War on God! That is Progress!

Writing about anarchism in the LRB archive by Steve Fraser, Susan Watkins, T.J. Clark, Zoë Heller, Hal Foster, Wes Enzinna and Jessica Olin.

Propaganda of the Deed: Emma Goldman

Steve Fraser, 26 February 2009

The media called for her head, the Chicago Tribune describing her as a ‘wrinkled, ugly Russian woman, who owns no god, has no religion, would kill all rulers, overthrow all laws, and who inspired McKinley’s assassination’. As an immigrant, a woman, an anarchist and a Jew, Emma Goldman’s very person seemed to signal the end of civilisation as the bourgeoisie understood it.

In 1869, the conflict between Marx and Bakunin for the leadership of the International was coming to a head, and Paul Lafargue threw himself into a year of frenetic political activity, travelling between San Sebastian, Barcelona, Saragossa, Valencia and Madrid, as Marxists and anarchists battled it out in round after round of splits, expulsions and denunciations. (Sixty years later, the same battles were to be played out more brutally and more tragically, on a much broader canvas.)

Hyphens in politics are often the mark of watering down. But anarcho-syndicalism, when it came, was certainly better than anarcho-symbolism, or anarcho-decadence or anarcho-martyrology.

Mother Punk: Vivienne Westwood

Zoë Heller, 10 December 1998

For Malcolm McLaren, punk was an extended prank, a chance to make money out of making trouble: for Vivienne Westwood, it was a far more serious and felt endeavour. The shock-garments that she churned out were meant to clothe the army of an imminent anarcho-socialist-youth revolution, just as her grim macrobiotic stews – soil, nuts and ‘herbs from the local park’ boiled up in the cauldron she used for dyeing clothes – were intended to nourish it.

At MoMA: Félix Fénéon

Hal Foster, 3 December 2020

Which modern artists identified with anarchism? This is one of the riddles of modernist art, and at its centre is the sphinx Félix Fénéon (1861-1944), great champion of Seurat and company, brilliant critic and editor, sophisticated dandy and gallerist – and committed anarchist.

Labour history and anarchism are minor footnotes in most American history courses, mostly because those courses still focus on ‘grand’ events and people, but also because class consciousness isn’t something that Middle America has much grip on. Joseph Torra throws out a flurry of names – Big Bill Haywood, the Wobblies, Margaret Sanger, Emma Goldman and Eugene Debs – but for most novel-readers that is no longer enough.

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