Classic Film Review: Anarchism In America

Full Title: Anarchism In America
Director(s): Steven Fischler and Joel Sucher
Year: 1983
Grade: B
Comments:AIA is a good starting point for those that want to learn about Anarchsim, because (as displayed in the documentary) most people have little to no idea of what it really is. The doc does a good job of explaining to viewers that anarchism is a strong social, political, economic, and spiritual philosophy and/or movement built on individualist principles and the belief that society would be better off without the state. The filmmakers distinguish this from the narrow minded view that anarchists are just about chaos and throwing bombs, which unfortunately most folks believe. The film features various anarchsits including, Emma Goldman, returning to America after having been deported for years in rare video footage, veteran Murray Bookchin, tax resisting, “market” anarchist, Karl Hess, the Dead Kennedys (interview and performance), amongst other famous and unknown anarchists. The film also shows various implicit anarchists including American workers committed to the rugged individual ideals of America and they associate this with anarchism, or at least the filmmakers do as well as a sowing company in which the workers run the show a la Chomsky! Speaking of Noam, he is nowhere to be seen and other prominent anarchists and related groups/organizations like the trailblazing paper, Fifth Estate>. I suppose they can’t document everything, but still they focused too much on the implicit Americanism rather than the explicit characteristics; albeit a nice feature. In addition, we see footage of the Liberatarian Party and how this connects to the anti-government (or anti-state power) stance of anarchism, historical events such as the Spanish Civil War, Russian Revolution, and the execution of Sacco and Vanzetti. Lastly, my only other complaint is the fact that they didn’t include any anarchists that used violence or force as a political means, justified or not. Granted, this might reenforce the negative connotations of the philosophy that naive viewers have, but at the same time, it would be nice to provide a balanced picture, considering some anarchists are violent. Overall, it was worth a watch and I would recommend it, not for those who want an in depth history of anarchism, but rather for those who are curious or unaware of it and want to learn about the philosophy/movement, at least the American aspects up to the early 1980s.

The following site has a lot of information on this documentary as well the film itself, which can also be viewed on Youtube as seen below.

http://alexpeak.com/art/films/aia/

Here are some cool quotes from the movie, which also appear on the above site.

“Almost anyone, I suppose, can call himself or herself an anarchist, if he or she believed that the society could be managed without the state. And by the state—I don’t mean the absence of any institutions, the absence of any form of social organisation—the state really refers to a professional apparatus of people who are set aside to manage society, to preempt the control of society from the people. So that would include the military, judges, politicians, representatives who are paid for the express purpose of legislating, and then an executive body that is also set aside from society. So anarchists generally believe that, whether as groups or individuals, people should directly run society,” Murray Bookchin

“My understanding of anarchism has as part of its element a connection between ends and means. To me, if one is an anarchist, then, from my point of view, one also must be nonviolent, and if one is nonviolent, one must be an anarchist—I see the linkages very clear[ly]. A person who believes in nonviolence is a person who believes that the sort of society we want to achieve is a society without violence, without wars, and without injustice; and to use wars, violence, and injustice to achieve that society is to be counterproductive,” Ed Hedaman

“Well, it’s hard to tell on the basis of the Party’s rhetoric, after all they’re running for state office, but my experience is that most people who are in the Libertarian Party have pretty decent anarchist impulses, even if they do not say they are anarchists—most of them will say they are libertarians, at any rate. And one thing that is useful is that they have a fairly well-refined analysis of why they aren’t conservative. It took the New Left to do a proper analysis on American liberals, it seems to me, and I suspect that the libertarians are doing the best analysis of American conservatives. I think that they are quite good people, and that the Party contains within it probably more people of an anarchist tendency than any other organisation in the country,” Karl Hess

Here’s Part I

Chris

Free Market Anti-Capitalism

Say what? Read:

Vulgar libertarian apologists for capitalism use the term “free market” in an equivocal sense: they seem to have trouble remembering, from one moment to the next, whether they’re defending actually existing capitalism or free market principles. So we get the standard boilerplate article in The Freeman arguing that the rich can’t get rich at the expense of the poor, because “that’s not how the free market works”–implicitly assuming that this is a free market. When prodded, they’ll grudgingly admit that the present system is not a free market, and that it includes a lot of state intervention on behalf of the rich. But as soon as they think they can get away with it, they go right back to defending the wealth of existing corporations on the basis of “free market principles.

That was Kevin Carson, a free market anti-capitalist. He’s kind of an anarcho-capitalist meets libertarian socialist, which some might say is not possible. He’s an interesting fellow and I’m sure to do some more reading on the man.