It’s no secret that economists and libertarians have developed a bad habit of assuming things about history and other societies on first principle without actually checking archaeological or anthropological findings. On occasion the divide can be quite stark. David Graeber’s Debt: The First 5000 Years gets a lot of momentum by attacking a widely circulated economic fable purporting to explain the origin of currency wherein coinage precedes credit. It shouldn’t be a surprise that the “I need a blanket and all I have to barter with are five chickens but everyone in my village likes cowry shells” dilemma at the start of elementary economics textbooks has no clear historical basis; there’s little evidence small tribes or villages needed to invent physical currency to facilitate market exchange internally because reputation and credit are far more natural and flexible.
It is a testament to Noam Chomsky’s brilliance and bravery that despite his soft spoken manner and quiet personality, he manages to inspire fiery passion in millions of activists around the world, curiosity and conviction from students on nearly every college campus, and hatred from angry nationalists wearing red, white, and blue blindfolds.
Anarchists fleeing fascist governments in Mussolini’s Italy and Franco’s Spain during the 1920s and 30s sped up a process already underway through normal emigration to not just Spanish speaking countries in the West, but to Canada and the United States as well.
Perhaps I need to write more? For those who do not know, Errico Malatesta (1853-1932) was one of anarchism’s greatest activists and thinkers for over 60 years. He joined the First International in 1871 and became an anarchist after meeting Bakunin in 1872. He spent most of his life in exile from Italy, helping to build unions in Argentina in the late 1880s and taking an active part during the two Red Years after the war when Italy was on the verge of revolution (the authorities saw the threat and imprisoned him and other leading anarchists before a jury dismissed all charges). Playing a key role in numerous debates within the movement – on using elections, participation in the labour movement, the nature of social revolution, syndicalism and Platformism (to name just a few), he saw the rise and failure of the Second International, then the Third before spending the last years of his life under house arrest in Mussolini’s Italy.
As an anarchist who participated in the larger Occupy phenomenon (in my case, Occupy Grand Rapids) I never really followed much of what was happening with Occupy Wall Street in New York City. When the occupations spread across the country, my inspiration came from elsewhere, cities like Oakland, Seattle, and St. Louis seemed to offer more interesting forms of anarchist involvement. By contrast, what I saw coming out of New York City—such as the “Declaration of the Occupation of New York City”—was generally not that exciting. Its political analysis was overly simplified and anarchist ideas were more or less nonexistent.
Socialism and capitalism seem like natural antagonists, but their rivalry is Oedipal. To many, the relationship appears straightforward. Capitalism, they would argue, created the modern industrial working class, which supplied the socialist movement with its staunchest recruits. This story, variations of which reach back to Karl Marx, has been repeated so often that it seems intuitive. But it gets the lines of paternity backward. Capitalism did not create socialism; socialists invented capitalism.
Volume 2 of Asia’s Unknown Uprisings examines a series of explosive social movements in East and Southeast Asia of the twentieth and early twenty-first centuries that are largely neglected in Western circles, even among radicals—hence, “unknown” (though presumably not to the millions who participated in them). One recurring principal theme of the work, as in Katsiaficas’s previous writings, is the concept of the “eros effect,” which he takes in part from his mentor Marcuse: that is, the sudden eruption among participants in revolutionary movements of spontaneous, popular decision-making processes, genuine solidarity and cooperation, and the suspension of previously regnant social hierarchies.
Following the Global Financial Crisis in 2008 -- which started with the housing bubble in the US, in 2006, and then gradually developed into a full blown world-wide recession between 2008-2012 -- a series discussing politics and alternative political positions like 'anarchism', 'communism', 'individualism', 'liberalism', 'socialism', 'economy', 'ethics' and concepts like 'property', 'ownership', 'hierarchy', 'community', 'exchange', 'free currency', 'progress', 'evolution' and 'ecology', we can certainly say it is good timing.
John Zerzan is now one of the most well-known of contemporary North American anarchist writers and theorists, along with Noam Chomsky and Hakim Bey (and formerly, prior to his definitive renunciation of his already questionable anarchism, also Murray Bookchin). Zerzan is best known as one of the major proponents of anarcho-primitivism and green anarchy, along with Fredy Perlman and others. Beginning with his essays appearing primarily in The Fifth Estate in the 1980s (collected in his central and still most important work, Elements of Refusal, Zerzan has built an impressive edifice of documentation, critique and speculation ranging over the lifeways of nomadic paleolithic gatherer-hunters to the origins of symbolic culture and civilization to the intensification of contemporary alienation in runaway technology, hyperurbanization and the emptiness of everyday life in mass consumer society and post-modern culture.
There is a paradox to Marxism, a central contradiction. Like anarchism, it originated in the 19th century movements for democracy, socialism, and working class liberation. Its stated goals were the end of capitalism, of classes, of the state, and of all other oppressions. Hundreds of millions of workers, peasants, and others have mobilized under its program, aiming for a better world.