Black Flame: The Revolutionary Class Politics of Anarchism and Syndicalism/Black Flame and the Broad Anarchist Tradition: A Reply to Spencer Sunshine

By Sunshine, Spencer; van der Walt, Lucien | Anarchist Studies, January 1, 2010 | Go to article overview

Black Flame: The Revolutionary Class Politics of Anarchism and Syndicalism/Black Flame and the Broad Anarchist Tradition: A Reply to Spencer Sunshine


Sunshine, Spencer, van der Walt, Lucien, Anarchist Studies


Michael Schmidt and Lucien van der Walt, Black Flame: The Revolutionary Class Politics of Anarchism and Syndicalism Edinburgh & Oakland, CA: AK Press, 2009

Black Flame is an intriguing and infuriating work which deserves to be read and debated. Rich in both theory and history, the authors say their conclusions are 'quite striking' and result in a 'rethinking' of the anarchist canon (p. 17). Furthermore, they very fairly say that 'if this book succeeds in promoting new research into anarchism, even if that research contradicts our arguments, we consider our work well done' (pp.26-7). However, the particularities of the argument, and the tone in which they are presented, distract from the possibilities of serious discussion regarding many of the book's stances.

Of particular interest is the last chapter, which is the best assemblage of research I have encountered on classical anarchism's complex relationship to questions of nationalism, imperialism and race. Black Flame's stress on the rich anarchist and syndicalist traditions in Asia, Africa, Eastern Europe, Latin America and the Caribbean serves as a 'crucial corrective to Eurocentric accounts' (p.21). Also of much interest is the careful explanation of the differences between different syndicalist unions.

Black Flame is also important in that it situates anarchism in its social and historical context. The authors argue that the notion of anarchism as a timeless part of human existence originates in Paul Eltzbacher's 1900 book Anarchism. It is only afterwards that anarchists themselves (especially Kropotkin) incorporate this idea into their own beliefs. Black Flame notes that 'if anarchism is a universal feature of society, then it becomes difficult indeed to explain why it arises, or to place it in historical context, to delineate its boundaries, and analyze its class character and role at a particular time.' Therefore the traditional perspective 'fads to historicize the broad anarchist tradition, or explain why it arose as well as why it appealed to particular classes' (p. 18).

The authors stress the necessity of a bounded definition of anarchism for scholarship: 'A good definition is one that highlights the distinguishing features of a given category, does so in a coherent fashion, and is able to differentiate that category from others, thereby organizing knowledge as well as enabling effective analysis and research' (p.43).

Unfortunately, their definition is achieved through a series of retroactive baptisms and excommunications. What they call the 'broad anarchist tradition' is actually exceedingly narrow in relation to self-identified anarchists. They start with 'class struggle anarchism' (which includes anarcho-communists, Platformists, the Friends of Durruti and Galleanist insurrectionists), and to this they add syndicalism - as such. Almost the entire membership of every global syndicalist union receives a mass anarchist baptism, along with Daniel DeLeon and James Connolly. In one rhetorical move, the 'broad anarchist tradition' gains millions of adherents.

But excommunicated are (what are quite possibly) the majority of today's selfidentified anarchists. This includes the entirety of the phdosophical, individualist, spiritual and 'lifestyle' traditions. The authors say 'we do not regard these currents as part of the broad anarchist tradition ... "Class struggle" anarchism, sometimes called revolutionary or communist anarchism, is not a type of anarchism; in our view, it is the only anarchism' (p. 19). They disagree with Murray Bookchin for even using the derogatory term 'lifestyle anarchism', since 'it is incorrect to label these sects anarchist at all; they have no place in the anarchist tradition, for they are not anarchist' (p.170). (Yet, according to their cosmology, Bookchin is also not an anarchist!)

Their highly unusual definition is based on die claim that anarchism can be defined solely by the moment when Bakunin, during his stint in the International, authored some (arguably) narrowly workerist tracts. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Black Flame: The Revolutionary Class Politics of Anarchism and Syndicalism/Black Flame and the Broad Anarchist Tradition: A Reply to Spencer Sunshine
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Author Advanced search

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.