The links between the two schools of revolutionary socialism – Marxism and class struggle anarchism – have produced much debate, some more helpful than others. Into the helpful pile comes Libertarian Socialism: Politics in Black and Red (Palgrave Macmillan, 2012) edited by Alex Prichard, Ruth Kinna, Saku Pinta and Dave Berry. Twelve excellent chapters and a terrible one are sandwiched between a useful introduction and conclusion. Overall, it is essential reading for all those seeking to enrich libertarian socialism in the 21st century.
Pierre-Joseph Proudhon (1809-1865), the first person to proclaim himself an anarchist, is rarely treated with respect. Thanks to various hatchet-jobs (Marx, Schapiro, Draper), if he is mentioned it is often with contempt but usually with incomprehension. The notion that he was contradictory is so well engrained in the secondary literature (itself usually based on repeating previous secondary sources) that what Proudhon actually argued is lost. It is so bad that many people think he advocated ideas he publically refuted holding.
Victor Serge (1890-1947) is experiencing something of a revival. This is understandable, given the power of Serge’s prose and the events and people he wrote about.
Back before many people had discovered the internet a small group of anarchists including this writer began work on the Anarchist FAQ. We were tired of having to provide the same basic explanations over and over as new people joined the news net group, alt.soc.anarchism, so we began the FAQ so newcomers could be referred to it.
I soon dropped out of the project as did most of the others involved but a small group, with Iain McKay the most active among them, kept working on it year after year. In the sixteen years that have passed the FAQ has became huge and an exhaustive argument for anarchism.
Lucy Parsons (c. 1853-1942) is worthy of a great biography. She took an active part in the American anarchist and labour movements from the 1870s to her death and should be better known to today’s radicals. Anyone described by the Chicago Police Department as “more dangerous than a thousand rioters” is worthy of remembrance. So the reprinting of Carolyn Ashbaugh’s Lucy Parsons: American Revolutionary should be welcome news – except that the book is so terrible.
While much attention will be directed towards London for the expensive farce which is the Olympics, 2012 should be marked for far more important events – the 100th anniversary of the two great strikes by tailors and dock workers. At the centre of the epic struggle of the tailors was Rudolf Rocker whose excellent autobiography The London Years covers these events and much more.
This is an excellent, if occasionally frustrating, book. Written by leading Primatologist Frans de Waal, The Age of Empathy summarises the research into the evolution of cooperation, social feelings and empathy. If I were to sum it up in a few words it would be: “Kropotkin was right.”
This is a very edited version of the review article Syndicalism, Marxist Myth and Anarchist Reality and will appear in the new issue of Black Flag (235) out May 2012. This issue also has as its revolutionary reprint Kropotkin’s 1890 article The Use of the Strike and this is included at the end of this review.
To what extent do the revolutions and revolts of 2011 reflect a new world born from the shell of the old? Were these revolts of the internet generation -- networked individuals? Are people not only using new technology but becoming transformed by it? For anarchists, what lessons can we learn and to what extent must we transform our organisational methods and structures?
Ha-Joon Chang, while an economist, is not of the mainstream neo-classical brand. This becomes very obvious reading his extremely useful book 23 Things They Don’t Tell You About Capitalism.