Interrogating Anarchism

Article excerpt

[BOOKS] Interrogating Anarchism NO GODS NO MASTERS: An Anthology of Anarchism, edited by Daniel Guerin, translated by Paul Sharkey. AK Press, 2006 Edition

THERE IS ONLY SO much one can stand reading about European anti-Semites who wished to liberate the world by killing everyone who disagreed with them. Ignorant of the anti-Semitic conditions that forced Jews out of artisan trades and into mercantile professions (and with no small thanks due the self-hatred of Karl ben Herschel Mordechai Marx), Mikhail Bakunin once referred to the Jewish people as an "organic collective parasite," a sentiment echoed by Pierre Prodhoun, who once proclaimed Jews "a parasitic race, enemy of work, devoted to financial speculation and bank usury."

Perhaps I'm embittered by the fact that modern anarchists generally place the demand of assimilation only upon Jews. Or it could be that I'm a fake anarchist-as I've often been derided-preferring the post-Leftist anarchy of Crimethinc, the Curious George Brigade, and even the Luddism of John Zerzan to the insurrectionist rhetoric of Bakunin and terrorist apologia of the likes of Sasha Berkman. The truth of the matter is that I'd rather work in a sweatshop than sit through a reading of Emile Pouget's dialectical materialist critique of trade unionism.

"The trade association," Pouget writes, "is, in fact, the only focal point which, in its very composition, reflects the aspirations by which the wage slave is driven: being the sole agglomeration of human beings that grows out of an absolute identity of interests, in that it derives its raison d'etre from the form of production, upon which it models itself and of which it is merely the extension."

Oh, for chrissakes, someone throw a brick already!

That said, had one the stomach and the wherewithal to consume nearly 700 pages of often dull and sparsely inspirational writing from anarcho-hypocrites, one could not find a better resource than Daniel Guerin's No Gods No Masters.

A history lesson unto itself, Guerin's classic anthology of essays, letters, and speeches (released now for the first time as a single volume in paperback) reads, in some respects, like "A People's History of the USSR," deconstructing communist mythology through the eyes of socialism's truest revolutionaries. From the rugged individualism of Max Stirner to the disconcerting militancy of Buenaventura Durruti, No Gods No Masters offers countless challenges to Randian Objectivists who would falsely proclaim socialist economics incompatible with personal autonomy, while providing still-relevant critiques of both capitalism and bourgeois social democracy. In effect, the anarchists featured herein have shown to hold no loyalties, smashing capitalism, communism, conservatism, and liberalism along with every other imaginable -ism, including anarchism itself.

But despite my cynicism, it is anarchy to which I aspire, and there is inspiration to be found in this work, as no political rhetorician can outdo classic anarchists in the realms of both ethos and pathos. …