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(en) Greece, anarchism.espiv: The revolutionary practice of anarchism in Europe and the United States (ca, de, it, pt, tr)[machine translation]

Date Mon, 8 Apr 2024 10:36:21 +0300


Book Review: Zoe Baker "Means and Ends: The revolutionary practice of anarchism in Europe and the United States" ---- Zoe Baker's book "Means and Ends: The revolutionary practice of anarchism in Europe and the United States" (Media and Purposes: The Revolutionary Practice of Anarchism in Europe and the United States) is a new book published by AK Press. The book Means and Ends focuses on the theory and practice of anarchism during the period 1868-1939. Although limited by its chronological and geographical approach, Means and Ends is refreshing in its approach compared to earlier histories of anarchism. Baker, like Felipe Correa and Robert Graham, grounds anarchism in its actual history and practice. By not conceiving of anarchism as an abstract position of opposition to hierarchy and the state he overcomes the weaknesses of various liberal and Marxist historians who have also written on the subject.

This approach also allows for the nuances of the debates within the anarchist movement to be explored, avoiding the presentation of the usual straw men. Anarchism is thus understood as a serious, coherent movement and ideology. For Baker anarchism has its roots in the early labor movement of the First International. He notes how anarchism arose out of a break with mutualism and other socialist currents. In the process Joseph Dejacque's criticisms of Proudhon are brought out of obscurity, and certain defining moments such as the Congresses of Basle and St Imier stand out for their importance. After establishing the historical emergence of anarchism, Baker traces the differences between "mass" and "insurgent" anarchism, before delving into specific strategic and organizational debates.

Baker places particular emphasis on the history and practice of various iterations of trade unionism as a mass strategic focus of the anarchist movement. This approach is a particular point of reference for the book, exploring the differences in theory and strategy between anarchists and syndicalists and highlighting the practical, historical application of a methodology based on mass struggle and trade unions. Much ink has been spilled about unionism in the past, usually in a way that obscures as much as it clarifies. Although Means and Ends is not as detailed as a work dedicated to the subject, Bakers approach to trade unionism and its relationship to anarchism is clear and concise, and does enough to dispel confusion and common mythologies.

Extending the debates around trade unionism, Baker also deals with the history of "Particular Anarchist Organization". Moving from Bakunin to "synthetism" and then to "Platform", Baker demonstrates that the existence of a specifically political, revolutionary organization as a complement to mass organization has been a consistent anarchist strategy throughout the movement's history. Again, her approach to the subject is useful, as it is rarely approached adequately by historians. Baker's analysis of Bakunin's "invisible dictatorship" is particularly useful, and her engagement with the so-called Makhno-Malatesta debate over the "Platform" is illuminating.

If there are flaws in the book they are these: The limitations of dealing only with Europe and the United States, which Baker herself openly acknowledges. There are reports of anarchists in countries such as Mexico, Japan and China. Organizations across South and Central America, such as the Regional Labor Federation of Argentina (FORA), are affected, albeit with little expansion. One could argue about the specific anarchists Baker chooses to focus on, or rather not focus on. For example, Mexican revolutionary Ricardo Flores Magon lived for a time in the US, and during the Mexican revolution anarchists went back and forth between the US and Mexico. Many of Magon's works are available in English, which makes this omission interesting. However, I don't think these massively detract from the work. A more comprehensive story of this caliber would require not only a volume of writing but also the ability to understand multiple languages and access to many more sources. That would be an unrealistic expectation for a person. What Baker accomplished with the resources and means at her disposal is impressive.

As with the geographical issue, the periodization precludes engagement with more contemporary anarchist theories, although there are references to contemporary anarchist theories in the conclusion which serve to point the reader in the right direction. The categorizations Baker uses, such as "mass" and "insurrectionary anarchism" or "syndicalism plus," may also oversimplify matters. Italian "insurrectionary" anarchists in the U.S., for example, often they also joined mass unions.Nevertheless, these are useful categories for understanding history in a basic sense, and Baker defends her arguments well.

Baker's writing is remarkably clear. In fact, anyone familiar with her YouTube videos probably can't help but hear her voice reading the text in their head. Perhaps there could have been an opportunity for more rhetorical flourishes in Means and Ends to make it a more enjoyable read. But since Means and Ends is not a book that presents a linear "historical narrative," what is most important is the clarity with which the practice and ideas of anarchism's historical devotees are presented.

For someone familiar with much of the history presented, the book is perhaps not the most exciting work, but it is extremely satisfying to see the history of anarchism presented in a logical and coherent manner. It is nevertheless an incredibly good introduction for those new to the history of anarchist theory and practice.

Means and Ends will undoubtedly become a standard historical text on anarchism, superior to previous efforts by writers such as Woodcock and Marshall, or even van der Walt and Cappelletti.1 Means and Ends joins a number of other more serious and scholarly works on anarchism in recent years, such as those by Danny Evans, Jim Yeoman, Constance Bantman, Agustin Guillamon and Troy Kokinis.
Means and Ends will be of interest to anyone who wants to seriously understand the history and practice of anarchism. Baker's work will undoubtedly become a defining piece of literature on the anarchist movement.

By this I mean that both Woodcock and Marshall adopt the "liberal" analysis of anarchism, where it is defined by a vague opposition to power. Van der Walts book "Black Flame" is unfortunately tarnished by association with Michael Schmidt, but also tries to squeeze the likes of James Connolly into the trade unionist category despite his clear state socialist views. Cappelletti's book Anarchism in Latin America, by contrast, suffers from none of the above faults, yet it is extremely dry and is essentially a point-by-point chronology of anarchism in various Latin American nations.

* The text was published here: https://geelonganarchists.org/2023/09/30/book-review-zoe-bakers-means-and-ends-the-revolutionary-practice-of-anarchism-in-europe-and- the-united-states/

Reviewed by Tommy. Performance: Neither God Nor Master.

https://anarchism.espivblogs.net/2024/03/19/i-epanastatiki-praktiki-toy-anarchismoy-stin-eyropi-kai-tis-inomenes-politeies/
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