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

My MAIN Influences

Of course I have encountered several diverse voices over the years that have influenced me in various ways, but there are a select few that have strongly shaped my specific perspective/philosophy. With that being said, technically my environment has been my biggest influence, but just for fun here’s some real people in no particular order.

Bill Hicks: Biting, caustic social/political satire. Love KO Fear!



Noam Chomsky
: Dissent of mainstream American media and American foreign (as well as domestic) policy. Basic anarchist ideas such as the necessity of the state to justify its actions or it should be dismantled.

Rage Against the Machine: Perhaps my oldest influence; their music drew me to such topics and increased my cynicism/hatred for the American government. They also led me to discover Chomsky.



John Lennon
: “Give Peace a Chance” :)



Howard Zinn
: Brought new meaning to the words “history,” “patriotism,” and “resistance,” for me. Helped me understand that the people on the bottom rung of society make the fundamental changes and not those on top.

Ralph Nader: It is possible to create change within the system and run honest campaigns, even if you don’t win them! Often refer to him for current politics.

Timothy Leary: Fantastic propagandist and overall champion of social change through new ways of experimentation.

The Yippies!: Chiefly Abbie Hoffman (right) and Jerry Rubin (left). Their wacky/bizarre media tactics and dissection of Amerika has been one of my biggest influences on both my writing and philosophy. I adore the equal importance of fun and revolution. After all, how can you have liberation without some kind of joy?

Hunter S. Thompson: Sarcastic social commentary; major influence on my own writing/sense of humor and early social/political influence.

Malcolm X: Provided with the great insight into the hardships of blacks in America and how we raped them of their culture. This doesn’t mean I can relate to this personally, but it does offer me a perspective and has shaped my opinions on these matters. His speeches, writings, etc. have also stood as great examples of how to make an argument with integrity and also how what the institution teaches you is usually false with the complete opposite intent. So, for Malcolm it was White is NOT right and Black is beautiful. For me it’s the media’s purpose is to (Mis)inform the public.

Emma Goldman: The beauty and basic principles of Anarchism.

Dave Dellinger: One of the greatest models of a nonviolent revolutionary; he was the American Gandhi. Stressed the importance of love and social justice in all movements. I’m proud to say one of the most inspiring Americans shares the same hometown as me!

Jello Biafra: Culture Jam! Pranksterism. Perhaps some of my first glimpses at anarchism. Similar to Yippies! but with more serious objectives: Anti-War, end War On Drugs, and so much more. Like Chomsky, Nader, and others, Jello is one of my key political references. For many that probably sounds frightening haha!

Judge James P. Gray: I owe much of the factual basis for my arguments for bringing down this filthy machine known as the War on Human Rights, excuse me, excuse me, I mean the War on (certain!) Drugs to my boy Jim. My views on this topic were basically already there, but I can sharply back them up with the help of the judge’s wise and so obviously reasonable suggestions. Since, he falls from the center-right on the political spectrum, he and I would more than likely disagree on a host of issues. With that being said, he is spot on with his indictment of our current prohibition and I highly recommend his book, Why Our Drug Laws Have Failed and What We Can Do About It.



Mumia Abu-Jamal
: His strikingly accurate views on a plethora of issues, particularly race relations and constant investigation of this corrupt and sick government. His story serves as one of the best arguments for how fucked up our criminal/prison system really is. FREE MUMIA NOW!



Steve Albini
: Tearing down major labels and any other faggedy artist in sight in the most offensive way. Merciless satire at its finest!

Ian Mackaye: DIY Punk Ethic/Aesthetic. You can’t put a dollar sign on your art and if you do then you should be in a different business!

Chris