Anarchism in the United States
Fall 2011 Requirements and Readings
It is quite possible to go through high school and college without ever reading the work of an anarchist or even reading about the impact of anarchism on American history. Even history majors are often completely unaware of the significant role that anarchism played in U.S. history. Noam Chomsky argues this is the result of "counter-revolutionary subordination," by which he means anarchism was read out of history (for more on this concept, see his chapter on the Spanish Civil War in American Power and the New Mandarins where he discusses how anarchism was written out of histories of the Spanish Civil War despite the fact that anarchists were central players in that drama). This course is designed to uncover the hidden history of anarchism in the United States.
The course will begin at the beginning by taking a look at the pre-Civil War period when a distinctly American version of anarchism develops in the 1830s in the work of Josiah Warren. We will examine the anti-State arguments that formed part of the anti-slavery discourse, the utopian attempts to create nonexploitative economic relations, and the developing critique of capitalism. In the post-Civil War period a new strain of anarchism enters the United States via immigrants from Europe. This collective anarchism took root in cities like Chicago and New York where immigrants formed communities that included an active and extensive anarchist culture. The critical event from this period was the Haymarket Massacre. We will look extensively at the conditions leading up to the arrest of the martyrs and the aftermath of their conviction for simply being anarchists.
Emma Goldman, disgusted by the mistreatment of the Chicago anarchists, decided to devote her life to "The Ideal" and we will follow her career in the United States through her deportation soon after the end of World War I. The period between WWI and WWII witnesses the decline of anarchism in the United States, but anarchism remained a major force in U.S. politics as evidenced by the trial of Sacco and Vanzetti. We will have a look at the various immigrant anarchist communities during this period and will close it out by following the life of Carlo Tresca, whose assassination in 1943 effectively marks the end of the classical anarchist era in the United States.
Though substantially weakened, anarchism limped along in the United States in the post WWII period primarily in the anti-imperialist and anti-nuclear movements, only to re-emerge in an inchoate form during the 1960s. The end of the cold war and the bankruptcy of Marxism, created space for the rise of anarchism in the late 90's and the first decade of the 21st Century such that anarchism is now the default position in opposition to globalization. Today, anarchism has recovered much of its vitality and is growing rapidly around the world, including the United States and we will have a look at the various forms of black, white, green, and pink anarchism.
Grades will be assigned on the basis of the following criteria:
1) Papers: Five five-page papers are required, each worth 10% of your final grade. You will write one paper on some individual or topic from each of the following historical periods: 1) Pre-Civil War; 2) Civil War to the turn of the 20th Century; 3) First two decades of the 20th Century; 4) 1920s-1940s; 5) Post WWII. One paper is due any time in September, two papers are due in October (one before the semester break and one after), one in November, and one in December.
2) Archive Work: Throughout the semester as we cover an individual you will go through Anarchy Archives and find ways to improve that section by adding links to new material, developing biographical information about the subject, bibliographic essays, or commentary, and if there is no section on the individual in the archive, begin construction of a section for that individual. As you find or create material over the semester, bring it to class so we can add the material to the archive. Keep a list of your contributions to the archive which you will turn in at the end of the semester. This will be 25% of your grade.
3) Participation: There are two components to participation. First and foremost you must come to class having done the reading and research for the material covered in that class and ready to discuss it. Secondly, throughout the semester we will work on a group project that will eventually be incorporated into Anarchy Archives: an annotated time line of anarchism in the United States. You will come into each class with new material to add to the time line. This will be 25% of your grade.
1) Papers = 50%
James Green, Death in the Haymarket
Aside from the required texts, much of the reading will be in Anarchy Archives, an online research center that my students and I have been working on over the past 15 years. Anarchy Archives is widely recognized as the most extensive archive of anarchist material on the internet. The links below will bring you to the appropriate section of the archive for the individual being studied and you will familiarize yourself with the biographical material, the commentary on the individual, and their writings. In some cases, there is as yet no section in the archive and during those weeks you will scour the internet for material, drop by my office during office hours to peruse the materials in my office, and come to class ready to create a section on the individual in Anarchy Archives.