison reform and capital punishment, avant garde culture and art. In a larger sense, a study of American anarchism will shed interesting light on the nature of American democracy, American capitalism, and American government. 125 Another proble m for Avrich was violence. In detailing the processes of manipulation, hysteria, and stereotypes (and the ends of restricting civil liberties, arrest, deportation, or, finally, execution) Avrich's deals with that element. His colleague Vivian Gruder stated that "the anarchism he sought to illuminate was the nonviolent tradition of Kropotkin." 126 That is only partly true. Avrich felt that violence was among the movements "faults and inconsistencies" 127 but facile treatments of it were mistaken. In An American An archist he wrote that "of all the misconceptions of anarchism, the one that dies the hardest is the belief that it is inseparable from assassination and 123 Avrich, The Haymarket Tragedy 115. 124 Avrich, Anarchist Voices 189. 125 Avrich, An American Anarchist xviii. 126 Vivian Gruder, "Paul Avrich," Perspectives on History May 2006. 127 Avrich, Anarchist Portraits xii.
47 destruction." 128 That error held sway with even respectable historians who used anarchism as a byword for violent disorder, the war of each against all. Avrich portrays anarchism along a spectrum going from Tolstoyan non violence to those for whom "the slaughter of capitalists and officials was righteous work, and who advocated it with all the passion of reli gious devotion." 129 The violence question recurs in every Avrich book but is handled most deftly in Sacco and Vanzetti: the Anarchist Background His explanations are careful to avoid prejudice and make interpretations according to historical circumstance. Though kind hearted and idealistic Sacco and Vanzetti were rank and file militants influenced by the editor and orator Galleani. They were social militants, advocates of relentless warfare against government and capital. Far from being the innocent dreame rs so often depicted by their supporters, they belonged to a branch of the anarchist movement which preached insurrectionary violence and armed retaliation, including the use of dynamite and assassination. Such activities, they believed, were replies to th e monstrous violence of the state. The greatest bomb throwers and murderers were not the isolated rebels driven to desperation but the military resources of every government 130 Avrich gave historical anarchists a free hand to explain the purpose of violen ce. "Propaganda of the deed" was a desperate response in the crucible of industrial America. Seen against the backlash of official violence, anarchist violence isn't as egregious as when it becomes isolated from historical context (anarchists, after all, a rgue that the state is the greatest arbiter of violence.) For Haymarket he said "it is possible to condemn the police without at the same time condoning the bombing.Without their interference, the bomb would not have been thrown." 131 An examination of viole nce necessarily showed that it was not directly a measure that advanced the movement, and worked against the 128 Avrich, An American Anarchist xiii. 129 Avrich, The Haymarket Tragedy 163. 130 Avrich, Sacco and Vanzetti 57. 131 Paul Avrich, The Haymarket Tragedy 214.
48 intention of overthrowing the state by granting it ever greater powers, but could be understandable given absurd structural inequality. When Avri ch spoke of the anarchists "guts" and "great integrity" he was not saluting the crop of postwar anarchists. He was more congenial with elderly anarchists such as those at the Fraye Arbeter Shtime banquets, who had become anarchists in the classical period. Being a historian, Avrich took the long view. He knew that the revitalized movement had an equally poor chance of overthrowing the present order as the prewar anarchists had, and probably less so given unwelcome advances. Berman, a Columbia undergraduate in the late 1960s, recognized the limits of postwar anarchism: But rarely is the movement's natural Anarchism or intuitive understanding of liberty converted into a program of political action and organization. Instead, much of the Left still labors under a crude Leninist ideology and identifies revolution and the new society with the Vanguard Party.' Libertarian sentiments are abandoned to the barracks of new hierarchies and dogma, and, under this dominant definition of political action, anti authoritaria nism is restricted to a dream or to a lifestyle, confined to the movement itself or to individuals. Anti authoritarian action and agitation by yippie types and others with neo Anarchist tendencies -take on not the strengths but the historic weaknesses of the old Anarchism, the isolated protest and blind optimism of a movement with no program to transform real social relations. 132 The anarchists thought history went in the direction of forward change, but unlike the socialists they had no definite template. And the historical process most anarchists believed, as Blaine McKinley explained, that Liberty was gradually but definitely overtaking Authority, was shaken. 133 Avrich knew several anarchists who were the last surviving link to a group, an anarchist colon y, a famous event, and so forth. He met Harry Richal, the only survivor from Gruppo Liberta di Needham, which counted thirty members in 1925. The anarchist Eleanor Litwack told Avrich in 1972 that from her old branch of the Workmen's Circle 132 Berman, Quotations from the Anarchists (New York: Praeger, 1972), 24. 133 Blaine McKinley, "Anarchist Jeremiads: American Anarchists and American History," Journal of American Culture 6, no. 2 (Summer 1983).
49 "there are only three or four old comrades left." 134 Meeting them, the anarchists moral courage looked inveterate. Avrich never ceased being awestruck by their example. The anarchist's Avrich knew were distinguished from the raucous newcomers, who seldom even conceived of themselves as anarchists, by a quiet but deep assurance that honored tradition. "His language was noble and antique," Berman wrote of Isca in 1996. "Who speaks like that today? No one, no one." 135 For all pretenses of universalism, anarchism was never a uni tary movement. In the early twentieth century anarchists were divided by ethnicity and ideology. Now the opposing force was age. Dolgoff remembered when a new element of crazies, nuts, acid heads, and junkies, some with authoritarian tendencies, came in. Their talk was dominated by sex, drugs, and violent action. They were disruptive and did little constructive work. The problem became how to remove or expel them. 136 Avrich was at the annual luncheon of the Libertarian Book Club in 1969 when a member of the group Up Against the Wall Mother Fucker! began shouting in response to a young lawyer's lecture on Bakunin that anarchism really meant "Up Against the Wall Mother Fucker!" Avrich recalled this he repeated several times in an effort to epater les anarchist es Thereupon a white haired man on the other side of the room -it was Israel Ostroff -rose and said in a heavy Jewish accent, I've been an anarchist for sixty four years, and for the first time I think maybe I made a mistake.' At the conclusion of the lu ncheon I went over to Ostroff and introduced myself, and we soon became friends. 137 If the older anarchists Avrich wrote about were the domain of history, then what to make of the youth driven movement? For the aged were once young themselves and just as s usceptible to hastiness. Avrich said in 2002 that the veterans "were nicer people 134 Avrich, Anarchist Voices 306. 135 Berman, "The Last of the Anarchists." 136 Avrich, Anarchist Voices 427. 137 Ibid., 450.
50 much nicer people" and that he "admired them and wanted them around the most. There's nothing else that is me." 138 The young, ipso facto were beyond his reach. While reserv ed, Avrich was not blind to history going on around him. After the 1968 events in Paris he asked the dean of Queens College permission to teach a course on anarchism. He was refused, and threatened to quit in return, but then was granted permission. Avrich taught on anarchism for twenty years and brought in several anarchist guests to speak to classes. What Avrich offered contemporary anarchists was an explanation of genealogy. At several junctures in his books he foreshadows postwar development and unrest. The Haymarket Tragedy crackles with allusions. Between 1883 and 1886 anarchists "developed a rich libertarian counterculturetotally at odds with the prevailing system." Only then the counterculture was "deeply rooted in the working classes." 139 In Anarchis t Portraits Avrich drew the most resounding comparisons. He clarified how, as a 1970 anarchist periodical put it, "the New Left today comes upon Anarchy like Schliemann uncovering Troy." 140 "Student rebels since the 1960s, even when professed Marxists, have often been closer in spirit to Bakunin," Avrich wrote. 141 Avrich found a transcendent message in the anarchist evaluation of power that could have been useful for heady radicals. In that regard Avrich's decentralism was forceful as ever. "Of particular rel evance, after the lessons of Russia, Spain, and China, was [Bakunin's] message that social emancipation must be attained by libertarian rather than authoritarian methods that socialism without liberty, as he put it, is the worst form 138 Phillips, "Love and Anarchy." 139 Avrich, The Haymarket Tragedy 131. 140 Avrich, Anarchist Portraits xi. 141 Ibid., 15.
51 of tyranny." 142 Generati onal tensions, as the historian knew, weren't without precedent. During the nineteenth century Russian anarchists engaged in a fierce debate: the insurrectionist Nechaev "complained to Sazhin that Bakunin no longer had the level of energy and self abnega tion' required of a true revolutionary, a reflection of the conflict of generations -of the men of the sixties' against the men of the forties' -within the populist movement." 143 The young rebels shared charges of romanticism with the old. Avrich's histori es were useful to curb the rushes that plague radicals -which can develop from ahistoricism -and sustain idealism when faced with loneliness. He gave anarchists examples without being didactic. What separated Avrich from the sturdy anarchists, young and old, was a cynical disposition. Part of that surely came from knowing anarchism was (thus far) a historical failure. In the essay "Kropotkin's Ethical Anarchism" Avrich had a prolonged meditation whereupon he considered the likelihood that Kropotkin would have held onto anarchism in the face of later developments (Kropotkin died in the USSR in 1921; his funeral was said to have been the last conglomeration of anarchists in that country): One wonders whether he would have altered his views had he lived to s ee the rise of totalitarianism, the Second World War, and the invention of nuclear and biological weapons of mass destruc tion. Probably not. His optimism, despite his own life of hard experience, was seemingly inexhaustible. And because of this he exaggera ted the extent of human solidarity in the world and emphasized the bonds rather than the hatreds and divisions. He remained convinced that humans, if unper verted by political and social authority, are inherently virtuous and thus capable of living in harmo ny. At times he seemed quite unaware that men and women have been driven to irrational acts by personal neuroses and social myths, that they have always been prone to delusions and to urges of self destruction, so that now, in the nuclear age, they are thr eatened at last with extinction. Moreover, he underrated the urge to power in many and the willingness of the mass of people to follow charismatic leaders. Even the Dukhobor sectarians, whom Kropotkin so keenly admired, put their faith in a series of autoc ratic messiahs to whom they swore unquestioning allegiance. It is doubtful, in short, whether our aggressive, authoritarian, and acquisitive impulses are merely the product of a degenerate social system and whether, even with a radical change in that syste m, governments, laws, police, and courts will ever become superfluous. Conflict and oppression, after all, existed long before the emergence of capitalism or 142 Ibid., 31. 143 Ibi d., 44.
52 of the modern centralized state; and, barring a transformation of human nature itself, they will c ontinue to exist in the future. 144 Avrich's dearest friend among the anarchists was Thorne. At Thorne's 1986 memorial Avrich made a remark that disclosed the distance between anarchism and his own beliefs. "It was always a special treat for me to be in tou ch with Ahrne, with his mellow voice and his optimistic view -in contrast to my own jaded, cynical, pessimistic view -of the world." 145 Anarchist historiography has managed to secure a niche for itself. Following Avrich, and Nettlau, Rocker, Paz, Joll, Wood cock, and Gurin other historians have expanded the frontiers regarding anarchism's relationship to the past. Martha Acklesberg has done pioneering work on women in the Spanish Civil War. Nunzio Perrnicone has contributed greatly to our knowledge of Itali an and Italian American anarchist history. Bob Helms has done interesting work on the local history of Philadelphia anarchism. They have proved that it was not subservient to Marxism, a "particularly bizarre form of political lunacy," or a hobby of crimina l paranoiacs from decadent Europe. We see it as a just and admirable -if somewhat credulous -response to prevailing conditions that resonates beyond prewar contingencies. In Avrich we see the discovery and reconstruction of anarchism as an ethical concept shadowing the decline (or lost cause) of the anarchist movement. As we'll see, he wasn't the only person to have that realization in postwar America. 144 Ibid., 75 76. 145 the dandelion 6.
53 2. Anarchism (Re)Considered For anarchists, the intellectual could be many things. Anarchists are known for visceral revolt, but they have devoted tremendous energy to insightful writing and lecturing. At the same time, their ethical and moral rebuke of hierarchy and domination and their dedication to revolutionary modes of interaction in the pres ent 146 make them wary of intellectuals who think abstractly and methodically and could use their knowledge to subdue, redirect, or co opt social change. This chapter explores the intellectual segment of anarchism in postwar America. What did intellectuals re cover in anarchism, a philosophy and movement that many considered done for by mid century? Had they replaced grassroots anarchists or participated with them? How did intellectuals understand anarchism and define themselves? How did professionalization and the expanding university affect them and their views? Thinkers like C Wright Mills and Noam Chomsky explained postwar America with anarchist verve. They produced not an economic doctrine or some other reductionism but a multidimensional evaluation of pos twar society and culture. What interests me is how they understood the world and, especially, their craft as intellectuals. I want to show why they became anarchists or near anarchists and how they wielded that faith. The rise and fall of Students for a De mocratic Society explains the depth of anarchism in the postwar radical imagination, and the demonstrations at Berkeley in 1964 and Columbia in 1968 were to some extent anarchistic in performance and scope. Through such examples we see the continuity of an archism (more pronounced in some 146 David Graeber, "Anarchism, Or The Revolutionary Movement Of The Twenty first Century," ZNet January 6, 2004. http://www.zmag.org/znet/view/ArticlePri nt9258 (accessed March 22, 2009).
54 than others), and in their enrichment of intellectual temperament a consideration of means and methods and skepticism of power and authority. Some nuts and bolts are helpful before investigating postwar anarchist intellect ual trends. What had anarchists thought of intellectuals? There was some hope and expectation in the resourcefulness of the intellectual dclass ("having fallen in social status") 147 but predictions were made that intellectuals might constitute a "new class that would seize power for themselves and control inferiors by power of their learning. At the very least, anarchists point up the corrupting effects of institutions -universities, for example -which often house intellectuals, a problem that become dense r by the second half of the twentieth century. Intellectual and other anarchists were more closely associated in the hundred years from Pierre Joseph Proudhon's What Is Property? (1840), using that as an arbitrary beginning of the philosophy, through th e 1939 defeat of the Republicans in the Spanish Civil War, including the late nineteenth and early twentieth century classical period, than in the second half of the twentieth century. Over that century aristocrats like Peter Kropotkin and working class in tellectuals like Proudhon constructed the bedrock of anarchist thought with the harsh clang of industrialization in the background. Artisans and peasants, harmed by social, economic, and political turmoil, found a useful philosophy in anarchism (among radi cal ideology, however, less so than Marxism or social democracy.) Anarchists thought of creating the "whole man" 148 who would be able to express all faculties, including cerebral ones, an opportunity she or he could never have under bosses and politicians. 147 Oxford Pocket American Dictionary of Current English s.v. "Dclass." 148 Peter Kropotkin, Fields, Factories, and Workshops, Or, Industry Combined with Agriculture and Brain Work with Manual Work (New York: Greenwood, 19 68).
55 The separation between thinkers and the grassroots (using those categories imprecisely because there was never a hard and fast line), is more stark today than it had been in anarchism's classical period. Then erudite books were published, and lectures dre w sizable and rapt crowds. Anarchist theorists were mostly lionized by other anarchists (though not always) and sometimes by non anarchists. Though aspects of contemporary anarchism reach beyond knowledge and conversation -the antiglobalization movement, f or example -anarchism then was more cross cultural. Contemporary anarchist thinkers are products of and more beholden to institutions so they are often not publicists in the way classical anarchists were. Anarchism has a body of thought about intellectua ls. Mikhail Bakunin spoke to the complex feelings anarchists have for intellectuals. Bakunin was a breakneck personality who exuded revolt and had a reputation for continuously plotting some or another mid nineteenth century insurrection. He was an essenti al anarchist theorist, albeit one who never rested long enough to completely synthesize his thoughts. Bakunin's debates with his contemporary Karl Marx culminated in the anarchists being expunged from the First International in 1872 and underscore the anar chists modest faith in, and instinctual distrust of, intellectuals. Bakunin claimed he was no systematizer like Marx: he cleaved to no system but was "a true seeker." 149 He believed, unlike Marx, that downwardly mobile students and intellectuals would play a key part in social revolutions. Bakunin's notable contribution to the intellectual question was the fear that intellectuals would use their superior persuasion to master non intellectuals. In The Lullers he said that "the nobility disguised its violence with divine grace. The bourgeoisie could not obtain that high patronageand 149 E.H. Carr, Michael Bakunin (London: Macmillan, 1937), 167.
56 therefore had to seek sanctions outside of God and the Church. And it found such sanctions among licensed intellectuals." 150 The concept of a "new class" was devised by Bakunin, th en expanded and clarified by Jan Machajski in the early twentieth century and generations later by Noam Chomsky. The hypothesis was largely verified with the advent of Leninism and, we'll see, the proliferation of "new mandarins" in the postwar United Stat es. Bakunin wrote the same year he was dismissed from the First International that the dictatorship of the proletariat would be the rule of the scientific intellect the most autocratic, the most despotic, the most arrogant, the most insolent of all reg imes. There will be a new class, a new hierarchy of genuine or sham savants, and the world will be divided into a dominant majority in the name of science, and an immense ignorant majority. 151 Anarchism was not exactly anti intellectual (Bakunin himself was no philistine or hater of knowledge) but warned against the hierarchy of knowledge and exploitation by the knower. Hierarchy could be established by reason (or its guise) as much as force. Bakunin proposed instead a comprehensive education that would mold "neither workers nor scientists but only men." 152 In 1902, a decade and a half before the October Revolution, Machajaski echoed Bakunin when he urged workers "to abandon the intelligentsia" who exploit them to seize "cushy jobs." 153 Kropotkin was the most di stinguished anarchist intellectual, whose reputation even among non anarchist scholars and journalists went beyond the gawking most anarchists received. Colman McCarthy wrote that 150 Mikhail Bakunin, The Lullers 1868 1869, quoted in Berman, Quotations from the Anarchists (New York: Praeger, 1972), 201. 151 Carr, Michael Bakunin 477. 152 Ibid., 145. 153 Marshall S. Shatz, J an Wac!aw Machajski: A Radical Critic of the Russian Intelligentsia and Socialism (Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 1989), 182.
57 One of the draws of the lecture circuit 100 years ago we had one then, too was Prince Peter Kropotkin. In October 1897[he] addressed the National Geographic Society in Washington. In New York he lectured to audiences of 2,000 people. In Boston large crowds at Harvard and other sites heard him speak.Admission was 15 cents, somet imes a quarter, or else free so that ordinary workers would be able to attend.' 154 Kropotkin believed that intellectuals could encourage revolutionary sentiment, but that they must stand down when deliverance came. "When men's minds are prepared and extern al circumstances are favorable, the final rush is made, not by the group that initiated the movement, but by the mass of people." 155 Kropotkin was an exponent of the scientific method, having done landmark geographical research in Siberia in before becoming an anarchist. 1902's Mutual Aid theorized that, unlike Darwinism and, by extension, Social Darwinism, species survive and flourish through cooperation. Despite Kropotkin's stature, faith in science among countercultural anarchists of the 1960s (who were m ostly, metaphors will explain below, distinct from intellectuals) had eroded so much that Michael Lerner wrote in 1970 that "social scientific analysis is seen as part of the ideological arsenal of the state, whereas in Kropotkin's time tradition was the w eapon of the state and scientific argument the preferred tool for social criticism." 156 The historical discontinuity points up the volatile relationship of anarchists to formal knowledge. Bakunin and Kropotkin show how lukewarm some classical anarchists wer e for intellectuals: they believed intellectuals could be useful for the anarchist movement (both were deeply involved) but they were cautious of ulterior motives and consigned intellectuals to a limited role. Figuring out what exactly that role should be was a greater 154 Colman McCarthy, review of Anarchist Portraits by Paul Avrich, Washington Post May 20, 1994. 155 Peter Kropotkin, Revolutionary Government," in Kropotkin's Revolutionary Pamphlets ed. Roger Baldwin (Whitefish, Montana: Kessinger, 2005), 247. 156 Michael Lerner, "Anarchism and the American Counter Culture," Government and Opposition 5 (Autumn 1970): 452.
58 concern during the decades when a conscious and significant anarchist movement existed. That question of relationship became less dramatic when the movement disintegrated in the 1930s, though surfaced again when anarchism reemerged around the early 1960s. As the decline came nearer, other anarchists weighed in. The Russian anarchist movement of the early twentieth century, Paul Avrich writes, manifested a deep seated distrust of rational systems and of the intellectuals who constructed them. While inheriting the Enlightenment's belief in the inherent goodness of man, the Russian anarchists generally did not share the faith of the philosophes in the power of abstract reason.The anarchists, rejecting the notion that society is governed by rati onal laws, maintained that so called scientific' theories of history and sociology were artificial contrivances of the human brain which served only to impede the natural and spontaneous impulses of mankind. 157 The Russian anarchists were more extreme in their anti intellectualism than American counterparts, but do explain what broad concerns anarchists had of intellectuals and how anarchism is a system of feeling and faith as much as reason. The Ukrainian anarchist Nestor Makhno, who led the Anarchist Bla ck Army in an unsuccessful 1918 1921 guerilla war against the Bolsheviks, personified the dichotomy of action and thought. Avrich wrote elsewhere that Anarchist intellectuals struck him, in the main, as men of books rather than men of deeds, mesmerized by their own words and lacking the will to fight for their ideals. Nevertheless, he respected them for their learning and idealism and later sought their assistance in teaching his peasant followers the fundamentals of anarchist doctrine. 158 Alexander Berkma n, the Russian American anarchist author, speaker, companion of Emma Goldman, and would be 1892 assassin of steel baron Henry Clay Frick, was quite kind towards intellectuals. He wrote in What is Communist Anarchism? (1926) that It is sad to admit that th ere is a tendency in certain labor circles, even among some socialists and anarchists, to antagonize the workers against the members of the intellectual proletariat. Such an 157 Paul Avrich, "Anarchism and Anti Intellectualism in Russia," Journal of the History of Ideas 27, no. 3 (July September 1966): 381 158 Paul Avrich, Anarchist Portraits (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1988), 122.
59 attitude is stupid and criminal, because it can only harm the growth and developme nt of the social revolution. 159 "In justice to intellectuals," he pled, "let us not forget that their best representative have always sided with the oppressed. They have advocated liberty and emancipation, and often they were the first to voice the deepest aspirations of the toiling masses." 160 While the post revolutionary windfall for mercenary intellectuals became a less relevant concern after the classical period and into the postwar epoch, anarchist evaluations of them remained relevant. After repression and distortion, Bolshevism and Spain, anarchism declined as a popular movement so sharply that many thought it no longer existed 161 (while I acknowledge the convention of periodization from the mid nineteenth century, I also sympathize with the notion that anarchist qualities and insights predate the formal development of anarchist theories). Conversely, the number of anarchist intellectuals -that is, intellectuals who were anarchist theorists or indebted to and/or associated with anarchism -expanded. The de cline of the movement gave momentum to anarchist intellectuals. As Arthur Lehning put it, "since the defeat of the powerful anarchist movement in the Spanish Civil War, anarchist movements everywhere have declined and lost their impetus. But anarchist idea s have outlived the partisans and may still be of value as doctrines of social reconstruction." 162 If the anarchist predictions about the new class were on the mark, how can we understand the nexus of anarchism and intellectuals? The anti institutional bent of anarchism (institutions blocked natural and spontaneous communities) and recognition of problems like the shortcomings of historical materialism and the political left sparked a renaissance of anarchism among 159 Alexander Berkman, What is Communist Anarchism? 1 928, quoted in Berman, Quotations from the Anarchists 205. 160 Ibid. 161 George Woodcock, "Anarchism Revisited," Commentary 46 (August 1968): 54 60. 162 Dictionary of the History of Ideas s.v. "Anarchism."
60 intellectuals because, even if their prestig e had increased, they were becoming more dependent on monolithic and bureaucratic organizations like expanding universities. Consider some expressions of major changes within anarchism after the war. Avrich summarizes the organic nature of anarchist theo ry and practice, if not picking up on a schism, in the United States during the late nineteenth and early twentieth century: "European born artisans and peasantsconstituted the mass base of the movement, while its intellectual leadership included well kno wn speakers and writers from diverse countries, who came either as permanent settlers or on extended lecture tours." 163 When the movement phased out it upset many anarchists who believed that sophisticated intellectuals were using anarchism not to prophesize or propagandize but rather to inspect and summarize. "As a political theory," one contemporary source says, "anarchism is not at present widely head; but it continues to serve as an important basis for the critique of authoritarianism and as a continuing reminder of the need to justify existing institutions." 164 Because most academics weren't shaped by anarchism, or didn't communicate effectively to non academics, grassroots anarchists viewed them as snobbish. Intellectuals condemned anarchism, praised it, b orrowed from it, but rarely believed that a society without rulers was possible. They were outwardly satisfied because social combustibility had been overcome and prosperity and enfranchisement could be had. Anarchists like England's Albert Meltzer were ag hast by the change. A 1996 obituary recalled that Meltzer was vehemently opposed to the repackaging of anarchism as a broad church for academia oriented quietists.It was his championship of class struggle anarchism, coupled with his scepticism about the student led New Leftwhich earned Albert his reputation for sectarianism. 165 163 Avrich, Anarchist Portraits 79. 164 The Oxford Compan ion to Philosophy s.v. "Anarchism." 165 Stuart Christie, "Albert Meltzer Anarchy's Torchbearer," The Guardian May 6, 1996.
61 Meltzer wasn't the only anarchist who unhappily watched the change. But for others, Paul Goodman and Dwight Macdonald for example, it was a reason for hope. Professionalization (w hich Russell Jacoby contends "leads to privatization or depoliticization, a withdrawal of intellectual energy from a larger domain to a narrower discipline") 166 sunk most postwar intellectuals within institutions as the "free floating" scholar, as Kropotkin, Bakunin, Goldman, and most other anarchist theorists had been, became a thing of the past. Non academic anarchists lamented the change from organizing to consideration not only because they thought intellectuals would behave selfishly in a revolutionary s ituation, but because their ramblings obscured the "inarticulate impulses" of non intellectuals, as Chomsky phrased it. But students and intellectuals found in anarchism explanation and motivation for the centralized, banal, and repressive condition of the country and world. The dclass (in outlook, if not resources) grew proportionately as the peasants, industrial workers, and artisans of yesteryear became integrated within the post New Deal welfare state. "The interest in anarchism," Sam Dolgoff observed la Meltzer in 1971, "grows as the movement declines.Anarchism becomes, for intellectuals, fashionable, even respectable, but there is no working class support. The irony is that at a time of unprecedented interest in anarchism the movement is virtually defunct." 167 But intellectuals felt the same dislocation by structural forces that workers had. If the self immolating anarchist in bare knuckled revolt was the caricature of prewar anarchism, the bookish academic or the rogue student could be postwar char acters. That is not to say that intellectuals debased anarchism. Anarchist intellectuals 166 Russell Jacoby, The Last Intellectuals (New York: Farrar, Strauss, and Giroux, 1987), 147. 167 Paul Avrich, Anarchist Voices (Oaklan d: AK Press, 2005), 427 28.
62 were usually aware of or influenced by classic theorists and elderly anarchists who had a healthy distrust of the intellectual, and so were self critical of their own standing. They helped evolve anarchism to a new context. Anarchism would have remained bereft if it reached only the wants and needs of a certain period and social stratum. But anarchism is resilient because it can adapt. Postwar anarchists were post ind ustrial anarchists. Advocacy of preindustrial norms masked a widening separation of body and mind. In An American Anarchist Avrich wrote of turn of the century anarchist Voltairine de Cleyre that living among these Jewish immigrants, she grew to admire th eir ability and dedication, their passion for learning, their toiling long hours in the factory during the day then reading and studying at night, above and beyond their activity in the radical movement, which consumed a major part of their energies. 168 Whi le historical anarchists were not reductionist -they proposed a sudden and complete social transformation whereas Marxists envisioned a "dictatorship of the proletariat" -labor and capital conflict wafts of prewar anarchism. New anarchists and old shared a wholesale opposition "to very different societies." 169 By the 1970s, the American economy shifted from manufacturing to service and technology; the floodgates of information broke. Experts became savants with that restructuring. The intellectuals who recove red and recreated anarchism could have been placated by the prestige but thought specialization and centralization was spiritually and culturally denigrating. Postwar anarchist intellectuals reflect tension about the dissolution of individuals into many se lves (e.g., the labor self and domestic self) characteristic of industrialization, and the compartmentalization of knowledge. 168 Paul Avrich, An American Anarchist: the Life of Voltairine de Cleyre (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1978), 76. 169 Lerner, "Anarchism and the American Counter Culture," 451.
63 Could new anarchists unify the characteristics of the whole man or would social forces obstruct them? George Woodcock, a prolific Canadian author who wrote the sympathetic Anarchism: A History of Libertarian Ideas and Movements embodies this fracture: Imbedded [sic] in the anarchist tradition is a dream of living by a combination of manual and mental work, in a harmony that recogn izes both sides of human nature. The Woodcocks tried it. We took a piece of land on Vancouver Island and built a house ourselves, with our hands, never having done anything of that kind before. Then I went away for a year and came back, and we built anoth er house.' They kept a few animals, planted crops, tried to create a subsistence farm. It was a very interesting experience: one learnt a great deal. One learned that it was possible to acquire all sorts of manual skills, with a little intelligence and a little application, and that was very gratifying. But it also taught me that although the anarchists have always held to that ideal, balancing intellectual life and manual work, it's a matter of temperament essentially, and that I didn't have the temperame nt for it. Oh, I still like even now to do a little gardening, a little carpentry, for a variation to use my hands now and again. But the idea of marrying the two on a more or less equal basis is for me hopeless.' 170 That is not to say postwar anarchist int ellectuals were secluded from some mythic real anarchism. Rather, they were socialized to intellectual hierarchy and used anarchism to rectify that break. But they remained intellectuals foremost. The Marxist historian E.J. Hobsbawm, no anarchist himself, wrote in 1969 that anarchism probably "has no mass basis outside the movement of students and intellectuals." 171 Anarchism's material failure, he perceptively argues, does not matter to intellectuals, "the social stratum most interested in ideas." 172 Robert H offman described the circumstance succinctly: "When anarchists were no longer able to lead revolutionary mass movements, they again became more concerned with ideas, revising old concepts to fit changing conditions." 173 Hobsbawm attributes, correctly I think the "vogue for anarchism" to "the crisis of the world communist movement after Stalin's death and the rise of revolutionary discontent among students and intellectuals, at a time when 170 Donald Cameron, "Pacific Anarchist," The Mo ntreal Star Weekend Magazine July 26, 1975, 8 10. 171 E.J. Hobsbawm, Revolutionaries (New York: Pantheon, 1973), 87. 172 Ibid., 82. 173 Hoffman, Anarchism 6.
64 objective historical factors in the developed countries do not make re volution appear very probable." 174 Here was Bakunin's dclass, a group Marx overlooked in the epic struggle between the proletariat and bourgeoisie, 175 identified by a Marxist historian. Such intellectuals, while their status may have fallen only as humanis ts in relation to technical intellectuals, were revolutionary thinkers without revolutionary means. Anarchism strengthened a radical community that had been severed by authoritarian communism and external repression (many, of course, simply became liberal or neoconservative anti communists.) Radical thinkers found in anarchism a moral compass, concerned with process and not bound by "the materialist conception of history." Anarchism was perhaps more nebulous than other radical ideologies and, moreover, had been proven accurate about the dangers of centralized power. Postwar intellectuals turned anarchism inward, to make sense of their own alienation and powerlessness, and outward unto a world that felt inert and then began to change rapidly. A small but gro wing number of radical intellectuals came to see Marxism, the template of 1930s radicals, lacking if not altogether bankrupt. Of course, the number of anarchist intellectuals was infinitesimal compared to liberals, conservatives, and other radicals. Nevert heless anarchists are unique because they, as Jacoby notes in The Last Intellectuals his great 1987 book on the decline of public intellectuals, "are less vulnerable to the corruptions of title and salary because their resistance is moral, almost instinct ual." 176 They are gadfly's, quick to remind other intellectuals of acquiescence, who themselves bucked dominant postwar trends. What anarchist intellectuals presented was radical ethical suasion in contrast with the sickening 174 Hobsbawm, Revolutionaries 84. 175 Avrich, Anarchist Portraits 10. 176 Jacoby, The Last Intellectuals 97.
65 but efficient power and authorit y of existing systems, capitalist and socialist, and the "new mandarins" who backed them. C. Wright Mills was the ornery postwar intellectual (a sociologist by training, and a model publicist) whom was not a devout anarchist but was indebted to its criti cal heritage. Mills was born in 1916 and raised in Waco, Texas. He went to graduate school at Wisconsin, and taught at Maryland and then at Columbia from 1946 until his death from a heart attack in 1962. If the most prominent postwar radical thinkers were foreign born, Mills was an indigenous radical, who looked backward to the anarcho syndicalist Industrial Workers of the World ("Wobblies") for nourishment. You've asked me, 'What might you be?' Now I answer you: 'I am a Wobbly.' I mean this spiritually an d politically. In saying this I refer less to political orientation that to political ethos, and I take Wobbly to mean one thing: the opposite of bureaucrat.I am a Wobbly, personally, down deep, and for good. I am outside the whale, and I got that way thr ough social isolation and self help. But do you know what a Wobbly is? It's a kind of spiritual condition. Don't be afraid of the word.A Wobbly is not only a man who takes orders from himself. He's also a man who's often in the situation where there are n o regulations to fall back upon that he hasn't made up himself. He doesn't like bosses -capitalistic or communistic -they are all the same to him. He wants to be, and he wants everyone else to be, his own boss at all times under all conditions and for any purposes they may want to follow up. This kind of spiritual condition, and only this, is Wobbly freedom. 177 Mills was an icon of the New Left and influential sociologist so his political leanings, and anarchistic breakdown of intellectuals, are worth consid ering. Mills recalled a family past (his grandparents were self employed ranchers) that Jacoby argues "shaped a vision of self and the world: life as an employee in an office -university, government, or publishing -did not measure up no matter the title, money, or respect." 178 That estrangement pushed him in the direction of anarchism, which gave the most acid rejections of institutionalism: by their nature, large organizations, bureaucratic and impersonal, constrain personal growth and freedom and the "natu ral" inclinations of 177 C. Wright Mills, C. Wright Mills: Letters and Autobiographical Writings eds. Kathryn Mills and Pamela Mills (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2001), 252. 178 Jacoby, The Last Intellectuals 92.
66 free association. Mills proclaimed with some embellishment that he was "no Marxist. Way down deep and systematically I'm a goddamned anarchist." 179 Mills lived the integrated anarchist lifestyle, building a house in West Nyack, New York with a subsistence garden in the yard. But Mills' iconoclasm kept him from making anarchism his singular worldview. James Miller, in Democracy is in the Streets and Kevin Mattson, in Intellectuals in Action describe Mills as being romantically drawn to a narchism but ultimately being somewhere else politically. Concerning intellectuals, Mills saw them collaborating with power rather than questioning it. He brought anarchist indignation to bear on academe. Mills remarked in The Power Elite (1956) that radi cal postwar intellectuals are against certain rather deep lying trends in American society itself, which are now taken for granted, and some of which cannot be dealt with by legislationoradministrative action only. It is a realization of this immoral to ne that sets the depth of our pessimism, and that lends an anarchist touch to our mood, and it is this realization that makes us appear, often correctly, as impractical and utopian. 180 But his version leaves room for, as Miller and Mattson concur, a realist democratic socialism or radical liberal democracy that hedged with postwar reality. The most cumbersome aspects of modern life for Mills were, he wrote in a 1944 Politics essay entitled "The Powerless People," "centralization of decision and the related growth dependence.More and more people are becoming dependent salaried workers who spend the most alert hours of their lives being told what to do." The "world of big organizations" meant "grass roots democratic controls become blurred." 181 The intellectual s were an integral part of that blurring process but they could opt out as Mills had. Mills' analysis of and hope for them mark his anarchist touch. 179 Mills, C. Wright Mills: Letters and Autobiogra phical Writings 217 18. 180 C. Wright Mills, The Power Elite (New York: Oxford University Press, 1956), 356. 181 C Wright Mills, Power, Politics, and People (New York: Oxford University Press, 1967), 292 304.
67 According to Miller "the immorality of power was Mills's great theme. But the powerlessness of intellectual s was his obsession." 182 Like anarchists, he documented the ways people became caught by institutions. He reveled in showing that intellectuals become feckless servants of power rather than prophetic critics of it. Mills mourned "the loss of will and even of ideas among" intellectuals that could not be excused as a mere byproduct of "political defeat and internal decay of radical parties" 183 (Hobsbawm's partial answer) but also their acceptance of the role of legitimizing. Mills chalked up the "real restraints" on academic discourse as "not so much external prohibitions as control of the insurgent by agreements of academic gentlemen" 184 and complained, as the anarchist would in explaining the new class, that intellectuals are easy dupes of money and power. Yet he also constructed a way out from obsequiousness that heralded Berkman's generous description of the intellectual as brave and authentic advocate of liberty and emancipation. Mills was determined to restrain intellectuals against cooperation and basically t o keep them from being a new class. He prized the unrealized potential of intellectuals as involved seers. "The independent artist and intellectual are among the few remaining personalities equipped to resist and to fight the stereotyping and consequent de ath of living things," 185 Mills wrote in a 1944. Intellectuals, he proposed in 1960's landmark "Letter to the New Left," could encourage radical change. "It is with this problem of agency in mind that I have been studying, for several years now, the cultural apparatus, 182 James Miller, Democracy is in the Streets (New Y ork: Simon and Schuster, 1987), 80. 183 C. Wright Mills, White Collar (New York: Oxford University Press, 1956), 158 59. 184 Mills, Power, Politics, and People 297. 185 Mills, Power, Politics, and People 299.
68 the intellectuals as a possible, immediate, radical agency of change." 186 Mill's argued that the "labor metaphysic" was obsolete -so the dclass could be redemptive. The working class had become complacent though enfranchisement and very few obs ervers believed it had revolutionary agency anymore. They made a Faustian bargain with the establishment rather than mobilizing their revolutionary promise. Mills' voice is therapeutic for radical thinkers who question their efficacy. He encouraged intel lectuals to embrace their talents and not pantomime in the mask of others. "We cannot create a left by abdicating our roles as intellectuals to become working class agitators or machine politicians.We can begin to create a left by confronting issues as in tellectuals in our work." 187 The intellectual had to balance professional standards with entrenched and public work. Giving flight to the anarchist within Mills described barriers and suggested ways they could be overcome. "Between the intellectual and his p otential public stand technical, economic and social structures which are owned and operated by others." 188 The "independent" scholar could exist within institutions (although Mills suffered frustrations about staying in academe) and work towards radical cha nge. Mills died young but his ideas caught on. They greatly influenced, among others, the embryonic Students for a Democratic Society (SDS). SDS began in 1960 and the close knit eastern and Midwestern university students developed the kind of face to fac e community that Mills craved. As with anarchism, they conscientiously fused means and ends. Their politics was more of a localized humanism, though. Like Mills, they saw the university as a prospective haven for radicalism. The university became a focal p oint for 186 C. Wright Mills, "Letter to the New Left," New Le ft Review September October 1960. 187 Irving L. Horowitz, C. Wright Mills (New York: Free Press, 1983), 314. 188 Mills, Power, Politics, and People 296.
69 resentment of institutionalism. Students were in a liminal -that is, transitional -space but they would become, to quote Mills, "dependent salaried workers who spend the most alert hours of their lives being told what to do." From Mill's essays a nd their own lack of commitments, SDS rejected the doctrinal arguments of the 1930s Old Left. Theirs was a universe of possibility and openness. The fact that they were revolutionaries in a non revolutionary situation, as Hobsbawm would say, only encourage d, in the years before 1965 or so, experimentalism and devotion to non parochialism. Murray Bookchin summarized the transformation the New Left, of which SDS was at the forefront, catapulted from: "the staggering armamentarium and the restored vitality of capitalism, particularly as reveled by its ability to dissolve the workers' movement of its mythic historic role' as a revolutionary class, soon made it evident that an entire historic era had passed." 189 The New Left, Mattson wrote, "promised a non Marxist and democratic model of political change at a time of great historical possibilities." 190 Where does anarchism fit within that model? The Port Huron Statement the "living document" that SDS crafted in 1962, was a manifesto for participatory democracy, the idea that people should and must take part in the political and economic decisions that affect them, rather than through representatives. But a family resemblance to anarchism, exacerbated by vagaries about what participatory democracy exactly was from th e interpretations of The Port Huron Statement and personal definitions of SDS members, would be aggravated by a soaring membership and a chasm between those who favored a less centralized, anarchist platform, and those who thought building a centralized or ganization had become necessary. 189 Murray Bookchin, "Between the 30s and the 60s," Social Text 1, no. 9/10 (Spring Summer 1984): 249. 190 K evin Mattson, Intellectuals in Action (University Park: The Pennsylvania State University Press, 2002), 4.
70 If Mills was the hero of early SDS, Dwight Macdonald was a lesser but notable presence. Upon meeting Mills, who suggested the name for Macdonald's excellent 1944 1949 magazine Politics Macdonald remarked that "we were bot h congenital rebels, passionately contemptuous of every received idea and established institution." 191 Macdonald came to anarchism obliquely, in his thirties, a former writer at Henry Luce's Fortune and later a dissident Trotskyite who rejected Marxism for i ndividualist anarchism. Over Macdonald's odyssey he, like Mills, was never pigeonholed by anarchism. "I am not an anarchist in the way that Kropotkin was," he said in 1974, "but I am in the sense that I believe in the decentralization of authority and the ability of people to decide their own destinies." 192 When Macdonald was asked in 1973 if "the real problem is of freedom versus the state" his answer disclosed the classic intellectual use for anarchism. I see anarchism as the most valuable way to approach political problems. That is to say, as a method of criticism. But the reason there is no possibility for anarchism is the same reason it is needed now more than ever. It is because there is so much concentration of power economically and politically, and t hat's also why it's impossible to apply anarchism in practice. 193 Macdonald's anarchism sprung partly from a belief that Marxism couldn't speak to a wealthy, hyper rational postwar United States that lacked obvious sources of radicalism. The poet Philip Lev ine gave another indicative explanation. For a couple years, maybe four or five, I really thought of myself as an anarchist. And then I stopped. For one thing, I bought a house. I could no longer say, Property is theft.' I realized I wasn't up to that ide al -no doubt because I didn't have the history of grief that they had. Life was becoming relatively easy for me, so I gave up my claim to anarchism. But these guys still remain my heroes, because of the intensity of their gift to humanity and their vision, which was large: we are the stewards of the earth, we don't own anything, and our function is to make it as good as possible and to pass it on to those who are to come. I thought that was a very beautiful vision. 194 191 Horowitz, C. Wright Mills 77. 192 Avrich, Anarchist Voices 470. 193 Paul Kurtz, "Conservative Anarchism: An Interview With Dwight Macdonald," in Inte rviews With Dwight Macdonald ed. Michael Wreszin (Jackson: University of Mississippi Press, 2003), 82. 194 Wen Stephenson, "A Useful Poetry: An Interview with Philip Levine," The Atlantic Online April 8, 1999. http://www.theatlantic.com/unbound/poetry/levine.htm (accessed March 27, 2009).
71 When radical movements began among stude nts in the early 1960s, Macdonald eagerly welcomed them. In their intimate and serious political communities he saw a repudiation of mass culture, a phenomenon he loathed. He believed the untraditional radicalism of students could bear fruit. Macdonald's o wn championing of individual freedom overlapped considerably with younger New Left theorists. 195 His essay "The Root is Man" was passed among SDS radicals who also "read with sympathy the essays by Dave Dellinger and Paul Goodman on radical pacifism and anar chism in Liberation magazine." 196 Macdonald, by then a staff writer for the New Yorker gave the closing speech of the newly formed SDS at their June 1960 convention: "The Relevance of Anarchy." The dispersal of anarchist ideas among the early New Left was i ndirect and unclear. They read Mills and Macdonald and Dellinger and Goodman but perhaps not classical anarchists like Proudhon and Kropotkin. Anarchism was, after all, a system of ideas and New Leftists were purifying themselves of skeletons for a forward looking kind of radicalism. Tom Hayden, a leader of SDS, wanted to "speak American." 197 Anarchism, like socialism, was thought of as archaic and foreign, so thus unfavorable. We can see, at most, anarchist themes unconsciously weaving through. But the mistr ust of authority and focus on ethical means bore resemblance to anarchism. Avrich found in Kropotkin a streak that the radical students of the 1960s and 1970s upheld. "Struggle," the anarchist dared the young in 1897, "so that all may live this 195 Michael Wreszin, A Rebel in Defense of Tradition: The Life and Politics of Dwight Macdonald (New York: BasicBooks, 1994), 470. 196 Miller, Democracy is in the Streets 169. 197 Ibid., 152.
72 rich, over flowing life. And be sure that in this struggle you will find a joy greater than anything else you can give." 198 At the 1965 national convention the unruliness of new SDS members, measured against the kinship and scholasticism of the first years, became ob vious. Steve Max remarked to Paul Booth, both defenders of the old guard, that "if God had meant us to be anarchists we would have been born with beards." 199 Miller summarizes the changes in temperament that became evident at the convention. Booth was right to stress the need in a democratic national organization for structure, orderly administration and responsible, representative leadership. But his own leadership was no longer representative. Unchastened romantics like [Jeffrey] Shero and a new generation of members, staking their own claim to power within SDS, wanted to quicken the quest for a politics purged of deceit, authority, hierarchy. Honesty, guts, local initiative -these would keep the Movement going. Not discipline. Not leaders. Not a new politic al party of the left. It was time to cut the bureaucratic crap. 200 The rupture became farcical two years later when some in SDS rethought its fundamentals in 1967. The reappearance of anarchist anti intellectualism struck SDS and hastened its demise. Not a ll postwar anarchists trod the same path as Mills or SDS. Many were proudly not intellectuals, and some were anti intellectual. Laurence Veysey's 1973 The Communal Experience explored secular and religious radicalism through four socialist and anarchist co mmunities. Of a New Mexico commune he wondered what really was the role of anarchist ideology,' of the writings of Murray Bookchin? Besides Frank and Leora, Jake and Ellen had read Bookchin since coming to Rockridge (a most flattering gesture, since they so seldom read). And Leora had placed his magazines, and Joyce Gardner's pamphlet, in my hands. But it is clear that, despite these formal fealties, someone like Bookchin plays very little role in their lives.In a general way, too, we saw that Bookchin w as still an intellectual, a writer of abstract rhetoric. Such a tone has now been entirely lost at Rockridge. Is this the final Americanization of anarchism as it retreats into the wilderness? Frank likes to define Rockridge as an anarchist' community, ho lding on to that word. But it is doubtful if the others 198 Kropotkin, Kropotkin's Revolutionary Pamphlets 113. 199 Miller, Democracy is in the Streets 238. 200 Ibid., 256.
73 often think of it in such definite terms.If they were suddenly to read the classics of anarchist thought, they would feel an immediate rapport, a bond of kinship. 201 The anti doctrinal nature of count ercultural anarchists, Lerner argued, led to a "defiant espousal of absurdity, subjectivity, mysticism and magic, things that are seriously explored but also serve as a shield behind which those who do reason can seek new mappings of reality unencumbered b y old definitions of intellectual responsibility." 202 Even if early SDS knew the limitations of the university, they believed that because it had "social relevance, the accessibility to knowledge, and internal openness" it could be a "potential base and agen cy in a movement of social change" that could "build a base for [student and faculty] assault upon the loci of power." 203 Not so for counterculturalists. For the Diggers, theatrical San Francisco anarchists and masters of direct action, the theory that inte llectuals would be at or near the vanguard of revolution was a fever dream of the self righteous SDS, whose agenda was stuck in the nascent atmosphere before the radical movement began to spread. The Diggers got their name from the seventeenth century Engl ish radicals. They were propagandists of the deed, not wordsmiths. "Create the condition you describe" 204 was their suitably anarchist motto. When Paul Krassner, publisher of the satirical Realist told the Diggers about SDS's 1967 "Back to the Drawing Board s" meeting, Emmett Grogan, Peter Berg, and Billy Fritsch sped from California to Michigan. Political (or intellectual) and cultural radicalism would be shown irreconcilable. 201 Laurence Veysey, The Communal Experience (New York: Harper & Row, 1973), 202 3. 202 Lerner, "Anarchism and the American Counter Culture," 451. 203 Miller, Democracy is in the Streets 373 4. 204 Todd Gitlin, The Sixties: Years of Hope, Days of Rage (New York: Bantam Books, 1987), 224.
74 The Diggers descended on the opening plenary session as Hayden was giving the ke ynote address. The scene was raucous as they taunted the polite SDS. Berg admonished the surprised audience that property is the enemy -burn it, destroy it, give it away. Don't let them make a machine out of you, get out of the system, do your thing. Don't organize students, teacher, Negroes, organize your head. Find out where you are, what you want to do and go out and do it. The Kremlin is more fucked up than Alabama. Don't organize the schools, burn them. Leave them, they will rot. 205 The idealistic stu dent radicals were frozen by the interruption, a symbolic reminder that their deliberative ethos was becoming pass as the zeitgeist became more militant. The Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), a flagship civil rights and New Left group, Jac k Newfield wrote in 1965, "has also been the crucible of much of the evolving humanist anarchist philosophy of the new radicals: the idea that people don't need leaders; grass roots organizing among the very poor, Quaker like communitarian democracy." 206 By 1966 it rose the banner of Black Power and expelled whites. "Resistance" surpassed "protest" The Diggers were, SDS leader Todd Gitlin remembered, "our anarchist bad conscience, and so they paralyzed us." 207 They plucked SDS with noisy insurrection by crashi ng the organizations informal and conversational brand of politics and its self effacing leadership. Caution of authority made SDS vulnerable to the Diggers arresting and guilt inducing showmanship. But had the Diggers cared more they would have worked to halt the vanguardism eating away SDS more than just bother the self important intellectuals. Up Against the Wall Motherfucker! was an even more brash and confrontational anarchist group that posed another challenge to the supposedly pedantic SDS. They 205 Gitlin, The Sixties 228. 206 Jack Newfield, "The Rise of the New Student Left," The Nation March 10, 1965. 207 Gitlin, The Sixties 229.
75 wor ked to wrest away insular political dialogue, as they saw it, in favor of guerilla culture. Interestingly, SDS granted UAW/MF the organizations only non student chapter, in New York's Lower East Side. They would have been, to use Marxist taxonomy, lumpenpr oletariat rather than dclass ("a street gang with analysis." 208 ) They were squarely in the anarchist anti intellectual vein. UAW/MF came to the 1968 SDS national council meeting in Lexington, Kentucky ready to awe. The underground Los Angeles Free Press re ported that "zany moments and serious anarchist thought were provided frequently by [UAW/MF].They staged a wedding of a helmeted student and a mortarboarded student and nominated a trash can for national secretary." By then SDS was poisoned with faction alism; it would go down at the 1969 national convention, not as a result of the distraction of playful anarchists but scuffles among several Marxist Lenininist cadres. Because the convention ended prematurely, Murray Bookchin's essay "Listen, Marxist!" whi ch importuned SDS to make an anarchist turn, went undebated (it wouldn't have made a mark on the Old Left esque groups anyway.) The cover of Bookchin's polemic had illustrations of Marx, Engels, Lenin, and Bugs Bunny. If that gesture suggests cultural radi calism, Bookchin brought weighty and politicized intellectual power to postwar anarchism. He and Chomsky are the leading postwar anarchist theorists. Bookchin's work, Jacoby notes, is "deeper and longer than most lionized intellectuals, but he has received scant notice." 209 Bookchin threw a searing anarchist consciousness on the so called externalities of modern capitalism: he emphasized humankinds hierarchical and dominating relationship with nature through a genre he called social ecology, and he chronicl ed the development 208 Ibid., 239. 209 Jacoby, The Last Intellectuals 97.
76 and problems of cities. What he offered young radicals was a candid summary of the demise of 1930s radicalism, a course he thought the 1960s left was ghastly but inadvertently repeating. (He had "lived out both periods up to the hilt.") 210 Instead Bookchin promoted the concept that the conquest of material scarcity could lead to anarchism. Raised in a Bronx enclave and weaned on Russian and Jewish radicalism, Bookchin became a member of communist youth organizations before drifting toward s Trotskyism. Through factory work during and around the Second World War he came to realize firsthand the surpassing of the working class as the motor of revolution. The reversal nullified the physics of prewar radicalism and foreshadowed anarchism's rena issance. Bookchin overcame the "sense of betrayal' by history" 211 that disaffected many of his comrades and nudged them towards liberalism or neo conservatism, anti communist in each case. Frustrated with Marxism by the late 1950s Bookchin found sanctuary i n anarchism; his unhappiness with the 1960s, Jacoby writes, came then "not from the right but the left." 212 He sought to dissociate American radicalism, including anarchism, from its "exogenous" past which, he believed, (given the incommensurability of 1930s radicalism with American life) strangled its relevance. The Port Huron Statement he wrote in 1984, was "the most authentically American expression of a new radicalism." Not a half decade later the Vietnam War "had created a 30s like image of violent insu rgency, polarization, and shopworn ideological dogmatism" that became "anti American rather than anti imperialist" and "third world' oriented without any 210 Bookchin, "Between the 30s and the 60s," 247. 211 Ibid., 249. 212 Jacoby, The Last Intellectuals 98.
77 sense of the redeeming features of the libertarian elements in the American tradition." 213 Bookchin Ame ricanized anarchism without homogenizing it. "Listen, Marxist!" was, most broadly, a pungent case against the adequacy of Marxism in postwar America and for a post scarcity anarchism (the name of the 1971 book in which the essay was later included.) Book chin pled that capitalism in the 1960s was "increasingly stratified" and qualitatively different from the 1930s variety, and even then class based theory and practice failed. Radicals ought to look to the future, not the past, for Bookchin reminds us that Marx himself stated in The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte that the "tradition of all the dead generations weighs like a nightmare on the brain of the living." Marxism, Bookchin argued in a 1970 discussion of Listen, Marxist! does have profound in sights on certain themes, but was rooted in the context of nineteenth century Europe "that has long been transcended by the development of capitalism in the United States and Western Europe." 214 A "class line," such as the insistence that the industrial prol etariat would be "agents" of revolution, was clumsy and obsolete. Not only that, post revolutionary Marxists just copy the hierarchy and centralization of the old society, sapping revolutionary ardor and, he explained in 1970 drape hierarchy with a red fla g, submerge the crudest system of primitive accumulation and forced collectivization in rhetoric about the interests of the People' or the Proletariat,' cover up hierarchy, elitism and a police state with huge portraits of Marx, Engels, and Lenin, print little Red Books' that invite the most authoritarian adulation and preach the most inane banalities in the name of dialectics' and socialism' 215 Even without such vulgarization, Marxism was barely useful. 213 Bookchin, "Between the 30s and the 60s," 250. 214 Mu rray Bookchin, Post Scarcity Anarchism (Oakland: AK Press, 2004), 155. 215 Ibid.
78 Modern society called for another field of thou ght, and Bookchin weighed in hopefully. Revolutions would embrace not just the romanticized "worker" but anyone moved by all the contradictions in bourgeois society.all those who feel the burdens of exploitation, poverty, racism, imperialism, and, yes, t hose whose lives are frustrated by consumerism, suburbia, the mass media, the family, school, the supermarket and the prevailing system of repressed sexuality. Here the form of the revolution becomes as total as its content classless, propertyless, hierar chyless, and wholly liberating. 216 Bookchin's savvy was to add the last two categories -"hierarchyless and "wholly liberating" -to radical ambitions. How could Marx's concept that destitution and immiseration causing radicalization explain a society with s o much bourgeoisment in which intellectuals and workers were just as likely to be radicals? It could not. What did it say about environmental degradation? Hardly anything. Bookchin desperately wanted the New Left to understand that. The 1969 vision pivote d on a belief that scarcity could be overcome with the full output of available technology. Bookchin's idea combined anarchism's faith in the realization of human potential to the prospect that commodities would be freely available through mediation of hum an inventions. Thus, the whole premise of the Marxist SDS factions of material scarcity was ahistorical. The revolutionary struggle within the advanced capitalist countries has shifted to a historically new terrain: it has become a struggle between a gene ration of youth that has known no chronic economic crisis and the culture, values and institutions of an older, conservative generation whose perspective on life has been shaped by scarcity, guilt, renunciation, the work ethic and the pursuit of material s ecurity. 217 Bookchin thrust himself into the fray of SDS's breakdown as a cantankerous but thoughtful veteran of radicalism. 216 Ibid., 121. 217 Ibid., 113.
79 In 1985 Bookchin mused that Post Scarcity Anarchism was motivated by the narcotic of "revolutionary expectations among radical youn g people" that "were outpacing reality." 218 But one is flummoxed to think how much those young radicals soon embraced the values of Bookchin's generation: "the work ethic and the pursuit of material security" that hasn't yet (ever?) been overcome by "liberat ory" technology. Bookchin's view was that the "economic categories of scarcity society" would become antiquated should we proceed towards a "liberatory classless society, based on material abundance." Of course, that vision has not come about, but the disp arate forces of postwar unrest make Bookchin's renunciation of socialism for anarchism understandable. "Listen, Marxist!" was, after all, triage for a New Left that had become frighteningly apocalyptic. A powerful analogy in the essay occurs when Bookchin documents how spontaneous, nonhierarchical revolutions in self management (e.g. in Russia before the Bolshevik suppressions) were trampled by a vanguard -the new class materialized. Metaphors for 1969 were obvious; comparisons of SDS's separation from its past were more subtle. The lapse was stated clearly in 1985. "The New Left' and the counterculture, initially so generous, populist, and anarchic in character, adopted a self righteous and dogmatic stance as the years went by." 219 SDS, we have seen, was fr om its outset equal parts blessed and cursed by openness. Rapid growth in membership bore out weaknesses that were demonstrated by anarchists, the Diggers. But even if early members rejected anarchism, they cannot be blamed for craving power as a blunt ins trument, an 218 Ibid., xxiii. 219 Ibid., xxiv.
80 observation Bookchin rightfully makes of the factions. "Listen, Marxist!" is therefore a means of rehabilitation. Bookchin pleads with SDS to go back to its roots as a beloved community, then further explore genuine anarchism. When Bookchin e xplains what anarchism is, the parallels are very clear. The anarchists hold themselves to the standard that future society is conditioned by present behaviors. "The organization we try to build is the kind of society our revolution will create. Either we will shed the past -in ourselves as well as in our groups -or there will simply be no future to win." 220 Bookchin sketches an anarcho communist philosophy for SDS's future, a scheme that is reminiscent of SDS's past. They are social movements, combining a c reative revolutionary lifestyle with a creative revolutionary theory, not political parties whose mode of life is indistinguishable from the surrounding bourgeois environment and whose ideology is reduced to tried and tested programs.'They are built arou nd intimate groups of brothe rs and sisters -affinity groups -whose ability to act in common is based on initiative, on convictions freely arrived at, and on a deep personal involvement, not around a bureaucratic apparatus fleshed out by a docile membership and manipulated from above by a handful of all knowing leaders. 221 The radical solution was contrasted against the conservatism of the Marxist factions; Marxism was "not visionary or revolutionary enough." Anarchism was the truest reminder of the left's d esire to move from "what is" to "what could be"; anarchism cut across all oppressions and was a body of thought suitable for a radical period grasping "wholeness." Its libertarianism honored American custom. The "movement" had to realize what Bookchin had: anarchism's deconstruction of power was more radical and humanist than class analyses. "Exploitation, class rule and happiness," he said, "are the particular within the more generalized concepts of domination, hierarchy, and pleasure." 222 220 Ibid., 143. 221 Ibid., 138. 222 Ibid., 161.
81 Anarchism was dif fuse where socialism was contextual. "Just as the Russian Revolution included a subterranean movement," Bookchin noted that "all the great social revolutions" had an "anarchic phase" during which anarchists "seek to preserve" but others divert through cent ralized planning. The vanguardists could argue in the past that they were necessary to prevent chaos but now "even this excuse has been removed by the development of a post scarcity technology, notably in the U.S. and Western Europe." 223 Bookchin's essay ca me at an inopportune moment: the New Left lusted for imminent revolution and cared not for soul searching or integrity. When that never came some radicals became anarchists but others joined exotic sects or jettisoned politics altogether. "Listen, Marxist! was a heresy, a savage break with authoritarian radicalism that made anarchism seem like the natural (and populist) choice for postwar America's rebels. Bookchin elaborated his ideas elsewhere but that crisp text is his most famous. One question remain s: what role do intellectuals play in Bookchin's account? Bookchin was a descendant of Bakunin's non Marxist social theory which he felt "was more relevant today." 224 Bookchin says Bakunin was right when he found hope in "the uprooted peasantry and urban dc lass s, in the rural and urban lumpen elements Marx so heartily despised." "Students, intellectuals and artists who are not rooted in the factory system" were among "the most radical elements in the world today." For proof one needn't look further than the 1968 events in Paris, a spontaneous and mass movement begun by students that inspired several Bookchin essays. That unrest was neutralized only when "French Trotskyists faithfully duplicated in their relations with the Sorbonne students' assembly" the cyn ical machinations of the Bolsheviks. "We have to get away 223 Ibid., 139. 224 Ibid., 149.
82 from the one sided, repressive jargon of Marxism," Bookchin said, for it causes nearsightedness. Rather, radicals should heed the example of the revolting anarchist Kronstadt sailors. He quotes Avri ch's Kronstadt 1921 to that effect: "Eschewing the word proletariat,' they called, in true populist fashion, for a society in which all the toilers' -peasants, workers and the toiling intelligentsia' -would play a dominant role." A high school dropout, Bookchin harbored a characteristic anarchical skepticism of intellectuals, although he taught at CUNY Staten Island and Ramapo University before starting the Institute for Social Ecology in Vermont in the 1970s. In the late 1960s he also taught at New Yor k's Alternative University, which a catalog described this way: "no semesters, formal time, or registration. Every person is free to do as he or she wishes, because freedom is only possible to people who are responsive to one anotherthere is neither facu lty' nor officers.'" 225 For Bookchin, Marxist intellectuals, his bte noir, were unsurprisingly "awed by the theoretical repertory" of that theory and in many cases "are disposed to flirt with it in the absence of more systematic alternatives." 226 If acceptan ce was expected, obscuratism was unforgivable. "Marxism created a stupendous intellectual furniture that one must clear away to make contact with reality. The field abounds with experts' and heavies, with academics and authorities whose bullshit makes ori ginal, indeed dialectical, thought virtually impossible." 227 In Bookchin we see a thinker recovering the social justice crusade at the heart of Marxism, regretting its bowdlerization, and ultimately seeing anarchism as more relevant. When theory serves its o wn ends rather than informing practice, the results are awful for radicalism. We are left 225 "Free Space Alternate U Catalog #13," Labadie Collection of the University of Michigan Special Collections Library, Ann Arbor, MI. 226 Bookchin, Post Scarcity Anarchism 111. 227 Ibid., 162.
83 with "self styled radicals who demurely carry attach cases of memoranda and grant requests into their conference roomsand bull horns to their rallies." 228 The point h ere is that radical academics compartmentalize their endeavors and fancy themselves leaders of protests that are loud but ineffective. The unenthusiastic response to "Listen, Marxist!" stoked Bookchin's rage at remote thinkers. "That my identification of revolutionary thought' with anarchism has precluded its extensive use by the Marxist professoriat is testimony to an inquisitorial dogmatism, in deed an ideological fanaticism, that deserves the greatest contempt." 229 But it could have been Bookchin's relati ve detachment from institutions and lack of collegiality that censored him just as much. Bookchin's reasoning is vain, but his ridicule of academe is compelling. Bookchin does not think anarchism's purity depends on inoculating it from campuses. His disagr eement is that professional academics, especially radical ones, must keep it at bay or scold it to achieve respectability and harmony. I need hardly say that in this academic ecumene, anarchists are literally too gauche to have a place in the academic firm ament and their literature must be closed out of reading lists and course adoptions. If there is a reasonable amount of peace in the academy today , it is due not only to the careerism of students in an economically precarious world, but the careeris m of their radical' professors in an academically tight market. The professoriat' has become an interest in its own right and strategically tends to function more as a safety valve for student dissent than a stimulus -a fact which more intelligent conser vatives appreciate only too well. 230 Georges Clemenceau once said "I am sorry for anyone who has not been an anarchist at twenty." 231 Before New Leftists were hushed by (or made their knowledge insular and convoluted for) the rigors of a job, they shook up v erdant and paternalistic campuses with anarchistic demonstrations. The Paris events were one such case -they inspired student leader Daniel Cohn Bendit to quickly write, with his brother Gabriel, 228 Murray Bookchin, Towards an Ecological Society (Montreal: Black Rose Books, 1980), 11 12. 229 Bookchin, Post Scarc ity Anarchism xxvi xxvii. 230 Ibid., xxii. 231 James Joll, The Anarchists (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1980), 260.
84 Obsolete Communism: The Left Wing Alternative -and so were t he protests at Berkeley and Columbia. The swift expansion of campuses, and their collusion with unsavory enterprises like military research, made them obvious targets for postwar dclass students and intellectuals troubled by centralization and the overal l cold war ethos. As we've seen, radical students had joined together by the early 1960s in a semi anarchist fashion. That new consciousness broadened when several colleges and universities became zones of the movements. The 1964 Berkeley Free Speech Move ment was an early indicator of the changing mood. University of California president Clark Kerr, Don Mitchell explains, "saw the university and surrounding community as being, in part, a laboratory for the creation of a new and more rational society. The u niversity had an important role to play in the drive toward a rational and managerial political economy." 232 Kerr branded this new type of campus a "multiversity." The exact causal details and events of the FSM need not be included here. What matters is the fact that intellectuals reacted against forces that impacted them directly. The forms of organization and messages that challenged restrictions on speech and movement have been aptly described as anarchistic, meaning they fused non hierarchical theory and practice and criticized unjust authority as such, refraining from preordained schemes. The New York Times usually so wrong about anarchism, featured an article in its Sunday magazine that described Berkeley students as not "political in the sense of those student rebels in the turbulent thirties; they are too suspicious of all adult institutions to embrace whole heartedly even those ideologies with a stake in smashing the system. An anarchist or IWW seems as pronounced as any 232 Don Mitchell, The Right to the City (New York: Guilford, 2003), 83 84.
85 Marxist doctrine." 233 Supporter Penelope Rosemont wrote in The Rebel Worker a Chicago anarchist magazine, that "students have begun to develop a consciousness of themselves and an understanding of their own situation, along with an understanding of this odious system that becomes increa singly oppressive." 234 Berkeley student leader Mario Savio that the university had become a "depersonalized, unresponsive bureaucracy" when it ought to have been a "place where people begin seriously to question the conditions of their existence." 235 Another s tudent organizer, Jackie Goldberg, voiced a patently anarchist (the students themselves avoided such labels) rejection of the status quo for society and for intellectuals: Inaction is the rule, rather than the exception, in our society and on this campus. And, education is and should be more than academics. We don't want to be armchair intellectuals. For a hundred years, people have talked and talked and done nothing. We want to help the students decide where they fit into the political spectrum and what t hey can do about their beliefs. We want to help build a better society. 236 The humanism of Kropotkin and the faith of Berkman shone through at Berkeley. For an anarchist intellectual like Paul Goodman, the sort who was "not a scholastic nor a university m an I am a humanist, that kind of Renaissance free lance," 237 Berkeley was a momentary consummation of his beleaguered faith. He had hoped for a resurgence of politicized anarchism: he'd experienced the doldrums of anarchism in the 40s and 50s, and was pe ssimistic about the impact of cultural anarchism, that which is more aestheticized than political. Goodman once said "overcentralization is an international disease of modern times." 238 The anti authoritarian 233 Penelope Rosemont, "Berkeley Was Only the Beginning," in Dan cin' in the Streets!: Anarchists, IWWs, Surrealists, Situationists & Provos in the 1960s eds. Franklin Rosemont & Charles Radcliffe (Chicago: Charles H. Kerr, 2005), 155. 234 Ibid., 154. 235 Mattson, Intellectuals in Action 119. 236 Don Mitchell, The Right to t he City 94 95. 237 Mattson, Intellectuals in Action 122. 238 Ibid., 126.
86 rhetoric of Berkeley students, the voluntary asso ciation of the great Sproul Hall sit in, and the creation of, for example, free universities made Goodman believe he was seeing its answer in "a kind of hyper organized anarchy." 239 Four years later, when the New Left had matured and become impatient for cha nge with the escalation of the war in Vietnam and the desire to end poverty and racism at home, Goodman again sought out the anarchist elements of campus protest. While the Free Speech Movement brought on many altercations, the Columbia strike was more go thic. Under the pretext of the university housing military research and spewing administrative racism towards neighboring Harlem, SDS launched building occupations in April 1968. If the students made just claims about the need for a humane, unalienated cam pus, the methods of some radicals were coarse. SDS leader and future Weatherman Mark Rudd closed a letter to Columbia president Grayson Kirk with a line from an Amiri Baraka poem which the eponymous anarchist counterculture group took: "Up against the wall motherfucker, this is a stick up." 240 UAW/MF themselves helped occupy the math building. The administration and police reacted draconically. Again the events prompted anarchists to uncover signs of their philosophy and moved at least one Columbia militant, Paul Berman, toward anarchism. Dwight Macdonald praised the student protestors, and was chided by others for doing do. He saw at the Morningside Heights campus a sane jump from academic formality. The "tenured gentry" had been awoken and humbled. The bus tling students proved that "intellectuals can be practical when they have to be." 241 The atmosphere hinted at the "primitive" outpouring anarchists revel in. In a 1979 interview with Diana 239 Ibid., 120. 240 Gitlin, The Sixties 307. 241 Wreszin, A Rebel in Defense of Tradition 449.
87 Trilling he argued that a university should be "something alive and s omething, you know, anarchistic in a sense." 242 Columbia, of course, had been run along very different lines, so Macdonald was mostly glad to see the demonstrations erupt. "The main thing I felt was that they were revolting against a machine of learning, i n which the faculty was way up there and they were way down there. I mean, there was just a heartless, stuffy machine of learning. And I liked the idea of its being broken up." 243 Macdonald's conclusions were very close to Paul Goodman's in the next section. That's what I say: the SDS politically was anarchist and that was very good, because they didn't have any leadership and they got rid of all this Marxist junk and they really behaved towards each other much better than we Trotskyites ever did. They were v ery, very kind, supportive towards each other. That was a very good thing about them really. And I was entirely for their contempt for bourgeois society and their thumbing their nose at it and so on. 244 Several weeks after the demonstrations were subdued, M acdonald addressed a "counter commencement" and was bemused to see six red flags but not one black flag, the anarchist emblem. That was unpalatable to his "anarchist tastes." 245 Goodman put forth his considerable insights in a July 1968 article, "The Black Flag of Anarchism," in which he dispelled the prevailing notion that young radicals were communists or "bourgeois revisionists." In fact, Goodman thinks anarchism was the thought and action of the student protestors "because they are in a historical situat ion to which Anarchism is their only possible response." 246 While young radicals were ignorant of their political ancestry, their rejection of military, technological, and educational power and authority "adds up to the community Anarchism of Kropotkin, the resistance Anarchism of Malatesta, the agitational Anarchism of Bakunin, the Guild Socialism of 242 Diana Trilling, "Interviewing Dwight Macdonald," in ed. Wreszin, Interviews with Dwight Macd onald 151. 243 Ibid., 155. 244 Ibid., 149. 245 Wreszin, A Rebel in Defense of Tradition 456. 246 Paul Goodman, "The Black Flag of Anarchism," The New York Times Magazine July 14, 1968, 3.
88 William Morris, the personalist politics of Thoreau." 247 "The confused tangle of Anarchist and anti authoritarian ideas" -direct action, "local power" for Harlem, extracting Columbia from the military -"was well illustrated by SDS at Columbia." Goodman was disturbed by "neo Leninist" tendencies that were "frankly dictatorial" but remained enthusiastic that, unbeknownst to themselves, students were frequently anarch ists. But even if Columbia was, in fact, a "model of anarchism" (a benevolent exaggeration but a pardonable one that year) the quest to expedite radicalism broke with the holistic and non coercive early New Left. The quickening pace made some radical stu dents and intellectuals shove away the slow process of reflection. Goodman, and Bookchin and Macdonald, were reminders that dogmatism and expediency could shape anarchism. They came to anarchism through the crucible of thirties leftism. Goodman was soured when students rushed from a model of participatory democracy toward cadre building. The former was "the essence of Anarchist social order, the voluntary federation of self managed enterprises," 248 the latter "entirely repugnant to the actual motives and spir it of the young at present." 249 Goodman, like the other anarchist converts of his generation, wanted to educate young radicals about what they most closely resembled. Paul Berman, a member of Columbia SDS, was a flashback to earlier anarchist odysseys. His path to anarchism was similar to Goodman, Bookchin, and Macdonald's in that his disenchantment with socialism caused greater anti authoritarianism instead of deradicalization. Anarchism is an elastic, if never widely understood or held, body of thought th at strongly circumvents the ebbs and flows of American radicalism. Those 247 Ibid. 248 Ibid., 4. 249 Ibid., 6.
89 conversions mirror each other because at its core anarchism is a challenge to with authority that occurs in any period. That disenchantment does not necessarily become anarchism but h ad or had roughly become that for some radical postwar thinkers. As a Columbia freshman in 1968, Berman caucused with the Action Faction of Columbia SDS, feisty and corrosive versus the comparatively more calm and moderate Praxis Axis. In a 2005 essay Be rman reflected on the generational and personal aftermath of the New Left and especially the Columbia takeover. The protest "generated a giant wave of indignation, rage, ecstasy, delusion, disorientation, and enthusiasm" out of which broke revolutionary pa rties that could be "larger and firmer and more powerful than a student movement could hope to be." 250 Ambiguity and theatrics would be cut out for stern morality and revolutionary preparation. But, as Berman says, no "more levelheaded movement" emerged from the "intense post '68 discussions of Maoism and the Soviet Union." Conservative orthodoxy supplanted any last hope for a beloved community of thoughtful radicals. Rather than endure the factional breakdown of the left, Berman decided to "[rebel] against t he rebelsby veering off in anarchist and anti communist directions -which always seemed to me truer to the original spirit of the New Left." He began to read libertarians like Daniel Cohn Bendit and met with elderly anarchists in New York. Anarchism was a panacea, broad minded and resilient, to the hectic about face radicals deal with when social movements ground to a halt. Berman went through that. 1960s radicals faced the same problems as 1930s and 1910s ones. The response raises a useful question: can anarchism speak to the uniqueness of the American tradition? 250 Paul Berman, "Left Behind: Daniel Bell and the Class of '68," Bookforum April/May 2005.
90 The anarchist undertow of the postwar radical current drew thinkers from across the political spectrum. Karl Hess, a speechwriter for Barry Goldwater during the 1964 presidential campaign, came under the spell of Emma Goldman and other classic anarchist thinkers. He shows how much anarchism can overlap with the American vein and how very far that leap actually is. Of all the schools of anarchism, individualist anarchism had the most distinctly American flavor. The social revolutionary zeal that European anarchists brought to the country obscured the anti collectivist beliefs that Benjamin Tucker and Josiah Warren held (though it was a German, Max Stirner, who gave individualist anarchism its hol y text in 1845's The Ego and His Own .) The people and groups whose freedom and real nature emerges only when coercions have been undone was, of course, the main theme of anarchism. "If the devices by which men can harm one another," Emma Goldman announced, "such as private property, are removed and if the worship of authority can be discarded, co operation will be spontaneous and inevitable, and the individual will find its highest calling to contribute to the enrichment of social well being." 251 But the amou nt of emphasis on the personal left anarchists in separate camps. Individualist anarchists like Tucker demanded an absolute "sovereignty of the individual" that was more radical than the freedom through social cooperativism of an anarcho communist like Kro potkin or an anarcho syndicalist like Griffulheus. Self interestedness and egoism were held up as paragon. Market liberals and social anarchists are at poles of modern libertarianism. Anarchists like Kropotkin thought common property and personal freedom could co exist. In fact, left anarchists like Chomsky and Valerio Isca prefer the term libertarian 251 Goldman, "Was My Life Worth Living?," 377.
91 socialist to anarchist because of the latter's connotations of violence and chaos. Postwar anarcho capitalists, the descendants of Tucker, Warren, and Stirn er, shared the ethical and moral criticisms of power and authority (the anarcho capitalists, of course, are loudest about state intervention in the economy) with anarchism, but their faith in laissez faire capitalism to realize human freedom is, to my mind discordant. Perhaps unencumbered free markets would lead to the anarchist "good society." That devotion (which leaves libertarian socialists incredulous) owes more to von Hayek or Friedman (or Goldwater and Reagan) than Bakunin or Berkman. The dynamism o f capitalism does make libertarian socialists contemplate the probability of their faith, and caused thinkers like Macdonald and the poet Levine to admit that, while the anarchist society was unlikely, anarchism remained the best ethical outlook and most c ourageous yardstick for practice. The reasons why some postwar capitalist intellectuals sought anarchism is worth noting. Hess (and Murray Rothbard and Robert Nozick) most provocatively gave expression to the convergence. For them anarchism is fancy pack aging for laissez faire capitalism. It gave flair to their political economy but had commonality with only a fraction of the fragmented classical anarchist theorists. Hess' intellectual voyage was, like Macdonald, Bookchin, and Goodman's, meandering. But he'd trekked from right wing conservatism, whereas they departed from authoritarian socialism. Hess described it this way: "First, opposition to the New Deal, then Republican libertarianism, then the anti communist disaster, then an anti political period w ith Ayn Rand and the objectivists, then the SDS hits you like a bombshell with
92 its synthesis of the values of individual freedom and communal life." 252 Hess had been an enthusiastic conservative intellectual and activist. After deciding not to become a soci alist he became a Republican as a teenager in 1940 because the party was "against centralized power, against militarism and foreign meddling, against Communism; it was for local control, individual liberty and the pioneer spirit." 253 That description whitewa shes Republicanism but foreshadows Hess's breakthrough a quarter century later. He became a founder of the National Review an executive at an Ohio paper company and, in 1962, director of special projects at the American Enterprise Institute for Public Pol icy, the main think tank of conservative business interests. After co authoring the 1964 Republican National Convention platform (he'd been sole author four years earlier) he became Goldwater's speechwriter. Vietnam shattered Hess' loyalty by the late 196 0s. That debacle proved that conservatives and liberals, hypnotized by the cold war and perennial self interest, both used "the state as an instrument not [for] protecting man's freedom but either instructing or restricting how that freedom is to be used" 254 through the military draft, segregation, agricultural subsidies, and so on. Hess shellacked conservatives who "reject the state as an instrument of beneficence but revere it as an instrument of chastisement." 255 He bashed communist and capitalist states wit h equal tenacity because they were each hulking leviathans. "Power and authorityare the specters that haunt the world today," he said echoing Marx in an influential 1969 essay, "The Death of Politics." 252 James Boyd, "From Far Right to Far Left -and Farther -with Karl Hess," The New York Times Magazine December 6, 1970. 253 Ibid. 254 Karl Hess, "The Death of Politi cs," Playboy March 1969. 255 Boyd, "From Far Right to Far Left -and Farther -with Karl Hess."
93 Anarchism was the philosophy that squared with Hess' anti political mood. He grew a beard and began wearing field jackets. By 1970 he was living on a houseboat named Tranquility in Washington, D.C. among a "self governing community of 21 free citizens." 256 Hess spoke of anarchism with the passion of a convert The houseboat community would form part of "an anarchist world" where "there would be thousands of different communities, enough variety to accommodate everyone except someone who wanted power over others." Hess didn't seek to minimize the nation state, as libertarian conservatives like Goldwater had, or use it for securing equality, as liberals had. "The radical and revolutionary view of the future of nationhood is, logically, that it has no future, only a past.But lines drawn on paper, on the ground or in the stratosphere are clearly insufficient to the future of mankind." 257 Any social -compared with individualist anarchist theorist could have said that. Interestingly, Hess' ideas about how anarchism would be realized were similar to Bookchin's. Power institutions developed because of scarcity. Historically, there was never enough of the necessities to go around, so people submitted to kings and armies, either to steal from others or to defend what little they had. But new developments in ways of growin g and making things mean there is no longer any logical reason for scarcity, and so there is no longer any justification for the nation state that outweighs its obvious threat to human survival. 258 Bookchin and Hess were separate thinkers, so how can we rec oncile their roads to anarchy? Here I think Hobsbawm's extrapolation that anarchism could never be socialist under modern conditions makes a free marketer like Hess comfortable to use its vocabulary. 259 And that is one reason why the anarchism of Kropotkin i s probably a dream. The movement collapsed because of robust structures, then gave way to radical thought. 256 Ibid. 257 Hess, "The Death of Politics." 258 Boyd, "From Far Right to Far Left -and Farther -with Karl Hess." 259 Hobsbawm, Revolutionaries 88.
94 Hess recommends that we thwart politics and focus on economics and culture instead for liberation. Hess' libertarian socialism, though not his liber tarian radicalism, is cancelled by an enthusiasm for free markets. A laissez faire community, like an anarchist one, is speculative, an abstraction. Like anarchism, we cannot possibly be certain of the outcome of free markets, just as we cannot be certain of life without authority, because they are so far removed from our acculturation under interventionist governments. We can trust only the spontaneous goodness of the masses and individuals. For anarchists, though, the essentially competitive nature of cap italism is anathema -they do not wish away coercive institutions merely for untrammeled economic markets. Although well intentioned, Hess spuriously translates anarchism to capitalism; that is, a romantic version of capitalism. "Laissez faire capitalism, o r anarchocapitalism, is simply the economic form of the libertarian ethic." 260 Hess' anarcho capitalist ideology provides ready made answers to all sorts of questions. To prevent monopoly "unregulated, unrestricted laissez faire capitalism is all that is ne eded." Using anarchism to rescue capitalism from institutions seems tendentious, done just to promote another cause. As Alan Ryan commented more recently "certainly, nineteenth century libertarianism was exclusively the province of radicals, while that of the past quarter of a century has appealed to laissez faire economists and has been embodied in a movement largely paid for by rich businessmen." 261 Whatever, because Hess was a quintessentially homegrown radical, a champion of rugged individualism who recko ned with the ubiquity of capitalism, who thought if it was 260 Hess, "The Death of Politics." 261 A Companion to American Thought s.v. "Libertarianism."
95 rescued it could realize the dreams of anarchists: personal freedom and social harmony. That mythification provoked a hostile response from Emma Goldman decades earlier. Freedom, is, therefore, the cornerstone of Anarchist philosophy. Of course, this has nothing in common with a much boasted rugged individualism.' Such predatory individualism is really flabby, not rugged. At the least danger to its safety it runs to cover of the state and wails for the protection of armies, navies, or whatever devices for strangulation it has at its command. Their rugged individualism' is simply one of the many pretenses the ruling class makes to unbridled business and political extortion. 262 Hess was a utopian capi talist who, for a while, clothed free market anti statism and anti authoritarianism in anarchist garb. If Hess' anarchism was unorthodox, his intellectual style was vintage. The frontier legacy colored his anti institutionalism, a characteristic that was evident even before he became an anarcho capitalist. He moved briskly among business, journalism, and politics. Then in the mid 1960s he became a non aligned freelance intellectual. Books (such as a collaboration on draft resistance) and lectures were his vocation. On the houseboat Hess saved a clipping that advertised a speaking engagement at the University of Texas: "Union Speakers Comm. (the people who brought you Abbie Hoffman) present: Karl Hess, far out freak, militant, commie, anarchist, pervert!!! c urrently assoc. editor of Ramparts ." 263 One author noted that he lectured "only in service of the Cause" whose "campus appearances buoy his hopes that anarchy is catching on." 264 When Hess was ensconced in institutions he kept his mettle; as a fellow at the l eft wing Institute for Policy Studies (where Goodman was a scholar in residence from 1964 to 1965) he conducted a seminar on "The Ways in Which Left and Right Political Positions Have Merged in the New Left." Hess was of a band of freelance radicals who be came endangered by postwar centralization. Just as intellectuals could reconstruct anarchism, 262 Goldman, "Was My Life Worth Living?," 77. 263 Boyd, "From Far Right to Far Left -and Farther -with Karl Hess." 264 Ibid.
96 they also became absorbed and neutered through professionalization. Noam Chomsky's pleas that intellectuals need moral certitude are superb examples of an anarchi st dealing with late twentieth century academic debauchery. Chomsky was born in 1928 in Philadelphia to secular Jewish parents but spent a considerable amount of time in New York around his uncle s 72 nd Street newsstand and the anarchist bookstores on 4 th Avenue in lower Manhattan. Chomsky was trained as a linguist and has taught at MIT since 1955. However he's best known as, since the late 1960s, a radical social critic. Anarchism has guided Chomsky's moral challenges to power and his Bakuninist skepticis m, passed through Macdonald, of intellectuals. Chomsky was the product of the anarchist tradition, one that "offers no position of privilege or power to the intelligentsia. In fact, it undermines that position." 265 Chomsky's notable influences include the G erman American anarcho syndicalist Rudolf Rocker, left wing Marxists like Rosa Luxemburg and Anton Pannekoek, and Enlightenment scientists and social theorists. But it was Bakunin's foretelling that left wing intellectuals would grab power that shaped his expectations of them and his documentation of their faults. Chomsky thought Bakunin was basically correct in his assumptions, so he revitalized those arguments for the postwar situation in America. "One of the very few predictions in the social sciences th at I know of that came true," Chomsky wrote, "was one of Bakunin's over a century ago in which he talked about what the intellectuals were going to be like in modern industrial society." 266 The left intellectuals "would be the ones who would try to rise to p ower on the backs of mass popular movements, and if they could gain power they would then beat the people into 265 Noam Chomsky, "Interview," in The Chomsky Reader ed. J. Peck (New York: Pantheon, 1987), 20. 266 Noam Chomsky, Noam Chomsky Raps w ith Michael Albert (Oakland: AK Press, 1993), 9 10.
97 submission." Chomsky's 1969 essay "Objectivity and Liberal Scholarship" demonstrated how "the left wing critique of Leninist elitism can be appli ed, under very different conditions, to the liberal ideology of the intellectual elite that aspires to a dominant role in managing the welfare state." 267 The essay is a hard edged but effective summary of intellectual complacency, as in, for example, lacking the power to evade institutional benefactors. Jacoby deems Chomsky "an unusual and somewhat isolated figure: an anarchist skeptical of intellectuals in institutions is rare in the American left." 268 Because Chomsky was writing during a period when "techno logists can perform a service for existing institutions" were widespread and honored, he had no shortage of examples. Even other radicals (whose ideology typically endorsed intellectual separation and hierarchy) became pacified through employment. "Access to power, shared ideology, [and] professionalization" were "a serious threat to the integrity of scholarship" but more than that "a threat to society at large." In "a society that encourages specialization and stands in awe of technical expertise.the oppo rtunities are great for the abuse of knowledge and technique." 269 Government brain trust thinkers like McGeorge Bundy and Robert McNamara, main architects of the Vietnam War, were the most familiar "new mandarins" who thrived at "counterrevolutionary subord ination." Directed by prerogatives of power, such intellectuals became sycophants. Honest intellectuals were 267 Chomsky, Chomsky on Anarchism 41. 268 Jacoby, The Last Intellectuals 183. 269 Chomsky, Chomsky on Anarchism 12.
98 "usuallynot inside the institutionsthere is no reason why institutions of power and domination should tolerate or encourage people who try to und ermine them." 270 Chomsky deflated the intellectuals myth of detachment serving only abstract truth. Contrary to the widespread belief and self serving doctrine produced by the intelligentsia themselves, the fact is that, by and large, intellectuals have te nded to be submissive and obedient to one or another state -generally their own, though naturally episodes of apologetics for foreign states tend to receive more attention, conformity to domestic power being tacitly assumed as the norm. 271 Intellectuals be come part of the state's counterintelligence apparatus, using their knowledge to contain "spontaneous and free experimentation with new social forms, as it can limit the possibilities for reconstruction of society in the interests of those who are nowdisp ossessed." Rather "new mandarins" "tend to adopt an elitist position, condemning popular movements and participatory democracy, and emphasize rather the necessity for supervision by those who possess the knowledge and understanding that is required (so th ey claim) to manage society and control social change." Such meekness toward and cooperation with power causes intellectuals to become, if not hostile toward the "dispossessed," than vapid and obscure. Marxist and postmodernist rhetorical brinksmanship in timidate grassroots radicals, no matter how "radical" certain thinkers purport to be. To Chomsky certain questions are really accessible to everybody. One of the things that intellectuals do is make them inaccessible, for various reasons, including the re asons of domination and personal privilege. It's very natural to try to make simple things look difficult.It's also good for them: then you're an important person, talking big words, which nobody can understand.These are the ways in which contemporary in tellectuals, including those on the Left, create great careers for themselves, power for themselves, marginalize people, intimidate people and so on. 272 270 Noam Chomsky, "A Revolutio nary Change in Moral Values," in Understanding Power: The Indispensible Chomsky eds. Peter R. Mitchell and John Schoeffel (New York: The New Press, 2002), 261. 271 Noam Chomsky, Radical Priorities ed. C.P. Otero (Montreal: Black Rose Books, 1981), 24. 272 Ch omsky, Chomsky on Anarchism 216.
99 Chomsky's argument is that intellectuals would probably "beat the people into submission" but that hones t ones should be accessible in their presentation of radical thought. Pseudo sophistication is distracting, while the clear language of anarchists like Bakunin and Chomsky doesn't seek to graft popular unrest but rather encourage social transformation. Cho msky proves that anarchists aren't necessarily anti intellectual. They are, however, always skeptical of the corrupting influence of institutions. Though Chomsky is harsh on intellectuals, he does explain what their visionary role could be. He distinguish es between the intellectuals "task" and "moral responsibility." "Their task, that is, the reason why social institutions provide them with this time and effort[is] so that they can support power, authority, they can carry out doctrinal management. They ca n try to ensure that others perceive the world in a way which is supportive of existing authority and privilege." Their moral responsibility "is to try to understand the truth, to try to work with others to come to an understanding of what the world is lik e, to try to convey that to other people, help them understand, and lay the basis for constructive action." 273 That anarchist description of the intellectual would, Chomsky acknowledged, be met with efforts to control, marginalize, or eliminate the dissident (Chomsky's reputation as a groundbreaking linguist may protect him from expulsion from academe, although he was included on Nixon's enemy list and may have been, as he's argued, ostracized by the American media for his unpopular views.) Chomsky can fore see intellectuals positively helping radical social change. Unlike conservative reprobation's of intellectuals, Jacoby writes, "Chomsky does not aim to confine intellectuals to their labs and fields. If anything, he wants intellectuals to speak 273 Chomsky, Chomsky Raps with Michael Albert 3.
100 up as citiz ens or citizens to assert themselves as intellectuals." 274 Intellectuals, Chomsky says, "are people who are privileged enough to be able to spend an awful lot of their time and effort" to understand society and communicate their knowledge, but choose not to. Instead they "turn to routine kind of hack work, which is the easy way." 275 But some haven't shrunk from that imperative, so intellectuals cannot be written off only as captive servants. During the Enlightenment, for example, he says they were key "in break ing barriers and creating a space for greater freedom of thought." 276 And Chomsky's own career, Robert Barsky notes, "offers a concrete example of how one can employ a privileged positionto advance the cause of the downtrodden against forces of oppression." 277 The anarchists in the Spanish Civil War, Chomsky wrote in "Objectivity and Liberal Scholarship," had "concern for human relations and the ideal of a just society" that "must appear very strange to the consciousness of the sophisticated intellectual" for whom "inarticulate impulses remain beyond its grasp." 278 While much work has been done since to understand such motives, much if not most of that research is inaccessible to the layperson. Chomsky's work underscores the ethical responsibility of anarchist in tellectuals to foster understanding of radical thought and reprimand the new class (most of it anyhow) as powermongers. David Graeber and Rebecca Solnit are twenty first century anarchist intellectuals who continue thoughtful characterizations of power an d proclaim hope for a freer society. They also personify the same tensions of institutionalism and free lance work for 274 Jacoby, The Last Intellectuals 199. 275 Chomsky, Chomsky Raps with Michael Albert 2. 276 Ibid., 4. 277 Robert Barsky, "Anarchism, the Chomsky Effect, and the Descent from the Ivory Tower," Critical Studies in Media Communication 23, no. 5 (December 2006): 451. 278 Chomsky, Chomsky on Anarchism 74.
101 anarchists that Hess and Chomsky had a generation ago. In their work -Graeber's an academic, Solnit an independent scholar -they capture the problems anarchists have with hierarchical institutions, the commitment to emancipatory methods to defuse such power, and the irrepressibility of anti authoritarian thought. Graeber, an anthropologist, has been an anarchist since he was a teenager in the 1970s. While not anarchists, his parents were 1930s radicals. He wasn't discouraged to think "a society without states or classeswould not be possible." (His father had been a volunteer ambulance driver in the International Brigades during the Spanis h Civil War and "was based in Barcelona and had thus had the opportunity to live for some time in a place with no formal government under conditions of worker control.") 279 During his youth Graeber was turned off by the sectarianism of anarchists but came to realize by 1999 that with the antiglobalization movement things had changed and that "the movement I'd always wanted one where people worked together with respect finally materialized, and I had to be part of it." 280 Though an associate professor at Yale, G raeber became active in anarchist organizations like the Direct Action Network. He was careful to separate scholarship and activism -"I figured I'd be a scholar in New Haven and an activist in New York" -but perhaps not enough. 281 When Graeber's contract w ith Yale wasn't renewed in the spring of 2005 there was a major fallout between anarchists and the academy. Graeber's six year review was marred with accusations of unreliability, lack of community service, and not enough collegiality. He said those reason s were window dressing for persecuting an anarchist 279 David Graeber, Possibilities: Essays on Hierarchy, Rebellion and Desire (AK Press: Oakland, 2007), 6. 280 Nick Mamatas, "Take it from the Top," Village Voice May 31, 2005. 281 Karen W. Arenson, "When Scholarship and Politics Collide at Yale," The New York Times December 28, 2005.
102 who offered the graduate student's union solidarity (a colleague who also was refused tenure griped that "he seems to take this as an individual, personal thing rather than taking a more anthropological v iew of the nature of the system that affects all junior scholars at Yale.") 282 Partly because he wasn't granted tenure, and certainly because of his unsentimental anarchist opposition to concentrated power, Graeber did have a more general argument about ac ademe. Graeber was asked a few months after the 2005 scandal why he even bothered to enter the field given that it had such arbitrary power and hierarchy. Well, you have to make a living somehow. They say universities are the court jesters of modern socie ty. The ruling class knows that if they rely on toadies and yes men, they're going to be in trouble. You need someone to tell you unpleasant truths, but the public cannot take them seriously. So you get a silly dwarf, or someone who spouts pretentious jarg on. Now it seems like even they don't care what's actually going on in the world anymore. 283 An anarchist like Graeber unmasks the intimidation and quiescence that propels a system, even if he makes unverifiable assumptions about how and why that system dis placed him. "So many academics lead such frightened lives. The whole system seems designed to encourage paranoia and timidity. I wasn't willing to live like that." 284 Fear led not only to "pretentious jargon" but also a vanguard like style that suggested in tellectuals hunger for respect and power. When Graeber deepened his activism he came to recognize that "my intellectual training had inculcated in me habits of thought and argument far more similar to the idiotic sectarian squabbling of Marxist sects than to anything consistent with these new (for us) forms of democracy." 285 Anarchists practiced consensus, which had no analogue in the schools. Graeber is an 282 Ibid. 283 Mamatas, "Take it from the Top." 284 Arenson, "When Scholarship and Politics Collided at Yale." 285 Gr aeber, Possibilities 9.
103 activist of the new school who struggles with, beyond conservatives, the radical faculty of a generatio n that was partly forged by intense back biting. The professoriat by and large excels at kabuki theater. Their contentious and exclusionary discourse "has an almost exact reproduction of the style of intellectual debate typical of the most ridiculous vangu ard sects." 286 They would benefit to learn from the democracy of today's radicals. In the midst of the Yale debacle the sociologist Stanley Aronowitz argued that "places like Yale are not for people like David Graeber.He's a public intellectual. He speaks out. He participates. He's not someone who simply does good scholarship; he's an activist and a controversial person." 287 Elite places like Yale, the reasoning goes, will cause intolerable friction for the conscientious because they are beholden to a web of power. Yet it tolerates, as do all major campuses, other radical thinkers who hustle radical ideas. So why can't they support anarchist intellectuals? Graeber admits that its not possible to run classes that have lectures and grades on anarchist principle s because those tasks imply hierarchy. In Fragments of an Anarchist Anthropology he argues that "being an openly anarchist professor would mean challenging the way universities are run." 288 Anarchists are inhospitable to universities, and vice versa, and the anarchist usually loses because, as Chomsky said above, they usually won't support those who would dismember them. In Graeber's helpful definitions Marxism -"theoretical or analytical discourse about revolutionary strategy" -seems at home in academe whi le anarchism -"an ethical discourse about revolutionary practice" -is more inchoate. 289 Recall here that Marxists 286 Ibid., 302. 287 Arenson, "When Scholarship and Politics Collided at Yale." 288 David Graeber, Fragments of an Anarchist Anthropology (Chicago: Prickly Paradigm Press, 2004). 289 Graeber, Possibilities 304.
104 (and progressives and liberals et al.) presume that intellectuals would design and engineer a given system whereas anarchists undermine the powe r of intellectuals. Graeber's argument is that the forms of modern anarchists could be adapted by scholars to democratize their work in a way that would make for a more even transaction with social movements than, for example, poststructuralist literary cr itics. He argues that a goal of intellectuals should be to put oneself at the service of activists by providing information, or exposing the interests of the dominant elite carefully hidden behind supposedly objective, authoritative discourses, rather tha n trying to impose a new version of the same thing. But at the same time most recognize that intellectual struggle needs to reaffirm its place. Many are beginning to point out that one of the basic weaknesses of the anarchist movement today is, with respec t to the time of, say, Kropotkin or Reclus, or Herbert Read, exactly the neglecting of the symbolic, the visionary, and overlooking of the effectiveness of theory. 290 Graeber, a public intellectual, at least shows the eloquence of anarchism, which is more r ealistic than the equation of anarchism with chaos that has been perpetuated rather innocuously by scholars. And it can hardly be said that intellectual anarchists in postwar America are parasites to a movement of peasants or workers, because intellectuals are in fact dominant in modern anarchism for reasons that make sense, even if they are not worth being content about. An argument could be made that they discourage non intellectuals because they've lost touch with the vernacular. The challenge such intel lectuals face is not to transplant anarchism to the academic ghetto by making it pretentious and quaint, but to learn from and promote ethical and broad minded anti authoritarianism. From anthropology Graeber learned that "throughout most of human history people got by without central governments." 291 Knowing this, and believing that capitalism, as a system of infinite expansion, cannot persist indefinitely, Graeber asserts 290 Graeber, "Anarchism, Or th e Revolutionary Movement of the Twenty First Century." 291 Arenson, "When Scholarship and Politics Collided at Yale."
105 that intellectuals can and should speak prophetically. A voice of thoughtful utopia should return to radical intellectuals who vacated it for professionalization and moderation and realism. "Whatever we end up with at that point," Graeber says, will not be capitalism; it will be something else. However, there is no guarantee that this s omething will be better. It might be considerably worse. Might we not do well at least to consider what something better might be like? If nothing else it seems like an odd moment to call off all speculation about alternatives. And if one does wish to thin k about alternatives to capitalism, how better to do this than to engage with those building such alternatives in the present? 292 Despite controversy, Graeber has been faithful to anarchism (which has been prevalent over Marxism among radical activists for at least a decade and a half) and the belief that it should inform scholarly work. While anarchists would, I think, enrich universities through egalitarianism, I have reservations that other academics would care to participate. The New Left rebels, as it was, were tranquilized through professionalization. The anarchists have been trenchant critics of that process. Being an independent scholar is preferable for quarrelsome anarchists, as it is a form of self management. But, as Graeber said, you have to get by somehow. Anarchists have to acknowledge how reliant they are on governments, universities, and other capitalist institutions, but explain and resist that hegemony. The engaged scholarship Graeber recommends is compelling as, he says, a possibility. Ra ther than crafting high theory, he argues, ethnography is the most supple and democratic methodology. Ethnography could help uncover, for example, "carefully hidden" elite interests. Because the premise of ethnography "is about teasing out the hidden symbo lic, moral, or pragmatic logics that underlie certain types of social action; how people's habits and actions make sense in ways that they themselves are not completely aware of" the radical intellectual would study "radical practice" and then "not 292 Graeber, "Resistance is Surrender," London Review of Books 30, no.1.
106 only of fering the analysis back to communities, but using them to formulate new visions." 293 While more dialogical than most radical scholarship, Graeber overestimates the utility of ethnography, which wouldn't be democratic until it could be practiced with less sp ecialist training than he has had, however much it's an advance over other methods. While Graeber handles the academy from within, Rebecca Solnit is the classic outsider. She may be the most intriguing and exciting anarchist intellectual working today. So lnit's quiet but confident anarchist faith can be seen in a description of nature in A Field Guide to Getting Lost : "There's an art to attending to the weather, the route you take, to the landmarks along the way....And there's another art of being at home in the unknown, so that being in its midst isn't a cause for panic or suffering." 294 In 1988 Solnit decided to stop working at her editorial job "and that year hasn't ended yet. Living below one's means can give you a sense of freedom." 295 Ultimately, of cour se, anarchist intellectuals have to make ends meet. Her freelance writing and lecturing allows her to be as vigorous as she wants, so long as publishers and audiences sustain her work. One article classified Solnit as an "independent scholar of the West" 296 and another noted that she "describes herself as a cultural historian, but she has never fitted into the straitjacket of academe." 297 Because she doesn't face the burden of specialization she can summon and explore whatever intellectual curiosity she wants. Graeber theorizes that Marxism and 293 Graeber, Possibilities 305/310. 294 Joy Press, "Wander Woman," Villa ge Voice June 21, 2005. 295 Stuart Jeffries, "Anarchy with a Smile," The Guardian May 31, 2005. 296 Heidi Benson, "Move Over Joan Didion, Make Room for Rebecca Solnit, California's Newest Cultural Historian," San Francisco Chronicle June 13, 2004. 297 Jeffrie s, "Anarchy with a Smile."
107 academic disciplines developed somewhat "in tandem"; Solnit is free to be however interdisciplinary she wants, cobbling together a "tantalizing promiscuity of subject matter" 298 as one reviewer wrote, and not clashing with academic and university routines and standards. Her discovery of feminism and postmodernism, lenses that decenter authority, in graduate school in the 1980s "egged on my own sense that nonfictional prose could have the same pleasures of form and phrasing as poetry and fiction -and that my subjects need not be segregated." 299 Solnit is a unique radical because of her optimism and, yes, anarchism, but also because of her access (she's a contributing editor at Harper's and has done essays for the Guardian ) and acclaim (she's received the Lannan Literary Award and the Guggenheim Fellowship and her 2003 River of Shadows: Eadweard Muybridge and the Technological Wild West won the National Book Critics Circle Award in Criticism). During the early 1980s Solnit's you nger brother David introduced her to direct action, around the same time she got involved with the punk rock subculture. Those experiences have been instrumental ones for many post 1960s anarchists. If Solnit's livelihood depends on consumers, her politi cs are participatory. "I have realized," Solnit said in 2004, "that the purpose of activism, or at least of mine, is to make a world in which people are producers of meaning, not consumers. And that is connected to the politics of hope." 300 Solnit believes t hat revolution is not only probable but already occurring in many places we don't even bother to look. When anarchists are asked have there ever been examples of anarchism? they might respond with an example like regions of Spain in the 1930s or workers co uncils in Hungary in 1956. Solnit on the 298 Press, "Wander Woman." 299 Benson, "Move Over Joan Didion." 300 Ibid.
108 other hand finds anarchism in unexpected places -urban farms in Detroit, William Morris' journals of Iceland. As she sees it, cynics who say everything's wrong just invert "the mainstream's everything's fine.'" 301 S olnit's muse is that "much of the pressure for change today comes from outside a system that is itself inadequately democratic." 302 She is not vague about her commitment to democraticizing everyday life, and because anarchism bubbles up from such unexpected places it shows that voluntarism and direct action are the ways people establish their freedom. Her recognition of community ("a group of people who can actually function as a group in conversation, support, and decision makingonly a true community can be truly democratic") 303 is reminiscent of SDS's face to face democracy. But she makes explicit what was only latent for the early New Left. "Here I might claim that I am an anarchist, except that word is almost as deeply sunk in the semantic tar pits as democ racy and community, so please distinguish those who believe in life without rulers from those fomenting chaos or advocating violence." 304 In projects like the Argentinean horizoltalidad -the self managed factories and neighborhood councils that emerged from that country's 2003 economic and subsequent government fiasco -she sees, as some had seen Berkeley and Columbia -"part of a new era in democratization that may leave the electoral democracies a nd maybe even the nation states behind." When The Nation asked Solnit to contribute to a series about the current economic crisis she brought attention to extant projects whose "underlying vision is neither state socialist nor corporate capitalist, but something human, local and accountable anarchist, 301 Jeffries, "Anarchy with a Smile." 302 Rebecca Solnit, "More Perfect Unions," Orion November/December 2006. 303 Ibid. 304 Ibid.
109 basically, as in direct democracy." Since the centralized Sandinista revolution of the 1970s "the revolutions that have mattered since have been less interested in seizing and becoming the state than circumventing it to go straight to become other people doing other thing s without state permission." 305 The intellectuals only need to catch up. Just as anarchist thought many thoughts about anarchists, intellectuals (be they anarchist intellectuals or not) can use anarchism many ways. When frustration mounts with authority and hierarchy, anarchism can be the idiom. 305 Rebecca Solnit, "The Revolution Has Already Occurred," The Nation March 23, 2009.
110 3. Bedrock Anarchy? "This is a message from the terrorist group FC," began a letter the New York Times received from Ted Kaczynski on April 24, 1995. 306 That same day Gilbert Murray, a Sacramento log ging executive, was killed when he pried open a package from Kaczynski. FC were the initials of "Freedom Club," a fictive band of guerillas who claimed to recently have "blew up" Thomas Mosser, a New Jersey public relations executive. There was no FC. Kacz ynski, who wasn't captured until a year later, was called the Unabomber, an amalgam of university professor ("specialists in technical fields" the letter said) and airline bomber, prominent among early targets selected because they harmed the environment. Because of the makeup of Unabomber victims many thought FC meant "Fuck Computers." The 150 FBI agents working the case got no closer to solving who or whom the Unabomber was. FC had been etched into many of the sixteen mail bombs Kaczynski sent alone from 1978 1995, killing three and injuring another twenty three. Another false clue Kaczynski gave investigators was that FC was a group of anarchist conspirators (a claim he also made in a June 1993 letter to the newspaper.) The reason for the bombings, FC wr ote, was "to promote social instability in industrial society, propagate anti industrial ideas and give encouragement to those who hate the industrial system." The letter, done on a manual typewriter, promised "to permanently desist from terrorist activiti es" if a major periodical would publish a long article from FC. In September 1995 the Washington Post at the urging of the FBI, printed the roughly 35,000 word "Industrial Society and Its Future," a polemic against technology and the political left and a call for 306 Theodore Kaczynski to New York Times Ted Kaczynski Papers, Labadie Collection of the University of Michigan Special Collections Library, Ann Arbor, MI.
111 revolutionary action. The essay quickly became known as "the Unabomber Manifesto." An edition published by Jolly Roger Press became the eighth bestselling "quality paperback" in the San Francisco Bay Area for a week in October 1995. 307 "The author," commented a Village Voice review, "prefers to cloak himself in a veil of anonymity." 308 Kaczynski's chosen veil, that of anarchist terrorism, was rich in symbolism. Anarchism was known for shadowy, sinister, and ideologically driven murderers who use gratui tous violence to broadcast their message. This chapter has two main purposes. One is to determine the ways Kaczynski used anarchism as a cultural reference, such as through violence and direct action. The other is to explain the growing consciousness amon g anarchists of the exploitation of nature. Anarcho primitivism developed in the postwar context, and shared fundamental views with Kaczynski. From primary and secondary sources we learn that Kaczynski was no anarchist. He was, however, a radica l steeped in cultural and historical knowledge. Claiming FC was a subterranean and violent anarchist group was a plausible red herring for investigators and the public alike. The violence of anarchism, infamous acts of "propaganda of the deed" meant to pro voke social revolt against the state and other cumbersome and hierarchical structures that proscribe the development of individual and group freedom, long overshadowed its primacy as a social theory and movement. Kaczynski drew from that caricature, althou gh he betrayed a greater familiarity with anarchism. "In our previous letter to you," he wrote in 1995, "we called ourselves anarchists. Since 'anarchist' is a vague word that has been applied to a variety of attitudes, 307 "Best Sellers for Quality Paperbacks," San Francisc o Chronicle October 29, 1995. 308 "An Explosive Bestseller," Village Voice June 4, 1996.
112 further explanation is needed. We ca ll ourselves anarchists because we would like, ideally, to break down all society into very small, completely autonomous units." Kaczynski set the trap. Anarchists do believe that administrative units, when they are necessary, must be kept to a minimum to prevent coercion and alienation. Kaczynski challenged the FBI's portrayal of the bombings as, he wrote, "the work of an isolated nut" and reported that "anyone who will read the anarchist and radical environmentalist journals will see that opposition to th e technological system is widespread and growing." The ploy worked. Shortly after the letter was published the Times could report on May 7, 1995 that investigators, who had been looking at extremist groups of all types in their search for clues, have narr owed their focus to the anarchist movement, a small and obscure network of intellectuals, labor organizers and political idealists who share a darkly apocalyptic view of Western civilization. 309 Nature and technology were on anarchism's peripher y from its formal beginning as a radical tradition in mid nineteenth century Europe. The development of anarchism as a body of ideas and as a popular movement was spawned by the Industrial Revolution. Interestingly, Kaczynski's essay opens with the sentenc e "The Industrial Revolution and its consequences have been a disaster for the human race." 310 Anarchists were largely peasants and workers (although several well known anarchists came from the aristocracy) who'd been shaken by the new divisions of labor and stratification. Former social and workplace customs and habits were brutally cast off by the new regime. For historical anarchists technical innovations were problematic because their advances generally served capitalism (chemistry and dynamite being pa rtial exceptions.) Mikhail Bakunin feared that with technology people could become "the slaves, the 309 Kenneth B. Noble, "Prominent Anarchist Finds Unsought Ally in Serial Bomber," The New York Times May 7, 1995. 310 Theodore Kaczynski, Industrial Society and its Futur e (Berkeley: Jolly Roger Press, 1995).
113 playthings, and the victims of a new group of ambitious men" and therefore encouraged a "revolt of life against science, or, rather, against the rule of sci ence." 311 The Italian anarchist Errico Malatesta would go further. Scientism, which I reject and which, provoked and encouraged by the enthusiasm that followed the marvelous discoveries made in the field of physical chemistry and natural history, dominated m inds in the second half of the last century, is the belief that science is everything and is capable of everything; it is the acceptance as definitive truths, as dogmas, of every partial discovery; it is the confusion of Science with Morals; of Force, in t he mechanical sense of the word, with thought; of natural law with will. Scientism logically leads to fatalism -that is, to the denial of free will and of freedom. 312 The Russian Peter Kropotkin, the eminent geographer who wrote the classic Mutual Aid abou t cooperation in nature, argued more openly in 1880 that "we have to order things in such ways that all humanity may be capable of assimilating and applying them; so that science, ceasing to be a luxury, becomes the basis of everyday life. Justice requires this." 313 James Joll summarized that "the anarchists are all agreed that in the new society man will live in extreme simplicity and frugality and will be quite happy to do without the technical achievements of the industrial age." 314 Do physical environments condition anarchist responses? Classical anarchism was largely an urban phenomenon. Paul Avrich wrote in The Haymarket Tragedy that in the late nineteenth century United States "the centers of the movement wereindustrial cities with large working class a nd immigrant populations." 315 The peak years of anarchism coincided with the swift urbanization of the Industrial Revolution. For Adolph Reed the "heyday of urban growth coincided with the burst of industrial growth between the last quarter of the nineteenth century and the first quarter of the twentieth. By the 311 Paul Avrich, Anarchist Portraits (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1988), 15. 312 Errico Malatesta, Pensiero e Volonta 1924, quoted in Berman, Quotations from the Anarchists (New York: Praeger, 1972), 203 204. 313 Peter Kropotkin, An Appeal to the Young 1880, quoted in Berman, Quotations from the Anarchists 204. 314 James Joll, "An Estimate of Anarchism's Role," in Anarchism ed. Robert Hoffman (New York: Atherton, 1970), 142 315 Paul Avrich, The Haymarket Tragedy (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1984), 84.
114 1920s, however, the processes of suburbanization had taken hold." 316 Suburbanization didn't precipitate anarchism's 1920s and 1930s decline so much as repression and internal crises, but it meant that a narchism's urban identity would be transmuted outward. Anarchists would adapt to new geographical contexts over the rest of the century and romantically think of escapes from urban life. Within anarchism direct appeals for the salvation of nature were som ewhat lacking. It, like other humanistic radicalisms of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, was concerned with the release of humans from bondage and the full development of their faculties, not for their reunification with the natural world. Pri meval ways of life were seldom advocated as a way out of the dislocations caused by the nation state and capital. But anarchists did believe that "the simple and the natural were superior to the complex and the artificial." 317 Emma Goldman, in a 1906 speech in Detroit, urged a return back even to the primitive methods and happy comradeship of the colonial days, rather than to a higher stage of nerve racking, hope destroying, freedom debauching centralization in productive activities. I hope we will never get freedom if we don't return to the simple ways of a more primitive existence. No liberty can be had until we do. 318 That yearning would become more pronounced toward the end of the century. During the 1960s Murray Bookchin and others began to make liberta rian critiques of environmental problems, contending that the hierarchy anarchists deplored in society was reflected in man's destructive relationship with nature. Social ecology became popular within postwar anarchist circles. Edward Abbey, the "desert an archist," wrote a 1959 masters thesis on "Anarchism and the Morality of Violence" and introduced 316 Adolph Reed, Stirrings in the Jug: Black Politics in the Post Segregation Era (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1999), 83. 317 Blaine McKinley, "Anarchist Jeremiads: American Anarchists and Amer ican History," Journal of American Culture 6, no. 2 (Summer 1983): 318 Detroit Times May 19, 1906, Emma Goldman Scrapbook, Labadie Collection of the University of Michigan Special Collections Library, Ann Arbor, MI.
115 anarchist direct action tactics to the fledgling environmentalist movement with 1974's The Monkey Wrench Gang "One way or another," he wrote, "they were going to slow if not halt the advance of Technocracy, the growth of Growth, the spread of the ideology of the cancer cell." 319 The antinuclear movement was also markedly non hierarchical and preferred direct action. Anarchist's advocate direct action such as strik es and demonstrations over reformism as the route to social change. That zeal for results could be seen in the rejection of mainstream environmentalism. Borrowing themes from Lewis Mumford, Jacques Ellul and others, anarcho primitivism coalesced and argued to varying degrees, that modern civilization was backward and should give way to a process of "rewilding." Anarcho primitivism, like anarcho feminism and the anarchist influenced antiglobalization movement, is a branch of anarchism that thickened in the decades of identity politics and multiculturalism. It extended basic anarchist critiques of power and domination to condemn technology. It was a rebuke to any kind of entrenched radicalism, and used anarchism narrowly and eclectically. Anarcho primitivism made a forceful rejection of progress myths, a staple of post 1968 radicalism. Anarchism -self conscious or not -kept up a following in the postwar years, and primitivism was a significant if not beguiling adaptation to the new era. There are some obviou s reasons for the appeal of anarchist ideas at the beginning of the 21st century," David Graeber wrote in 2004, "most obviously, the failures and catastrophes resulting from so many efforts to overcome capitalism by seizing control of the apparatus of gove rnment in the 20th. 320 Anarchism became anti authoritarian nomenclature for whatever postwar social justice cause; in the 319 Edward Abbey, The Monkey Wrench Gang (N ew York: HarperCollins, 2000), 225. 320 David Graeber, "Anarchism, Or the Revolutionary Movement of the Twenty First Century," ZNet January 6, 2004. http://www.zmag.org/znet/view/ArticlePrint9258 (accessed March 22, 2009).
116 former word there was, George Esenwein found, "shock value in an age crowded by political neologisms." 321 John Zerzan, the leading theo rist of anarchoprimitivism, explained its premise in a 2001 interview with London's Guardian newspaper: It's the effort to understand do away with every form of domination, and that involves questioning very basic institutions, including the division of l abour and domestication upon which the whole edifice of civilisation and technology rests.If you took away division of labour and domestication you might have something pretty close to what obtained for the first two million years of the species, during w hich there was leisure time, there was quite a lot of gender equality and no organized violence which doesn't sound too bad. They say: 'Oh, you want to be a caveman.' Well, maybe that's somewhat true. 322 The phrases "the effort to do away with every form of domination" and "questioning very basic institutions" are recognizably anarchist; the will to do away with domestication had not been. Many anarchists, in fact, question whether primitivism has any place within anarchist cosmology. Pushed out it appears incredibly severe and misanthropic and based on fable. Nevertheless the primitivist current within anarchism has grown exponentially since the 1980s. Zerzan has said that in recent years "primitivism seems to be the ascendant strain" 323 within anarchism. He noted in a 1999 interview that "the anarchist milieu in North America, which ten years ago had almost no anti technology componentis not only anti technological to a very large degree, but even anti civilization." 324 Those claims are not just self congratu latory. Primitivism is pervasive in anarchism today. And here is where the Unabomber bisects contemporary anarchism in thought more than action. Kaczynski recognized the symbiosis of anarchist and anti civilization theses. "It seems clear that in the Unite d States," Kaczynski wrote in 2001, 321 New Dictionary of the History of Ideas s.v. "Anarchism." 322 Duncan Campbell, "Anarchy in the USA," The Guardian April 18, 2001. 323 Julien Nitzberg, "Reconsidering the Unabomber: The Reassessment of Dr. Theodore Kaczynski and hi s Surprisingly Relevant Views About Technology, the Future, and the Fate of Mankind," 0846.0, Labadie Collection of the University of Michigan Special Collections Library, Ann Arbor, MI. 324 Zerzan interview on "All Things Considered," 0145.2, Ted Kaczynski Papers, Labadie Collection of the University of Michigan Special Collections Library, Ann Arbor, MI.
117 "the anarchist movement is growing, and so is the proportion of anarchists who reject modern civilization, or any civilization. The latter would have to be called anarchoprimitivists." 325 But was he among them? The evoluti on of the periodical Fifth Estate captures this main course of postwar anarchism. Seventeen year old Harvey Ovshinsky founded the paper in 1965 as "The Voice of Liberal Detroit," an "underground paper" covering the nascent counterculture. Peter Werbe, who has been associated with the paper since just after its founding, remembered that the "early paper's content was a mix of articles about psychedelic drugs, the anti war movement, rock and roll, the alternative culture, and anything that was anti authority. 326 The last category included "anything and everything from support for armed struggle against the police and calls for independent police review boards, the Black Panthers and non violent civil disobedience, Marxism, Maoism, and hippie faux Eastern mystic ism." 327 By the early 1970s the zeitgeist crashed and in 1975 the editors threatened to close the now bi weekly publication for lack of help. That summer a group called the Eat the Rich Gang, which included Werbe and his wife Marilyn, took over the Fifth Est ate Their influences ran from the Yugoslav born founder of Detroit's Black and Red Press, Fredy Perlman, who later wrote the 1983 anarcho primitivist classic Against His Story, Against Leviathan Italian council communists, and the French Situationists. When they seized control of the Fifth Estate the group had not yet identified themselves as anarchists nor were they even aware that "anarchists had survived the 1930s." Some while after the coup Werbe regretted that he'd previously been unaware of 325 Theodore Kaczynski to Julien Nitzberg, July 2, 2001, 0846.0, Ted Kaczynski Papers, Labadie Collection of the University of Michigan Special Collections L ibrary, Ann Arbor, MI. 326 Peter Werbe, "History of the Fifth Estate: The Early Years," January 2005, http://corridortribe.com/tribes/fifth_estate/index.htm 327 Ibid.
118 "anarc hist critiques of communist police states" so as to blanch authoritarianism in the radical movement. "We figured it out in later years." By dint of circumstances they moved in a libertarian direction. They got rid of salaries and advertisements and abandon ed "Marx, Lenin, political parties, unions and all of the rest of what the left held dear" for their own playful brand of undogmatic radicalism. "Capitalism and empire were always targets of FE prose but, increasingly, so were the false hopes and reactiona ry reformists on the left," the Detroit Metro Times noted in 2005. 328 After the 1975 reorganization the editors were, Werbe remembered, contacted by a group of older comrades who were the remaining participants of the 20s and 30s anarchist movement with who m we established cordial and rewarding relationships. These stalwarts of another era have now almost all passed from the scene, but their memory as committed, militant, unswerving proponents of 'The Ideal' remains with us as a model of resistance and visio n. By 1979, when de industrialization was a potent fact, the paper reached a low and underwent another metamorphosis. Detroit was scarred by the closure of factories that were the cradle of the Ford assembly line, those that once made the city the "grea t arsenal of democracy." The 1967 riots and unabated white flight exacerbated the devastation. Faced with anguish the editors began extending the traditional anti authoritarian critique beyond the obvious oppression of capi talism and the state to uncover deeper roots of the repression of the human spirit and the biosphere. This led us to the positions often characterized as anti technology and anti civilization, through which our writers began to investigate the origin of the state and its supporting insti tutions, the inherent bureaucratic nature of technology, and the deadly consequences of industrial society, as well as pre state societies as a model of human association. By the last quarter of the twentieth century many anarchists forsook the idea of b uilding "the structure of the new society within the shell of the old" as the slogan of the anarchistic Industrial Workers of the World went; they reverted instead to the prehistoric. To call the Fifth Estate "anarchist" without further qualification wou ld be a 328 Carleton S. Gholz, "Fifth at 40," Detroit Metro Times February 23, 2005.
119 misnomer. The publication had a quirky view on anarchism that, for radicals, matched the non linear spirit of the age. "All isms are wasms" became a favored expression. 329 In 1986 editors stated that "we are not anarchists per se but rather pro anarc hy, which is for us a living, integral experience, incommensurate with Power and refusing all ideology." The paper stuck in that direction and it now stands as the longest running anarchist periodical, based since 2002 at a commune Pumpkin Hollow, Tennesse e under the direction of "Sunfrog Bonobo" and "Viva Bonobo." Kaczynski's anti technology radicalization, coincidentally, happened around the same time as the Fifth Estate restructuring. But having been a hermit since the late 1970s, Kaczynski was unaware of the internal dynamics of the anarchist movement. When he was captured at his cabin outside Lincoln, Montana (pop. 1100), though, he'd already become a folk hero for many anarchists. The anarcho primitivists in particular were moved by his example. "Ted Kaczynski, king of the anarchists," the journalist Stephen Dubner wrote in 1999. 330 Kaczynski's crimes were reminiscent of several that gave anarchism its derogatory reputation. He related to anarchism through representation and violence as much as belief. K aczynski was a master of creation, but the Unabomber actually had a literary antecedent in Adolph Verloc, the main character in Joseph Conrad's 1907 novel The Secret Agent (who himself was modeled on a real life fin de sicle bomb carrying anarchist profes sor from New York named Mezzeroff .) 331 Verloc was a shadowy London 329 Steve Millett, "Technology is Capital: Fifth Estate 's Critique of the Megamachine," in Changing Anarchism: Anarchist Theory and Practice in a Global Age ed. Jonathan Purkis and James Bowen (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2004), 74. 330 Stephen J. Dubner, "I Don't Want To Live Long. I Would Rather Get The Death Penalty Than Spend The Rest Of My Life In Prison," Time October 16, 1999. 331 Paul Avrich, The Haymarket Tragedy (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1984), 169.
120 anarchist who plots to destroy the Greenwich Observatory. The Verloc comparison wasn't the only one: Cynthia Ozick wrote in the New Yorker that "America has at last brought forth its own Rask olnikov," the "visionary murder" of Dostoyvsky's Crime and Punishment For Ozick the Unabomber was a "philosophical criminal of exceptional intelligence and humanitarian purpose, who is driven to commit murder out of an uncompromising idealism." 332 In The Se cret Agent anarchists used the initials FP, "Future of the Proletariat," in their leaflets, just as Kaczynski had scratched FC into bombs. Further merging art and life Kaczynski used the alias "Conrad," sending investigators down another wrong path, to che ck into a Sacramento motel where he coordinated a bomb attack. He wrote his family in 1984 that he was reading Conrad novels for the dozenth time. The FBI sought expertise on the Conrad parallel before the Unabomber was captured, and a BYU student wrote a dissertation on the subject. 333 Among 232 books found in Kaczynski's cabin were Conrad's The Secret Agent Three Short Novels: Heart of Darkness, Youth, Typhoon and Great Short Works of Joseph Conrad "What are your reading?" the anarchist Derrick Jensen, a uthor of The Culture of Make Believe and Endgame wrote the imprisoned Kaczynski in October 1999. "I remember reading somewhere that you read The Secret Agent by Conrad. I like Conrad, and I just tried to read it, but I didn't like it. I only got about 40 pages. It seems like he really didn't like the main character. Did I quit it too soon?" 334 Correspondence, manuscripts, and ephemera surrounding Kaczynski reveal a 332 Cynthia Ozick, "Dostoyevsky's Unabomber," The New Yorker February 24, 1997. 333 Lisa Ann Jackson and Courtney Dougall, "English Grad Student Plays Detective in Unabomber Case," BYU Today Fall 1998. 334 Derrick Jensen to Theodore Kaczynski, October 16, 1999, Ted Kaczynski Papers, Labadie Collection of the University of Michigan Special Collections Library, Ann Arbor, MI.
121 marginal utility for anarchism. He confronts anarchist ideas and participants but mostly deg rades them. Expectedly, Kaczynski has received unusual letters. "A few minutes ago, I wiped away many lips prints off the laminated 1962 Harvard yearbook picture of you. I kiss it daily." 335 A prisoner implores Kaczynski to "stand up like a white man. Ask f or a good book about Jesus of Nazareth." 336 A philosophy instructor asks Kaczynski for a letter of recommendation for a Harvard Divinity School fellowship to research the intersection of Christianity, technology, and libertarianism. 337 More pressingly, they al so detail a vexed relationship with anarchism. Kaczynski was widely discussed among anarchists, eliciting a range of opinions. While he may have brought the anarchists unwelcomed notice from police, he also began a wave of dialogue that aroused praise, sha me, and ambivalence in the anarchist community. Most of the letters Kaczynski received from anarchists were supportive. Messages of solidarity poured in from around the world. "We are a group of revolutionaries who believe in anarchist principles here in Turkey.We were very much impressed by Unabomber's [sic] struggle and it seemed that we also shared many of Unabomber's thoughts.Together with some disagreements, we believe that Unabomber opens a brand new horizon in front of the anarchists," read a 1996 letter from Istanbul. 338 A prisoner from Lake City, Florida wrote: "I do not know if you are the unibomber [sic] or not but to me it really does not matter. A man has to do what he has to do if his convictions are 335 Unknown to Theodore Kaczynski, July 24, 1997, 0047, Ted Kaczynski Papers, Labadie Collection of the University of Michigan Special Collections Library, Ann Arbor, MI. 336 Letter to T heodore Kaczynski, 0119, Ted Kaczynski Papers, Labadie Collection of the University of Michigan Special Collections Library, Ann Arbor, MI. 337 Letter to Theodore Kaczynski, November 5, 1998, Ted Kaczynski Papers, Labadie Collection of the University of Mich igan Special Collections Library, Ann Arbor, MI. 338 Ates Hirsizi Kaos Yayinlari to Theodore Kaczynski, December 16, 1996, 0075.0, Ted Kaczynski Papers, Labadie Collection of the University of Michigan Special Collections Library, Ann Arbor, MI.
122 strong enough.I am completely anti authori ty, I will be a supporter of the anarchist movement after I am out of here." 339 A woman sent a copy of her essay manuscript "Heaven on Earth: Anarchy as Policy Under the Bogomils of 10th C. Europe." 340 A correspondent (many of the names are confidential until 2049) representing the Colorado Anarchist Black Cross, a chapter of a prisoner support network, offered comfort but expressed reservations about the nature of Kaczynski's presumptive crimes. 341 Anarchists from Turin, Italy informed Kaczynski that they had tr anslated and printed seven of his articles and interviews that had previously been published in the U.S. in several American "libertarian and anarchist magazines." 342 While most anarchists don't engage in violence, some believed they would encourage the soc ial revolution with a flourish of self abnegation. Moral purity paved the way for brave and contemplated action, which generally earned a draconian response from governments and vigilantes rather than a swelter of grassroots uprising. "The romanticism of clandestine action had a fatal attraction for these ultra militants, who boldly courted martyrdom and danger," Avrich wrote in Sacco and Vanzetti: the Anarchist Background 343 Kaczynski's spree made him a martyr. He became the subject of several books, at le ast two TV movies, and a 60 Minutes segment. "Even if they kill you," someone wrote, "you will never die. I'm sorry you had to be the martyr, 339 Letter to Theodore Kaczynski, May 16, 1996, 0140.0, Ted Kaczynski Papers, Labadie Collection of the University of Michigan Special Collections Library, Ann Arbor, MI. 340 Letter to Theodore Kaczynski, 0149.0, Ted Kaczynski Papers, Labadie Collection of the University of Michigan Special Collections Library, Ann Arbor, MI. 341 Unknown to Theodore Kaczynski, 0023.0, Ted Kaczynski Papers, Labadie Collection of the University of Michigan Special Collections Library, Ann Arbor, MI. 342 Nautilus Collective to Theodore Kaczynski, 0940.0, Ted Kaczynski Papers, Labadie Collection of the University of Michigan Special Collections Library, Ann Arbor, MI. 343 Paul Avrich, Sacco and Vanzetti: the Anarchist Background (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1991), 159.
123 but just maybe something will change." 344 The psychologist Gary Greenberg, who later published a lengthy piece on Ka czynski in McSweeney's reiterated to Kaczynski in a 1998 letter that "yours is a star to which many wagons want to be hitched." 345 Because Kaczynski believed that the revolution to end civilization would not come for several decades, it was crucial that mem ory of him burnish in the minds of potential anti technological revolutionaries. He would become a totem like the anarchist Haymarket martyrs who were executed in 1887 but galvanized anarchism in the late nineteenth century (making a convert of Goldman, am ong others). Responsibility for insurrection fell squarely on the anarcho primitivists. The submersion of personal welfare that came from the fierce commitment to an ideal had another quality. The spectacular violence that anarchists could produce wasn't nihilistic. The anarchists in America did not, Avrich found, "act at random." "Unlike their counterparts in Europe, they did not indulge in indiscriminate violence, such as the bombings of crowded theaters and cafes. On the contrary they chose their victim s with utmost care, drawing up an enemies list'" 346 Violence was executed with an audience in mind, namely those disaffected by the present condition of society who may not have realized the extent of their disillusionment, or who were unsure about fightin g back. In that way violence became a medium for their message, not an end. For anarchists the sacrificed would be memorialized and the realization of free society would be the legacy. Regardless, prejudice of anarchy as a state of disorder" has stuck. Unfortunately for the believers, the government responded more than the masses. 344 Unknown to Theodor e Kaczynski, 0047, Ted Kaczynski Papers, Labadie Collection of the University of Michigan Special Collections Library, Ann Arbor, MI. 345 Gary Greenberg to Theodore Kaczynski, August 20, 1998, 0164, Ted Kaczynski Papers, Labadie Collection of the University of Michigan Special Collections Library, Ann Arbor, MI. 346 Avrich, Sacco and Vanzetti 146.
124 Anarchism is the political ideology most beset by acts of violence, even if others had the same tendency. Kaczynski's violence was methodical and, as the 1995 letter to the Tim es shows, meant to bring forth values that aren't often heard. An article on neo Luddism published in the Utne Reader just before Kaczynski's arrest made that clear. "Neo Luddism got a lot of attention at the time of the publication of the Bomber's 35,000 word screed, which made the best seller lists in an unauthorized, unabridged edition." 347 Letters to Kaczynski mostly forgave him for the route he took to publicize "Industrial Society and Its Future." "I know you -if the Unabomber -have paid the ultimate pr ice to get these ideas before the public in a way that will make a lasting impression -and they will," a correspondent wrote in 1996. 348 Zerzan diluted a mild reprimand of the bombings with faith that Kaczynski's actions opened the floodgates anti civilizati on direct action: It's kind of unfortunate that it depends on spectacular violence by somebody, or whoever it is, to get it into print. That's not the best way to do it. But I really feel that we're getting to the point -and perhaps this is wishful thinki ng -that these ideas are about to burst on the scene. 349 Some found out the hard way that Kaczynski's anarchism was insincere. Steven Fischler, a member of the NYU anarchist group Transcendental Students during the late 1960s and co director of the documen taries Fre e Voice of Labor: t he Jewish Anarchists (1980) and Anarchism in America (1983), wrote Kaczynski and Zerzan seeking the formers cooperation on a Unabomber documentary. "Kaczynski's professed affiliation (although vague) with an already much malign ed philosophy at first made me cringe," Fischler commented to Zerzan in April 1998. Fischler said that he came to believe Kaczynski ought to "be provided with a platform for a discussion of his philosophy and 347 Monkia Bauerlein, "The Luddites Are Back," Utne Reader March/April 1996. 348 Letter to Theodore Kaczynski, June 30, 1996, 0046, Ted Kaczynski Papers, Labadie Collec tion of the University of Michigan Special Collections Library, Ann Arbor, MI. 349 Noble, "Prominent Anarchist Finds Unsought Ally in Serial Bomber."
125 beliefs" after witnessing his sordid trial. 350 F ischler was referring to the prosecution against Kaczynski. Many radicals hoped for a "political" trial but Kaczynski's public defenders opted for an insanity defense. J. Tony Serra, a famed San Francisco civil rights attorney who had previously defended t he Black Panthers, the White Panthers, the Hells Angels, and Earth First! agreed to defend Kaczynski pro bono. Serra visited Kaczynski in prison and said Kaczynski "always wanted to go to trial. He wanted to air his principles, his ideology behind his acti ons. He thinks he was saving the world." 351 Serra's defense would have been thus: This is a man who, if he did it, and I think all sides are conceding that, he did it not through some kind of loathsome hatred. He did it ultimately to save humanity from self destruction, and that is a different kind of criminally accused than one who is to be portrayed as a mad schizophrenic. 352 After the circuit court rejected Serra's request as belated, Kaczynski motioned to represent himself. That was also denied and he pl ed guilty, but later moved to rescind that plea, arguing it was involuntary. Federal court judge Garland Burrell refused the petition, a decision upheld by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. Kaczynski was then sentenced to three life sentences without par ole. Fischler negotiated for the documentary assuming that Kaczynski, who writes in a plain longhand and is quick to become acerbic when he feels a correspondent is trying to profit from a relationship with him, will be receptive to an anarchist. In a let ter to Zerzan, Fischler explicitly compared the Unabomber to anarchists: 'Propaganda of the Deed,' is perhaps the most vilified element in the Anarchist philosophy of Direct Action, and may be a brutally archaic method to solve problems in today's world. But Kaczynski obviously feels he's the heir to a legacy that stretches back to industrial Europe and America, where the assassination of a particularly brutal monarch or robber baron seemed to serve 350 Steven Fischler to John Zerzan, April 8, 1998, 0288.0, Ted Kaczynski Papers, Labadie Collection of the Uni versity of Michigan Special Collections Library, Ann Arbor, MI. 351 Associated Press, "Court Denies Unabomber's Demand for Trial," The Berkeley Daily Planet February 13, 2001. 352 David S. Jackson, "A Better Defense for the Unabomber?," Time January 27, 1998
126 a larger purpose. 353 Fischler interprets the bombings as p art of the trajectory of anarchist history, but nowhere does Kaczynski suggest that he felt like an "heir," except the letters he wrote in 1993 and 1995 that prolonged his freedom. The dialogue with Fischler quickly grew strained. Kaczynski noted in the m argins of a carbon copied July 1998 letter to Fischler that the filmmaker "Apparentlyhad allowed himself to imagine (with no encouragement from me) that the book was some sort of revolutionary tract, and was disappointed when he learned it was not." 354 (Kac zynski asserts that "Industrial Society and Its Future" isn't an anarchist polemic, because it was undoubtedly a "revolutionary tract.") Fischler pressed on with the proposal. That August he wrote although your views may be largely unpopular, they deserve to be aired for the historical record. In this respect, you can find any number of precedents, including those of the Haymarket Anarchists, who now, it is believed, by many scholars, were hung, not for the murder of policemen in Haymarket Square, but for their Anarchist beliefs. 355 Was Kaczynski being persecuted for his anarchist beliefs? Violence and martyrdom bound Kaczynski to the historical anarchists, a fact he duly noted, but it would be post hoc thinking to say he's an anarchist because of that resem blance. Kaczynski brusquely tells Fischler he will never grant the film maker an interview. Kaczynski wrote John Zerzan that "the Seattle event" -the 1999 protests against the annual ministerial conference of the World Trade Organization that were heralde d as proof that anarchism had been resurrected in the form of the antiglobalization movement "was very encouraging in some respects, and I congratulate the Black Clad 353 Steven Fischler to John Zerzan, April 9, 1998. 354 Kaczynski to Fischler, July 15, 1998, Ted Kaczynski Papers, Labadie Collection of the University of Michigan Special Collections Library, Ann Arbor, MI. 355 Fischler to Kaczynski, August 18, 1998, Ted Kacz ynski Papers, Labadie Collection of the University of Michigan Special Collections Library, Ann Arbor, MI.
127 messengers.I congratulate you and all of the anarchists there for the progress you are making in Eugene." 356 That praise was exceptional because Kaczynski normally took a jaundiced eye toward anarchism. He scorns the anarchists, for example, for internecine debates, urging action instead: It is a waste of time to write about the squabbles of p eople like Bob Black and Murray Chinbook 357 or whatever his name is. What they do or say doesn't matter. Forests are being cut to feed the growth of an evil system, species are being exterminated, geneticists are meddling with the very basis of life, our soc iety gets ever more mechanized and inhuman -and the anarchists, meanwhile, are quibbling about the morality of a trick that Bob Black played on someone. So who cares? 358 The debate between Black and Bookchin polarized anarchists in the 1990s. "As far as w hat I can judge from what I have learned of it," Kaczynski wrote, "the American anarchist movement is absolutely useless" because it gets distracted by "petty doctrinal squabbles" at the expense of "discussions of the practical steps that have to be taken to bring down the system, of how to build and effective movement with a practical orientation." In the same letter Kaczynski continued about why he saw the anarchist movement as pass: the system just ignores you, as it can afford to do because you're no danger to it. I won't take American anarchism seriously until I start reading in the newspaper about how vile, dangerous, immoral, etc. the anarchists are, or when I hear that the FBI is giving you a hard time, or something along those lines. Thus he un latches himself from anarchism. A 2001 letter to a pharmacy student is laced 356 Kaczynski to Zerzan, December 1999, Ted Kaczynski Papers, Labadie Collection of the University of Michigan Special Collections Library, Ann Arbor, MI. 357 The social ecologist Bookchin, who came from working class origins in the Bronx, had been alarmed enough by trends in anarchism to pen a jeremiad warning that counterproductive "lifestyle" anarchism violated the militant "social" anarchism. He defend ed social anarchism against what he saw as the corrosive nature of primitivist, individualist, and post modern forms of anarchism in 1995's Social Anarchism or Lifestyle Anarchism: An Unbridgeable Chasm He named Zerzan and "Hakim Bey" (Peter Lamborn Wilso n), author of T.A.Z.: The Temporary Autonomous Zone, Ontological Anarchy, Poetic Terrorism as key culprits. Although Black wasn't directly admonished he deconstructed Bookchin's class conscious anarchism with 1997's Anarchy After Leftism 358 Kaczynski to U nknown, September 14, 1998, Ted Kaczynski Papers, Labadie Collection of the University of Michigan Special Collections Library, Ann Arbor, MI.
128 with enmity: you also write that you're not terribly interested in pharmacy. Well for a more exciting career, why don't you move up to Eugene, Oregon, and become a professional re volutionary? Anarchism is the coming thing nowadays. It's a growth industry. And the general level of ability among anarchists is such that everyone with the smallest modicum of intelligence and self discipline would quickly rise to the top among them. Ana rchists supposedly don't accept leadership, but most of them are so disorganized mentally that they wouldn't know whether they are being led or not. If you joined the movement, I guarantee that within two years your could be their Fuhrer, or caudillo." 359 The vitriol would suggest that the 1995 letter to the New York Times was weighed to mislead investigators. Kaczynski's evasion -he was suspected of being the Unabomber only when his sister in law Linda Patrik and brother David, who studied English at Colu mbia, noticed similarities in phrasing and analysis between the "manifesto" and letters Kaczynski had sent family members -was the alchemy of converting an old bugbear. Primitivism is an unworldly belief. Just the same it is a radical outgrowth for the po st Fordist era. While the anarcho primitivist perspective and Kaczynski's would seem to overlap at the far horizons of the environmentalist movement, the Unabomber condemns much what they do as charlatanism. An inveterate non conformist, Kaczynski finds the anarcho primitivists romanticism useless. The other quarters of anarchism are no more desirable. Kaczynski's testament to anarchism is the halting violence he used, recycling the kind of politicized actions that brought anarchism infamy, making it a by word for destruction. That was a tendency that had mostly disappeared from American radicalism, but became regurgitated by a desperate late 1960s and early 1970s New Left, more Maoist and Leninist than anarchist, with the Weathermen's terror (including the ir 1969 and 1970 bombings of Chicago's Haymarket Square police memorial) and the 1970 destruction of 359 Kaczynski to Unknown, June 27, 2001, 0161.0, Ted Kaczynski Papers, Labadie Collection of the University of Mich igan Special Collections Library, Ann Arbor, MI.
129 the University of Wisconsin's Sterling Hall as a protest of the university's connections with the military. Kaczynski resurrected the shadowy and elusive a ntagonist (or protagonist) who kills because his zeal for freedom is unquenchable and has superseded peaceful means of expression. One source found that the "terrorism which the left practiced during the 1970s was based on an orthodox hatred of capitalist society, but the expectation of insurrection was anarchist." 360 If the period was extended until the 1990s, and "technological" replaced "capitalist," we get a sense of Kaczynski's prowess. Uninitiated correspondents who saw Kaczynski as a latter day anarch ist martyr must have felt taken aback by his irritability. Yet, their overtures point up the need for heroic symbols even in non hierarchical praxis. One appeal of the Unabomber for anarchists was that he could have been a figurehead for a movement -once e pitomized by icons like Proudhon, Bakunin, Kropotkin, Malatesta, and Goldman -that lacked leadership for many decades. But he demurred. Perhaps because its function had expired, and that it had the most overlap with his own scheme, Kaczynski was especially harsh of what one reporter called the "hunter gatherer' wing of anarchism." 361 His scorn for anarcho primitivism is relentless. What prickled Kaczynski most was the anarcho primitivists optimism about pre industrial sustenance. Kaczynski vehemently objec ted to the rosy picture of anarcho primitivism in a 2003 manuscript, "The Truth About Primitive Life: A Critique of Anarcho Primitivism," and elsewhere. Kaczynski believes that such hypotheses cover up the brutality that civilization's breakdown would caus e, and points toward the Russian Revolution and its bloody aftermath as a model. (Many "social" anarchists have agreed, for altogether different 360 Norton Dictionary of Modern Thought s.v. "Anarchism." 361 Campbell, "Anarchy in the USA."
130 reasons, that the goal of anarcho primitivism, the sudden downfall of highly complex urban societies, would be genocidal.) Kaczynski finds the seductive "myths" of anarcho primitivism dishonest, the broad claims that "men and women were equal, there was no disease, no competition, no racism, sexism or homophobia, people lived in harmony with the animals and all was love, sharing, and cooperation." 362 He cites an array of sources (his reading is more survivalist than anarchist) to quell enthusiasm for primitive life, but admits that it had some advantages. The frustrations with anarcho primitivists, many of whom fawn over him, mount. "Of course, Connor, Zerzan, and Tucker [three well known anarcho primitivist theorists] have a right to express their views in print," he wrote the Turin anarchists in 2005. "But I consider them to be three fools." 363 A brilliant mathematic ian, he taught at Berkeley for two years in the late 1960s, and a Michigan graduate school advisor remarked that it was "not enough to say he was smart," Kaczynski trawls for coherent and factual documentation. 364 He calls Zerzan's descriptions "markedly sla nted and idealized." His opinion? "Young people shouldthrow off the influence of the older generation of anarchoprimitivists, nearly all of whomare as worthless as tits on a rainbarrel." 365 As if to warrant Kaczynski's complaint that the anarchist movemen t is riven by sectarianism, Zerzan hounded the Fifth Estate where he was a contributor during the 1970s and 80s, in 1997 for not defending the Unabomber. (Werbe wrote to Theresa Kintz, who interviewed Kaczynski for the Earth First! Journal but fell out wi th 362 Theodore Kaczynski, "The Truth About Primitive Life: A Critique of Anarcho Primitivism," Box 13, Ted Kaczynski Pap ers, Labadie Collection of the University of Michigan Special Collections Library, Ann Arbor, MI. 363 Kaczynski to Nautilus, October 4, 2005, 0940.0, Ted Kaczynski Papers, Labadie Collection of the University of Michigan Special Collections Library, Ann Arbo r, MI. 364 Carol M. Ostrom, "Unabomber Suspect Is Charged -Montana Townsfolk Showed Tolerance For `The Hermit,'" The Seattle Times April 4, 1996. 365 Kaczynski to Nitzberg, July 2, 2001.
131 Kaczynski as Zerzan soon would, that Fifth Estate editors were "very critical of both Ted's theoretical work and the acts he pled guilty to.") 366 For Zerzan, the Fifth Estate 's failure to back Kaczynski was inexplicable. In a May 1997 letter to the magazi ne Zerzan equates their retreat from Kaczynski to abandonment of their pioneering anti civilization viewpoint. The letter underscores the complications anarchists felt reaching out to Kaczynski. "By the late 1970s," Zerzan wrote, it was dawning on some of us that all the varieties of leftism were somehow lacking in a basic way. The deepening sorrow of social existence prompted a critique of technological civilization, in sum, the absence of an adequate existing outlook. From that time and throughout much of the 1980s the Fifth Estate folks pretty much alone carried forth this project of inquiry, as the rest of the anarchist milieu was then dominated by productionist, largely syndicalist, perspectives. Much has changed since, including, it seems, a growing di scomfort with the implications of the deeper critique on the part of those who did so much to develop it. The FE 'ers have been shrinking from those further points, I would say, that the trajectory of civilization is now implying with insistence. Along thes e lines, the long, rambling Unabomber' article looks for ways to distance FE from the notion of standing up for the type of person or persons who would actually strike back at the Megamachine.Without the Unabomber attacks few if any would have heard of t his treatise or been introduced to the fundamental questions it raises. 367 Kaczynski's belief and analysis piqued much interest from anarchists and others. Aside from questions of guilt and innocence -a Boston supporter who ran the Unapack campaign to writ e in Kaczynski for president in 1996 equated claiming innocence to depoliticizing his acts -many have pondered his views. Revisionism gives some unwanted validation to his methods, but is a process for understanding the greater anarchist environment in pos twar America. The statements on freedom in Industrial Society and Its Future are roughly anarchist. "By 'freedom,'" FC meant the opportunity to go through the power process, with real goals not the artificial goals of surrogate activities, and withou t interference, manipulation or supervision from anyone, especially from any large organization. Freedom means being in control (either as an individual or as a member of a small group) of the life and death issues of one's existence; food, clothing, shelt er 366 Peter Werbe to Theresa Kintz, August 25, 1999, Ted Kaczynski Papers, Labadie Collection of the University of Michigan Special Collections Library, Ann Arbor, MI. 367 Zerzan to Kaczynski, May 1, 1997, 0462.0, Ted Kaczynski Papers, Labadie Collection of the University of Michigan Special Collections Library, Ann Arbor, MI.
132 and defense against whatever threats there may be in one's environment. Freedom means having power; not the power to control other people but the power to control the circumstances of one's own life. One does not have freedom if anyone else (especially a large organization) has power over one, no matter how benevolently, tolerantly and permissively that power may be exercised. 368 Anarchists interrogate all structures of authority to undo them. Unlike the anarchists, though, Kaczynski doesn't believe disco rd is mediated by human nature or the reification of dominant subordinate social relations. "It seems to me," he wrote in August 1998, "that one of the main points of the Unabomber's Manifesto," which he denied writing, "is that theories about the nature o f freedom, government, morality, property rights, etc., are largely a waste of time, because the kind and degree of freedom that we have is determined mainly by technology and economics." 369 For most anarchists, even since the development of anarcho primit ivism, technology has been a neutral, not determining, factor in solidifying hierarchies. The open source technology movement, for example, has been described as a new frontier for anarchism. Graeber suggests anarchists use a relativist approach which "doe s not call for an endless expansion of material production, or hold that technologies are neutral, but it also doesn't decry technology per se. Instead, it becomes familiar with and employs diverse types of technology as appropriate." 370 Even Zerzan complain ed to Kaczynski about his "Manichean" and "exclusive focus" on technology. "But, frankly," Zerzan wrote Kaczynski in 2001, "I see a little too much Ellul in your exclusive focus on technology, the latter -with division of labor and domestication behind it should inform our perspective and its thrust, without having to exclude everything else." 371 Bear in mind 368 K aczynski, Industrial Society and its Future 41. 369 Kaczynski to Unknown, August 26, 1998, Ted Kaczynski Papers, Labadie Collection of the University of Michigan Special Collections Library, Ann Arbor, MI. 370 Graeber, "Anarchism, Or the Revolutionary Movemen t of the 21 st Century." 371 Zerzan to Kaczynski, December 10, 2001, 0462.0, Ted Kaczynski Papers, Labadie Collection of the University of Michigan Special Collections Library, Ann Arbor, MI.
133 that Zerzan was coming from an anarchist perspective that Kaczynski shunned. Kaczynski's vision of the outcome if the present system were eliminated p ermits more government and oppression than anarchists, who are resolute about the value of personal and local control, would. He affords wide latitude in the development of an "oppressive landlord class" 372 in agricultural regions. Looking ahead, or backward for a model, as Kropotkin had with medieval guild cities, Kaczynski examines "primitive societiesbefore their culture had been disrupted by the intrusion of modern civilization." 373 His conclusions are more jaded than anarchists, who envision a primordial Eden once hierarchy (anchored by technology or otherwise) has been toppled. "If the technological system collapses," Kaczynski sees the probable result will be a reversion to a situation roughly equivalent to that which existed several hundred years ago, in the sense that people will live under widely varying conditions in different parts of the world. There will be sickness and health, full bellies and starvation, hatred and love, brotherhood and ethnic bitterness, war and peace, justice and oppression, v iolence and kindliness, freedom and servitude, misery and contentment. But it will be a world in which such a thing as freedom will at least be possible, even though everyone might not have it. 374 If Kaczynski brought unwanted scrutiny to the anarchists he at least shared their commitment to freedom. But unlike the anarchists he tolerated a great amount of oppression. For Kaczynski, thought and action had become disunited. His bombs were meant to give radicals sufficient backbone to resist "the system," an unlikely sixties affectation he was fond of. Noting that Jerry Mander, Daniel Quinn, and Kirkpatrick Sale are "widely distributed" authors and Ellul and Ivan Illich are "also widely read, and are used in college courses" he insists "what is lacking is not advocacy of anti technology opinion, 372 Nitzberg to Kaczynski, April 4, 2002, 0846.0, Ted Kaczynski Paper s, Labadie Collection of the University of Michigan Special Collections Library, Ann Arbor, MI. 373 Kaczynski to Unknown, August 11, 2002, Ted Kaczynski Papers, Labadie Collection of the University of Michigan Special Collections Library, Ann Arbor, MI. 374 Ib id.
134 but an effective movement in opposition to modern technology." 375 As Zerzan remarked in a newspaper story on the awakening of the "long dormant" anarchist movement: "We are not library theorists. We are activists." 376 In th e circular way he denied that Industrial Society and Its Future was not a revolutionary document, he was also anti intellectual. The battle against civilization, he argues, will not take place in classrooms or coffee shops. "Cold reason, by itself, is a very weak tool for influencing human behavior," he wrote Nitzberg in 2003. "It is not enough to persuade a lot of people that you are right. Jacques Ellul and Lewis Mumford did that several decades ago with their books on the technology problem. What happe ned as a result? Nothing." 377 Kaczynski came to loathe boundless abstraction. "What is lacking is not advocacy of anti technology opinion, but an effective movement in opposition to modern technology." 378 Thus Kaczynski developed a program for revolution. Ka czynski suggested to Jensen after reading William Finnegan's Brave New World (Finnegan also wrote an essay on Kaczynski's trial in the New Yorker ) that "our society is moving into a pre revolutionary situation." 379 That advance was compounding slowly because Kaczynski is careful to predict, the breakdown was not years ahead but decades. Several recommendations are given to correspondents for what he calls "movement building" in a letter to Zerzan. 380 The rationales he gives suggest Serra's hypothetical 375 Kaczynski to Nitzberg, March 7, 2004, Ted Kaczynski Papers, Labadie Collection of the University of Michigan Special Collections Library, Ann Arbor, MI. 376 Joseph Kahn, "Anarchism, the Creed That Won't Stay Dead; The Spread of World Capitalism Resurre cts a Long Dormant Movement," The New York Times August 5, 2000. 377 Kaczynski to Nitzberg, April 8, 2003, Ted Kaczynski Papers, Labadie Collection of the University of Michigan Special Collections Library, Ann Arbor, MI. 378 Kaczynski to Nitzberg, March 7, 2 004. 379 Kaczynski to Jensen, Date Unknown, Ted Kaczynski Papers, Labadie Collection of the University of Michigan Special Collections Library, Ann Arbor, MI. 380 Kaczynski to Zerzan, March 8, 1998, 0462.0, Ted Kaczynski Papers, Labadie Collection of the Unive rsity of Michigan Special Collections Library, Ann Arbor, MI.
135 politic al defense. Of course, every civilization breaks down eventually, and technological civilization will do so too. But if technological civilization lasts long enough, then there will be nothing left after it is gone. On the other hand, if technological civ ilization breaks down soon enough, much will be saved. So the objective must be to bring about the technological civilization at the earliest possible moment. 381 He is of a piece with disaffected anarchists who chose violence, those of whom who, as Esenwein wrote, were convinced that the only way to intimidate the ruling classes and overturn the capitalist system was to disrupt the daily routines of bourgeois society." 382 The sketch of revolutionary and post revolutionary society is more Hobbes than Kropotkin or Goldman. He urges Jensen not to "worry about conserving human life." 383 "I, as you know, am completely uncompromising and insist on an end to all modern technology regardless of the cost." 384 Anarchism may picture the millennium but doesn't, or hadn't unti l the 1970s, advocate a dystopia with no "fuel or spare parts." Kaczynski recommends the build up of a stable revolutionary cohort. A key point of tension for anarchists is balancing the need for organization: harnessing a social revolution against the s tate, capitalism, and other guardians of domination, and maintaining the prerogatives of non coercion and democratic participation. Bakunin was enchanted by the idea of an underground revolutionary network, but gave a prescient warning of the "red bureaucr acy" that Marxian socialists would introduce. The Unabomber's plea for an embryonic cadre in In dustrial Society and Its Future" and other essays that plan ways for "building a movement" endorse a kind of elitism that anarchists, who recognize the obstacle s in mobilizing public sentiment conditioned by propaganda, 381 Kaczynski to Unknown, January 14, 2006, 0959.0, Ted Kaczynski Papers, Labadie Collection of the University of Michigan Special Collections Library, Ann Arbor, MI. 382 New Dictionary of the Histo ry of Ideas s.v. "Anarchism." 383 Kaczynski to Jensen, Date Unknown. 384 Kaczynski to Jensen, September 7, 1998
136 reject. Graeber wrote that "anarchism has tended to be an ethical discourse about revolutionary practice" compared to Marxist "theoretical or analytical discourse about revolutionary strategy." Ka czynski veered toward the second. Tim Luke detected that in a 1996 article, "Re Reading the Unabomber Manifesto": "The revolutionaries of the Unabomber's Freedom Club must follow the classic Bolshevik strategy of energizing committed radicals and sensitizi ng the uninformed masses to ready themselves to coproduce their inevitable future under a visionary vanguard's lead." 385 Notwithstanding Kaczynski's plan he does have a fear of power configurations that anarchists share. "All one can do is be mistrustful of the leaders and try to depose them as soon as they show any sign of being too fond of power -before they get so powerful that they can't be disposed." 386 Anarchism and the left have perennially existed in common purpose and apprehension. In the 1920s commu nists volunteered on behalf of Sacco and Vanzetti. During the 1936 1939 Spanish Civil War and after the Russian and Cuban revolutions anarchists were purged by doctrinaire socialists (on the grounds they were bourgeois counter revolutionists.) Preservation usually prevailed over deterioration, but anarchists have of late extricated themselves from partnership with the left, even as the former retool for a post Black Power, post Women's Liberation, post Stonewall world. Many have come to feel suffocated by w hat they view as rigid and archaic leftism. The anarchist philosopher Saul Newman asked in 2001: "why is it when someone is asked to talk about radical politics today one inevitably refers to this same tired, old list of 385 Tim Luke, "Re Reading the Unabomber Manifesto," Telos 107 (Spring 1996): 86. 386 Kaczynski to Derrick Jensen, Date Unknown, Ted Kaczynski Papers, L abadie Collection of the University of Michigan Special Collections Library, Ann Arbor, MI.
137 struggles and identities?" 387 Besides the first prison interview with Kaczynski, the Fall Winter 1999 2000 issue of Anar chy: a Journal of Desire Armed featured a four part section on "Post Left Anarchy!" Todd May's The Political Philosophy of Poststructuralist Anarchism (1994) earned a place on anarchist reading lists. Kaczynski shared his aversion to the left with many postwar anarchists. Kaczynski's discards the left principally because it wasn't single minded about the technology problem and because of perceived authoritarian instincts (h e was prone to suggest to correspondents Eric Hoffer's The True Believer a study of religious fanaticism and mass political movements.) For him even leftists who are critical of technology are distracted by numerous other "victimization" issues: "they are much more interested in problems like racism, sexism, abuse of animals, etc." 388 He complains, for instance, that Zapatista leader Subcomandante Marcos, a favorite of contemporary anarchists, "is no opponent of modernization." 389 For the problem of an autocra cy he again harps on the Russian Revolution: Prior to the Russian Revolution the Communists believed that once state capitalism and Tsarism had been eliminated, people would voluntarily and spontaneously behave like good little socialists.After the Revol ution they discovered that people did not spontaneously behave like good little socialists. So the Communists had to force them to behave like good little socialists (they called thus "creating the New Soviet Man"), and we know what they led to. 390 Kaczyns ki believed that leftism would derail anarcho primitivism. By 2001 he'd come to advocate "the formation of new, strictly antitechnological groups that would exclude leftists from their ranks." 391 Kaczynski submitted an essay to the SUNY 387 Saul Newman, From Bakunin to Lacan (Massachusetts: Lexington Books, 2001), 171. 388 Theodore Kaczynski to Lydia Eccles, March 18, 2001, Ted Kaczynski Papers, Labadi e Collection of the University of Michigan Special Collections Library, Ann Arbor, MI. 389 Theodore Kaczynski to Green Anarchy August 6, 2001, 0462.0, Ted Kaczynski Papers, Labadie Collection of the University of Michigan Special Collections Library, Ann Ar bor, MI. 390 Theodore Kaczynski to Derrick Jensen, September 7, 1998, Ted Kaczynski Papers, Labadie Collection of the University of Michigan Special Collections Library, Ann Arbor, MI. 391 Kaczynski to Eccles, March 18, 2001.
138 Binghamton student ma gazine Off! called "Ship of Fools" that mocked the left by having passengers on a ship bemoan victimization as the mad captain points the vessel toward an iceberg. He ridicules the contents of the sixth issue of Green Anarchy as "victimization issues with which the left is obsessed." 392 Kaczynski thought leftism contaminated anarchism, specifically anarcho primitivism. "A primitivist movement, to be effective, should keep itself strictly away from leftism. Instead, the anarchoprimitivists have made themselves into a faction of anarchism, and anarchism (as it exists in America today) is distinctly left leaning." 393 And so he, ever alone, separates himself from the anarcho primitivists. "I ought to tell you," he writes Zerzan in 2001, "that I'm planning to distanc e myself publicly from the anarchoprimitivists. As I said, I think you're off on the wrong track -a quasi leftist track -and I don't want to be associated with it." 394 The pull of nature was irresistible for Kaczynski, and he could understand and resist its destruction outside the anarcho primitivist paradigm. When he was 10 he moved with his parents and brother from Chicago to suburban Evergreen Park. There, he recalled for a psychological experiment as a Harvard freshman, "most people make more money than my father" a sausage maker, "but few are wealthy." 395 Kaczynski's parents were the children of Polish immigrants; his mother Wanda was born in Ohio in 1912 and his father Theodore was born in Pennsylvania in 1918. In a questionnaire for the so called Murray experiment he wrote that "the only physical surroundings near my home that ever impressed me were the prairies that used to exist in and around Evergreen Park, 392 Theodore Kaczynski to John Zerza n, August 30, 2001, 0462.0, Ted Kaczynski Papers, Labadie Collection of the University of Michigan Special Collections Library, Ann Arbor, MI. 393 Kaczynski to Eccles, March 18, 2001. 394 Kaczynski to Zerzan, August 30, 2001. 395 Theodore Kaczynski, "Autobiograp hy/Lawful," 1954, Ted Kaczynski Papers, Labadie Collection of the University of Michigan Special Collections Library, Ann Arbor, MI.
139 and the wide spacing between the houses, before it was all built up." The sights gave young Kacz ynski "a sense of freedom and openness." A 1969 (the year he resigned from Berkeley) US Geological Survey map of the Helena National Forest Ranger District that was seized from Kaczynski's cabin marked "routes followed on foot from late autumn, 1971, to su mmer, 1979." 396 Kaczynski played the trumpet as a hobby and wrote compositions for the instrument. In a preface to a series of compositions he noted that "because #1 and #5 were composed between 1971 and 1978they reflect the generally cheerful and optimisti c tone of that period of my life." 397 Awe for nature roused Kaczynski to action. Here is where Kaczynski's behavior resembles the non violent segment of a central tenet of anarchism, direct action, and his thought echoes that of anarcho primitivists. The s cholar Bron Taylor has written that a broad claim that all radical environmentalists would agree on is that they "do not see electoral politics as a way to bridge the gap between what is (the present extinction crisis) and what ought to be (the flourishing of all life forms)." "Consequently," he wrote in "Radical Environmentalists and the Unabomber A Terrorist Connection?," "many laws are illegitimate and illegal tactics, both civil disobedience and 'monkey wrenching' -movement parlance for destroying equi pment used to damage the environment -may be morally permissible or even obligatory." 398 During the winters from 1975 1978 Kaczynski escaped the din of snowmobiles and "other disagreeable intrusions" at a "hidden shack" several miles from his cabin. He spe nt three weeks there in 1978 and enjoyed the first two, although they were marred by 396 Box 13, Ted Kaczynski Papers, Labadie Collection of the University of Michigan Special Collections Library, Ann Arbor, MI 397 Ibid. 398 Bron Taylor, Radical Environmentalists and the Unabomber A Terrorist Connection?," April 14, 1996, http://www.hartford hwp.com/archives/25b/025.html.
140 "cold, hunger, and fatigue." The third week he began hearing the "whirring, groaning, grinding noise of machinery" -a logging operation several miles away. Kaczynski was n ot bothered by "thunder, a violent windstorm, or the howling of coyotesthough they can be much louder than the sound of a distant logging operation. What bothers me about logging noise is not its volume, but what it signifies." 399 Thereafter he only used th e secret cabin during the summer, and only as an overnight resting place. In 1997 the Missoulian (MT) speculated on Kaczynski's misdemeanors. Butch Gehring owned land adjacent to Kaczynski and his father had sold Kaczynski and his brother the 1.4 acre lot the cabin was on. "Gehring recalled a time when someone put gravel in part of his machinery," the article reported, "shutting him down for sometime and costing him a bundle." When Kaczynski helped Gehring at his house he "wanted to use a hand saw instead of a power device." "You could smell him," Wendy Gehring told the paper, and "the two agreed it wasn't body odor." 400 Lincoln resident Chris Waits co wrote the mass market Unabomber: t he Secret Life of Ted Kaczynski in 1999. The book made several accusations that Kaczynski committed property damage in and around Lincoln. Kaczynski replied by admitting the crimes he actually was responsible for. "I did do some monkeywrenching in the Lincoln area," he wrote the Helena Independent Record in 1999, "and I did, for example, attempt to injure trail bikers by setting traps for those who took their motorcycles off the roads and back into the hills." 401 He confessed in a letter to the Missoulian that same week that "I wish I had destroyed as much 399 Theodore Kaczynski to Rick Sallinger, August 10, 1998, Ted Kaczynski Papers, Labadie Collec tion of the University of Michigan Special Collections Library, Ann Arbor, MI. 400 Missoulian April 3, 1997, Ted Kaczynski Papers, Labadie Collection of the University of Michigan Special Collections Library, Ann Arbor, MI. 401 Theodore Kaczynski to Helena In dependent Record January 26, 1999, Ted Kaczynski Papers, Labadie Collection of the University of Michigan Special Collections Library, Ann Arbor, MI.
141 machinery as Waits claims I'd be proud of it." 402 After Kaczynski went back to nature he sustained the kind of ongoing revolutionary consciousness that anarchists strive for. Kaczynski's monkeywrenching had a foundation, like the character's in Abbey's Monkey Wrench Gang who plan to blow up the Glen Canyon Dam, that was cerebral and elemental. "I was motivated by anger," he wrote Denver television reporter Rick Sallinger. "But there are quite a few people who will feel that I had good reason to be angry." 403 "A revolutionary movement that is bold enough to throw a few monkeywrenches can make industrial collapse more likely, and it can make it come sooner," he told Nitzberg. 404 His descriptions of his vandalisms are reminiscent of the swashbuckling of his favorite books growing up: "adv enture books, where the plot moves quickly, and something or another is always happening." "After reading a story," he commented in the 1954 autobiography he wrote for the Murray experiment, in which he's only identified by the codename Lawful, "I often li ked to daydream of what I would do in the hero's place." 405 He described an incident that happened in the early 1980s to Sallinger. When "things were getting too crowded around my primary cabin" Kaczynski packed out to a remote campsite. Just as he began t o "let the peace of the woods soak into me" he heard what he thought was a distant chainsaw. He then discovered "three stooges with an aluminum painted motorcyclecutting a trail through the dense forest of small lodgepole 402 Theodore Kaczynski to Missoulian January 24, 1999, Ted Kaczynski Papers, Labadie Collection of the Uni versity of Michigan Special Collections Library, Ann Arbor, MI. 403 Kaczynski to Sallinger, Date Unknown, Ted Kaczynski Papers, Labadie Collection of the University of Michigan Special Collections Library, Ann Arbor, MI. 404 Kaczynski to Nitzberg, April 4, 200 2. 405 Kaczynski, "Autobiography/Lawful."
142 pines, presumably so that they wo uld be able to ride motorcycles there." He watched them more and then "circled around them" and followed their back trail, "exercising my habitual care to leave no footprints -until I found two motorcycles that they had left behind. I put sugar in the gas tanks and slashed the tires, then quietly walked back to my campsite." From there Kaczynski delighted at the "consternation they must have felt." Reflecting on that occasion he was intractable. "You can call it whatever you like, but I don't regret it a bi t." (In the same letter he congratulated whomever, in the name of Earth Liberation Front, committed arson at a Vail, Colorado ski resort that caused an estimated $12 million in damage.) 406 Kaczynski only hoped that his monkeywrenching wouldn't embarrass frie nds in Lincoln who had defended him. By the spring of 1996 Kaczynski was a long way from the pastoral. Describing the lessons Kropotkin gleaned from his own prison experience Avrich wrote of penal life as everything Kaczynski fought against: "how it degra des and humiliates the prisoner, how it perverts his character and robs him of his dignity, how his whole life is subjected to a deadly mechanical routine, how everything is done to break his spirit, to kill his inner strength, to make him a docile tool in the hands of those who control him." 407 After the guilty plea he was transferred from Sacramento to Florence, Colorado, a hundred miles south of Denver, where he was warehoused in the federal supermax prison. He knew nothing of conditions elsewhere in the p rison. Kaczynski estimated that his cell was 2.4 meters by 3.6 meters in dimensions. It had "a small concrete table, a concrete stool, a toilet, sink, shower stall, bed, and television set." Kaczynski would not use the television except "to get the time or instructions about prison routine." There was a single window 406 Kaczynski to Sallinger, Date Unknown. 407 Avrich, Anarchist Portraits 66.
143 "to the outdoors" that could not be opened. Kaczynski guessed its dimensions to be about 10 or 12 centimeters vertically by 90 or 100 centimeters vertically. "The view is not inspiring. The win dow looks onto a concrete exercise yard filled with wire mesh cages, each about 3 meters by 5 meters. Into each cage a prisoner is put for the daily exercise period." 408 "I haven't seen a single living plant since I was brought here in May," he mused to Jens en in February 1999. 409 Kaczynski was later moved to a nearby cell with a better view. "Just the other day I was able for a while to watch six sparrows just outside my window. They're wild, too, and it did me good to see them" The isolation was not unbearabl e for Kaczynski. "My life in the mountains of Montana accustomed me to solitude," he wrote in 1998. A political defense was never mounted and Kaczynski denied that he was a political prisoner. "A political prisoner," he wrote Nitzberg in 2003, "is one who would not be in prison if it were not for the political content of the actions of which he is accused. Killing people is grounds for imprisonment regardless of whether the killings are politically motivated. Consequently, I am not a political prisoner." 410 It is useful to think of Kaczynski in a political context without condoning murder. I chose here to think about his blurry relationship with anarchism. Why did Kaczynski pretend that he was a group of anarchists? What did anarchists make of Kaczynski? What did he have in common with anarchism? Why did he detach himself from anarchism? Common discourse says that Kaczynski was anarchist only insofar as the abject 408 Theodore Kaczynsk i to Michael Mello, September 20, 1998, Ted Kaczynski Papers, Labadie Collection of the University of Michigan Special Collections Library, Ann Arbor, MI. 409 Theodore Kaczynski to Derrick Jensen, February 5, 1999, Ted Kaczynski Papers, Labadie Collection of the University of Michigan Special Collections Library, Ann Arbor, MI. 410 Kaczynski to Nitzberg, April 8, 2003, Ted Kaczynski Papers, Labadie Collection of the University of Michigan Special Collections Library, Ann Arbor, MI.
144 violence, where anarchism becomes shorthand for savagery, and contains no peaceable or theoretic al parts. He realized what the public subconsciousness thought of anarchism and leveraged that in the 1993 and 1995 letters. However, a close reading of texts surrounding Kaczynski show a depth to that relationship. The Unabomber affair awoke latent memory of the desperate anarchists of the late nineteenth and twentieth century who were moved to violence to bring awareness to their ideal. After anarchism in the United States began to decline in the late 1910s there were almost no stirrings of anarchists mak ing propaganda of the deed. The macabre and ideological mail bombings elicited comparisons to anarchists from the tumultuous epoch (many felt that another civil war was imminent) when Kaczynski's grandparents came to the United States. Kaczynski roughly s hared beliefs with a set of anarchists who emerged in the last quarter of the twentieth century, when Kaczynski settled in rural Montana, began his work as the Unabomber, and was arrested and imprisoned. He shared the anarcho primitivists belief that moder n life was dreadful. Their critique extended beyond capitalism, hierarchy, the state, and other regular foes of anarchism, to civilization -which may include language, art, time, and numbers. For them the development of oppression had roots not just in the Industrial Age, or feudalism, or organized religion, or the family, but the creation of sedentary agriculture. It was a blatantly romantic idea, with seemingly few natural adherents, but one suited to radicals burdened by failed experiments in political c hange, internalizing the urban prairies (if not the horizontal suburbs) that were taking over once thriving industrial cities like Detroit. Anarcho primitivists wrote to and wrote of Kaczynski, solicited advice, and sent money and reading material, but he demurred.
145 Kaczynski's temperament, kindled by introversion and then in near total seclusion, was unfit for any movement except that which he created ("If I could remodel the world to my heart's content, I would be an absolute hereditary monarch," he wrot e for the Murray experiment.) Anarchism, because it was revolutionary and emphasized the potential of human freedom, and because it did not absolutely denounce violence, was reasonably proximate to Kaczynski's worldview. But for several reasons -the anarch o primitivists confusion of fact and ideology, the stain of leftism, their arch romanticism -he refused the anarchist label. The Kaczynski case denotes anarchism's perennial isolation and renewal in postwar America. Because anarchism was implacable it ha d a narrower audience in the prosperous years after the Second World War, when many social critics feared for the survival of basic instincts of freedom in the clutch of ever more powerful depersonalizing institutions. Even in the midst of Industrial Age r adicalism the author William Dean Howells commented that the doctrines of the Haymarket anarchists (whom he elsewhere said "died, in the prime of the first Republic the world has ever known, for their opinions sake") "must always remain, to plain common se nse, unthinkable." 411 But they reappeared on the cultural and political radar in the early 1960s. Anarcho primitivism brought anarchism a post oil crises sensibility. It waved the black flag of anarchy (the anarcho primitivist flag is actually black and gree n) into the twenty first century. Even with a public awakening to environmental problems and the archetypal ideal of the countryside in a nation where over eighty per cent of people live in cities, and not to mention disarming social problems we face, ana rcho primitivism goes beyond the concerns of all but the most dystopian. Unlike social anarchists who complain that 411 Paul Avrich, The Haymarket Tragedy (Princeton: Princeton University Press: 1984), 302.
146 anarcho primitivsm isn't reconstructive enough, for Kaczynski it was too cheerful. Kaczynski unwittingly bridged phases in anarchist histor y -from the charged period of a century ago when some anarchists killed several heads of state and business leaders for the sake of catalyzing revolution, to the postwar renewal of anarchism that fused with ecology. He fits imperfectly with each stage, ult imately because he was sober about human nature and the chances of social regeneration. The specter of a nasty, brutish, and short future life is dissimilar from the anarchist version of rational and enlightened individuals and groups. People would be more concerned with survival than personal enrichment. If Kaczynski is quick to shun anarchism that should encourage contemporary anarchists to reflect on the corner into which they have painted themselves, which is not to say that they should bother to satisf y zealots like Kaczynski. "Somewhere in the depths of solitude," Abbey wrote, "beyond wildness and freedom, lay the trap of madness." 412 Parochialism may be the fate of postwar anarchism but that shouldn't preclude reflection. FC, or Kaczynski's anarchism, was a synthetic cultural reproduction. It's understandable why the grandson of Polish immigrants, who moved to the suburbs and read adventure books, would have the wherewithal to use it as an anachronistic shield. His utility for anarchism was thin. He bro ught attention to his cause -the destruction of technology and civilization -in classic anarchist fashion. The Unabomber had many theoretical points of intersection with contemporary anarchism, but rejected the overall premise. He was a throwback, and rema rkably modern, but not an anarchist. 412 Abbey, The Monkey Wrench Gang 114.
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